For Naomi Davis, the soft opening of the Green Living Room in West Woodlawn on Saturday is no small thing. The space at 6431 S. Cottage Grove Avenue will serve as a community space and new headquarters for Davis’ nonprofit Blacks in Green (BIG) which focuses on sustainability, neighborhood development, and ownership.
Davis launched BIG in 2007 when it became clear to her that communities of color are the worst affected by climate change across the globe and are ripe for training into new green economy jobs.
Part of her work involves advocating for walkable communities, she refers to as villages, full of flowers and businesses owned by the people who live there. Davis sees neighbor-owned businesses as the source of community “surthrival.” BIG’s goal is to encourage residents to start businesses, own property, and stay in the neighborhood.
The organization’s new space is the next step in building a stronger community and expanding programming. More than coffee and snacks, it’ll be a place for green job training, small business support, and community meetings.
The Green Living Room will organize professional trade training courses that will include industry certifications, hiring events, and retention services. The first trade training course this fall will be a solar installation program with SunRun, a residential rooftop solar company based in San Francisco.
There are also plans for energy efficiency trainings, which will teach homeowners how to reduce electric bills, with Millennium Solar Training Academy’s founder Chris Williams. Williams is a south suburban, third generation electrician and has had a 10-year relationship with BIG.
Community celebration is at the core of BIG’s philosophy, so the Green Living Room will facilitate live podcast recordings and local performances. There’s also a video projection wall for movies, videos, or other media.
Visitors using the space can grab coffee or sandwiches from a small cafe stocked in partnership with Peach’s Restaurant on 47th and King Drive. Soon there will be a retail section with vintage table top items, antique wares, and plants grown in BIG’s nurseries.
“We’re very into repurposed, refurbished, recycled things and furnishings are no exception,” Davis said. The BIG team is out hunting for unique items for the store in estate sales to stock the shelves.
From noon to 4p.m. on Saturday, August 31 at the Green Living Room, Davis and supporters will be hosting a soft opening event Hard Hat Happening. The gathering will include alumni of BIG’s training programs and officially announce the space, even though the final touches are still coming together.
A grand opening is scheduled for October 1 and the following hours are expected to be 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.