Jaylen Lockhart
Category: 2021 High School Winner

Jaylen Lockhart

In eighth grade, I did a paper about health disparities and food deserts. It was evident that these disparities were particularly evident in black neighborhoods in my home city of Chicago. In doing this, I learned why these disparities were so prevalent in black communities— our cities’ history of segregation. One Chicagoan helped lessen the segregation within my city– Robert Robinson Taylor.

Hearing the name Robert Robinson Taylor, most could not tell you how Robert Robinson Taylor started a foundation for the Illinois Service Federal Savings and Loan in Bronzeville in the 1930s to allow African-Americans to obtain loans to buy their first homes. Most Chicagoans could tell you about the effects of housing discrimination: the lack of generational wealth has led to Chicago being one of the most segregated cities.

Since the reconstruction era, African-Americans had lived in segregated communities due to discriminatory practices such as redlining. This created barriers that prevented African-Americans from acquiring homeownership, a significant avenue toward stable finances and generational wealth.

Robert Robinson Taylor decided to tackle the problem of housing discrimination. In a group of 13 other African American men, Robert Robinson Taylor started a savings and loan that was mutual in concept, meaning the depositors owned it. They encouraged people to borrow and tailor products to the African- American community’s needs– a community that major banks had continually neglected. This was because Taylor operated the group with a sense of pride and purpose. After all, Robert Robinson Taylor’s bank lived in the community, worked in the community, and made their investment in the community to provide African-Americans opportunity for years to come. I was even more surprised to find out my grandmother was one of those community members with an account at Illinois Service Federal Savings and Loan.

Even after completing my project about health disparities in Chicago, I have been inspired by Robert Robinson Taylor. Robinson Taylor’s foundation of the most prominent African American Bank in Chicago has inspired me in my own life. Like Robert Taylor, I have continually worked to give back to my community to provide others opportunities. During high school, I have been committed to promoting inclusion in my community as a member of the Goodman Theater Youth Arts Council. In 2019, I designed events to provide a theater program to schools that did not have funding for arts. We raised funds by collecting and donating $1200. In one annual event, called Youth Matters, we invited youth to a safe space to showcase rap, poetry, and short films. We can all stand to learn from Mr. Taylor’s legacy and develop inclusivity and diversity in smaller communities and the future.

Seeing Robert Robinson Taylor’s drive to make opportunities for the African-American community demonstrates to us all that creating an environment for individuals to create generational wealth can start at a small level. By continuing to provide opportunities to others, like Robert Robinson Taylor, we can take steps toward reducing housing discrimination and thus lead to a more inclusive, non-segregated city.