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An Afternoon of Good Times

by Jacqueline Thompson 

The second annual National Public Housing Museum fundraiser, billed “An Afternoon of Good Times,” was attended by a sold-out crowd of cheering guests, eager to applaud the hard-working hosts and their choice of honorees, former public housing resident luminaries and their achievements. The welcome address by Chicago Housing Authority officials Joyce Chou and Scott Ammaral was a smooth take-off into an illuminating program.

Next, Ald. Walter Burnett (21) graciously introduced Bern Nadette Stanis aka “Thelma” from the popular 1970s television sit-com “Good Times,” which brought Chicago’s own Cabrini Green public housing development into focus nationwide. She is the national spokesperson for the museum and was the mistress of ceremonies for the event. Stanis’ background includes a past of actually living in the Brownsville Housing Development in Brooklyn, N.Y.

CHA tenant leader Francine Washington (right) is joined with actress Bern Nadette Stanis, also known as "Thelma" on the "Good Times" television sitcom, and Keith McGee, director of the National Public Housing Museum, after receiving an award from the museum during their "An Afternoon of Good Times" event at the Chicago Cultural Center on April 10, 2011. Photo by Jacqueline Thompson

As a part of the afternoon’s theme honoring former residents through the “Telling Our Stories” Award, she shared with the audience the important message from her father that gave her the confidence to grow naturally, by understanding that, “What’s around you does not have to be in you.” The sound inspiration coming from within her home life gave her strength and courage “to do better than what ‘they’ said my future could only be. Thank you.”

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Where are CHA’s Residents?

by Mary C. Piemonte 

On April 14, Chicago Housing Authority CEO Lewis Jordan announced the results of an “exhaustive tracking process and data analysis” that looked at where its former residents are and how they are doing.

In releasing the information, Jordan said he was aiming to correct misimpressions of agency’s progress on its 12-year-old Plan for Transformation.

Chicago Housing Authority CEO Lewis Jordan talking to reporters about his knowledge of where relocated tenants are, during his press conference resident relocations under the Plan for Transformation, at CHA downtown headquarters on April 14, 2011. Photo by Mary C. Johns

“There’s a myth out there that we don’t know where our families are,” Jordan said. “We do know where these families are.”

When the CHA’s Plan for Transformation was launched in 1999, the agency pledged to demolish its high-rises, re-build mixed-income communities where the developments once stood, and allow former residents to move back. To ensure former tenants could return, CHA also pledged to keep track of them. There were approximately 25,000 residents in the family developments, scattered site housing, and senior buildings when the Plan for Transformation began, according to the CHA.

But if Jordan’s press conference was intended to dispel the notion that CHA doesn’t know where its former families are, his own numbers didn’t quite back him up. On page 3 of CHA’ report, it states that “(2,202) have not responded to CHA outreach and thus their location is unknown.”

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Youths and Sex Ed

by Tyreshia Black 

Editor’s Note: The following story was written by a student in the Urban Youth International Journalism Program in partnership with Imagine Englewood If, a youth services organization based in that South Side neighborhood:

At an event about sex education at TEAM Englewood Community Academy High School February 17, I felt like any of the discussions could relate to me. But actually, the people talking were teens my age who got pregnant or contracted a deadly disease – HIV – or other Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs).

Jalen Mitchell reads some important information. Photo by Tyreshia Black.

At the event at the school, 6201 S. Stewart St. in Englewood, a huge crowd in the audience listened to two female doctors, three people who had contracted HIV and teen parents. The doctors explained and compared HIV, AIDS, STDs, STIs and HPV. They explained that HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus, which weakens your immune system by destroying important cells called immune cells that fight against disease and infections. A virus can only reproduce itself by taking over a cell in the body of its host, which it invades and uses to make more copies of itself. The doctors also stated that HIV can hide for a long period in your body.

Two of the people with HIV said they didn’t even know that they had the disease. If they had taken a blood test sooner, they could have been treated and cared for better. One of them, Mr. London, has become an activist, talking to kids and families about his experience with HIV. He told us about ways HIV is spread and not spread. Read more »

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