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Eric Knowles’ vision for the Christian Marketplace started when State Street was one of the most trafficked areas of Chicago, prominently by Black Chicagoans. With Dan Ryan running alongside it, seeing an opportunity for success, with the focus community in mind, Knowles set out to start an effort to provide quality food with businesses focused on delivering on that promise.
Having 30 years of experience in the clothing industry, Knowles is setting out to provide these tools to other inspiring business owners through Project 1000. This initiative aims to bring aid and help to establish 10 businesses a year. With the overall goal of employing at least 10 people reaching at least 100 per year for 10 years. The Marketplace acts as an umbrella as an association for Christian businesses.
The Marketplace really started to pick up during 2016, when there was an increased crime wave in the city. Seeking others within the community to provide a solution to violence. Meeting with prominent leaders such as Philip Jackson of the Black Star Project.
With Project 1000, Knowles wants to help provide opportunities for those affected by violence. People coming out of prison, people in the black community who are prominently affected by violence, Project 1000 provides a platform for people to provide an outlet and financial stability. “Sometimes a t-shirt speaks a, a thousand words,” by providing thousands of shirts, posters, and flyers and even providing businesses and affiliated organizations trying to spread a mission of peace and solidarity.
Outreach is important and Project 1000 aims to work with multiple organizations such as the Black Star Project, Chicago prison outreach, Chase Bank, Providence bank, Seaway bank, and third district police. With the goal of putting their message out there whenever any events are out there, such as collaborations with Leon Rodgers from WGCI to host rallies in school in a mission to promote peace by putting the guns down. “If a guy wearing one of the t-shirts gets into an argument with another guy. And he just happens to look at the t-shirt that the guy is wearing. And it says, please put the guns down because all lives matter. If it changes his mind from shooting this guy, if, if one t-shirt can save one life, then it’s worth it,” stated Knowles.
Recruiting businesses is key right now and through Project 1000. Meeting in places such as Chase Bank, in order to bring the message of “Please put the guns down. With connections, it’s very important to bring this message to as many people as possible, as memorial day is known as one of the most violent May 30 or May 31 weekends in Chicago. Connected with approximately 20 businesses and organizations with about 10 businesses and 10 organizations in the fold of spreading this message.”
Written by Skye Leon
Interview: Eric Knowles on April 19, 2022
Top and Featured Image Courtesy of Randy von Liski’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inline Image Courtesy of Eric Allix Rogers’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License