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Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago

Commissioners celebrate Black History Month
MWRD commissioners celebrate Black History Month during a reception held Feb. 15 at the Barbara J. McGowan Main Office Building.

A long-standing tradition of Black History Month celebrations at the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) turned its attention to African Americans and the arts and the many contributions and talents discovered right here in Chicago.

MWRD commissioners, staff and guests gathered at the Barbara J. McGowan Main Office Building on Feb. 15 to honor the 2024 national Black History Month theme of “African Americans and the Arts” and heard from local artists shining a bright light on their dedication to their craft and the environment that the MWRD strives to protect.

“The arts have long been a powerful vehicle for storytelling, activism, and cultural expression. From the rhythm of jazz that healed the souls of people around the world to the poetic verses that spoke of resilience and perseverance, African Americans have made an incredible contribution to artistic history,” said MWRD President Kari K. Steele. “This month is a testament to the enduring spirit of creativity, resilience, and innovation that defines the African American experience.”

Black History Month Celebration Theophilus Reed
Black History Month Celebration Mekia Jamison

The evening program at the MWRD was highlighted by performances by Theophilus Reed, his  jazz quintet and environmental artist, storyteller and curator Mekiah Jamison.

Born and raised in Chicago with a decades long career as a performing vocalist and pianist, Theophilus Reed is also an arts advocate and music educator. He has a long list of credits, working with organizations that include: the Better Boys Foundation, ETA Creative Arts Foundation, Black United Fund of Illinois, Westside Cultural Arts Council, the Black Theater Alliance (aka African American Arts Alliance of Chicago), Chicago Alliance for Neighborhood Safety, Urban Gateways, Youth Guidance, Coalition for Improved Education in South Shore, Muntu Dance Theater, Lakeside Community Committee and Ravinia Festival Association.  Reed studied at the American Conservatory of Music and is a fixture on the Chicago music scene. In addition to performing for the MWRD program, he also shared his thoughts on the history of the Black American lived experiences and answer questions from the audience. 

Jamison attended the University of Illinois at Chicago where she studied Urban Studies and Public Policy through an environmental lens. During her studies, she was molded by her campus cultural centers and grass roots community organizations. She is dedicated to cultural-environmental justice and liberation, choosing art as the tool to build solidarity, cultural understanding, and a means of collective power and consciousness. She is the storyteller and communications manager for the Environmental Leadership Program and among her many roles, she is a contributing mobile artist to the city-wide plan “We Will Chicago.” 

“Thank you everyone for joining us to have this forum of discussion and recognition for the work of our talented African American artists,” said MWRD Commissioner Precious Brady-Davis. “May we continue to appreciate the invaluable contributions of African Americans to the arts, not just during this month but throughout the year.”


Commissioners celebrate Black History Month


“The Black History Month celebration highlights the MWRD’s commitment to diversity, to support the Black community and to honor the achievements of African Americans. For the fifth year, the MWRD raised the Pan-African flag at its Main Office Building and all seven water reclamation plants,” said MWRD Commissioner Yumeka Brown.  

The MWRD is also engaged this month with local students for two events at the Museum of Science and Industry. Both events engaged students in STEM careers and shed light on the important work of the MWRD to protect the region’s water environment. The Black Creativity Career Showcase on Feb. 24 and the second is the Black Creativity Junior Science Café set for Feb. 29.

About halfway through a five-year Strategic Plan, the MWRD expanded its core values to include equity and diversity, as a guide in meeting the MWRD mission of protecting the region’s water environment. This commitment embraces the MWRD’s work to promote equity and environmental justice, to develop a talented workforce that reflects the communities the MWRD serves, to protect the environment and to manage water without borders across Cook County.

Press Release

Established in 1889, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) is an award-winning, special purpose government agency responsible for wastewater treatment and stormwater management in Cook County, Illinois.


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