Chicago’s Black Fire Brigade—a group of the city’s African American firefighters and EMTs—wants to inspire youth to pursue careers in fire science. The group recently opened a new center in Ashburn designed to train the firefighters of tomorrow, ABC Chicago reported.
The brigade pays homage to firefighters and paramedics of color who have lost their lives while serving, the news outlet writes. The group hopes that the legacies of these fallen heroes will live on through youngsters who come to the center and show interest in joining the fire department when they get older. At the center, they will provide mentorship and training to help Black men and women prepare for the firefighter’s exam.
Founder and president of the Black Fire Brigade Quention Curtis says that he hopes the new center will serve as a haven for Chicago’s Black youth and prevent them from getting involved in the streets. “This is about saving these kids’ lives who are dying in the streets every day,” he told the news outlet. “It’s about bringing these firefighters together so we can do that.” The center was also created as an avenue to overcome racial inequalities that Black firefighters have experienced in the department. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, the city has shelled out $92 million in settlements due to the Chicago Fire Department’s discriminatory hiring practices against people of color and women. “There are so few of us, and we’ve been so separated. We’ve never come together as a whole to discuss our issues, how to address them. My thing is to end all that,” said Curtis.
The center will live at 84th and Kedzie. There was a ribbon-cutting ceremony held on Saturday.
More safe spaces for Black firefighters are needed across the country as many are faced with racial harassment while in the line of duty. Earlier this year, a Black firefighter in Colorado, who was terminated from the Aurora Fire Department, won a settlement from the city over subtle racism.