Monday, February 18, 2019 || By Community Editor || @maywoodnews
Featured image: (Bottom row, Left to right): Talei Thompson, Cook County Clerk Karen Yarbrough and Christopher Parker. Top row, Patrick Hardy and Sen. Kimberly Lightford. | Illustration by Shanel Romain
The Village Free Press is proud to present our inaugural list of Living Black History Makers and Living Legacies. The first five individuals are people who helped create local history in Proviso Township in 2018. The Living Legacies are individuals who have created spheres of influence in their communities over a number of years.
This is our way of commemorating Black History Month, but in a way that recognizes the fact that history is never dead; that it is made by human beings not figures in textbooks; and that it always happens in a local context (Martin Luther King was a local Birmingham pastor before he became a civil rights icon).
These are the following criteria we used to select these individuals: 1) proof of their actions and/or achievements had to be documented in the paper between February 1, 2018 and February 1, 2019; 2) their actions and/or achievements had to have township-wide significance in 2018 and; 3) their actions and/or achievements had to contribute to the positive development of the African American community in Proviso Township.
Note: Since our focus was on 2018, some pretty obvious candidates, such as the trailblazing mayors of Bellwood, Broadview and Maywood (all African American firsts for Proviso Township) were not included this year. We intend to honor them separately in our last Black History Month issue next week.
We plan on formally honoring these pioneering mayors, history makers and living legacies during an evening of empowerment on March 23, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., at Rock of Ages, 1309 Madison St. in Maywood. Tickets are $50. The proceeds will benefit Village Free Press. Tickets will be available for purchase soon.
The history makers
In January, Kimberly Lightford became the first African American female Illinois Senate Majority Leader. As head of the powerful Illinois Legislative Black Caucus, the Maywood native helped provide a floor of relief for the state’s most vulnerable citizens during Springfield’s budget crisis.
And as one of the General Assembly’s leading progressives, Lightford was the primary sponsor and architect of the state Democratic Party’s most ambitious legislative feat to date — a bill that would increase the state’s minimum wage from $8.25 an hour to $15 an hour by 2025. The bill, which passed both the House and the Senate in February, was recently signed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker.
In November 2018, Karen Yarbrough became the first female, the first African American and the first suburban residents to serve as Cook County Clerk in the office’s 108-year history.
As the county’s Recorder of Deeds, Yarbrough pulled the office into the 21st Century through her trailblazing focus on Bitcoin blockchain technology. Yarbrough also turned the recorder’s Fraud Unit into a national leader in the fight against property fraud.
As principal of Proviso East High School, Patrick Hardy has guided one of Proviso Township’s seminal institutions through a cultural transformation and initiated an era of compassionate administration at the high school rooted in restorative justice. Last year, East rolled out a pioneering competency-based curriculum to all freshmen.
As head of the Bellwood Chamber of Commerce, Christopher Parker has presided over the hiring of the chamber’s first-ever executive director and is taking the lead in fostering economic cooperation in the township, particularly among business and civic leaders in Bellwood, Broadview, Maywood and Melrose Park.
As a vice president, CRA Commercial Lending, for Wintrust Financial Corporation, Parker will be responsible for guiding the quickly growing company’s effort to grow its footprint in Proviso Township.
As the past president of the Maywood-Proviso Rotary Club, Talei Thompson has guided the club’s transformation into one of the fastest-growing and most dynamic Rotary Clubs in the country.
Last June, social justice advocate Xavier Ramey, one of the dozens of new Rotarians that Thompson helped recruit, spoke in front of 24,000 of his fellow Rotarians during the opening day ceremony of the organization’s international convention in Toronto on June 2. Ramey, many local Rotarians said, is likely the first and, so far, only Maywood-Proviso Rotary Club member to speak during the organization’s international convention.
The living legacies
These five community leaders have quietly made their presence felt in the township over a number of years and have created enduring local legacies in their respective spheres of influence that have benefited current residents.
- Bishop Pam Lawrence: The pastor of God’s House of Brotherly Love and founder of MECA Elementary Christian School in Bellwood.
- Phyllis Duncan: The founder of Mothers of Murdered Sons and the Women’s Community Leadership Council.
- Vena Nelson: The owner of the Global Business Center in Maywood, which has become an incubator and meeting space for any number of vital community endeavors, including this newspaper.
- Quentin Beasley: The founder of Maywood-based Danka Basketball League, one of the largest and most respected local basketball leagues around.
- Jeremy Horn: An avid and genuine community advocate who has given his energy, passion and enthusiasm to the cause of bettering Proviso Township’s public schools. VFP
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