FBI Chicago
Special Agent Siobhan Johnson
(312) 829-1199
April 30, 2020

FBI Chicago Announces Recipient of Director’s Community Leadership Award

CHICAGO—Emmerson Buie Jr., special agent-in-charge of the Chicago Field Office, announced today, April 30, 2020, that Quilen Blackwell has been named the 2019 recipient of the FBI’s Director’s Community Leadership Award (DCLA) for the Chicago Division. The FBI presents this award annually on behalf of Director Christopher Wray. It was established in 1990 as a way to honor individuals and organizations for their efforts to prevent federal crimes and to enhance law enforcement efforts in their communities.

In 2014, Quilen Blackwell founded Chicago Eco House, an organization dedicated to showing youth in Chicago’s most poverty-stricken areas that there is beauty to be found in their neighborhoods. Under the motto “Using sustainability to alleviate poverty,” Chicago Eco House teaches youth business and collaboration skills to provide alternatives to the cycle of chronic poverty, drug-use, and criminal activity. “Where others saw poverty, Mr. Blackwell saw hope,” said Special Agent-in-Charge Buie. “His dedication to lifting up local youth is a welcome reminder of what our communities are capable of achieving.”

Mr. Blackwell has been instrumental in leading local residents and community groups to create the Stewart Street Farm, a fruit, vegetable, and flower farm covering two city blocks. Owing to his efforts, 32 high school students have received stipends to support their study of urban agriculture. In addition to providing valuable urban farming experience, the Stewart Street Farm initiative converted vacant land into a usable community resource.

In addition to beautifying communities through farming projects, Chicago Eco House engages youth in indoor artistic ventures during the cold, winter months. Under Mr. Blackwell’s direction, Chicago Eco House teaches young adults to create 3D printed jewelry which is then sold in stores on Chicago’s South Side. In addition to gaining marketable STEM skills, student artists receive a portion of the profits from these sales.

Mr. Blackwell was selected by the Chicago Division for the direct and positive impact his work has had on the community. Chicago Eco House focuses on local neighborhoods with substantial socioeconomic challenges such as Englewood, West Woodlawn, and West Garfield Park. The organization provides business skills and alternative options to youth in demographics that facing chronic unemployment makes them at-risk for gang involvement and illegal drug use.