Category: Out and About

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.


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:, or visit the website at: