Barber offers ex-cons a honey of a second chance

Brenda Palms Barber

“Pollinate” is a word that Brenda Palms Barber likes to throw around when talking to people about her work.

She pollinates jobs for recently released inmates looking for a second chance. She pollinates faith among the people who take a chance in hiring them. She pollinates an upswing in North Lawndale, one of the most impoverished neighborhoods in Chicago, about five miles west of downtown.

She also pollinates honey. At least that’s the job of the bees she has spent five years raising.

Indeed, Ms. Barber has brought swarms of bees to the city’s West Side, using them to foster job creation among a stigmatized group of people who live on the bottom rung of the economic ladder: black males who exit the state or county prison system with little formal education or job skills.

While job creation is the hot topic of the national presidential campaign, it’s very likely that neither major-party candidate would consider framing the issue around helping ex-offenders get straight. That is why Barber felt it was important to start a program that created jobs and job skills for the most marginalized people in her community.

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