As a kid growing up on the West Side, I always looked forward to the block parties at the end of the summer – an indication that it’s almost time to go back to school. These events – often funded by the neighborhood dough boys and organized by our parents – gave us kids a chance to play unsupervised in the middle of the street, which was blocked off by cars, with the music on full blast. We got to pig out on ice cream and Snoballs. And, if you were lucky, someone in the neighborhood cracked open the fire hydrant – so we’d have a place to keep cool under the unrelenting sun.

I’ve seen fewer of these block parties since I’ve gotten older. Of the few I’ve come across, there wasn’t much there for the kids – maybe a basketball hoop or a bouncy house, but that’s about it. No music. No ice cream. None of the things we thoroughly enjoyed in our heyday. What happened to this neighborhood staple?

This month, Chicago-based digital marketing firm, Kake, put a dope spin on the idea of a block party by partnering with Timberland brand for the “Dream Big, Give Big” event at Dream Town Shoes in West Garfield Park. For the entire afternoon on Sept. 16th, kids stopped by Dream Town Shoes for free haircuts, free food, music and a chance to win a free pair of Timberland boots, hand painted by Van from Black Ink Crew Chicago, Chicago tattoo artist Jet and painter Jas Peterson.

A young boy smiles as he gets his face painted at “Dream Big, Give Big” event//Photo by Dee Jeff.

Rapper GLC, B96 radio personality Gabe Ramirez and fine artist Brandon Breaux, who is most known for painting Chance The Rapper’s Coloring Book mixtape cover, joined other luminaries in the Chicago creative scene for a panel discussion. Topics included how to build careers in creative industries and the importance of staying the course even when the process is most challenging. Singer Kaye Fox shared a personal story of how she started singing in a church around the corner from Dream Town Shoes years before working with J. Cole and Kanye West.

“Don’t only have one version of your dream,” Fox said. “It’s so many different routes to where you’re trying to go. So don’t give up and feel like, ‘oh. If this way isn’t working, that’s the only way.’”

Recording Artist Kaye Fox speaking during the panel discussion on following your dreams//Photo by Dee Jeff.


Watch the recap video (above).