Category: Out and About

BRIEFLY: Halloween Fun Overtakes Villages | Maywood Tosses Landmark Removal Proposal | Sun-Times Revisits Tom Wood Murder 10 Years Later | More

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Maywood Police Chief Valdimir Talley with attendees at the Maywood Park District’s annual Halloween Fest on Saturday. | Photo submitted || Below: Participants during Broadview Park District’s haunted house. | Broadview Park District/Facebook

Broadview Haunted House.jpgSunday, October 30, 2016 || By Community Editor || @maywoodnews

Residents in Maywood and Broadview enjoyed Halloween festivities on Saturday thanks to numerous social service organizations and the two park districts in those towns.

In Maywood, the fun took place outside, on the grounds of Veterans Park, 125 S. 5th Ave. Participants were treated to a hay maze, hot chocolate and cider, candy prizes, pony rides and more.

In Broadview, participants enjoyed a haunted house, along with free entertainment and candy, among other fall activities.

Sun-Times Revisits Tom Wood Murder, 10 Years Later

sun-times_tom-wood-final-photo

Ten years after the death of Maywood Police Officer Tom Wood, whose Oct. 23, 2006 murder is still unsolved, reporter Robert Herguth revisited the long-dormant case for the Chicago Sun-Times in a story featured on the cover (sans Cubs wraparound) of the paper’s Sunday, Oct. 30 edition.

Herguth catches up with former Maywood Police Chief Elvia Williams, who is currently running the Richton Park police department, and also talks with current Maywood Police Chief Valdimir Talley.

Williams tells Herguth that, while she still doesn’t know who murdered Wood, she’s optimistic the case will be solved sometime in “the next couple of years.”

Randy Brown, the Maywood detective who works the Wood case part-time, tells Herguth that the department will make a renewed push next year to start “re-interviewing people.” Talley adds that, next year, evidence in connection to the case will be re-examined, among other developments.

“‘I owe it to the family,’ Talley says, as well as fellow cops and the community ‘to bring closure. I’m definitely committed to getting this resolved.'”

To read the full Sun-Times report, click here.

Maywood Liquor Sales Could Start an Hour Earlier on Sundays

liquor.jpgAt a Oct. 26 Legal, License and Ordinance Committee (LLOC) meeting, the Maywood Board of Trustees voted unanimously to send to a regular board meeting for final approval a motion that would allow retail liquor sales to start at 11 a.m. on Sundays, an hour ahead of the current 12 p.m. start time that current regulations call for.

The Maywood Liquor Commission, which is chaired by Mayor Edwenna Perkins, unanimously recommended that the board approve the the motion, which retailers say will allow them to compete with retailers in nearby communities that sell liquor earlier in the day.

According to village officials, each holder of a liquor license in the village is in compliance with regulations and in good standing. Officials say there are currently 15 active liquor licenses in Maywood as of Aug. 17.

The board is expected to make a binding vote on the new hours at a regular meeting on Nov. 1.

Maywood Board Tosses Proposed Landmark Removal Ordinance

At the Oct. 26 LLOC, the Maywood Board of Trustees voted 4-3 for “the outright denial and rejection” of a proposed ordinance that would allow owners of properties in the village that have been designated local historic landmarks to remove that designation by appealing directly to the Board of Trustees, and bypassing the Historic Preservation Commission.

Trustees Antonette Dorris, Melvin Lightford and Ron Rivers, who pushed for the proposal, have argued that landmark status could hamper potential development, particularly of the Maywood Home for Soldiers Widows, near the corner of Lake St. and First Ave.

Maywood Trustee Michael Rogers, who made the tersely stated motion, argued that landmark status is no different than any other regulation that protects the historical character and integrity of the community.

Cook County Board of Commissioners Presents Resolution in Honor of Iberia Hampton 

iberia-hampton

During an Oct. 26 meeting, the Cook County Board of Commissioners honored longtime Maywood resident Iberia Hampton, the mother of Fred Hampton, with a resolution.

The legislation was sponsored by Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin (1st), in whose district Hampton lived until her death on Oct. 17 at age 94.

You can read the full resolution by clicking here.

State Rep. named ‘Legislator of the Year’

Rep. WelchState Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch (7th), whose district includes Maywood, was honored on Oct. 28 by the Illinois Association of School Social Workers as the “Legislator of the Year” for his 2016 legislative work in Springfield.

Welch was presented the award during the organization’s 46th Annual Conference, which took place in Lisle.

The group, which honored Welch’s body of education-related work, specifically referenced his hand in the passage of HB 4996 — a law signed by Gov. Bruce Rauner allows school districts “to appoint social workers as the district’s liaison with the Department of Children and Family Services to help coordinate services to foster children within a school district,” according to a statement released by Welch.

“Currently, Illinois school districts serve over 10,000 foster kids across 800 districts, and there is no mechanism in place to properly track services provided,” the statement noted. ” HB4996 will correct this issue, and it will also help Illinois as it prepares to comply with the new Federal Every Student Succeeds Act.” VFP

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Kite Runner: Why This Maywood Native Wants To Import A Chinese Passion To His Hometown

Screenshot 2014-07-06 at 12.11.11 PM(Valane Spaulding setting up for yesterday’s Family Kite Day at Conner-Heise Memorial Park. Photo by Michael Romain for The Village Free Press). 

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LaTrina Spaulding, Tiffney Hughes, Valane Spaulding, LaShaundra Murphy. Photo by Michael Romain for The Village Free Press.

Sunday, July 6, 2014 || By Michael Romain

MAYWOOD–When newlyweds Valane and LaTrina Spaulding honeymooned to Beijing this year, the city’s thriving kite-flying culture made such an impression that Valane brought back some of that aerial passion to America–and in particular, Maywood, the place where he grew up.

“There were people flying kites in every park in Beijing that we came across,” Spaulding said. “It took me back to my childhood days. We don’t do that anymore.”

Those nostalgic moments in China would lead to yesterday’s Family Kite Day held at Conner-Heise Memorial Park on 10th and Washington, from 11 AM to 5 PM.

“I’m just trying to bring a little life, a little color, into our community,” said Spaulding, a Proviso East alumnus.

What began as a way to spread financial literacy and security to people in his community has spawned into a far more encompassing endeavor.

Spaulding, who majored in Finance at the University of Illinois and currently resides in downtown Chicago, has created an organization called Integrating People’s Options to formally facilitate more community events like the one yesterday. He envisions hosting basketball and softball tournaments, and 5K and 10K runs–right here in Maywood. His wife LaTrina, Tiffney Hughes and LaShaundra Murphy comprise the organization’s administrative team.

“I love my community,” Spaulding said. “I love my people, so when I read the news and I see the stuff that’s happening in Maywood–that hurts me. I ride through this community and I don’t see anyone in the parks. I hate that.”

At least for one overcast, but temperate, Saturday afternoon, however, one park in the Village was animated by an Imperial City pastime imported to the Village of Eternal Light. VFP

Screenshot 2014-07-06 at 12.14.04 PMScreenshot 2014-07-06 at 12.13.39 PMScreenshot 2014-07-06 at 12.16.57 PMScreenshot 2014-07-06 at 12.30.36 PM

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“A Great Day In Maywood:” Community Marks Official Start Of Fred Hampton Aquatic Center’s Summer Season With Ribbon-Cutting

Crowd at Pool Opening
A crowd of community leaders and elected officials gathered outside of the Fred Hampton Aquatic Center on Monday for the pool’s ribbon-cutting. (Photo by Michael Romain for The Village Free Press).

Monday,  June 9, 2014 || By Michael Romain 

MAYWOOD–Community leaders and local elected officials gathered in front of the Fred Hampton Family Aquatic Center on Fred Hampton Way to celebrate the official opening of the pool’s 2014 summer season.

Guests included Maywood Mayor Edwenna Perkins; Maywood Trustees Ron Rivers, Toni Dorris and Audrey Jaycox; State Representatives Emanuel “Chris” Welch and Kathleen Willis; Maywood Police Chief Valdimir Talley; District 209 Board Member Theresa Kelly; West Cook YMCA CEO Phillip Jimenez; West Cook YMCA COO David Parsons; West Cook Board members Roberto Sepulveda and Phil Gordon; West Cook YMCA Aquatics Director Kim Polk; Maywood Park District Commissioner and brother of Fred Hampton, Bill Hampton; Hampton’s mother Iberia Hampton; and Maywood Park District Interim Executive Director Lawrence Broughton.

“West Cook YMCA is thankful and delighted to be in partnership with the Village of Maywood, the Mayor and the Hampton family,” Jimenez said. He also thanked the West Cook YMCA staff, Acting Village Manager David Myers and Maywood’s Coordinator of Enforcement David Flowers for a job well done.

(From left to right: Mayor Edwenna Perkins; Mayor Perkin and Phillip; the Mayor and Rep. Welch (right) talk with a resident; Isiah Brandon, Executive Director of Youth on the Move, speaks with Rep. Willis. Photos by Michael Romain for The Village Free Press).

Mayor Perkins speakMayor Perkins and Philip JimenezMayor Perkins and State Rep. Welch chat with citizenIsiah Brandon speaks with Rep. Kathleen Willis

This marks the third year that the YMCA has maintained the pool, but it will be the first year that the Village shares the burden of the operating costs. Last month, the Village Board of Trustees voted unanimously to allocate $40,000 toward the approximately $80,000 it costs the West Cook YMCA to run the pool during the summer season, which officially kicked off after today’s ribbon-cutting and will end on August 17th.

“This is the proper place, the proper setting, the proper pool for people to do the proper things in this community,” said Bill Hampton. “Fred gave his life, not just for people to swim, but to build cooperation and unity. This was a great day in Maywood.”

“Since it opened in 1970, this pool has been a center of good, wholesome fun and hope for thousands of families,” Mayor Perkins said. “It has provided past and present residents of this Village with lifetimes of memories; and it has been a place where Maywoodians have bonded and formed lasting relationships.”

The Mayor lauded the Board of Trustees for voting to share the cost of operating the pool. She also thanked the administrative staff and board members of the YMCA for a fruitful collaboration. The Mayor noted that keeping the pool open year after year would require a constant struggle, but one she’s optimism about.

“In order for this pool to stay open another 40 plus years, it will take a struggle,” she said. “But the recent actions taken by the Village, in partnership with the West Cook YMCA, should give residents a lot of hope that this pool will be in good shape for years to come.”

(From left to right: Roberto Sepulveda; Iberia Hampton and local author Mary Morris; a crowd heads into the pool complex; Chief Talley converses with Trustee Jaycox; two boys plotting poolside; a YMCA lifeguard standing watch; a woman reading poolside; children wading the pool; Theresa Kelly, Mary Morris and Mrs. Hampton; Trustee Jaycox and Mrs. Hampton; Kim Polk, Mrs. Hampton and Bill Hampton cutting the ribbon; a poolside attendant waits for a patron to go down the slide. Photos by Michael Romain for The Village Free Press).

Roberto SepulvedaIberia Hampton and Mary MorrisPeople going into poolMaywood Police Chief Talley converses with Trustee JaycoxBoys poolsideYMCA LifeguardWoman reads poolsideChildren play in poolTheresa Kelly, Hampton,Trustee Jaycox and Iberia HamptonIberia Hampton, Bill Hampton and Kim PolkSlide Attendant

“It’s a joy and a hard-fought battle, but it’s something we have to do for our kids,” said Trustee Rivers, riffing on the Mayor’s martial metaphor. “It would’ve been a terrible mistake for this pool not to be open and for it not to be open on time. We did what we set out to do. Now, I just hope that it’s a safe and hot summer.”

West Cook YMCA board member Roberto Sepulveda, who is also a member of the Maywood Rotary Club, said that the partnership between the YMCA and the Village has never been stronger.

“We are glad to see a full partnership that includes greater engagement and financial support from Mayor Perkins, the Maywood Trustees and the Village of Maywood as a whole,” he said. “Today, you could really feel the sense of community.”

Iberia Hampton gathered with local leaders in front of a Univision television camera to cut the ribbon. The pool opening wouldn’t be official without her. VFP

Villegas Monuments

 

 

Michael Rogers’s Field of Dreams

This is a roundabout way of inaugurating our newest section of the site, which we’re calling, “Maywood Re-Imagined.” Every week, we’ll take certain parts of Maywood and virtually revitalize them through digital manipulation, so residents can see the town’s infinite possibilities and hopefully start making Maywood their canvas. If you have any ideas, email them, or post them via comment, and we’ll try our best to transform your imaginative words into a neat (albeit a bit crude) visualization. But before you get to all of that, you’ll have to pass through some other stuff along the way.

By Michael Romain

Saturday, May 18, 2013, Maywood — This past weekend, while walking to cover a prayer vigil, I came upon a man standing on the baseball diamond on 1st and Oak. He was at home plate, alone, taking pictures of the outfield. When I closed in on him, he waved. It was Michael Rogers, whose resignation as interim trustee in April had aroused a lot emotion among residents in Maywood.

My Perspective

I wrote a piece of commentary in the aftermath of Yarbrough’s appointment of Audrey Jaycox to the seat Rogers vacated. In my opinion, the appointment of someone who wasn’t a candidate for trustee in the last election and had lost a race for an entirely separate office seemed like a consolation prize. It only reinforced the perception, which I sense is widely shared among residents here, of a separate political class that hovers above municipal business as if its their own — an entitlement class, if you will.

For Yarbrough to change this popular perception of him and his party (however accurate or inaccurate it may be in actuality), he’d need to do something to drastically undercut this common stereotype. Yes, the appointment of Ms. Jaycox was entirely his to make. Yes, it was legal for him to do so. Yes, it is a political play that anyone in his position would probably have made.

But it was small ball compared to the large ball act of simply appointing the next-highest-vote-getting candidate for trustee in the most recent election. That would have been courageous, atypical and bold. I thought Yarbrough should’ve done this regardless of the perceived motivations of Neighbors of Maywood Community Organization (NoMCO), which had recommended it. I thought such an action (which seemed fair, direct and clear-cut) would have perhaps gone an surprisingly long way toward correcting what I think has been Mayor Yarbrough’s (and Maywood’s) greatest liability — their public perception. And not just in Maywood, but beyond.

I came to this conclusion from the premise that reestablishing this trust in Village government, which citizens here have apparently lost, is more important, in the long run, than economic development. In fact, there can be no economic development if there is no civic development first. You can’t attract much high-quality commerce to a municipal climate that is widely perceived to be corrupt or petty or parochial. That was the basis for my indignation and, I sense, for other people’s as well.

However, I personally took no issue with Michael Rogers’s decision to resign and any article on this site relevant to the matter, especially any article of reportage, will reflect this reality. The reader can verify this claim by going here. I do admit, though, that I may not have been clear enough with the reader that Rogers’s resignation should be considered separately from Jaycox’s appointment. After all, if Yarbrough had appointed Marcius Scaggs, the next-highest-vote-receiving candidate for trustee, Rogers’s resignation would have been a moot point.

Moreover, to complicate the issue, if Rogers had, instead, resigned during Mayor Perkins’s tenure and Mayor Perkins appointed someone who either did not run as trustee or wasn’t the next-highest-vote getter in that particular race (i.e., if she’d done exactly what Mayor Yarbrough did), Rogers’s resignation would’ve been a non-factor. Was Rogers scapegoated a bit? Perhaps.

Now, is it possible that Rogers was complicit in the whole power play all along? Absolutely. Do we know this for certain? No. Were he complicit, would his complicity have been very major? I don’t believe so. (I’m imagining myself in his dilemma and what I’d do if I had to choose between being a little complicit in a move that might inflame public opinion and being loyal to my political allies). However, what we do know for certain is that Rogers is now a sitting trustee with the power to affect the way Maywoodians live our lives. And until he does something egregious enough to lose it entirely, he needs to have our trust.

Trust requires that people’s words and intentions be taken at a fair amount of face value. That’s the only way real things get done between parties with diverse (and oftentimes diverging) interests. That is what underlies commerce. In fact, the grand intellectual father of capitalism, Adam Smith, had a name for it. He called this, ‘fellow-feeling.’ We, his estranged getting-and-spending grandchildren, call it sympathy.

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An Aside

Rogers said that he likes to get outside and take mental notes of ideas that he has for bring economic development to the Village. At the moment, where most drivers-by see a baseball diamond of wildly high grass, weeds and dandelions, Rogers was seeing corporate billboards running along outfield walls. The advertising could be added revenue for the Village. Whether the idea is feasible or not, I don’t know. It is, however, undeniably imaginative. This act of creativity, of standing along in a baseball field, conjuring solutions in silence, piqued my interest far more than the controversy. And with it, Michael Rogers earned my respect.

Michael Rogers’s Perspective

But there was still a Gordian knot of tension that need untying. And so, I invited Rogers to offer a fuller explanation of his decision to resign and where he thought I was wrong in my analysis.

He stated that his priority when he was appointed by Yarbrough to fill the seat vacated by former trustee Flowers was to help the Board with the budget. This needed to be taken care of by May 1st. The Board was able to finish the budget about a week before the deadline. “I would’ve had to resign at some point anyway, whether it would’ve been then or the day after my swearing-in,” he said.

“Perspective is worth a hundred IQ points…

He indicated that his decision to resign about a month before the next mayor would be sworn-in was largely due to him wanting a period of rest before beginning what promises to be an eventful first term as an elected trustee. He said that he consulted with Mayor Yarbrough on the appointment and suggested the Mayor consider three qualities in his potential appointees: a) cultural diversity, b) experience and c) an understanding of economic development. “Perspective is worth a hundred IQ points,” he said.

Rogers believes that I was severely discounting Ms. Jaycox’s experience and her abilities to bring opportunities to the Village. He said that the Mayor appointed the best person to serve the remainder of the term. He also said that he thought I had underestimated the advantages of having political leaders who are connected to other political leaders in statewide and national positions of power and influence.

And perhaps I am, although I think I’ve established that this is rather irrelevant to my overriding point (see my perspective, above). I will say, though, that I may have underplayed how Ms. Jaycox’s representation in organizations such as the National League of Cities do, indeed, translate into concrete advances that people in Maywood can feel. I invite Ms. Jaycox to talk about this anytime.

Anyhow, Rogers noted that once he aired his concerns about the nature of his successor to Mayor Yarbrough, he resigned. Fair enough. It’s an explanation I take at face value.

Better Problems

Now back to Mr. Rogers’s field of dreams. This is a very, very rough rendering of what I imagine Mr. Rogers’s imaginings for the field on 1st and Oak to be:

Mr. Rogers's Field of DreamsMy rough, amateurish rendering may or may not be true to the vision that Mr. Rogers, a professional architect, had in his head while standing alone at home base. The idea itself may or may not be feasible. To focus on this kind of development may or may not be misdirected. Those are all honest debates to have. What’s certain is that the Village would benefit if citizens and elected officials alike were in conflict about these kinds of issues, instead of the ones that claim our attentions now. They’re much more constructive. VFP.

The Sound and the Fury

Joined Hands at Saturday's Prayer Vigil
Participants join hands at Saturday’s prayer vigil.

By Michael Romain

Saturday, May 18, 2013, Maywood – When Patrick Winters got to the podium he held out the bullhorn that served as the event’s impromptu sound system and with it reproduced the blare of emergency sirens. “This is the sound we hear every time our children are killed! This is the sound we’re trying to drown out of our community!”

Winters stood on a wooden stage foregrounded by a fenced-in gazebo that is dilapidated and weathered. In the past, the gazebo may have been the focal point of this gathering, but now it is inaccessible and unused. Hand-colored posters enlivened the fencing around the gazebo, but didn’t quite offset or mute the dying structure’s dirge presence — a dark reminder that in the past this event most likely would not have been needed. And an even darker reminder that that past is gone.

Patrick Winters tends to the bullhorn; Stacy Kemp (wearing number 5 jersey) in the background
Patrick Winters tends to the bullhorn.

This was billed as a night of prayer for Maywood (“Taking Maywood Back” was the theme on the program), planned and executed by Billy Fowlkes and Ruby Carswell, the stewards of a ministry they call the Covenant Daughters of IAM ‘Elohim’. Carswell, the ministry’s founder, desires to have her organization’s prayers issue forth and support the Village as a chamber supports a heart. Fowlkes, an evangelist and the ministry’s executive assistant, said he was motivated to do something after returning to Maywood from Memphis, TN, and noticing that the Village in which he grew up was not the Village to which he returned.

Mayor-elect Perkins talks to attendees
Mayor-elect Perkins talks to attendees.

Fowlkes claims that his family was one of the first that settled in Maywood. His grandmother, Arwilder Fowlkes, was apparently the second black student who graduate from Proviso East and Washington Elementary. She was also one of the organizers of Second Baptist Church in Maywood. And Fowlkes’s father was the first black athletic director of District 89.

Billy Fowlkes at the Podium
Billy Fowlkes at the podium.

Currently, Billy Fowlkes serves as a volunteer at the Boys and Girls Club on 200 S. Fifth Avenue. He observes young people like 19-year-old DaShamone McCarty practically everyday. When he convened the first planning meeting for this night of prayer about a month ago, McCarty was still alive. There were about ten or twelve people who came at his invitation, including Mayor-elect Edwenna Perkins and former mayoral candidate Nicole Gooden. Before the meeting, Folwkes piled a stack of West Suburban Journal newspapers headlining the case of one-year-old Bryeon Hunter on the table where attendees were to sit — a reminder of sorts of why they were there.

Now, two days after McCarty’s shooting death, the program acquired a fresh relevance. “We are losing too many kids over nonsense!” Fowlkes blared into the bullhorn, which, like the gazebo, seemed freighted with symbolism. The microphone system at the podium had proven useless, because the electricity in the park at 4th and Oak had abruptly cut off.

The complication sent Fowlkes into a conspiratorial tantrum. “I need you to write that Maywood cut our power off!” he told me when I arrived. Fowlkes would eventually settle for the more crackly alternative. The persistent presence of the bullhorn, ironically, would add to the event a layer of protestation, of urgency, that makes a microphone staid by comparison. Prayers mouthed from bullhorns seem aesthetically more political, more worldly, than prayers mouthed from mics.

Fowlkes formally opened the ceremony with a moment of silence for Bryeon Hunter. He began reading from Philippians 4:6-9. “Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God…” After his scripture, Fowlkes introduced the night’s moderator, Angela Taylor Brown, who followed Prophetess Ruby Carswell, the ceremony’s co-planner.

Carswell ascended the stage dressed in a gleaming white power suit that she seems to have trademarked. She’d worn a similar white suit at the first planning meeting. It is as if Carswell, a reformed drug addict and herself the mother of a son who was shot in Maywood, wants to constantly remind herself and others of her unlikely transformation. She may literally wear her testimony, her deliverance, on her sleeves.

Once she got the podium, Carswell immediately went into a sermonic sing-song, prayers interlacing scriptures interlacing declarations interlacing rapid-fire, indecipherable glossolalia. “We call for the power of the holy ghost to step in right now!” The crowd, enraptured by her charisma, responded with calls of affirmation.

Prophetess Ruby Carswell speaking to the crowd
Prophetess Ruby Carswell (right) speaking to the crowd.

Fowlkes had directed the crowd of about seventy to form an interlocking circle of unity as different speakers approached the podium. At the circle’s focal points were several children holding handmade banners with anti-violence messages. Prayers followed prayers. “We believe this is going to be a catalyst for the Holy Spirit!” one man prayed. “We stomp the devil out of Maywood in Jesus’ name!” prayed Fowlkes. “We want to know why our children are dying!”

Once the circle was broken and people went back to their seats, the camp revival atmosphere shifted somewhat to that of a public memorial, with several people’s personal accounts of the way Maywood used to be sounding more like elegies than nostalgic reminiscences. There was another moment of silence for baby Hunter and DaShamone McCarty.

A young boy holds a poster inside of a prayer circle
Young children hold anti-violence posters inside of a prayer circle.

Sonja McCoy, a 26-year employee of Loyola and lifelong Maywoodian who runs Eternal Light Community Services, an organization that facilitates positive programming for the town’s youth, talked about her own youth in the Village. “I remember when,” she said as a refrain, providing a litany of things that once were, but are no longer. Swift merry-go-rounds. Softball games at Winfield Park. Tag at the Rec. The swirly slide at Water Works Park. The A&P. The time when Maywood had not one, but two libraries.

If McCoy’s version of Maywood was paradisaical, Debra Spears’s Maywood was paradise lost. Maywood was her home. She shared McCoy’s enthusiasm about everything the town offered in its heyday. But then things changed. “It got to a point where I had to leave Maywood,” said Spears, who spoke later on in the program. “I lost my son to gun violence in 2003. I had to leave the house where I was raised. I had neighbors who were selling drugs,” she said. Spears, whose son lived for more than a year after he was shot, said that she reached out to the Board, the police, the Mayor. “They still did nothing.”

“I love Maywood. I was raised here,” said Stacy Kemp. “I remember having fights with some of my best friends. Now kids fight and one ends up dead and one is going to the penitentiary.”

Kemp is an ex-convict. “In a lot of different situations they don’t allow us to speak out! We need the community to allow us to speak to these kids!” He said that he is only one of many who are typically silenced because of their past. “There are a lot of us…My story is not unique. I’m just up here talking. There are thousands of us!” And then Kemp’s talk took an unexpected turn into economics. “I hate to get into the business of the correctional system, but if it don’t make money, it don’t make sense,” he said.

Minister Noel Caffey III was dressed in a suit and tie, a serious-looking man who looked no older than twenty-five. He delivered a kind of sermonette, riffing on a rap song by Nas entitled, “I Know I Can.” He ended his brief performance by reciting the lyrics. “If I just work hard at it, I can be what I want to be!” After getting down from the stage, Caffey donned an accessory that seemed more congruent with his age, but sort of clashed with the stiff formality of his suit — a fitted baseball cap.

Caffey’s merging of the spiritual with the explicit materiality of Hip-Hop (the world of sagged pants, of bling, of rampant hedonism, of political immaturity) may have been the night’s moment of foreshadowing. Caffey, DaShamone McCarty’s generational peer, is the future. He is the objectified ‘them’, the recklessly self-destructive young so often referenced throughout the night, but rarely heard. His message symbolized one of the ways the youth themselves have  sought to transcend the destructive limitations of a world they had no say in devising.

Noel Caffey III speaks to the gathering.
Noel Caffey III speaks to the gathering.

As the evening wore on, the park darkening, barely illuminated by the lamp posts lining Oak Street, the communal discussion extended to universal considerations. Phyllis Duncan, the founder of Mothers of Murdered Sons (MOMS), said, “We have lost our moral dignity. We have given our children to the streets.” At one point during her message, she invited all of the mothers who had lost children to gun violence to stand. I was looking for the mother of McCarty, but didn’t see her. There was, however, a woman seated in a chair not far from the stage. She was hunched over, weeping.

Phyllis Duncan Speaks to the Crowd
Phyllis Duncan speaks to the crowd.

“Erica can’t stand, because her son was killed by a Maywood police officer on Madison and 19th on November of last year,” Duncan said. “This is not new to our community. When we lose one child it affects us all. When we lose our black males, it takes away from the generations…Who is going to marry my granddaughter?”

Who is going to marry my granddaughter?

Duncan addressed a question often heard after the shooting deaths of black males. “Was he in a gang? What difference does it make! We got to stop putting these labels on our sons!” Duncan talked about the murder of her own son. “I think about that boy when I go to bed and when I wake up,” she said. Duncan has since sublimated her pain into action and awareness.

She referenced Stacy Kemp, the ex-convict who offered his own succinct economic theory of the business of incarceration. “This brother is part of the solution!” she said. According to Duncan, Kemp’s condition, along with that of millions of other young black men, is symptomatic of a much grander crime. “This is systematic! This is not something that happens over night!” However, she was emphatic that, although the problem is systematic, the solution is much closer to home. “We have to save ourselves for ourselves.” She offered a few immediate solutions. “Get to know your neighbor! Get to know the children in your communities!”

After she spoke, Duncan introduced William Hampton, the brother of slain Black Panther and Maywood icon Fred Hampton. Bill Hampton, a Maywood Park District Commissioner, was careful to qualify the night’s persistent haranguing about the lack of activities for Maywood youth by mentioning some initiatives his park district is sponsoring, such as a leadership program for young women. Things aren’t all lost, he seemed to be implying. “We all have to come together as one whole community!” he said.

Commissioner William Hampton speaks to gatherers
Commissioner William Hampton speaks to gatherers.

As it became clear that this collective prayer gathering would go well into the night, I left, walking in the direction of 1st Avenue, toward the Phoenix Rising sculpture and the Fred Hampton Pool and the baseball diamond overran by dandelions. Debra Spears’s voice trailed me, its invisible frequency colliding with Hampton’s bronze bust and dipping into relative silence before an older, much more casual congregation of people (seated at picnic tables across the street from the Way Back Inn) could hear its resonance.

Press Release: Good Things Happening At Maywood’s West Town Museum of Cultural History

Courtesy of Jean Weathers via Facebook:

The West Town Museum of Cultural History has been notified that the Illinois Bureau of Tourism has included the institution, and the Maywood Underground Railroad Memorial Site, in its latest mapped locations: Chicago & Beyond Map Guide, 2013-2014.

This publication is being distributed at the following Chicagoland locations: The Chicago Visitor Bureau; Chicago Metra Station; I-80; I-88; Milwaukee & St. Louis areas; AAA Ohio; Midway/South-Side Hotels; Western & Northwestern Suburbs. It will be available at the Museum in mid-May. The WestTown Museum is a member of the Illinois Association of Museums and the Maywood Chamber of Commerce. It networks with the Oak Park Visitor and Conference Bureau.

You can contact the Museum via phone: (708)343-3554, email: ou104@aol.com, or visit the website at: http://www.operationuplift-westtownmuseum.org.

Budding Community Organization Offers Disaster Kits, Opportunities for Community Engagement

Maywood – Two weeks after flash floods ravaged West Suburban Cook County for the second time since 2010, Maywood residents are still coping with the aftermath. Ruby Brown’s computer and television, among other possessions, were destroyed by the flood. She’s been to K-Mart to look at replacement televisions, but they run into the hundreds of dollars. Hertestyne Watkins, a member of St. Eulalia and a volunteer with the parish’s Soup Kitchen, said that the waters took out her washer, dryer and furnace. Wonzie Johnson thought his hot water heater was gone until some fortuitous tweaking brought it back to life.

Ruby Brown with Virgil Crawford
Ruby Brown with Virgil Crawford

Residents told these stories of the flood to Virgil Crawford, a local community organizer and co-founder of Maywood Organized Voters Emerged and Engaged (MOVEE). The organization was founded in the living room of former candidate for trustee Cheryl Ealey-Cross, the product of mutual concerns she and other residents had with regard to the McDonald’s restaurant currently under construction at the corner of 5th and Roosevelt.

They wanted to know how many local jobs the franchise would provide, whether or not Tax Increment Financing (TIF) money was issued for its development and what ways they could ensure that youth in the community were given first priority in the hiring process. During the election, MOVEE arranged an open community meeting at the Quinn Center to disseminate information and feel the pulse of the citizenry with respect to the new development. The meeting was attended by about 20 residents, including Clerk-elect Viola Mims, Mayor-elect Edwenna Perkins, candidate for trustee Ealey and candidate for park district commission Joe Ratley. There, they handed out pre-applications for job-seekers to fill out. The organization then presented the pre-applications to McDonald’s for early consideration.

And then the flood. The day the waters rose, MOVEE held its second official meeting in a classroom at the Quinn Community Center. It was attended by about ten people, Mrs. Ealey-Cross and Mr. Crawford included. Those who showed up looked worn from day-long efforts moving sandbags, meeting with emergency response officials and checking on senior citizens. Mrs. Ealey-Cross herself had been up since at least 5:00 in the morning. The flood inspired MOVEE’s second big organizing effort.

Hertestyne Watkins with Virgil Crawford
Hertestyne Watkins with Virgil Crawford

“With those hot water heaters, you have to take that assembly out and then depressurize those lines. That’s when you get the water out and make sure it’s free-flowing,” Virgil Crawford told Mr. Johnson. Crawford was seated in a hallway, in front of one of St. Eulalia’s side entrances. A partnership with the Quinn Community Center allowed MOVEE to acquire from the Salvation Army several dozen flood relief cleanup kits to distribute to affected residents. The kits include a mop, a bottle of water, gloves and cleaning solution, among other supplies.

Virgil Crawford
Virgil Crawford

Although the flood waters have receded for the most part, the kits are still in high demand. A thin stream of people from Maywood, Broadview, Bellwood and even Chicago flowed into the Center to receive the kits. The only thing Crawford asked from them in return was their contact information, so that they’d be informed about MOVEE’s future endeavors and perhaps inspired to get engaged in community issues themselves. “This community needs citizens to become more active in it,” said Crawford.

Crawford has been in communication with the Village’s Department of Public Works, which referred residents to MOVEE’s efforts once the Village’s shipment of kits ran out. Many of those who showed up to the Center had been informed about the kit giveaway either through word-of-mouth or through contacting their respective municipalities. One Bellwood man had showed up after standing in line for a kit to no avail.

Along with their stories of flooding, people also brought their concerns about the government’s responsiveness. Ms. Watkins said she hadn’t heard much from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) until one of the agency’s trucks pulled up in front of the home of a friend who lives on her block.

“FEMA came this morning. She [her friend] said they came to her door and asked her did she get water in her basement and what she lost. She told them and they said okay. She asked if they wanted to come in and see it and they told her no. It was a different process from last time, when they would call you and make an appointment […] The last time, [a] guy came in and entered everything into the computer, but if they just stood outside and asked a question then that’s kind of iffy.”

Mr. Crawford told her that she had just witnessed what’s called a scattered site evaluation. “They’re spotting,” he said. Olivia Brown, who works in the Village of Maywood’s Public Works Department, verified what Crawford said. “A FEMA representative was here, but they haven’t declared this a disaster area yet. They were here a few days ago [and] they were in town today doing spot assessments.”

A representative with FEMA said that the agency expects that the President will declare Maywood and other affected suburbs a disaster area by this weekend. “Anytime they say there is a disaster in the area and they’re getting ready to declare it they have to go in and assess the area,” she said. “They have to look at several places and then they send their report in to the President [once the Governor has declared].”

What Ms. Watkins most likely witnessed was the pre-inspection process that’s required before the declaration. “People should wait for the [Federal] disaster to be declared first,” the FEMA representative said,  before they file their claims. In the meantime, if residents have any concerns or questions regarding their status they can contact their local emergency management agency, which is typically listed in the emergency notification section in the Yellow Pages, or call the flood disaster hotline at 1-800-525-0321.

A pile of mops to be distributed
A pile of mops inside of a classroom at St. Eulalia

Much closer to the ground, MOVEE is in the process of planning a community forum to update residents on flood relief efforts. “There are too many questions that citizens have regarding their uncertainty and fear that assistance may not be forthcoming for […] Maywood and that’s unacceptable given how heavy we were impacted by this flood and how broad it was,” said Crawford. “People deserve to know that their government is working for them and know where that process is. So, we’re going to do our due diligence to bring that information to the community.”

To inquire about MOVEE’s future meeting dates and endeavors, please call (630) 841-4877. MOVEE also plans on passing out kits at the Quinn Community Center tomorrow from 12pm t0 5pm. Seniors may make pickup arrangements over the phone.