During the mid 1940s, two young Mississippians separately traveled north to Chicago and settled on the West Side.
There they met, married, and raised 12 children. The Boyce-Greer family, now in its third generation, will be featured in this Saturday’s reunion parade at the Juneteenth Festival in Garfield Park. The family was chosen by the festival’s sponsor, the Westside Historical Society, because they have family members living in three West Side communities. The parade kicks off at noon.
Symbolizing the post-slavery reuniting of the African-American family, Boyce-Greer family members will march from the East at Madison and California, and the West at Madison and Parkside. They’ll reconnect with their elders waiting on the Garfield Park festival grounds at Woodridge Drive and Central Park Avenue.
There are more than 300 relatives living throughout Austin, North Lawndale, and West Garfield-all lifelong West Side residents. Of the original 12 children, only seven are still alive and living on the West Side. Never moving too far from one another, they all raised their children, and now their children are raising their grandchildren within walking distance of one another.
“We all stayed on the West Side,” said Helen Plummer, the eldest daughter and a retired nurse from West Suburban Hospital. “We never moved away.”
Lillie Tate, the second eldest daughter, was a homemaker who raised five children. As for why she likes living in the area, Tater said, “I’ve just been here all my life, and my family migrated to the West Side, so that’s all I know. We’re all in this area.”
Henry Boyce, the eldest surviving son, has raised two boys and one daughter while in the neighborhood, and is currently enrolled in college to become an addiction counselor to help youth.
“I looked around, and saw so many problems in the black neighborhood,” he said, concerning why he decided to go back to school. “I said: you know, everybody seems to be on drugs or alcohol. Nobody is working. Let me see if I can do something about it.”
The Boyce-Greer family not only resides but many work in the various West Side communities. Family members attended and graduated from such schools as Herzel and Delano elementary schools, and Marshall, Manley, Crane, and Westinghouse high schools.
Vetress Boyce, a business development consultant and former candidate for 24th ward alderman, said family members have gone on to work in the Chicago Public Schools as teachers or counselors. She adds that the family has seen a lot of changes throughout the more than 60 years they have lived in the community.
“The West Side seems to be better now in that there are more educated people living in our communities. I am expecting even greater things from the younger generation, she said. “Being a very religious family, as instilled by their parents, they are faithful members of many of the well-known West Side churches, including Corinthians Temple Church of God In Christ, Garfield Park Community Baptist Center, Mars Hill, and New Jerusalem.”
The Juneteenth Festival runs from Thursday June 16 through Tuesday June 21 in Garfield Park, 100 N. Central Park Ave.