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.
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.