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ABLA Homes Update

by Karen Owens 

The 9th annual ABLA Family Fun Day was held recently at Addams Park, 15th Street and Loomis Avenue (aka Deverra Beverly Street). The event was sponsored by ABLA’s Local Advisory Council and was an official part of Mayor Richard M. Daley’s Neighborhood Summer Festivals.

The beautiful, warm and sunny weather helped make it a well-received occasion. Thousands of ABLA residents from 2 to 92 years old came out and enjoyed. First-class entertainment was provided:

The CHA Ambassador Choir’s inspirational up-tempo songs had the crowd in a hand clapping, sing-along mood. The CHA Safe Summer Tour featured spectacular multi-talented youths from ABLA and other developments singing R&B and rap, performing amazing feats of gymnastics and well-choreographed dance steps. Rappin’ Tate, the emcee of the show, did an excellent job of keeping the crowd pumped up. Read more »

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Ida B. Wells Reunion

by Mary C. Piemonte 

The Life Center Church of God in Christ, 5500 S. Indiana Ave., was the place to be Saturday, July 18. The Chicago Housing Authority Alumni Association’s Ida B. Wells/Darrow Homes chapter hosted a free Gospel Celebration featuring the Grammy Award-winning gospel singer Albertina Walker, international gospel recording artist Kim Stratton, the CHA Law & Order Band, the New Life Performance Company and the Crumble Sisters.

Pastor T.L. Barrett Jr., Sandra Hall, WMAQ-TV NBC 5 Station Relations Director Delores MeBain, Cecelia Peeler and CHA Alumni Association President Loisteen Woods-Walker co-chaired the event.

WHO ARE THE CHAAA?

The CHA Alumni Association was founded in 1984 by the late Bernadina C. Washington. The CHAAA is made up of former residents who give back to the community by awarding college scholarships to CHA youths.

For seven or eight years following the death of Ms. Washington, the CHAAA had been dormant. But the growing needs of the residents of public housing sparked the revitalization of the CHAAA in 1995.

According to MeBain, the event at Ida B. Wells was a public relations effort.

“The purpose for this event is to draw attention to the Alumni Association,” said MeBain.

The turnout was low but the people in attendance were having a glorious time. You could see and feel it. During the celebration, the co-chairpersons took turns speaking and introducing the guests.

SPIRITS SOAR

The first guests were was the Crumble Sisters, a gospel group consisting of a mother and three daughters. They sung “What if God is Unhappy with our Praise” a capella. The emotional expressions on their faces at the song’s crescendo really moved me. They were in perfect harmony and it sounded so smooth and clear that I began to meditate on the Lord.

Next came the dancers of the New Life Performance Company. Two young ladies dressed in ballerina apparel danced elegantly to an instrumental praise and worship song. Not a sound was made during the dance.

In between performances, people were invited to join the CHAAA and scholarship applications were given out.

“It’s good that people don’t forget where they came from,” said Woods-Walker.

Former Ida B. Wells resident MeBain talked about the old days when people used to be proud to live in the developments and how some tried to get in, like NBC 5 news anchorman Warner Saunders.

Up next were the CHA Law & Order Band, made up of men and women from the CHA Police Department. They threw down on the song, “I Believe.” I was in the center front row and could see and hear every word very clearly, which made me move with praise and adoration.

I tell you truly, with just a few in attendance, the whole concert was a sight to behold, especially when the one and only Albertina Walker started. She talked a little bit about how grateful she was to the CHAAA for having her and that she was glad just for the mere fact that the Lord had woke her up another day and blessed her over the years.

She briefly said a few words about the low turn-out: “If the doctors and lawyers that have come from Cabrini alone would acknowledge that fact, this place would be filled.” The room exploded with excitement and approval.

Walker then thanked the Lord for her voice and began to sing. When she sang, “Joy Cometh in the Morning,” I felt serene and at peace and began to cry. The words to that song describe the daily troubles that people go through and it moved me so much that I wanted to shout. Instead, I just rocked back and forth. She sang from the heart.

The next time I’m not going to fight the feeling. Hallelujah! I tell you, that 68-year-old woman has been blessed with a strong and powerful voice.

A GRACEFUL ENDING

After Walker’s beautiful songs, the ceremony upstairs ended and everyone was invited to attend the brunch prepared for us downstairs. There was plenty of good food and drink and people began talking and taking pictures. Shortly thereafter, LeClaire Courts resident Kim Stratton and her son arrived. She set up everything she needed, thanked the CHAAA for their invitation and began singing.

Stratton is a graceful Praise & Worship singer who is dramatic with her hands while singing. The sound of her voice as she was praising the Lord carried me away and for an instant and I felt as though our spirit was in tune with the Lord’s spirit. I began to silently praise and worship along with her. Oh I tell you, It was something else.

Some people left and didn’t get to hear Stratton but I thank the Lord that I was able to attend because I needed the uplift at that particular time. I left encouraged and feeling good. Keep up the good work, CHAAA!!!

For Your Information

At present, the CHAAA works out of four chapters: Ida B. Wells/Darrow Homes, Altgeld Gardens, Cabrini Green and Robert Taylor Homes. Last year, the CHAAA hosted an event at Navy Pier featuring Jackie Thompson and the Black Ensemble Theatre. That event raised $15,000, which supported five CHA youths. To find out how to apply for the scholarship and other information, call the CHAAA hotline at (312) 454-6176.

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Hi Ho Dobbin Away

by John Sampson 

Monday, May 18, was far and away the most delightful day that Chicago citizens had seen in a barrel of Sundays. At just past seven in the morning, the temperature dilly dallyed around 70 degrees, a glowing warm morning sun gave the early risers a sense of new birth and an aura of joy without end. All the while, a docile Southern breeze waltzed along the sandy shores of an azure Lake Michigan.

I scrambled out of bed an hour or so before the proverbial cock could crow, fumbled my way into my humble kitchen, put a pot of coffee on, a serving of grits, prepared a breakfast of sausages and eggs. After my morning meal, I made my way by bus to our point of departure. I disembarked at Lawrence and Damen and – to my nonplus – I was one of the very first ones at the Levy Center that was going on the safari.

The Joseph and Sarah Levy Center was so named by a grateful city Department on Aging in appreciation for their humanitarian generosity. Ever since it opened in 1980, the Levy Center has been a source of hope and a guiding light for Chicago’s weary, wayward and ailing senior citizens.

The Levy Center has been a Mecca of care and comfort for an untold number of elderly people searching for a place to meet and greet folks who in all probability have had a similar kismet in life.

At noon every day in the center’s huge dinning room, the staff rolls out the welcome mat and serves its guests well-rounded, nutritious meals for $1. The food is given freely if a person cannot pay.

Once the midday meal is over, the dinning room often becomes a theater. A play is presented or there are card games of many flavors or chess games and/or checkers.

The Levy Center also affords the seniors with four pool tables and a large room called the 1,2,3 room, where one can sit back and board a magic carpet to the land of nod. Last but not least, one can visit the exercise room, and place that flagging body in the capable hands of my man Larry Haliburton, the Levy Center’s fitness connoisseur.

At 9 a.m., Brookie Harcrow, the mother hen for our trip, directed bus driver Kenneth “Smokey” Rahn to the Copernicus Senior Center, 3160 N. Milwaukee Ave., where we picked up a group of 15 additional seniors.

After Rahn was sure that everyone was seated safely and securely, he guided the huge brown and yellow vehicle onto the Eden Expressway.

The first 15 miles outside the city limits was ice cream and cake! But then, our picnic was foiled and spoiled by what seemed to be an unending stretch of highway that was under construction. That decelerated our expeditious velocity down to a tortoise promenade.

However, with a bit of patience and fortitude, Smokey made it to Lake Forest Oasis, our first rest stop. Our stay was a short one; we had just enough time to run to the bathroom, grab a sandwich at Wendy’s and then saddle up for a ride into the Western horizon.

It was near high noon when Smokey veered off I-94 onto Illinois 173 and went rolling merrily along through a dreamlike scenario of hills, dales and rabbit trails. I had been in this neck of the woods many times, not merely because it is my favorite fishing sector but because this portion of Illinois is the most picturesque in the magnificent “Land of Lincoln.” For my two cents, the area has an August splendor that rivals the hue and cry of Wisconsin, the beautiful, awesome and beloved land of dreams and streams.

The Chain O’ Lakes State Park is located in Lake County. Lake County, by the way, lies on the extreme Northeast corner of Northwestern Illinois, bounded on the north by Wisconsin, on the east by Lake Michigan, on the south by Cook County and on the west by McHenry County. Lake County boasts 40 inland lakes as well as an array of rivers and lesser waterways. The county is 23 ½ miles long and encompasses 475 square miles.

It was just a tad past noon when we turned off Wilmont Road and into the State Park. I was surprised to see so many other seniors that had arrived ahead of us lined up at the office window filling out papers. I saw Arlene Mudrack, a fellow resident of my building and one of the most active, nicest persons in this or any other city. The supervisor of the riding stable was a Lilliputian woman of advanced age with a tendency for giving orders named Carol Adams.

The Chain O’ Lakes State Park is open year round. It has 220 capsites, some with electric hookups, showers, boat rental, fishing and playgrounds. One can go hunting from November to mid-December and horseback riding from May to October. Winter-sports minded folks can go snow-mobiling and cross county skiing during the winter months.

Each of the seniors received a number and the name of the horse they were going to ride. When the name of their dobbin (workhorse), mare (female) or gelding (castrated) was called, the senior entered into a diminutive corral, climbed on a table and was hoisted, sometimes after several tries, onto the horse’s back by two buxom young women. You would have laughed till you cried tears watching those big girls get the seniors onto the horse’s backs.

Once a group of 8 or 10 was assembled, the party hit the trail. The third group – the one that Arlene Mudrack went out with, met with misfortune. An 84-year-old great grandmother was thrown off the back of the horse she was riding.

When the news of the calamity reached the rest of us, it permeated our hearts and minds of every man and woman with lament and called into question the judgment of those who prescribed this tightrope itinerary for people of such namby pamby viability. I’ve been told that there is a time and a place for everything under the roof of heaven. With that in mind, common sense dictated, even to a fool like me, that the back of a horse is no place for 84-year- old great grandmother to sit at any time.

God Bless You!

THIS LAND

by John “Popcorn” Sampson

What a sublime, and a most divine, feeling of gratitude,

Accompanied by a profound sense of humility, comes from

Deep within the heart, and the very soul of me, whenever

I take a backward look at the days, and the times, when

Lived them old black grandparents of mine.

How proud I am, so very proud I am, to be the great grandson

Of an old kitchen maid, a cotton field hand, and an old black slave,

A slave who never once forgot that often times great

rivers are born of a tiny stream, and monuments are fashioned

from the seams of dreams.

Then, all around, and all about, the whole world can clearly

see what a grand, and glorious reality faith wroughted from

The shreds of a humble fantasy in creating a plot of land

widely known as the promised land.

And the glory of this land fashioned by the labor strong

black hands shall forever, and ever, stand as a monument to

stalwart black hands. So long as the ageless old oak tree

hovers over a grassy leaf, just as long a drop of water

remains in the deep blue sea, so long as heavenly angels

stroll along the hallowed halls of eternity.

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HUD Head: CHA Off Troubled List

by Andre Robinson 

U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Andrew Cuomo came into Chicago Aug. 1 to announce that HUD has removed the Chicago Housing Authority from the list of Troubled Housing Authorities and will return control of the CHA to the City of Chicago within eight months.

The transition back to local control began in mid-August and a new Housing Authority Board of Commissioners will be appointed in seven to eight months, Cuomo said during a visit to Henry Horner Homes.

“For the first time since we began the current rating system for housing authorities in 1979, the Chicago Housing Authority is not on HUD’s list of trouble public housing authorities,” Cuomo said. “This major achievement shows that the partnership HUD formed with Mayor Daley and with CHA residents and staff to turn around the Authority has succeeded. Together, we’ve improved living conditions for residents and created new opportunities for them to get education, training and jobs that will help more become self-sufficient.

“This isn’t the end of the process, it’s the beginning,” Cuomo said. “The tenants, the new, hard-working management and the people of Chicago don’t think this is as good as it gets and neither do I. Now that the CHA is no longer on HUD’s list of trouble housing authorities, we can move forward to begin returning control of the CHA where it belongs – to the people of Chicago. This city has earned the right to run its own housing authority.”

The federal government took control of CHA in May 1995. Joseph Shuldiner, then the second in command at HUD, was charged with administering the day-to-day affairs at CHA while Edwin Eisendrath, then the HUD Secretary’s regional representative, took the role of a one-man board.

CHA scored 64.69 out of a possible 100 points on HUD’s new Public Housing Management Assessment Program. When HUD took control of CHA in 1995, CHA’s score was just 51.

Under the rating system, which measures performance by public housing authorities in eight areas, any authority scoring below 60 is classified as troubled. HUD classifies only 51 of the nation’s 3,400 public and Indian housing authorities as troubled. The Public Housing Management Assessment Program measures the performance of public housing authorities in the following areas: 1) Percentage of vacant apartments and the time it takes to fill vacant apartments. 2) Management of the modernization program to upgrade apartments. 3) The success of rent collection efforts. 4) Performance of repairs and general maintenance on apartments. 5) Adequacy of physical inspections of apartments performed by a housing authority. 6) Overall financial management. 7) Programs to help residents become self-sufficient by providing such things as education, job training and child care. 8) Anti-crime efforts, including use of HUD’s Drug Elimination Grants, working with local police and carrying out the One Strike program to keep criminals out of public housing and remove those already there. HUD is providing operating subsides of almost $184 million to the CHA this year.

Cuomo’s other major announcement Aug. 1 was that Rosanna Marquez has been appointed the Secretary’s Representative for the Midwest Region, replacing Edwin Eisendrath.

“Rosanna Marquez brings a wealth of experience and dynamic leadership skills to the position of Secretary’s Representative for the Midwest,” Cuomo said. “In this position, Rosanna will assure that HUD works as an active partner with local government, the private sector and non-profit groups to tackle the many challenges facing the region.”

Marquez is a native Chicagoan with extensive experience in both the public and private sectors. She most recently worked as a Cabinet-level senior advisor to Mayor Richard M. Daley. Cuomo said Marquez spearheaded several initiatives, including efforts that lead to Chicago’s designation by the Clinton Administration as one of six federal Empowerment Zones. She also served for the last three years as Mayor Daley’s representative on CHA’s five-member Executive Committee.

“I am very grateful to Secretary Cuomo and President Clinton for giving me the opportunity to serve the people of this six state region,” Marquez said.

“These are very exciting times for our Department, with many challenges ahead. I will work to deliver on the Secretary’s efforts to make HUD a results-driven agency that works proactively with state and local governments, community groups and the real estate industry at large.”

Marquez lives in Chicago with her husband. She is a graduate with honors from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and of the Harvard Law School.

Cuomo became Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in January 1997. During his tenure, Cuomo has cracked down on landlords who collect money improperly from HUD. As a result, the amount of HUD money recovered from landlords rose from $18 million in 1996 to $25 million in 1997. Cuomo produced a study in 1998 of “worst-case” housing needs that found about 12.5 million very low income people pay over half their incomes for rent or live in severely substandard housing. Cuomo has made it a priority to strengthen HUD’s partnerships.

These are some of the programs that have poured out HUD in the last year and a half. But as Cuomo said after visiting Robert Taylor Homes, there is still a lot more to clean up. As long as people are still living in filth and fear, our job is not even close to being complete.

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All Things Old and New at Harold Ickes Homes

by Jacqueline Thompson 

THE BEFORE TURNS TO…

In the fall of 1997, all of the security guard houses in each of the nine seven-story buildings of Harold L. Ickes Homes were abandoned. Some of the security stations, which had been constructed in the middle of the first floor lobbies, were boarded up while others were wide open to any and all possible dangers. Many of us felt that we were held hostage by the abandoned security posts.

On either side were the in and out dark passages where the residents were at risk day or night every time they used them.

Broken door jams and broken light fixtures created a hazard for young children trying to go outside to play on broken swings, dilapidated monkey bars, sliding boards and busted up toddler barrels. Even the grounds were uneven and treacherous. Read more »

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Dear Resident

by Patricia Johnson-Gordon 

Welcome to the first “Back-to-School” edition of RJ. This is the first edition of RJ to be published prior to the opening of school and I would be remiss in my efforts and commitment to RJ’s readership if I did not take this opportunity to address you on the subject of education.

I once read “The purpose of education is to guarantee a successful adult life.” And to that I would like to add, “Without education, you are left to life’s other, less desirable devices.”

And our community lives with the results of these less desirable devices every day. I read this over 15 years ago in an education manual and it has stuck with me ever since.

For all intents and purposes, everything that we see and hear would lead us to believe that education is an American Priority…NOT! One has but to observe – not watch – observe the daily news shows which chronicle the day-to-day life of America, telling Americans what they need and want to know. Unless there is an event of catastrophic proportions, there is only one subject that gets more airtime and coverage than any other: SPORTS. Daily newspapers come equipped with a Sports Section. Sports, that’s the American Priority.

And sports stars command millions of dollars in salary each year. Not for educating children, building homes or saving lives. They command millions for bouncing, kicking, striking or throwing a big, small, round or sphere-shaped ball, other object or sometimes other person. And America loves it. We set aside special time to support and cheer them on. We dress like them, no matter the cost. We hang their pictures on our walls and hang on their every word. Can you imagine how well educated our children would be given the same kind of attention and support that sports command? In countries where students excel, sports stars are paid much, much less money than they are in America and understandably so.

Before I continue, I must tell you that in addition to writing for RJ, I am an employee of the Chicago Public Schools. My children and I also are products of the Chicago Public Schools. I like to think of myself as an advocate for children and education. Here in Chicago, over the past few years, it would appear that children and education are receiving more priority at the city level.

Chicago, however, is a conglomeration of varied communities, usually based on economic levels and race or the lack thereof which usually results in melting pots such as the Uptown Area, where I lived at one time. In Chicago, education has always been either a community priority or not a priority at all.

Communities that work together for the benefit of all of its members generally prosper in all areas, especially education. The Options for Knowledge Program, allowing children to attend school outside of their community, proved to be a great educational opportunity for my family.

But in addition to education being a community priority, education must also prove to be a home priority if our children are to be successful in school, resulting in a high school diploma.

I would ask that each household in our community examine itself to find its priorities. If education is not a priority, it should be. If education is a priority, it should be one of the top two.

There is only one other Entity that can have a more profound effect than education in shaping our minds, our lives, our future. Education is a foundation on which to build.

The Board of Education, with new testing guidelines and bridge programs designed to ensure that a student arrives in high school with the skills necessary to succeed, is only a third of the equation. Most of our students complete eighth grade successfully.

High School is where we start to loose ground. Students need a great deal of support in high school. Parents have to watch more closely and check more often to make sure that their student is on time, on task and on target. Students must come to school each day on time with the necessary tools (completed homework assignments, books, paper, etc.) prepared to listen, learn and participate in class. Parents must make sure that students arrive on time each day, with the necessary tools and a loud and clear expectation from parents that they are to listen, learn and participate in class. Parents must support students, their school and the educational process if their student is to be successful. This is what they do in the homes of communities where education is a priority.

In communities like ours, there are many other things that can factor into whether or not a student can/will successfully complete high school. One such factor is family history, which actually affects every area of a child’s life. A student’s chances of completing high school are less when their parents, older siblings, extended family and past generations have not completed high school. It quietly says that education is neither important nor necessary to the family and no one is expected to finish high school. Another factor is family and economic problems which can impact a student’s ability to get to school and perform well when they do. Student socialization is also a factor. High school students, especially freshmen, can suffer more than they benefit from the freedom to socialize that high school provides.

First-time high school parents: your student should have more work in high school than elementary school, not less. They will have homework every night. There are no study periods, so they didn’t do it in school. If you don’t see them with books, doing homework, there’s something wrong. And actually ask to see their work. And actually read it and ask questions about it. It can educate you too. Make sure that your words are not the only thing that says you expect your student to do well in school.

If you say you expect your child to do well in school and you let them stay out late at night, you don’t mean it. If you’ll pay for a pair of the “new” Jordan gym shoes but complain about a class fee, you don’t mean it. It’s not so much what you say as it is what you do.

For students and families that need help and support, there are many sources. But you must seek them out. More importantly, you must help yourself first. There are some things that only you can do for yourself. If you have any questions or concerns, do not wait. Contact your student’s school immediately. It is easier to keep up than it is to catch up. And while your student may not be a genius in school, I am always amazed by the things a student can get their parent to believe. If it does not sound believable, it probably is not true. Parents, the truth is only a phone call away. Human nature does one of two things: It does what it has to do. Or it does what it can get away with. Don’t let your student get away with anything. A student who knows that their parent will check on them is more likely to be where they should be, doing what they should be doing.

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Lathrop Homes News

by Bobby Watkins 

Lathrop Homes has a new playground due to the construction of the Damen Avenue Bridge. The Chicago Department of Transportation, along with Walsh Construction, hired Lathrop residents to help with the project.

A dedication ceremony will be happening soon. Look for further details on the Lathrop Homes improvement in the next issue of RJ.

Thanks to Avery Patillo for your help with the Jimmy Thomas Nature Trail. Also, special thanks to all of our young people who have been coming out on Saturday. Keep up the good work!

Congratulations Arlando Adamson, a Robert Taylor Homes resident-owned-business owner, for getting the contract to finish the Jimmy Thomas Trail. Read more »

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Flannery Homes/Orchard Park Update

by Alan B. Minerbrook 

“Age is a question of mind over matter! If you don’t mind it really doesn’t matter” – Legendary baseball pitcher Satchel Paige.

Changes at Orchard Park, the for-sale, market-rate town homes built around the Flannery Homes Senior Towers continued at an accelerated pace over the summer.

Cement foundations for new town houses are all completed and building is now in progress. The cement foundations are water barrier-sealed, under the guidance of a new town-house contractor/ developer Tropic Construction. Superintendents David Graf and Mark Hawkins as well as foreman Carey Overstreet are showing they definitely know what building is all about.

Anita Scheer, sales manager for Garrison Partners, is handling the marketing of the new town homes. Read more »

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Cabrini Cliffhanger

by Cecelia A. Clark 

Late in July, CHA and the Cabrini-Green Local Advisory Council signed an agreement that would allow for the demolition of six more public housing high-rises in exchange for resident control over the redevelopment. Under the agreement, residents would get 51 percent interest in the general partnership that would redevelop a large part of Cabrini. That partnership plans to build more than 2,000 units, of which 900 would go to people who qualify for public housing.

But the agreement was blocked on July 30 when federal Judge Marvin Aspen said the Habitat Company must agree to all public housing redevelopment. The legal battles continue.

In the following article, RJ correspondent Cecelia A. Clark covers one presentation of what a portion of the Near North community could look like in the near future and how these plans will affect residents. Read more »

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RJ Visits Miami/Dade Housing Authority

by Julio Martinez 

At the end of June, personnel from RJ and the CHA attended the convention of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists in Miami and took the opportunity to visit the public housing authority for Miami, the Miami/Dade Housing Agency. The attendees were RJ Editor-In-Chief Ethan Michaeli, RJ Intern Brenda Alvarez, the CHA representative to the Latino Community, William Velázquez, and myself.

We were cordially received by the executives of this agency. We had the pleasure of meeting with the executive personnel, who included Miami/Dade Housing Agency Executive Director Rene Rodriguez; William Calderin, resources specialist for the elderly community; Tawana Thompson, in charge of the Family Self Sufficiency program; Sara McLeod, Public Information Official; and Alicia Diaz, President of the Residents Association of Haley Sofge Complex. Read more »

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