Voice of the Voiceless

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Editor’s Note: The following article was written by a youth reporter who is a graduate of the Urban Youth International Journalism Program.

Longtime community activist, organizer and veteran journalist Beauty Turner passed away on December 18, 2008. Referred to by many as voice of Chicago Housing Authority residents, she was known as a writer and fighter.

Turner died of complications due to a stroke. It was tragic that Beauty Turner had to leave this world at the early age of 51, but she will be remembered by her outstanding voice and that she fought for what’s right.

Beauty Turner let CHA residents’ voices be heard by speaking in front of crowds of people, advocating on their behalf, and writing in newspapers what the residents wanted to say but were too scared to say themselves. Beauty didn’t bite her tongue. She said what many people eagerly wanted to hear. She devoted her life to CHA. residents day in and out. She only thought about how she could help her CHA residents.

Beauty Turner knew where we all came from. She lived alongside other families living in low-income homes, better known as “the projects.”

Turner’s nephew, Marvin Robinson, said his aunt was an empowering figure.

“She affected so many people,” Robinson said. “She gave voice to the voiceless. Her legacy still affects public housing.”

Although Turner was successful journalist who commonly wrote for community newspapers, it was her activism that truly defined her.

“She was known for action. Her action was more powerful than her journalism,” said Robinson.

Robinson believes that his aunt’s independent spirit will instill determination and conviction in those who learn about her.

“She was kind—an angel,” he said. “She cared for many people. Her death is not a loss—it’s a gain for many now that she works in spirit.”

Micah Maidenberg, Editor of the Chicago Journal, worked with Turner at Residents’ Journal. Micah met her five and a half years ago when he started at Residents’ Journal.

“Beauty Turner was the type of person CHA residents turned to when they could not talk to anyone else,” said Maidenberg. “She demanded answers. She held the power of policies and people who work for the city.”

Beauty accomplished many things to help CHA residents. For instance, she started a sightseeing tour of the projects showing many academics, writers, journalists and high school student from affluent backgrounds what used to be the Robert Taylor Homes. She started Beauty’s Ghetto Bus Tours to show what life was like in the projects and to show the new, up-coming buildings.

Beauty was an outstanding person.

She helped many Robert Taylor residents fight incorrect electric bills. When the residents were being put out, they were almost forced to pay thousands of dollars but with the help from Beauty, she forced ComEd and CHA to clear out the bills.

“She also highlighted the struggle of former offenders,” recalled Maidenberg. “Beauty Turner was known for her creativity and voice. Beauty was a talented lady. She willingly used her voice and writing—she even went on cable television to let her voice be heard.”

Many people will remember Beauty for her out spoken words, creativity, hard work and effort she put in help low-income residents.

I spent a lot of time in the last couple of months learning about Beauty Turner and what she did to help CHA residents. It was the most inspiring thing I have ever learned about someone. She taught me that, as a 15 year old, that I can speak up for every person, no matter the size or crowds.

It makes me sad to know I never got a chance to meet her and ask her the question, “How did you do it?”

Speaking in front of thousands of people to help others out—I’d like to tell her how and why she inspired me to do something like that one day. But maybe, when I get enough confidence in myself, I might be able to stand in front of many to help them out.

To me, Beauty Turner is an outstanding person for all she accomplished throughout her life. My family lived in the CHA’s Ida B Wells Homes and I feel Beauty, in some way, has also helped us out too. I would like to thank her for all her hard work and success.

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