Category: Technology

Village People: Tammera Holmes, Saved by Aviation

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Tammera Holmes, a Maywood native and founder of AeroStar Corporation. | AeroStar

Thursday, May 11, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews

On May 6, Tammera L. Holmes, a Maywood native and 1996 graduate of Proviso East High School, spoke at a monthly Maywood Youth Mentoring breakfast held at 200 S. 5th Ave.

Holmes, a public speaker and aviation consultant, is the founder of AeroStar Corporation — an entity she founded in 2008 in order to recruit more minority young people into aviation, aerospace and STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering and Math] careers.

Holmes, who has garnered numerous accolades and plenty of national media attention, explained to a roomful of young people how airplanes saved her life. Below is a loosely transcribed excerpt of her talk.

In Maywood, there’s a former air field that was called Checkerboard Field, which sits right across the street from Loyola. That’s where Bessie Coleman [the first African American woman to hold a pilot license], flew in shows.

I didn’t find out until I was in my 20’s that Bessie came to my neighborhood and that she took off from the same area where I had my 17th birthday party. That was during the year I fell in love with aviation. I really feel like I share a connection with Bessie and with the land, the legacy and the historic value of Maywood.

But at the same time, I have some bad memories growing up here in poverty. In elementary school, we had the same books our parents had when they were in school. You could tell who had the books before you because there were names signed in them. We would literally find our parents’ names and our aunts’ and uncles’ names in those books. That’s how old they were. Half of them were missing back and front covers, and were taped together.

But school was really easy for me. Life was hard. I was a really bad kid. I stayed in trouble. I was getting straight A’s but I wasn’t getting any money because of the behavior report on the other side of that report card.

I had a mother and a father at home and was still a plum fool every day I walked out of the house. Once, I got into a fight on 5th Avenue, near where Church’s Chicken, the Gospel Rack and Little Caesar’s used to be. It was a huge brawl — about 30 of us.

That day, I had changed into a mini skirt and some slippery church shoes (my parents didn’t know). I thought I was super cute. This girl and I had been going at it for years. She was my arch enemy and it was only a matter of time before it went down. After the fight, the police came and everybody ran except for me. While the police were taking me to the station I clearly heard a voice say, ‘It doesn’t matter how smart you are now, does it?’

I had a weapon on me — a huge chain with a giant lock on the end of it. I kept it on me for protection. I bust the girl’s head with it. I could’ve killed the girl. That fast, I could’ve been in jail. That’s how quickly your life can change if you don’t keep yourself out of those situations. Her mother could’ve pressed charges. The only reason she didn’t was because we went to the same church. Here we are going to the same church on Sunday but raising hell during the week.

By the time I graduated high school, half of the young men I went to elementary school with were dead or in jail. These were my buddies, my classmates. And to see it happening today? To say that it’s sad is an understatement. We have work to do as parents, as adults, to get our kids back on the right track, because we can’t lose another generation. I don’t know if Maywood will last.

Just three days ago, one of my best friend’s nephews was murdered on 21st and Washington Boulevard in a drive-by in the middle of the day. When I look at the news and see those faces, those are people I know, kids I watched play, babies’ diapers I changed, kids I babysat and pushed in the stroller.

I was fortunate. One day, when I was 16, my mom made me take a plane ride with the Chicago chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen at Meigs Field. I saw all these black guys with air planes giving kids rides and one asked me if I wanted to fly.

I was like, ‘This dude doesn’t know how crazy I am.’ But I did it. We flew over Lake Michigan on the most beautiful day, looking at the Chicago skyline. I told myself then that I may be able do this for the rest of my life. What I knew for sure is that I wouldn’t be in the back seat of a police car again.

Aviation saved my life because it gave me something to pursue, something to lose and something to live for.

Why aviation needs minority young people 

We’re at a crossroads in the United States, which ranks 20th in science and 27th in math among developed nations. Fifty percent of all freshmen entering high school in the United States won’t graduate on time and only 20 percent have post-secondary pathways that they’ll complete within five years. That means they won’t get a college degree and they won’t acquire hard skills.

Around 10,500 highly skilled employees are leaving the workforce every day, but we have so many young people and young adults who can’t replace them. Who’s qualified to work those jobs? That’s why each year the aerospace industry gives out 7,100 H-1B visas, which are given to people who come into our country to work. Those 7,100 jobs aren’t going to U.S. citizens.

Boeing put out a report in 2016 saying 1.5 million technicians, pilots and crew are going to be needed by 2035. Where will we get the people to fill them in 20 years? Are our kindergartners going to be able to take those jobs in 20 years? Not if they’re not trained. VFP

Maywood Youth Mentoring holds monthly breakfasts from 9 a.m. until 11 a.m., on the first Saturday of each month, at 200 S. 5th Ave.

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C O N S I D E R  T H I S

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County Commissioner Calls for Moratorium on Facebook Live

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Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin during a press conference outside of Facebook’s Chicago headquarters on Friday. | Michael Romain/VFP

Sunday, April 23, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews

Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin (1st) — whose district includes all or parts of Bellwood, Broadview, Maywood and Melrose Park — staged a press conference Friday outside of Facebook’s Chicago headquarters in the West Loop.

Boykin — along with Rev. Jesse Jackson, Father Michael Pfleger, and a small group of experts in the fields of education, medicine, law enforcement and social services — called for the social media giant to institute a 30-day moratorium on its live-streaming service so that the company could consider reforming the technology.

The press conference comes in the wake of the killing of Robert Godwin, a Cleveland man who was shot to death on Easter Sunday by Steve Stephens, who apparently targeted Godwin randomly. Stevens later posted Godwin’s murder on Facebook before committing suicide on April 18.

“The death of Mr. Godwin, the crucifixion of Mr. Godwin on Resurrection Sunday, stayed on Facebook for more than two hours,” said Boykin at the April 21 press conference. “That should never happen. Not in America.”

Boykin and others who spoke at the press conference referenced other acts of violence that have been posted to Facebook.

“There must be a floor of decency beneath which we are unwilling to go,” Boykin said. “The live-streaming of rapes, murders, suicides and vicious assaults is that floor that we must never go beneath.”

Boykin said that he sent a letter to Facebook’s founder, Mark Zuckerberg, asking the billionaire to implement the 30-day moratorium and to put an emergency button in place to notify Facebook administrators that “a vile video has been posted.”

The commissioner also asked for the company to implement a measure that would prevent those videos from being shared with third parties other than law enforcement.

“We’re calling on Facebook to have corporate responsibility,” said Pfleger. “I appreciate when Facebook puts out statements of sympathy when somebody’s been raped or shot or killed on Facebook Live. But sympathy is not good enough. We need corporate action and corporate responsibility.”

Pfleger argued that Facebook should be as vigilant with protecting human life as it is with protecting property rights.

“I can’t even tell you how much violence in the neighborhoods, in my neighborhood, that is sparked and birthed on social media,” Pfleger said.

“I don’t quite understand. I do Facebook Live and behind me Stevie Wonder’s song is playing. They will immediately shut it down because I don’t have property rights to play that song in the background of my Facebook Live.

“If we have intellectual rights and copyright protections, why would we not have human life protection? So when 14- and 15-year-olds are on Facebook and Facebook Live wielding guns around, which is illegal, why is that not immediately shut down?”

Jackson said that he called Facebook’s California office earlier this month but has not yet gotten a response from the company. Boykin said that Zuckerberg hasn’t responded yet to his letter.

Jackson nonetheless called for an emergency meeting with Facebook leadership to try to resolve some of the problems with its live-streaming service.

Facebook officials could not be reached for comment. VFP

P A I D  A D V E R T I S E M E N T

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Maywood Now Has a ‘Tech District’ That Offers Weekend Courses in 3-D Printing


A series of Ultimaker 3-D printers inside of a classroom at the University of Illinois College of Business MakerLab. | University of Illinois || Below, Bridgette Chatman-Lewis, Vena Nelson, Maywood Mayor Edwenna Perkins, Maywood Trustee Isiah Brandon, Tumia Rumero and U.S. Rep. Danny K. Davis inside of Nelson’s Global Business Center in Maywood earlier this month.

tech-picWednesday, October 26, 2016 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews || UPDATED: 5:35 p.m.

“A 3-D printer can make a prototype of a Porsche in a matter of days or hours,” said business consultant Bridgette Chatman-Lewis earlier this month while hosting roughly 40 people inside of the Global Business Center, 840 S. 17th Ave., in Maywood.

The Center, which offers temporary office space and wraparound services to burgeoning businesses, is considered the hub of a technology district that Chatman-Lewis envisions for Maywood.

The Center has, for the last few weeks, also been a site for training young people in the magic of 3-D printing, a manufacturing process that creates three-dimensional objects like cars or even houses from digital files (click here for more info on the technology).

Chatman-Lewis, a native of Maywood, heads up the Oak Brook-based Chatman Lewis Consulting, which specializes in bringing economic development to hard-pressed communities.

After years of trying to gain a foothold into Maywood and at the urging Mayor Edwenna Perkins, Chatman-Lewis said her firm is now establishing a presence in the community where she was raised.

Earlier this year, Chatman-Lewis announced that Maywood would be among the communities her firm is seeking to “adopt,” in order to lure economic opportunities to town — a process the strategist said she’ll execute under an arm of her firm called the Economic Growth Initiative.

Chatman-Lewis has said EGI will execute its five-point plan in three phases. Those points include creating jobs, decreasing crime, increasing per capita income, providing youth and senior programming, and improving the community’s aesthetic landscape.

The Global Business Center, which is owned and operated by Maywood entrepreneurs Andre and Vena Nelson, was the site of the Oct. 14 kickoff for the technology aspect of EGI’s mandate to bring more youth programming into the village.

Saturday, Oct. 15 marked the start of the first session of instructional courses in 3-D printing at the Center. The eight-week training program, which takes place on the weekends, will offer young people, ages 16 to 24, the opportunity to earn a certification in 3-D printing technology, which they can then leverage into employment opportunities.

“The starting pay for 3-D printing jobs is between $45,000 and $75,000,” Chatman-Lewis said. “There’s a big demand for it in everything from soup to nuts. It’s huge.”

The course is offered through collaboration among EGI, Microsoft, the University of Illinois MakerLab and the Global Business Center — the latter of which has offered up some of its employees to serve as trained 3-D instructors. Maywood native and technology guru Sy Bounds, a frequent collaborator with the Nelsons, will facilitate the program.

The 15-person maximum enrollment level for the program’s first training cohort has already been reached, Chatman-Lewis said; however, interested young people can still apply for open spots in other 15-student cohorts. The maximum total number of students the program will accept is 100, she noted.

Although the training is free, participants will need to each fund-raise at least $100 to offset the cost it takes to administer the program.

“It’s a circle of accountability we’re going to build,” Chatman-Lewis said.

The first session will take place from October to December, with the next session taking place between February and April 2017. Although the program targets young people, 16 to 24, older applicants won’t necessarily be turned away, Chatman-Lewis said. Their names will be put in a lottery for open slots.

But the technological buzz at the Center won’t be limited to just those training courses, EGI officials said. Chatman-Lewis deemed the Center Maywood’s technology district. Bounds, she said, will serve as its czar.

The concept is to give area young people the expertise to take advantage of 21st Century economic opportunities while also maintaining a sense of place that will commit them to serving their communities even after they’ve seized those opportunities and secured those high-paying jobs.

“My research has shown that we have an incredible amount of brilliant young people,” Bounds said during the Oct. 14 kick-off event. “The problem is that we have to make sure they don’t take that information and head to Corporate America.”

In addition to 3-D printing and technology training, Chatman-Lewis said EGI will also host training courses in areas such as entrepreneurship, web development and product licensing, among others.

She said EGI is also looking for volunteers to man other community events, such as the Walk/Run it held in June and for which planning has already started for next year, a social/emotional learning program, an annual Global Initiative Network Event (GINE) and a Bulls/Sox lock-in for 3-D printing participants who successfully raise $100.

Tumia Rumero, an aide to Congressman Danny K. Davis (7th), who was in attendance at the Oct. 14 event, connected the training young people in Maywood are receiving to the wave of technology companies that are planting roots in the Chicago area.

“We have Google in our congressional district, Amazon has a headquarters here, Pandora just opened up a headquarters, Microsoft is at the Aon Center, Motorola just re-headquartered here,” Rumero said.

“With all those resources,” she said, “how do we begin to match what they’re doing with the people in the communities and so that’s where our technology advisory committee is going?”

Rumero touted a series of technology events the Congressman has been hosting over the last year, including a forum at Google’s Chicago headquarters, as an example of connecting area young people to opportunities in the technology field.

A group of students and administrators from Proviso Township District 209 High Schools attended the Google event, along with Chatman-Lewis and Bounds, who is on Davis’s technology advisory committee.

One challenge some attendees at the Oct. 14 event pointed out was how young people would be persuaded to take advantage of the tech training.

“How do you get them interested?” one attendee asked. “If you know that there are youth out here who have the brainpower and you know they can do it, how do you get them away from sports?”

Shanee Edwards, a 3-D printing course instructor and the marketing and sales specialist for Vena Nelson’s Go Big Accounting — the Business Center’s principal tenant and an associated company — said the trick to grabbing a young person’s attention is to make the learning fun.

“I would probably be inclusive. If it was my son, I’d explore the possibility that you can even design a new form of cleats,” Edwards said.

“Involve the interests they already have versus just trying to take them completely away from something they already love,” she added. “But if you find a way to incorporate [technology training inclusively], they’ll be able to make connections on their own.” VFP

For more info on the courses, email

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