Month: December 2014

Our Top 5 Headlines of 2014: The Stories You Read the Most


Wednesday, December 31, 2014 || By COMMUNITY EDITOR

It was a busy year in Maywood and Proviso Township and we reported on quite a bit. Here are the five most widely read headlines that the Village Free Press posted in the last 12 months, based on the number of views:

5. “BREAKING: Maywood Police Arrest Suspect In Murder of Milton Carswell” || July 1, 2014

4. “Proviso East Principal Suspended, Described as a “Bully” by Co-workers” || October 22, 2014

3. “Did You Know? The Second Wealthiest Black Female in the United States is a Proviso East Alum, Former Maywoodian || April 22, 2014

2. “BREAKING: Maywood Police Raid Abandoned Home Near Irving School; Recover Narcotics, Pills” || November 15, 2014

1. “$1M Bail for Man Who Tried Kidnapping Girl Outside of Family Dollar” || December 14, 2014

Maywood Police Seek Citizen Help in Cracking Down on Illegal Dumping Violators

Screenshot 2014-12-04 at 1.10.58 PMMetal drums, along with other material, openly dumped on the grounds of a village-owned property on Wilcox. VFP File Photo.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014 || By Michael Romain

Police are asking residents to call (708) 450-4441 if they see or hear anything leading to arrest of violators

The Maywood Police department is seeking help from residents in combating illegal fly dumping of car tires, which police say has become a particularly chronic problem of late.

“We need people to keep their eyes and ears open,” said Community Policing Officer Pirsia Allen. “If they see or hear of anyone doing illegal dumping of car tires they need to notify the police.”

Allen said that violators typically dump the discarded tires on the site of abandoned buidings. He noted that the department has identified at least four such sites across the village, but past reports indicate that there may be more.

Earlier this month, a resident complained to us directly that an abandoned house on the 400 block of South 14th Avenue had been targeted by illegal violators, who dumped dozens of tires in the home’s backyard.

Also in early December, Mayor Edwenna Perkins reported a village-owned property located between First and Second Avenues on Wilcox to the lllinois EPA after she discovered openly dumped tires and other materials on the grounds. A representative from the EPA confirmed that the village was in possible violation of the state’s open dumping rules–and perhaps even of its own Code of Ordinances.

According to an illegal dumping prevention guidebook [PDF: EPA Fly Dumping Guide] created by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), fly dumping, also known as “midnight dumping,” or “wildcat dumping,” is “a major problem in many communities throughout the United States.”

The activity is known by those various terms, according to the EPA guidebook, because it often involves violators dumping materials in open areas, “from vehicles along roadsides, and late at night.”

Maywood police didn’t say what time of day the dumping here in town typically occurs, but the EPA noted that the activity is more common late at night or in the early morning hours. It’s also more common when its warm, the manual states.

Illegal dumping presents myriad health and environmental risks. Dump sites often attract rodents and scrap tire piles, in particular, have been known to harbor disease-carrying mosquitos. The sites can also be bastions for gang and drug activity and may be particularly alluring, but dangerous, attractions for young children.

“In addition, countless neighborhoods have been evacuated and property damage has been significant because of dump sites that caught fire,” the manual states.

Dumping also decreases property values and makes the neighborhood in which it occurs less attractive to potential commercial and residental developers.

Dumping is a crime at virtually all levels of government — Federal, state and local. Section 92.28 of Maywood’s Code of Ordinances regulates dumping:

“(A)   The owner, occupant or lessee of any premises in the Village shall remove from his premises or otherwise dispose of all garbage, ashes, rubbish and refuse and shall keep the premises free and clear of any accumulation of any such refuse.

(B)   Pending disposal of garbage from any premises, the garbage shall be deposited in watertight containers with close fitting covers. Pending disposal from any premises, cans, bottles, metalware and similar inorganic household rubbish shall be deposited in rigid containers. All garbage and refuse shall be so stored as not to invite insects or rodents or be unsightly or a nuisance.

(C)   No person shall deposit any garbage , rubbish or refuse on any street or public place or on any public or private property not his own except at any dump site which may be authorized by the Board of Trustees.

(D)   No person shall bury any garbage within the Village.”

Maywood police are asking that any resident with knowledge of illegal dumping activity that could possibly lead to identifying and punishing perpetrators to call its investigations unit at (708) 450-4441. Sgt. Corey Cooper is leading this investigation. VFP

JOBS, JOBS, JOBS: Austin Weekly News Seeking Sales & Marketing Intern (Unpaid Position/Great on Resume)

Jobs Image

Tuesday, December 30, 2014 || By COMMUNITY EDITOR

Network Your Way to a Better You in 2015 with the Austin Weekly News

Austin Weekly News, a subsidiary of Oak Park-based Wednesday Journal, Inc., is seeking a  bright, enthusiastic over-achieving young person (an incoming junior or senior high school student; college student; or college alum) who is interested in helping promote the newspaper to Chicago’s Westside residents, while learning marketing-, advertising-, and promotion-related skills. Interns will meet, and network with, Chicago and Westside VIP’s — experiences that could potentially lead to even greater career and life opportunities.

Interested candidates should click here or here. You can also call: (708) 613-3329. VFP



Maywood, Austin Communities Celebrate Kwanzaa Miles Apart, Together in Spirit

MaywoodKwanzaa2The Kwanzaa celebration at Eisenhower Tower in Maywood. Photo courtesy Chief Valdimir Talley. Below, a Sherrie Chapman poses with her merchandise during the celebration at Sankofa in Chicago’s Austin community held on the same day. Photo by Michael Romain for the Village Free Press.

AustinKwanzaa3Tuesday, December 30, 2014 || By Michael Romain || Updated: 7:52 PM

Since its creation in 1965 by Black Nationalist leader Maulana Karenga, Kwanzaa has grown from an eclectic annual ritual to a nationally recognized holiday. The actual word Kwanzaa derives from a phrase in Swahili — matunda ya kwanza — which means “first fruits of the harvest.”

According to Karenga, the holiday is framed around a communitarian African philosophy, which emphasizes seven principles that he believes are necessary for black culture to thrive (each principle is recognized during one of the seven days Kwanzaa is celebrated between December 26 and January 1): Umoja, or unity; Kujichagulia, or self-determination; Ujima, or collective work and responsibility; Ujamaa, or cooperative economics; Nia, or purpose; and Kuumba, or creativity.

Baba Eli Hoenai, a local musician and artist, remembers life before 1966–the year Kwanzaa was first celebrated. He was 17 when he first began seeking out who he was a person of African descent.

“I realized there were a lot of things I didn’t know about myself as an African-American and there was a lot I wasn’t learning in the schools,” he said during the annual Kwanzaa festival held at Sankofa Cultural Center in Chicago last Saturday.

According to Hoenai, Kwanzaa has done for a lot of people what he had to do for himself when he was just a teenager. One of the beneficiaries of Karenga’s vision is Marlene Dillon, the author of a children’s book called I’m Proud to be Natural Me!

Dillon was scheduled to speak about her book at a Kwanzaa celebration sponsored by AfriWare Books and Maywood Youth Mentoring, which was held in Eisenhower Tower in Maywood the same day as the event in Austin.

“I’m a mom of a little brown girl with curly hair,” the author writes on her website. “She now attends a multicultural school, and her gymnastic class this summer she was the only student who was not Caucasian. It is very important to me that she sees other children, teens, adults who look like her portrayed in ways that support her sense of self in a positive light.”

Hoenai, a founding member of the MUNTU Dance Theater, was on hand at Sankofa to lead the roughly 120-people packed tightly inside Sankofa’s Mandela Hall in a drum call.

“It gets the people fired up,” he said, noting that the ritual also channels the same deep source of cultural pride that motivated Dillon to write her book.

Lawrence Perkins, a school principal and motivational speaker, was standing at a booth in an area designated for vendors as Hoenai performed his drum roll in the big room named after South Africa’s late leader. Perkins was promoting his passion project, a children’s book called Lil Fella’s Big Dream: Overcoming Bullying with Determination.

Perkins said that, while Kwanzaa has done a lot to bring awareness to African American and pan-African culture, there’s still a long way to go.

 “We need to know more about our black culture and they need to incorporate more of African American culture into the curriculum in CPS [Chicago Public Schools],” he said.

Directly across from Perkins’s table of books, Sherrie Chapman, the owner of Sherrie’s Earrings and Things, vended her wares in symbolic contention with Perkins’s point. Chapman’s table was enshrined with various kinds of Obama merchandise, including a board game called “Obama-Mania: Race to the White House.”

“Some of my suppliers have already stopped with the Obama merchandise,” Chapman said. “People need to get it now, because it will only go up in value. He’s the first black president, so these things will be keepsakes,” she said.

A glance at the Obama mementos and the Afrocentric wares — there were even copies of W.E.B. DuBois’s classic The Souls of Black Folk — and it wouldn’t be so easy to distinguish where black culture ended and American culture began.

For Marseil Jackson, a local youth advocate and candidate for 28th Ward alderman, last Saturday’s event itself was enough. Sankofa’s annual celebration each year attracts a coterie of personalities and political cliques that span the ideological spectrum.

Mayoral candidates Bob Fioretti, Willie Wilson (pictured below) and Jesus “Chuy” Garcia were in attendance, as were a bevy of aldermanic candidates and a host of political figures, many of whom make it a point to be here each year — U.S. Rep. Danny K. Davis (7th), Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin (1st) and state Sen. Don Harmon (39th).

“Of course, the first day of Kwanzaa is unity,” Jackson said. “So it’s nice to see us come out and celebrate something positive. This is a happy occasion.”

But for Hoenai, there are costs of constructing too big a tent.

Although he is proud of what he believes is Kwanzaa’s ever-increasing relevance among both African Americans and within the wider American culture, he cautioned against diluting the holiday to make it more palatable to the mainstream — lest it go the way of Christmas or Halloween or Easter.

“You always have vultures who are going to try to commercialize and capitalize off of what we’re doing, but those of us who know better will do better and keep this in its raw form,” he said. VFP


For updates, like VFP on Facebook:

Facebook Like

The Hunt for America’s Oldest Man Focuses in on Maywood Deacon

Deacon Walsh Wesley with NephewSupercentenarian Wash Wesley greets family members at a 2013 birthday celebration. Photo by Chicago Sun-Times.

Monday, December 29, 2014 || By Michael Romain || Updated: 8:23 PM

The death of 110-year-old Rockford man means the title of America’s oldest male is up for grabs

With the death last week of Conrad Johnson, a Rockford man who would have been 111-years-old had he lived another month or so, the long life of Wash Wesley, a deacon at the Second Baptist Church in Maywood, is receiving greater scrutiny. According to the Gerontology Research Group (GRG), the organization that studies and tracks Americans who live beyond 110, Johnson was the oldest male in the country.

However, according to media reports and Wesley’s own admission, Johnson’s claim to that title may be in dispute. Wesley, who celebrated his 111th birthday last January, is due for his 112th in another month. That means that he’s older than Johnson by at least a year–if only there is firm documentation to prove it.

According to Wesley’s Oldest People Wiki, “He had originally claimed to have been born in 1903 but both the 1910 & the 1940 census strongly says he was born in 1904, the 1930 census lists him as 1905 [sic].”

The Wiki notes that Wesley is “likely the 5th oldest man in the world if the 1904 year of birth is true.” Apparently, Wesley’s birth year may be an issue of ongoing research to the GRG folks. The group’s website lists Wesley’s case as pending.

Recently,, the national business publication, cited Robert Young, a senior database administrator with GRG. It was Young who included Wesley among the three possible candidates for the title of America’s oldest man. Young said that the person with the strongest case may be a 109-year-old Louisiana man who recently celebrated a birthday in November.

According to a 2013 Chicago Sun-Times profile, Wesley still holds an Illinois driver’s license (the oldest person in the state with that distinction by some accounts) and “still does his own grocery shopping, his own laundry, his own housework. He tends a garden in his backyard, growing vegetables and some flowers.”

Regardless of whether or not he tops the list of oldest Americans, Wesley’s focus is perhaps on other things–like staying in shape enough to drive himself to and from his Maywood church. VFP

For updates, like VFP on Facebook:

Facebook Like

District 209 Board Race Shaping Up to be a Battle of Opposing Visions

209 togetherthe children first party

Monday, December 29, 2014 || By Michael Romain

The race to fill the three vacancies on the District 209 Board of Education may turn out to be among the most interesting local races in next year’s election. That race features two strong slates and one relatively unknown candidate from Melrose Park–Cheryl Anderson.

Next year’s school board election may be among the first to feature serious candidates from Forest Park. This year, Maywood’s eastern neighbor, well-known for its deep frustration with District 209 high schools, launched a loose organization of residents and stakeholders from throughout Proviso Township known as “209 Together”. The group has met in Forest Park several times, started a Facebook group that has about239 members and has even turned up at school board meetings to voice their concerns.

The group is animated by its anger over a school district that many say has been the source of broken relationships. A common experience among Forest Parkers, by many accounts, is the long, hard goodbye from one neighbor or friend or relative to the next once children hit high school age and parents must decide between moving to a place with better schools or enduring the infamous ‘double taxation’ of private school expenses.

Recognizing that any hope of separating itself from District 209 may prove ultimately futile, the Forest Park residents involved in “209 Together” decided to channel their anger and discontent into activism, linking arms with allies across borders in the process. That cross-border mobilization has resulted in a slate that features Forest Park residents — Claudia Medina and Nathan “Ned” Wagner — and 209’s longest-serving board member, Maywood resident Theresa Kelly.

They’ll all be pitted against what many among “209 Together” believe to be the source of much of their frustration, or at least a potent symbol–the growing reach of former 209 Board President turned State Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch (D-7th).  Welch, who was a driving force behind much of what happened during his more than ten years as board member and/or president between 2001 and 2013, is still, according to sources, a very active presence in the board’s administration.

Welch is throwing his tremendous influence behind a slate that features sitting District 209 board member Francine Harrell, who was elected to the board in 2011; his wife, municipal lawyer ShawnTe M. Raines-Welch; and Rock of Ages youth minister Theodore Matthews. The move by Welch to back his own slate is either a measure taken to secure the progress the district has made since the beginning of the new millennium or a power move to solidify control, depending on the perspective.

Supporters of the slate, which is called “The Children First Party,” say that it features candidates with backgrounds strong enough to stand on their own merits, regardless of the politics involved. In addition, Welch has recently been rather vocal in touting some of the district’s achievements this past year, which include PMSA’s ranking among top high schools in the country by Newsweek magazine. VFP

Below is a listing of candidates running for some of the local elementary school districts in the Proviso Township area. For a complete listing of suburban school candidates in Cook County, click here:

Bellwood District 88

Bellwood D88

Maywood-Melrose Park-Broadview District 89

 Bellwood 88

Lindop District 92 || Westchester District 92 1/2 || Hillside District 93


Celebrate Kwanzaa for FREE at These Events Across Town


Saturday, December 27, 2014 || By COMMUNITY EDITOR

*Please note: *Doors open at all events  ½ hour before listed times. || *The Dusable Museum is having a candle lighting ceremony all 7 days from 12-1pm.

Saturday, December 27:  Kujichagulia (Self-Determination)

4-6pm Afri-Ware Book Store  1701 S. 1st ave. Maywood, 60153 (Eisenhower Building) Hosted by Afri-Ware and Maywood Youth Mentoring

6-9pm Sankofa Cultural and Arts Center  5820 W. Chicago Ave. Chgo, 60651

Sunday December 28: Ujimaa (Collective Work and Responsibility)

12-5pm Dusable Museum   740 E. 56th pl. Chgo 60637

Monday, December 29: Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics)

4-10pm Second Annual Celebration 6855 S. Emerald Chgo 60637 Hosted by Nubian Malik

6:30-8:30pm, Broadview Public Library, 2226 S. 16th Ave., Broadview, IL 

Tuesday, December 30: Nia (Purpose)

5-9pm Chicago State 9501 S. King Drive Chgo Jacoby Dickens Center. This is the longest running Community Kwanzaa in the city. Hosted by the

Thursday, January 1: Imani (Faith)

10:30-8pm Barbara A. Sizemore Academy 6936 S. Hermitage Chgo 60636  Hosted by the Super Group. VFP

Listing courtesy of Barbara Cole.