‘Purveyor of Black Joy’: This Entrepreneur Is Behind One Of Chicago's Largest Black Festivals

Being Black is about so much more than how we entertain the masses, the disparities we are victim to, or our response to the frequent injustices we face.

Black culture is the way we commune with each other, the music we lose ourselves in, and the joy we emit. Jonathan Swain understands this. 

The Chicago-based entrepreneur Illinois congressional candidate says his passion for creating community stems from his family, who are also prolific in the city’s business ecosystem. They own Kimbark Beverage Shoppe, a popular spirits store among many other establishments.  

“My dad has been an entrepreneur since the day I was born,” Swain shared. “I never knew anything else.” 

He went on to explain that although he was inspired by his father to go into business, the purpose behind his drive was a bit different than his patriarch’s. 

“As I grow older, I’ve realized what that entrepreneurial bug meant for me versus what it meant for him,” he said. “For him and my mother, it was about taking care of family because of how they grew up in abject poverty coming up through the Great Migration. For me, entrepreneurship is really about service to the people.”  

This, he says, is what led him to officially launch Hyde Park Brew Fest in 2014, now known as Summer Fest. It was an instant hit among Chicago’s Black community and boasted thousands of attendees. He said the motivation to launch the festival was layered. 

“One, it was driven by a need for people to be able to enjoy their city in their own community and not have to go outside of it to enjoy the city,” he said. “Two, I wanted to create a different narrative around the South Side of Chicago, because it isn’t always the best – but people that live on the South Side know of the greatness of the South Side.” 

He also alluded to the huge economic opportunity behind spotlighting Black joy. 

“These events can be powerful economic engines for the communities that they’re in,” he said. “I wanted to use this as a vehicle to funnel more dollars into the small Black-owned businesses and support them in growing micro-enterprises or startup ventures.” 

This year, the festival is back and bigger than ever, but it didn’t come without its challenges. 

As reported in the Chicago Tribune, the festival was canceled twice in two years due to COVID-19. 

“The pandemic may have stopped us before, but we are coming back stronger than ever with COVID safety protocols,” Swain said. “We got a solid group of folks that are all aligned on trying to make this the best Hyde Park Summer Fest that we’ve ever had, being the inaugural Hyde Park Summer Fest in the name. We’re excited about what we’re gonna see happen.” 

This year’s festival will include live performances by artists, including Busta Rhymes, Marsha Ambrosius, BJ the Chicago Kid and Lupe Fiasco. DJ performances will include DJ Jazzy Jeff of “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” fame, Terry Hunter, Jay Illa, Mike P, Mustafa Rocks and Deejay Alicia. More artists will be announced in the coming weeks. 

“We are so excited to be back because for many Black Chicagoans this is one of the few opportunities they have to truly connect with one another and celebrate themselves.” 

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