The late Rev. Lewis Flowers will be honored with a commemorative tree planted at the Spann-Bailey Garden during next week’s Juneteenth Festival, the event’s organizers have announced.
Flowers, a longtime and respected community leader, died last December. The tree-planting will take place during the three-day weekend festival scheduled for June 14-16.
Rickie Brown, president of the Westside Historical Society, the festival’s sponsor, said the tree planting is a good way to memorialize Flowers for his years of service.
“Trees give life. The air we breathe; trees are connected to it, so it’s life,” Brown said.
A chairman and former director of the Westside Ministers Coalition, Flowers died on Dec. 9, 2012 following a brief illness. His “Mayor of the West Side” moniker was noted by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who cited Flowers’ tireless advocacy for his community.
The reverend’s many achievements include the founding of the Austin Business and Entrepreneurialship Academy in 2006.
“He saved lives … and the Bible says no greater love than a man can give than his life for his fellow man,” said Brown, who called Flowers a friend who left a mark on everyone’s life. “When you dedicate your life that way, it is only befitting that you are honored in such a manner.”
The tree planting ceremony, taking place at Chicago Avenue and Mayfield garden, will follow the festival’s June 15 parade. This marks the second community honor for Flowers this year. Last month, he was honored with a memorial brick by the Austin Green Team, laid in their Austin Memorial Garden at Washington and Laramie.
Next week’s festival will also commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and the 50th Anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s March on Washington, where he delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech.
Juneteenth is a nationally-recognized holiday. It commemorates June 19, 1865, when word finally reached slaves in Texas that they were free, but two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed.
Brown said many youth believe black history began with slavery, rather than the complete history that began with kings and queens in Africa like Tutankhamen and Cleopatra.
“These are names that are foreign to our children because they are not having African studies in class and making it a part of the curriculum in order to graduate. We wanted them to see their history,” Brown said.
The parade kicks off at noon next Saturday June 15 at Chicago Avenue and Cicero, winding up at Mayfield. This year’s grand marshal is Austin native and former 15th District Police commander, Al Wysinger, who’s currently first deputy of the Chicago Police Department.
Other parade participants include Miss Black Illinois Cortnee R. Smith, and former Chicago Bulls players Craig Hodges and Mickey Johnson. To learn more: www.wshsociety.org; 312-479-5008.