Saturday, July 26, 2008

Partying With a Purpose: Steppin' In the Name of Breast Cancer Awareness

I have come to the conclusion that Chicagoans are all that--and a bag of chips!
This past Thursday evening I attended a stepper's set downtown in the South Loop on Michigan Avenue. I was chasing down an interview with Howard Hewitt, the R&B vocalist, who was scheduled to make an appearance. To say I was excited at the thought of meeting him is an understatement of the highest order. I was a Shalimar fan and a Howard groupee back in the day. I've seen him perform live at least a half dozen times over the years.
We never met although he sang to me once--years ago during a concert at a small club. We've never met, however.

I wasn't aware that I was going to a stepper's set, so I was wearing my trusty jeans and jean jacket and basically dressed down. I did know that Howard was there as a part of a campaign to encourage women to have annual mammograms through an organization called Anaia's Breast Cancer Awareness Program (Abcap), headed by a delightful gentleman, Kenneth Beford.
I spoke with Kenneth on the phone briefly and explained that I was hunting Howard down for an interview and I wanted to speak with his publicist. Kenneth informed me that Howard would be there and just to come down and hang out.

I came downtown and was very amazed as the event unfolded. I hadn't been to a stepper's set in years. Actually this is a weekly stepper's set hosted by Kenneth. I saw several people that I knew and many folks that I didn't know who have some celebrity status. Among those present were radio personality and steppin empresario, Herb Kent; Casper Slide inventer, Casper; singer, Bobby Hutton; fashion designer, Marquita Kruger; author and former mayoral candidate, Bill Dock Walls; Roger Salter, Charles & Maria Taylor; fashion designer, Gabriel Williams; Ros Adams; and many others. This was an awesome networking opportunity. This set is held every Thursday, 2230 S. Michigan Avenue, (5:30 PM to 11PM) Free food and free admission.

Kenneth shared with the audience how his wife, Anaia had succumbed to Breast Cancer and that he had started the foundation in her name to honor her and to encourage women to get early detection by taking mammograms. Howard Hewitt had been one of her favorite artists. Kenneth contacted him and Howard has been a supporter ever since 2004.

Howard is very personable and down to earth. Women stood in line to sign up for mammograms and to purchase Howard's newest cd. I didn't get to interview him but I got plenty of pics of him interacting with others. I was touched by his sincerity for this cause.
I was happy I attended this party with a purpose. Thanks Kenny B.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Word Sandwiches are Hard to swallow but even more Difficult to Digest

As a news editor I receive press releases from many news sources. The following is a press release I received from Rainbow PUSH regarding some inflammatory statements made by Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. about Senator Barack Obama while speaking in confidence to Julian Bond during a FOX News segment in Chicago. Apparently the remarks were inflammatory and caused him embarrassment and negative media coverage. Rev. Jackson, while still mic'd, believed he was not 'live' as he whispered to Mr. Bond. The full audio was captured and FOX news did not hesitate to make the video and audio tapes available to other news sources across the country.

Rev. Jackson Apologizes for ‘Hurtful Words’

The following is an official statement from Rev. Jesse L. Jackson Sr., founder and president of Rainbow PUSH Coalition.

Madrid (July 16, 2008) - “I am deeply saddened and distressed by the pain and sorrow that I have caused as a result of my hurtful words. I apologize again to Senator Barrack Obama, Michelle Obama, their children as well as to the American public. There really is no justification for my comments and I hope that the Obama family and the American public will forgive me. I also pray that we, as a nation, can move on to address the real issues that affect the American people.”

Rev. Jackson,
Let me begin by telling you that every since I was a little girl, and went to hear you speak at a church on 46th and King Drive along with Dr. ML King, Jr., I have been a fan and a supporter. You are the same age as my parents. Over the years our paths have crossed on many ocassions. Each time was very memorable and without incident and became the source of very fond reflections.

I watched with dismay, several news accounts of the things you are credited with saying about Sen. Barrack Obama and the African American community. I watched these stories without judgement (which is very hard for a person to do because it's not natural to have no opinion). I understand your assertion that you thought you were not "live". I realize that you and Julian are friends and you were doing private sharing in a public venue. Not only were your words recorded, but because you were seated in a tv newsroom they took the liberty of videotaping you while you spoke. You did not cover your mouth as you spoke so lip readers could see your words as they flowed from your lips. As soon as you made the comments I sense you regretted you had. I concluded that you were not to blame, but the 'littlest' member of your body betrayed you.

In fact, you are not to blame at all because your occupation betrayed you. You are a 'spokesperson' and spokepersons speak--it's what they do. Because of your vast and colorful vocabulary, your intellect betrayed you. Of all the words that could've been used to decribe what you meant, you used the simplest--just like Jesus would do.

So you're not to blame at all; it was the Jesus in you that betrayed you. And what I am most impressed by is that even though it was not your fault in any way, shape or form--you were still a big enough person to eat an entire 'word sandwich'--that is, to issue an entire public apology if what you said was offensive or hurtful to Sen Obama, his wife, or his kids. You can truly tell that you are a real man of GOD. Attaboy Rev. Jackson! Go ahead and take a bow.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Memories from 2007-"The Churchlady goes to Washington DC"

The Churchlady Goes to Washington originally posted July 3, 2007

Just when I think God has done all that he could possibly do to bless me, he out does Himself and blesses me some more!Last week was one of the most awesome experiences of my life. I had the privilege of hosting 10 youth from Chicago ages 14-18 to the Nation's capital to speak to lawmakers there. The youth were a part of a Youth Empowerment Summit hosted by World Vision, a Christian humanitarian organization based in Federal Way, WA.

They traveled to D.C. out of their concern with the growing number of young people killed in Chicago over the past school year(35) by gun related violence. The delegation, "The Chi-Town Crew" visited with Congressmen Danny K. Davis (Dem 7th District) and Bobby Rush (Dem 1st District), and Senator Barack Obama. We also visited Cong Jesse Jackson, Jr's office and spoke with his office staff and legislative aides. They were kind enough to give audience to the delegation and encouraged them. We also watched the tv monitor while Cong Jackson addressed the House in support of Peotone Airport. Several of the youth saw him briefly in his office after he returned from the floor.Each of the youth read prepared statements to their reps, that painted pictures of what their lives have become due to gun violence. After pointing out the problems, the youth each read 3 recommendations for policy change. I especially appreciated how each of our US Congressmen and their reps gave their undivided attention to the youth and allowed each of them to present their ideas.

After this meeting our tour guide took us on the undergound journey from the House of Representatives to the Senate. There were trains to ride and tunnels to navigate, but the kids were so excited to participate in the adventure (personally, my feet were killing me but my shoes were sharp...). Along the way we met Congresswoman Carolyn Kirkpatrick of Detroit. She is the mom of Mayor Kwame Kirkpatrick of Detroit. She was very down to earth and encouraging to the kids. Although she was in a hurry, she stopped to pose with them for photos and was very generous with hugs for everyone. After meeting her we were even more excited about our meeting with the our Senator Barack Obama.

After walking for what seemed like hours (actually about 25 minutes of total travel between buildings) we arrived at Senator Obama's office. His staff greeted us and alerted us that although the Senator originally had 30 minutes, he now had only five left. We had used all of our time travelling between buildings--Can you imagine!

The staff suggested that we may want to use the five minutes as a photo op. The kids quickly decided that even five minutes with the senator listening to the issues was worth more than a photo op. We stood in the hallway while the kids decided that one student would speak for everyone and that would be Stephen Hudson or Claiborne Wade and Sharlisa Brooks if there was time.
We then proceeded into Senator Obama's inner offices and he stood in the doorway and greeted each of us personally, issuing handshakes and hugs--it was a very personal touch and it took three minutes. Once we were inside, Senator Obama had the kids sit and the adults stand. In addition to myself there was a parent volunteer, Virgil Hudson and Romanita Hairston, a VP from World Vision and Lena, another WV co-worker.

Senator Obama then asked the kids, "So, what y'all wanna talk to me about?" One of the youth explained how disturbing the recent rash of youth killings in Chicago had been to them--so much so until decided that they had to travel to DC to offer some possible solutions to our lawmakers.
Intrigued, Senator Obama had one of his staffers to bring him a chair and he sat amongst the kids and allowed the presentation for the next 27 minutes; along with dialog and questions related to his service to the youth as the possible next President of the United States. I cried as I watched the interaction between the kids and Obama. I was so incredibly proud of them both. Two of the kids were already registered voters. After explaining that he needed to get back to the Senate floor, he asked if the kids were interested in a photo . They took lots of photos with him and then we took a group photo.

In a word this experience was 'da bomb!" Senator Barack Obama is personable and warm. He is also very thoughtful and accommodating. Although I had met Senator Obama on several other occasions in Chicago, this meeting in the nation's capital is the one that will stand out in mind mind.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

The Taste of Chicago Sucks

Yesterday, I attempted to participate in Chicago's largest annual festival, The Taste of Chicago. I had intentionally waited until the day before the last day. I hate crowds-period. The Taste is in essence simply a giant crowd with the potential of somebody spilling some food on my clothes and having me 'snap' on that fool who accidently did it.
Everybody who knows me knows I hate the Taste. Nevertheless, I agreed to meet my girlfriend, Dee Dee downtown so that we could trip out a minute and eat together. I was traveling by bus and ended up late meeting her due to a mishap.

When I finally arrived people were everywhere!There appeared to be utter and total chaos (although there probably wasn't) because there were so many people. I took a few pics and startd to get agitated because of the crowds.

Dee Dee and I finally hooked up but I couldn't take the crowds and ended up leaving. My conclusion is that while the prmise is very lucative for the food vendors, its very inconvenient for attendees.
Some people were smoking cigarettes, pushing strollers in the middle of the already crowded main strip, and pushing their bikes through the shoulder-to shoulder-crowd.

I did not enjoy folks' food coming so close to my clothes and standing so close to people I didn't know. It probably would have been more fun in a smaller setting. The Taste of Chicago sucked.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Where on Earth is Yasmin Acree? Does Race Impact Missing Person Investigations?

When a teenage black girl from Chicago and two young white women from the suburbs all mysteriously vanished, would race be a consideration in the investigation and news coverage?

Yesterday, I attended a prayer vigil on behalf of a missing 15 year-old girl from Chicago's West Side, Yasmin Acree. It seems that Yasmin, the cousin of my dear friend, Rev. Ira J. Acree, has been missing for 6 months with no plausible explanations or police discoveries and no closure for family and friends.
I remember when she vanished from her home back in January '08. I'd heard about it on television and from the neighborhood grapevine. In fact, the newspaper I write for, the Windy City Word, ran her picture for about 3 weeks immediately following her disappearance.
Subsequently, when we heard nothing more about the investigation from electronic or mainstream press, I fugured she had been found or simply returned home.

Imagine my surprise when I received an email from Rev. Acree announcing the prayer vigil and the fact that Yasmin was still missing. As a member of the media I found his fact to be very disheartening in lieu of the very high-profile coverage given to two young women, Lisa Stebic and Stacy Peterson, suburbanites who have been missing for over a year, but whose stories remain fresh in the public's minds due to print and electronic news coverage.
My analytical mind tends to speculate the reasons why these cases have been handled so differently. Race.
Yasmin is a black girl from an inner-city community. Lisa and Stacy are young white women--wives and mothers who lived middle, class suburban lives. Yasmin is described as a basically good student and responsible teen who had no prior history of running away from home, who attended church regularly and who liked to hang out at the the YMCA; Lisa and Stacy were adults who were both admittedly involved in troubled marriages and who had both confided to their family and friends prior to their disappearances, that if anything were to happen to either of them that they should look to each of their husbands as suspects.

Lisa Stebic, who disappeared first, seems to have vanished into thin air. After numerous searches by family, friends, and strangers (and plenty of media coverage) there has not been a trace of her whereabouts. Her family continues to hope even after a year and a half that she is still alive.

Stacy Peterson vanished shortly after Lisa amid very suspicious circumstances. Relatives, friends, and even her pastor believe strongly that her husband might be responsible for her disappearance or at least knows more than he is telling. The husband, a police officer, maintains that Stacy has left he and their children and run off with another man. Her family says this scenario would be totally out of character.

As a part of her disappearance investigation the police exhumed the body of Stacy's husband's deceased former wife and autopsied her again. They reclassified her death from an accident to a homicide with her husband as a prime suspect. This woman's family maintained at the time of her death that it was not an accident but an orchestrated murder set up by this same husband.
The local police agencies have spared no expense in searching for these two young women.

Yasmin Acree is believed to be alive. has not received even a small portion of the high profile news coverage that these two women have commanded even though she is an underage minor and could not possibly be taking care of herself independently. Rev Acree maintains that the investigation into his cousin's disappearance is not yielding any results from the police detectives. All persons who may have seen her on the last day before she vanished have not been interviewed and thoroughly ruled out, including the former boyfriend of the young lady's mother.

Those folks watching closely include concerned clergy, family and friends, who feel that there appears to be some indifference on behalf of the Chicago Police Department in solving and closing this case. Could it be that race is playing a part in how this investigation is handled?

Happy Birthday Trevor Fields:A Biker Laid to Rest in Grand Style

On Saturday, June 28, 2008, a brother-friend of mine, Trevor Fields, was laid to rest in a homegoing service that was second to none.When I arrived at the service, which was held at Carter Temple CME Church in Chicago, I was greeted by a sea of bikers wearing colors that seemed to represent every black MotorCycle Club in the Chi-town.

Trevor, it seems was a part of the Red Liners MC. Their colors are red & black. There were many men and women Red Liners who came out to pay their respects. It was very touching and I'm sure his family was very happy to see such an awesome show of support from his friends and those persons who cared enough to put a comma in their day to celebrate the life of this young man. They say that it appeared to be over 200 bikers in his processional, in addition to the many cars.

I never knew Trevor loved motorcycle riding, which means I never really knew Trevor. I've known who Trevor Fields was only casually for 12 years. I knew his parents, William & Brenda Fields better than I knew him; but I knew he was their son whom they loved dearly.

I love motorcycles too. Trevor was killed in a motorcycle accident while riding his motorcycle on the Bishop Ford expressway in Chicago. Trevor was wearing his helmut, but in this instance it didn't help him. He died from mostly bodily injuries.

The news accounts I read were very tragic.I am the mother of four sons. I feel Brenda's pain at the sudden loss of one of her only two sons. When I saw her at the funeral I could only say, "I love you."

On July 5th, William and Brenda's son, Trevor would have celebrated the 36th anniversary of his birth. I know that this will be a very hard day for the Fields' family.

Trevor, I celebrate your life today. I am glad that you lived. I am glad that you knew how it felt to be 'one with the wind.' I am glad for the life of your daughter; I am happy that you had many friends and folks who loved you. I am glad that you had the parents that you had, and most of all I am glad that you knew Jesus for yourself.

Now, ain't that good news?