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Oakwood Shores Update

by Jacqueline Thompson 

Construction at Oakwood Shores. Photo by Jacqueline Thompson.

The Chicago Housing Authority’s Plan for Transformation is showing up in a BIG way on the grounds that used to be the Ida B. Wells Homes public housing development. There is even a new name assigned to the area, Oakwood Shores, yet to some people, the area will always have a tag – that’s where the Ida B. Wells Homes used to be. But never mind that, the Plan has erased the old worn buildings with more thoughtfully built accommodations. For instance, the fabulous new senior citizen building at 3750 S. Cottage Grove Avenue which opened in the fall of 2011, complete with solar panels and an interior solarium for in-door/out-door visiting with easy chair seating, is a work of art in terms of its interior design.

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Ida B. Wells Revisited

by Jacqueline Thompson 

The last two original CHA Ida B. Wells public housing buildings being demolished in August 2011. Photo by Jacqueline Thompson


From 2007 until quite recently in 2011, two residential buildings stood at 3718 S. Vincennes Ave. waiting for a rumored Ida B. Wells museum to be developed inside the walls. But this summer, the buildings were demolished, the rumors dispelled.

The first preparation to demolish began in July 2011 by encasing the interior and windows of the two unoccupied buildings in plastic in order to dismantle the walls, stairwells and the floors, and keep irritating dust from taking over the surrounding area.
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THE BIG BAD BOLD BUD BILLIKEN PARADE

by Jacqueline Thompson 

Editor’s Note: As summer rapidly fades into fall, we commissioned Senior Correspondent Jacqueline Thompson to write about one of Chicago’s favorite summer events, the Bud Billiken Parade. Read below and plan to attend the parade next year.

The Big Bold Bad Bud Billiken Parade did it again. Eighty two years young, it is still exciting and still evolving each second Saturday in August in Chicago. For all these many years, the parade has proven to be THE event of the summer. All other shows and programs are planned around this day. The whole city – South Side, West Side and North Side – contributes school marching bands, dazzling floats and municipal partners such as the Fire Department and the Chicago Police Department. This year, of all things, a group of firemen did an expert line dance. They were very well received and applauded.

South Shore Drill Team Steppers at the Bud Biliken Parade in August 2009. RJ archived photo by Mary C. Piemonte


Without a doubt, the children steppers, marchers, twirlers, dancers and float riders always please. Yet this year, there were younger and younger majorettes and twirlers, stepping and stealing the show. There was more evidence of adult involvement in training youngsters to become skilled musicians, marchers and steppers. There were more children in certain group parade favorites: For instance, the South Shore Drill Team had a great many additional prancers. Read more »

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Honoring Sam Cooke

by Jacqueline Thompson 

On Saturday, June 18, 2011, Chicago’s own Sam Cooke was inducted into a select group honored by the posting of a street sign in their name. Each honorary street sign is placed in a prominent position either where the person lived or made their mark on society. On the corner of 36th Street and Ellis Avenue in the Bronzeville neighborhood, a brand new sign reading “Sam Cooke Way” establishes forever the place where the singer, songwriter, business man, husband, father, brother, uncle, pioneer and social change activist lived and learned.

The throng of people who came to witness the dedication were jovial, sober, high spirited and very eager. They shared their common love for Cooke in conversation and memories. Childhood friends of Cooke’s stood right by me and began to talk to me when they saw me taking notes.

Herb Kent, the "Cool Gent," (right) poses with fans, relatives and those who grew up with legendary Soul singer Sam Cooke at the June 2011 dedication of a street in Cook'e honor. Photo by Jacqueline Thompson

“Yeah, I remember when he used to run around here with us and play while we went to Doolittle Elementary School. He was in my brother’s room. He smiled a lot, a real role model,” said James Purnell, who lived at 530 East 36th Street. “We are all very proud to witness this day.”

Herman Mitchell added, “He was older than some of us, but even when he got up in the business, he would come back and he would entertain us for free.”

Scotty Wiggins of 532 E. Browning St. reminisced about Doolittle Elementary in the 1940s, when they all attended. Then, Gerald Rhymes, who lived at 470 E 35th St. at the time, added his memories. Clarence “Sonny” Wilson of 470 E. 35th St. recalled, “I used to sing baritone with him.” They all agreed that “It was about time they did this.” Cooke died in 1964.

A big limousine bus brought most of Sam’s family to the scene. Then the speakers began to arrive, and electricity was in the air. Radio personality Herb Kent, Cook County Commissioner Jerry “Ice Man” Butler, Ald. Pat Dowell (3) and Prentice Butler, an assistant to Ald. Will Burns (4), all made remarks.

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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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Bronzeville Memorialized

by Jacqueline Thompson 

In the fall of 2009, two marble obelisks were placed at 35th and South State streets to commemorate the African American migrants who gave an identity to Bronzeville and attract tourists to the area.

The obelisks will give people information concerning the rich heritage of the Black Americans who migrated to Chicago from the South in 1900 and the following years.

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Ickes Homes News: The Final Curtain?

by Jacqueline Thompson 

For over two years, Residents’ Journal has been reporting how the Harold Ickes Homes Chicago public housing site was supposed to be rehabbed along with Dearborn Homes, Cabrini Green Rowhouses and the Altgeld Gardens far South Side public housing complex, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) April 2008 Moving to Work Agreement with the Chicago Housing Authority.

In the interim, CHA closed down and demolished most of all the buildings at Ickes, and gave residents the choice to relocate to another CHA-rehabbed property or use a Housing Choice ( Section 8 ) Voucher to rent housing in the private market.

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Harold Ickes Homes Update

by Jacqueline Thompson 

The Harold Ickes public housing development is one of the last to go through change under the Chicago Housing Authority’s Plan for Transformation, now in its 10th year. All around the city, renovation and rehabilitation has brightened up the city’s neighborhoods. New architecture both outside and inside has replaced decades-old buildings with outdated floor plans and replacement housing for residents of CHA who are eligible for the Right to Return. As a long-time resident of Ickes, the most often question I am asked is, “What are ‘they’ going to do with Ickes?” And further, “Are ‘they’ going to tear down, rehabilitate or redevelop?” My answer is, “I don’t know.” I have inquired of persons in high places, and so far, the latest answer has been, “Nothing has been determined yet.” That was from Matthew Aguilar, CHA spokesperson. Aguilar did promise to inquire further and get back to me. I wait patiently.

I tried to check with the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). HUD published that “Harold Ickes was not subject to demolition.” But I was unable to speak directly to anyone. Even after many referrals from one individual to another, I still couldn’t get an answer. I wait patiently. As I continued to wait, I was drawn to CHA document FY2009, Moving to Work Annual Plan for Transformation Year 10. In it, on page 55, I found that Harold Ickes comes under the “Properties to be Redeveloped or Rehabilitated” section:
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Black History Tour Marks Historical Undertaking

by Jacqueline Thompson 

On Tuesday, Feb. 17, the Bronzeville Merchants Association, formerly known as the 35th Street Merchants Association, held a press conference and tour to which this reporter was invited. In welcoming the invitation and attending the event, which started at the Bronzeville Visitor Information Center, 411 E 35th Street, I discovered news of truly monumental proportions.

On this date, the Bronzeville Merchants Association, a not-for-profit group of merchants who live and work in and around Chicago’s historic Bronzeville community, announced the upcoming installation of four of ten obelisks. These monuments will be located at two community gateways – two at 35th and State streets and two at 35th and Martin Luther King Drive – to celebrate the rich past and present of Bronzeville.
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Harold L. Ickes Homes News

by Jacqueline Thompson 

The lives of Harold Ickes’ residents were disrupted when three buildings out of the remaining 11 were ordered to be vacated of their tenants.

The remaining residents of a building in the Harold L. Ickes Homes move, leaving the three buildings of the 2400 South State St block vacant.
Photo by Jacqueline Thompson

Families moved daily for three months. In the final days, pressure was put on the few remaining families to go, and eventually, no one lived in the three buildings in the 2400 block of South State Street.
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