On Friday evening, St. Sabina Church located 1210 W. 78th Pl. hosted, renowned actress Angela Bassett, for its 2012 African American Speakers Series. Hundreds gathered in the church’s sanctuary to hear the reverent words of the superstar. In the past, the annual event has drawn Black culture powerhouses like Spike Lee and Harry Belafonte.
Bassett charged those present at St. Sabina to reclaim values and morals that once were a mainstay in the Black community. The veteran performer focused her nearly 45 minute speech discussing the current state of Black America through the perspective of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. She said King was not only a global leader but a student of the world. The actress mentioned how the civil rights martyr sought out and studied the non-violence teachings from Mahatma Gandhi in an effort to help bring forth equality in America’s segregationist South.
A powerful orator, Bassett also challenged audience members to take a stand for social justice following the recent Florida shooting and killing incident of Trayvon Martin. Bassett discussed how the influence of social media has created an uprising among Americans that has demanded policy makers to get involved to seek justice for the fallen teen. “The leaders are following the people, not the other way around,” the actress said with a tone reminiscent of a religious leader.
The thespian also talked about the resilience of Blacks throughout history. The current state of the economy has sent many individuals into perilous situations; however, Bassett reminded spectators that strife is not unfamiliar to African Americans. “[The] Black community [is] not new to struggle,” the actress said with her words meeting a thunderous applause.
Bassett also paid homage to Chicago and its rich Black history. She recognized the strong significance of Chicago’s South Side from its prominent Black business corridors to being home to the nation’s first African American president. The actress vibrantly proclaimed, “It always feels good to be on the South Side of Chicago.”
An internationally revered performer, Bassett is known for carefully handpicking roles that uplift Black women and portray them in a positive light. She is most known for her iconoclast role as Tina Turner in 1992’s “What’s Love Got To Do With It,” which garnered her an Academy Award Nomination. She has also had success in a score of films including “Waiting To Exhale” and portraying Betty Shabazz in producer Spike Lee’s movie, “Malcolm X.”
Bassett was born August 16, 1958 in New York City and was raised in a single parent household. An Ivy League educated actress, she earned both her bachelor and master degrees from Yale University.
Bassett is as much a social advocate as she is a star. The actress encouraged audience members to also maintain a healthy lifestyle including making vital dietary choices.
“We must also take leadership when it comes to our health,” Bassett said. “Our personal health, our family’s health [and] our nation’s health. What we put in our bodies fuel our minds and our spirits. Too many in our community are holding on to hold habits that have an impact on the younger generations.”
By Thelma Sardin
Richton Park- the Village of Richton Park, in cooperation with the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) and Hire the Future, will host a job and college fair for the youth on Friday, April 6, 2012. The fair will take place at the Richton Park Community Center, 4445 Sauk Trail, Richton Park, IL.
The list of employers and schools is growing as many will be in attendance offering employment opportunities to students as well as educational resources from local colleges and universities. Attendees are encouraged to bring their resume and to dress professionally. The job fair will run from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm.
For more information on the Richton Park Youth Job Fair and College Fair, please contact Vera Brooks at 708-481-8950.
The second installment of public meetings for the Grand Crossing Rail Project began Monday at Grand Crossing Park District, 7655 S. Ingleside Ave.
The Grand Crossing Rail Project stems from the Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency (CREATE) program and seeks to reduce rail congestion on the South Side particularly in the Englewood and Greater Grand Crossing communities. The project hopes to overhaul Amtrak traffic that passes through these areas. The CREATE Program is an exclusive partnership between the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), state of Illinois, City of Chicago, Metra, Amtrak, and freight railroads.
The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) is also working with FHWA, the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) and the Association of American Railroads (AAR) to find solutions for this effort.
Monday’s meeting consisted of an open house where residents viewed an audio-visual presentation and project exhibits and agency representatives were on hand to answer questions.
The meeting’s objective sought to serve as a catalyst for public discourse on the project which will examine alternate, less congested routes that would enable Amtrak trains to travel directly into Union Station. This will reduce delays and congestion on Chicago’s South Side.
While the intention of the meeting was to spur community input it led to a heated debate; possibly because the proposed initiative is still in its infancy stage and officials could not provide answers to many questions such as jobs, economic development and home displacement.
Residents grew restless when they did not receive definitive answers from project officials. Ald. Willie Cochran (20th Ward) sat in the audience with citizens for the duration of the meeting but voiced his concerns during the end.
The alderman was not happy with the vague responses from the project’s representatives and said that they “got to do a better job,” of addressing concerns of the community.
Mike Harris, IDOT program manager told the Chicago Citizen that the agency does not have many concrete answers because the project is still in its planning stages.
One hot issue was the topic of home and land acquisitions for the proposed project’s construction. The acquisitions may be necessary to make room for new tracks which will allow trains direct access into Union Station.
Depending on which design is selected for the project, some homes may have to be acquired by the state to make room for construction.
Harris said that the agency is unsure of how many homes will be affected because it depends on the type of plan that is selected.
Once a plan is selected –which more than likely won’t happen until late 2013—a method will be implemented to decide how many homes, if any, will be acquired.
Harris added that residents are not being offered money for their homes because there still isn’t a decision on which plan will be utilized. Once a plan is decided on then citizens in affected areas will be notified. Moreover, Harris said a plan may be selected that will not require acquisition of homes.
Alderman Michelle Harris (8th) was also present at the meeting and said it was productive.
“I think that anytime you give out information people have an opportunity to voice their concerns,” the alderman said. “These kinds of meetings are great and necessary. People can get their questions out, get their questions answered.”
Jean-Paul Thomas, a resident told the Chicago Citizen that he believes the project has good intentions but more needs to be done to educate the public about its aspirations.
“People who understand the project understand its significance,” Thomas said.
Darlene Tribue, president of Park Manor Neighbors Community Council said she saw the meeting as a platform for discourse about the project. She added that residents who attended the meeting wanted to know their property was “safe and secure” from acquisition. Also, many citizens were concerned if the community would actually benefit from the project with jobs, contracts and other forms of economic development.
“It’s an opportunity for citizens to speak and truly look at this as a legitimate means of reaching out to a state agency saying that we want jobs, we want to work and we want to understand this project and that it’s not involving taking our homes from us,” Tribue told the Chicago Citizen.
A second public meeting is planned for March 28 from 4:00-7:30 pm at Sherwood Park Field House, 5701 S. Shields Ave.
For more details on the initiative please visit. www.grandcrossingrail.com
By Thelma Sardin
Fela!, the joyous dance, theater, music spectacle, has thrilled audiences in three continents. The Tony Award® winner, directed and choreographed by Bill T. Jones explores the extravagant world of Afrobeat legend, Fela Kuti. Fela! comes to Chicago’s Oriental Theater following its sold-out run at London’s prestigious National Theatre. The Guardian’s Michael Billington exclaimed, “It breaks down conventional barriers between stage and auditorium and joins passion and politics. The dancing is ecstatic, the music lifts the spirits, and the stage is alive with movement.” After Ben Brantley of the New York Times raved, “There should be dancing in the streets!” Bill T. Jones earned a Tony Award® for Best Choreographer. He was also given the Astaire Award and received a 2010 Kennedy Center Honor along with Oprah Winfrey.
Date: March 28, 2012
Time: 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Location: Oriental Theatre, 24 W. Randolph, Chicago
A “dramedy” that examines the impact of gun violence in Chicago from the unique perspectives of a family of female African-American funeral directors and the burden that these women bear trying to serve their community while battling their own demons and mounting fears of violence.
Date: March 29, 2012
Time: 8:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Location: eta Creative Arts Foundation, 7558 S. South Chicago Ave, Chicago
New Paradigms: Mickalene Thomas w/ MCA curator Naomi Beckwith
New York-based Mickalene Thomas will discuss her elaborate artworks and recent residency at the Versailles Foundation Munn Artists Program in Giverny, France with Museum of Contemporary Art curator Naomi Beckwith. The lecture is free, but space is limited and reservations are required.
The conversation continues with a reception at After Dark with special gallery tours, appetizers and cash bar.
Date: March 30, 2012
Time: 7:00 p.m.– 8:00 p.m.
Cost: Free! Tickets for the After Dark reception are available in advance to lecture attendees at a discounted price of $15.
Through Ella’s Eyes – A 95th Birthday Celebration
Join us as we pay homage to the First Lady of Song, Ella Fitzgerald, in honor of what would have been her 95th birthday. The program will include Chicago Jazz Philharmonic’s full orchestra (55 pieces) and feature four of Chicago’s most celebrated vocalists, Dee Alexander, Jackie Allen, Bobbi Wilsyn, and Joan Collaso, giving tribute to the legacy that is Ella Fitzgerald. Through creative use of modern video and audio technology, Ella herself will be virtually present and swingin’ with live accompaniment from the orchestra!
Date: March 31, 2012
Time: 8:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Location: Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress Parkway, Chicago
In review after review, critics are inspired to comment on Gregory Porter as a new “king of jazz,” and a “leader of the pack,” a performer of extraordinary presence who has been compared with the greatest of the greats, such as Joe Williams, Nat Cole, Donny Hathaway, and Marvin Gaye.
With a voice that can caress or confront, embrace or exhort, Gregory Porter exhibits such an incredible degree of vocal mastery that no less a jazz luminary than Wynton Marsalis has gone on record to call him “a fantastic young singer.”
Date: April 1, 2012
Time: 7:30 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Location: Mayne Stage, 1328 W. Morse Avenue, Chicago
Cost: $15; Reserved seating, $25
A recent federal education report revealed that Black students in Chicago Public Schools lead the nation in likelihood of being suspended from school – multiple times.
“The Transformed Civil Rights Data Collection” report examined 2009-2010 national data from 72,000 schools, representing 85 percent of the nation’s public schools. Among other findings, the report showed that Black CPS students during the time period studied represented 76 percent of the school district’s suspensions, though Black students make up only 45 percent of the district’s student body.
The ranking put Chicago first in the nation for Black student suspension rates, though it is only the third largest school district in the country.
“The data portends a very disturbing picture,” U.S. Department of Education Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Russlynn Ali told reporters on a conference call March 6, the same day the report was released. “Those that have been underserved for far too long continue to receive less than their fair share of our most important resources.”
Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis offered a stinging response to the report.
“Students and their families recognize the apartheid-like system managed by CPS and this survey only provides further evidence,” Lewis said in a written statement following announcement of the report. “CPS denies resources to the neediest schools, uses discipline policies with disproportionate harm on students of color, and enacts policies that increase the concentration of students in racially segregated and high poverty schools.”
Academically, the report reveals that some of the nation’s public school districts have a long way to go before in preparing students to be in line with President Barack Obama’s 2020 goal for the U.S. to be a world leader in the number of college graduates.
Data on students of color being offered and passing courses in algebra and physics, courses the U.S. Department of Education identify as the foundation of “college and career readiness,” reveal education gaps that Ali said must close.
“We must ask ourselves whether we’re providing the opportunity for all students to even get to college in high school, and the answer from the data…is no,” Ali said.
The report steps on the toes of a CPS already facing flack over the latest round of school reforms that will see 10 schools dubbed to be failing or under-utilized turned around or consolidated, respectively, starting next school year.
As CTU continues to blast CPS for what the teachers union considers school turnarounds and closures that adversely target students of color, some faith, community and elected leaders cautiously support the school district’s decision. They support closing schools like Crane High School on the West Side and Dyett High School on the South Side. Both schools will begin a phase out starting next school year.
Crane has been consistently on academic probation for the last decade and CPS data reveals that 19 of 20 students there don’t meet state test standards; further more than half of the students don’t graduate. Similarly, Dyett has been on academic probation for the last seven years, two-thirds of the students don’t graduate and 15 of 16 students don’t meet state test standards.
A coalition of faith leaders, including Rev. Roosevelt Watkins, recently voiced their concerns about public education.
“We know that we need to see fundamental change as it relates to education because we know in Chicago our school system is failing our children,” said Watkins, pastor of the Bethlehem Star Baptist Church and head of the H.O.P.E. faith and community organization.
“Something has to be done. For us to continue to defend failing schools … is insanity,” he said. “If schools have been on academic probation, if schools have been failing … I am in favor of any bold actions needed to be taken to fix the problem. If it calls for turning some schools around, let’s take a look at that. It if calls for closing some schools and starting over again let’s look at that.”
But one Dyett parent said the school could do better with more resources.
Kitesha Reggs’daughter is a junior at the school and doing well, the mother told the Chicago Citizen. The daughter is on the honor roll and in a robotics program and her son, who graduated last year, received several college scholarship offers.
Dyett “has come a long way. … We want to save Dyett,” she said. “Put the resources in our community and we will be fine.”
School turnaround, consolidation and phase out started under former Mayor Richard M. Daley and his Renaissance 2010 initiative. Mayor Rahm Emanuel has continue it, bringing new charter schools to the city and purging neighborhood schools that the school district claims are not performing well.
State Sen. Jacqueline Collins, D-16th District, told the Chicago Citizen that while she believes some schools should be closed, she is calling for a one year halt on turnarounds and closures.
“We’re asking for a moratorium for the guidelines and evaluations to be transparent. If a school is failing and the kids are not having the opportunity to access to the education that they deserve…why would we want to keep a failing school open. But I want to know what the criteria is for the definition of failure,” said Collins, who is up for re-election March 20. “The determination should be made in conjunction with the parents and with the principal. But it has to be an open process.”
But Collins said that after it is determined that a school is not academically on par, it shouldn’t remain open.
“Why would you want to keep a failing school open?” she questioned.
By Rhonda Gillespie
The African American Contractors Association has halted its protest outside of South Shore Hospital after several Black contractors were given contracts on a renovation project there. But the organization’s founder said it took raising its voice and making demands of the general contractor to get the contracts.
For several days last month Black-owned business owners represented by the trade organization picketed because they claimed Black contractors had been shut out of the multi-million project led by Berglund Construction as the general contractor.
Omar Shareef, founder of the Chicago-based organization that represents Black contractors throughout the Midwest, said that when bidding initially begin last spring on the project “every African American contractor that bid on this project were told the bid was too high.”
Berglund Construction Company President Fred Berglund told the Chicago Citizen his company didn’t shut out Black contractors, they just, in most cases, weren’t the lowest bidder so they didn’t get the contract. He explained that among the South Shore Hospital, Mercy Hospital and St. Bernard Hospital projects that his company currently is heading, Berglund has subcontracted to 13 Black-owned companies.
“We’ve reached out to many African American contractors. Some were not the lowest bidders, as is the case from time to time,” he said. “The ones that were not the lowest were not awarded.”
The South Shore Hospital project includes a relocation and renovation of the hospital’s medical surgical unit, expansion of one floor, renovation of another floor to include a 15-bed acute mental illness unit that would serve elderly patients, electrical, HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) and other work, according to AACA. It put the project at $7.6 million while Berglund set it at $6 million.
Berglund said he was “extremely” surprised that AACA staged the Feb. 27 and 28 protests outside the hospital.
“I had just met with the association two days prior and we had a very positive dialog that was satisfactory for them and satisfactory for us, and then suddenly the protests appeared,” Berglund said. “I know they wanted jobs and they wanted subcontracting opportunities and we were certainly, in my mind, providing the subcontracting opportunities so I was completely taken off guard and surprised when the protests came out there.”
Willie L. Brown III, vice-president of A.C. Brown Construction, said his company initially put in a bid to provide the painting service for the project.
“But after they had a protest (outside the hospital), Berglund Construction Company did call me back and I met with them. We’re supposed to sign a contract now,” he said.
Brown is pleased to now be getting in on the project, but he is unhappy about what he says it often takes for Black contractors to secure work.
“I think it’s very depressing and heartaching that we have to fight for something inside of our own community to be able to receive work from these white contractors. They’re doing millions and millions of dollars worth of work in our communities and we … have to fight, fight and we still come up on the short end.
Brown said that it’s not so much that the Black contractors over-bid as much as it is that some other minority firms bid low because they “don’t pay their workers union wages.”
A.C. Brown Construction Company previously worked on the Walmart Express at 83rd and Stewart Streets.
The Black- and woman-owned Scott Interiors Inc. is looking forward to the possibility of working on the South Shore hospital renovation project. Anthony Scott, vice president of the company – which is headed by his mother, Elaine Scott-Jones – said Scott Interiors didn’t initially bid on the project, due to some internal issues. But he was told that as a result of the protest, bidding was reopened.
“We were dealing with pricing issues (initially),” he said. “So what we’re trying to do even now, we’re trying to get our pricing together so we can submit it to Berglund. I heard that it was back open again for bidding.”
Scott Interiors hopes to be able to do the flooring for the hospital renovation. But he said that it’s “unacceptable” that Black contractors have to fight for contracts.
“It’s been going on a long time with a lot of contractors in our city and I feel that that’s extremely unacceptable. It’s really, really bad right now because they have this system set up where they try and say that they can’t find any good, qualified Black contractors who can do work, we just know that that’s not true,” said Scott, whose company’s work includes doing the flooring for the south suburban Matteson community center and the new South Shore high school campus.
Berglund said bidding was not reopened but just continuing because the general contractor had not finished awarding all of the subcontracts for the project. He said the protest was held before all the contracts had been awarded. But Shareef said the general contractor accepted more Black contractors’ bids only after the protest.
“Everything was gone before then. That’s the only reason why we do what do, because if it was fair we wouldn’t have to scream and holler” to get contracts, he said.
The South Shore Hospital renovation is in the early stages. Berglund expects the actual work to begin in the spring and take a year to complete.
By Rhonda Gillespie
The deadly shooting of an unarmed 17-year-old Black male at the hands of a white neighborhood watch member who has not been arrested in Florida is stirring tensions.
The situation, which is now gaining national attention and has the Rev. Al Sharpton getting involved, has the family of the slain victim, Trayvon Martin, calling for justice as his admitted killer has yet to be arrested and charged by police.
As the local police continue to be criticized for their slow process and failure to arrest the alleged suspect, the case has gone to the Florida’s State Attorney General’s office with the hope that justice will be served.
Reports indicate Martin was visiting his father in Sanford, Fla., just outside Orlando, on Feb. 26 in a gated community when he was on his way back from a convenience store, where he had purchased Skittles and iced tea. White neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman, 28, spotted him.
Zimmerman allegedly called 911 to report a “suspicious person” in the neighborhood. Some accounts indicate that Zimmerman in fact told authorities there was a suspicious Black man walking in the neighborhood.
Dispatchers told Zimmerman not to interfere and that officers were on the way to check out the situation. Ignoring instructions, Zimmerman followed the teen in his SUV, approached Martin and the two got into a scuffle on the ground.
Zimmerman then pulled out a semiautomatic handgun and allegedly shot Martin in the chest, killing him 70 feet from Martin’s apartment. Police arrived on the scene and found Martin’s dead body.
Police reports indicate that Zimmerman told officers during questioning that he shot Martin in self-defense. After being interviewed a total of three times, officers have not arrested Zimmerman and he remains free. Police claim they don’t have enough evidence to arrest Zimmerman.
“In this case, Mr. Zimmerman made the statement of self-defense,” said Stanford Police Chief Bill Lee at a press conference this week. “Until we can establish probable cause to dispute that, we don’t have the grounds to arrest him. The Sanford Police Department is conducting a fair investigation no matter what the color of anyone involved in it is.”
Martin’s family, along with Black neighborhood residents, say that Martin was the victim of racial profiling and question why Zimmerman had a handgun as a neighborhood watch leader. Legally, Zimmerman had a permit to carry the weapon.
“He was stereotyped for some reason. Why was Trayvon suspicious? There are hundreds of children in that community,” said Benjamin Crump, attorney for Martin’s family.
Zimmerman has a criminal record that includes resisting arrest and getting into a physical altercation with a police officer.
Since the shooting, residents have held several protests and rallies calling for the arrest of Zimmerman. Martin’s family is asking for the 911 calls from the night of the shooting to be released, which police have yet to hand over, citing the ongoing investigation. The family has also reported that police initially lied about Zimmerman’s criminal past.
“I had a detective look me in the eye and tell me he is a dad, that he is in pain and that he would bring us justice,” said Martin’s father, Tracy. “He started off on the wrong foot. He lied.”
After a request for his involvement, Sharpton said in statement this week the National Action Network (NAN) is calling for a complete investigation. Sharpton is scheduled to go to Florida to demand the 911 calls be released.
“The fact that a young, unarmed man could be killed by a neighborhood watch captain while his family was blatantly misled by local police as to the background of the shooter is disturbing,” Sharpton said. “Further, the fact that we are told that racial language was used when the young man reported his suspicions to police, and when he was told not to pursue the shooter, that he allegedly defied them by doing so, is a compelling reason for NAN and I to become involved.”
by Cyril Josh Barker
Special to the NNPA from the New York Amsterdam News
Lloyd Boatner said the country should release some of its oil reserves to give consumers some relief at the pump. Putting $11 of regular grade gas in his late model sedan at a suburban Harvey gas station barely got him 2.5 gallons.
“It’s crazy. It doesn’t make sense,” he said of gas prices.
Gas was $4.26 per gallon for regular grade at the Go Lo gas station at 154th Street and Dixie Highway in the south suburban town. It was 20 to 40 cents less than some stations in the city, but still too much Boatner said.
“It’s just too expensive,” he said.
Chicago leads the nation with some of the highest prices at the pump, according to GasBuddy.com which tracks fuel costs. On February 19 the average gas price in Chicago was $3.59. One month later the average cost is $4.38, according to the site. Further, AAA indicates that the national average now for gas is $3.66
Like Boatner and many other consumers, U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush, D-1st, wants to know what is driving gas prices to higher rates week after week. The veteran congressman, who faced re-election in the March 20 primary, spoke earlier this month on Capitol Hill at a House Subcommittee on Energy and Power hearing about gas prices. Rush, who is the ranking member of the Subcommittee on Energy and Power, called for an investigation into the role of Wall Street speculators in the price hike.
“Mr. Chairman, we all know that gas prices are set on the global market and there are a variety of geopolitical factors that determine the price of fuel, many of which are beyond the control of the president or the Congress. But there are some factors that we do have control over, including looking at the role of speculators in setting fuel prices,” he said. “In fact, Mr. Chairman, I believe it would benefit this subcommittee to hold a hearing strictly on this issue in order to bring transparency to the American people so we can all better understand the role that speculators play in raising fuel prices.
Rush told the Chicago Citizen that supply and demand usually drives gas prices. But he would like to probe the recent spike to ensure that unlawful Wall Street greed isn’t involved. He said the recent cost increases come at a time when the country is producing more oil and importing less – previously, a U.S dependence on foreign oil suppliers was blamed for high fuel costs here. Rush added that American demand had lowered over the last year.
“Speculators project a rise in demand for gasoline during the summer driving season. Futures traders speculating on the price of crude oil in a manner that violates securities regulations can also drive up the price of gasoline and heating oil. We need more oversight to make sure that regulators act aggressively to end these practices,” he said.
Boatner said that buying gas regrettably puts a strain on household budgets, forcing choices between one household need over another.
“I know how (elderly) people feel, having to choose between food and medicine and gas,” he said.
Rush said the sharp fluctuations also adds frustration for families trying to budget for household expenses. One month ago gas was about 80 cents per gallon cheaper, according to GasBuddy.com.
“How can you plan when you don’t know what gasoline prices are going to be? Also they impact the price of food and other goods,” he said.
But Rush said consumers may soon decrease demand, refusing to pay high gas prices and opting for other forms of transportation when they can, which will force gas prices to down.
“Also consumers can assist lawmakers and the president (Barack Obama) by documenting steep price spikes in gas prices and reporting to their members of congress and to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission,” he said. “Ultimately the American people will decide where fuel prices will end up. In our free market economy the decisions of consumers can and do trump all else.”
By Rhonda Gillespie
During Women’s History month, Chicago State University (CSU) is celebrating the achievements of single mothers.
According to the university, 71 percent of its student population is female and of that number over 30 percent are single parents. In addition, singleblackparents.com cites that 63 percent of African-American households are headed by a single parent and the overwhelming majority of these single parents are women.
The CSU Foundation is presenting five successful women with awards at its second annual “Essence of an Angel” Scholarship Luncheon on April 1.
The luncheon has a dual purpose of celebrating the achievements of women in their professional and personal lives as single mothers, while acknowledging and supporting the impact single mothers have made to CSU and communities.
The CSU Foundation’s 2012 “Essence of an Angel” honorees are Dorothy Brown, Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County; Amy Hilliard, founder/CEO, The Comfort Cake Company, LLC; Leana Flowers, retired executive at Urban Partnership Bank; and Kimmah Shah, CSU student and founder of Get Tight Get Right; and Barbara Bates, local designer and contestant on NBC’s “Fashion Star.”
On March 16, the foundation showcased the triumphs of this year’s nominees with an intimate breakfast at Norman’s Bistro in Bronzeville.
The honorees were selected though an open nomination process by a panel of past honorees and CSU staff. Moreover, the chosen nominees epitomize success and achievement in their careers and dedicate themselves to making their communities a better place.
As Clerk of the Circuit Court, Dorothy Brown is responsible for all judicial records in Cook County and manages an annual operating budget of more than $100 million and has a workforce of over 2,100 employees. Yet, Brown’s most prized responsibility is being a mother to her adult daughter, Detris.
Brown said she and her first husband separated while she was working full-time and attending law school at night. When Brown found herself divorced and raising her adolescent daughter alone, she sought the help of neighbors because the majority of her family lived out-of- state.
“It was very challenging for me during that time,” Brown said of the period following her divorce. “You feel like it’s simply a dark cloud.”
An older couple that lived across the street from Brown helped with her young daughter. They got Brown’s daughter off the school bus in the evening and fed and looked after her until Brown came home.
Brown, who remarried two years ago, admits she has had challenging moments during her daughter’s teen years but together they got through it.
“She became an outstanding young woman, I’m very pleased,” the clerk said of her daughter who is studying divinity. “I have one child and for that child to love the Lord, it’s just a blessing.”
Amy Hilliard, founder/CEO of ComfortCake, LLC says being a single mom isn’t easy. Hilliard, a mother of two, grew up with both of her parents who were married for 60 years. She found it especially difficult to transition to single motherhood after observing the longevity of her parent’s marriage.
Hilliard reluctantly sold her home to finance her company. She said it was a very difficult decision, but throughout it all her children comforted her.
“Mom, don’t worry because a house is not a home, a home is the place you live with the people you love,” Hilliard said her daughter, Angelica, told her. Hilliard said the advice served as inspiration then and still does to this day.
Today, ComfortCake is a national brand and has been featured on The Food Network, CNN and Windy City Live.
Leana Flowers, a mother of two daughters is a widow and says she got through the struggles of single motherhood with the support of family.
Flowers joined Urban Partnership Bank in 1980 as director of human resources, when the financier was known as ShoreBank.
She rose through the ranks over the years and held many executive level positions. In 2010, she became director of community affairs for the newly charter $1.4 billion Urban Partnership Bank, charged with building relationships between the bank and community.
Kimmah Shah is a CSU student who is currently pursuing a degree in management and maintains a B+ GPA. A personal trainer, Shah enjoys helping women gain self-esteem and educating the community about obesity, body image and health and wellness. She is the mother of a teenage son and didn’t graduate from high school but earned a GED.
Shah left college for a short while to care for her son and her mother who was dying of cancer. Equipped with a strong personality, Shah says she didn’t use her unfortunate experiences as a crutch but as fuel to pursue her dreams.
Shah thanked the other honorees for being great examples of single mothers.
“This is such a huge honor to be in the company of women who already paved the way for women like me,” she said.
For Shah, being a parent is her number one priority. “I don’t cry about anything but parenting,” she said.
Barbara Bates is a talented local fashion designer and is currently a contestant on NBC’s “Fashion Star.” Most people aren’t aware that Bates cannot actually sew. However the breast cancer survivor has a fantastic eye for style. The single mother considers fashion a “lifestyle” and began her career as a secretary for First National Bank of Chicago. Bate’s designs grabbed her colleague’s attention at the bank so she began selling her fashions during her lunch hour.
Today celebrities such as Cece Winans, Linda Johnson Rice, Oprah Winfrey and Will Smith have worn her clothing. Bates also has a foundation that provides custom prom dresses to young women in the inner city. The designer’s boutique is located in Chicago’s South Loop.
Proceeds from the scholarship luncheon will provide financial support for single mothers currently attending CSU. For ticket information or to make a donation please call 773-995-3839.
By Thelma Sardin
A local community resource center is joining forces with Lumity, an organization committed to empowering non-profits, to help bridge the digital divide that affects small business owners and Chatham area residents.
The Chatham Business Association (CBA) announced on March 13 that its community resource center has joined forces with Lumity, a company that has provided technology and finance consulting services and training to non-profits in the Chicago area for 30 nearly years.
The CBA Community Center is located inside the QBG Foundation-Chicago Citizen Newspaper building at 806 E. 78th Street and serves as a technology hub for area residents and small business owners. The center provides classes and workshops in computer literacy, Microsoft Office programs and helps individuals with electronic job search and pre-employment training.
The CBA Community Center opened nearly a year and a half ago to supplement the needs of small businesses and give them access to technology.
Approximately six weeks ago, CBA’s center was selected as one of ten community organizations to participate in Lumity’s CTC Connect initiative. According to Lumity’s website, CTC Connect is designed to increase the capacity and sustainability of Community Technology Centers (CTC) in Chicago.
The CTC Connect initiative is a pilot program across the city that brings digital knowhow to areas in need of computer technology and computer technology education. Lumity will open an additional 60 CTC’s across Chicago with an ending total goal of 70 centers over a two year time period.
“We are bringing technology inside of communities,” Melinda Carter, director of Lumity’s MS IT Academy said of the initiative.
Melinda and Jonathan Carter are technology coordinators for Lumity and the pair informed business owners at CBA’s monthly meeting last Tuesday about the details of the partnership. The power couple and business partners are married and have been together over 20 years.
Mr. Carter boasts over 15 years of corporate consulting management and over 20 years of non-profit operations management experience. He is the CTC Connect Program Director and possesses a wide breadth of technological knowledge including Network Structure, Basic Digital Literacy Instruction, Computer Solutions, Microsoft Suite 2000 Certification, Level 1 Tech training, strategic planning, and project management.
Mrs. Carter is the director of Lumity’s MS IT Academy. The program provides training and resources to organizations that house public computer centers and workforce development training to community residents.
Carter has more than 15 years of experience as a corporate training consultant and over 20 years in operations, volunteer development, relationship building and financial accountability. She is well-versed in Basic Digital literacy and IT Architecture and is a certified trainer of CitiGroup’s Marketing University.
Melinda Kelly, executive director of the CBA told members attending the meeting that the organization’s mission is to make sure they have access to resources to accelerate business development.
“We wanted to make sure that when we visit our businesses that you have the opportunity to get your personnel up to speed on technology,” said Kelly. “It’s key to the growth of your business.”
The partnership will allow businesses to increase their digital knowledge as well as train employees for Microsoft IT certifications.
For more information about the CBA Community Resource Center visit www.cbaworks.org
By Thelma Sardin