Friday, March 25, 2011


Michael Chandler is campaigning to reclaim his job as 24th ward Alderman. He cites his accessibility, record of organizing & listening to residents, and his experience as a new Mayor enters office as his assets. (Photo by Brad) 
Michael Chandler helps his campaign staff assemble yard signs. Early voting is now open at Douglass Library & Election Day is Tuesday, April 5. (Photo by Brad) 

Michael Chandler is battling to win back his job as 24th ward Alderman. He is starring in a rematch of the runoff election he lost four years ago. But, he emphasizes that this is a new day with new problems and new opportunities for the people of his ward. Chandler says his experience in the job and familiarity with conditions in the ward qualifies him to again lead the 24th ward.
    Chandler says the major challenges facing the ward are lack of jobs; crime, public safety, and security; economic development; and education. He cites his record as Alderman in attracting businesses and jobs to the ward. He has a plan for utilizing TIF funds to make $50,000 grants to new and existing businesses because small businesses are the backbone of America and employ the most people.
In attracting new businesses with jobs, Chandler says it is vital to embrace our youth, encouraging them to stay in school, excel, and obtain skills training they need to be hired in today’s competitive workforce.
    “We must increase hope among youth,” Chandler declares.
    In his previous terms in the City Council, Michael Chandler was noted for organizing the citizens of his ward, listening to their needs and motivating them to solve problems. He created the 24th Ward Council of Block Clubs and met with school principals monthly. He says he plans to expand this effort even more when elected by setting up working advisory councils on the order of Congressman Davis’ issues task forces.
    “There is a place at the table for everyone,” assures Chandler, “and everyone’s ideas are needed.”
    This brings him to the issue of accessibility. He says the current Alderman does not make herself available to citizens of the ward by maintaining an office on the top floor of a locked building located a half-block from the southern edge of the ward. He says he will again locate his office on Roosevelt Road and be open to the public. He also says he will be visible in the ward to hear the needs of his constituents.
    “The people need basic city services and an Alderman who will listen and push things forward,” Chandler states.
    Chandler suggests that perhaps the biggest change is the election of Rahm Emanuel as Mayor of Chicago. “I am an experienced Alderman and I am looking forward to working with the new Mayor in bringing about positive change in the 24th ward and the City of Chicago.”
    Early voting is open now through March 31 at the Douglass Branch Library on 13th & Homan. Election Day is Tuesday, April 5.


The economic recession has hit philanthropy and charitable giving. This, in turn, is making it increasingly difficult for organizations that depend upon public generosity to continue serving clients in need. One such agency is the Dr. Martin Luther King Boys & Girls Club at 2958 West Washington Boulevard. Lack of funding threatens the Club’s continued existence. It has served the needs of generations of West Side children over the years and, at a time when poverty, violence, and the lures of gangs and drugs are growing stronger and family ties are breaking down, its services are needed more than ever.
Melody Spann-Cooper, General Manager of WVON Radio, pledged the station’s support. It held a telethon at the Boys & Girls Club on Friday, March 11, with each program host broadcasting from the stage in the Club’s gym. Beginning with Matt McGill from 6:00-9:00 AM and continuing through Santita Jackson from 9:00-Noon, Rev. Al Sharpton making a special in-person visit for his show from 12:00-3:00 PM, and popular Cliff Kelley from 3:00-7:00 PM, each anchorperson aired their shows from the Boys & Girls Club.
An array of celebrities, business people, clergy, and ordinary citizens stopped by and called in to offer their monetary contributions and reminiscence about their experiences growing up at the Martin Luther King Boys & Girls Club. The goal was to raise $100,000 for the Club.
On Friday, March 25, the 23rd Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Legacy Dinner is being held at the Chicago Hyatt Regency Hotel, 151 East Wacker Drive. The theme is Transforming Dreams Across Generations. Award honorees for 2011 are Congressman Danny K. Davis; Dr. Alvenia Rhea Albright, founder of Rhea of Hope Foundation; Ray Anderson of CPS; and Larry Huggins, President of Riteway Huggins Construction Services. They join 87 previous winners as beacons to the young people the Club serves.
For tickets or to donate, contact Club Director Don Reed at 773/638-5464.


The Strawberry Girls & Ella Flagg Young School Principal Crystal Bell, with all the student participants in the Cricket Community Voices Project. (Photo by Brad)

The Strawberry Girls are beautiful, strong-willed, and dedicated to eradicating all forms of violence and to saving the world. A big order? Not for  these Super Women!
    Thanks to a Cricket Community Voices Grant, the Strawberry Girls are able to reward students at Ella Flagg Young School with gift cards, journals, and laptop computers as prizes for an essay contest they launched entitled: Letters to the President – How can I be an example of positive leadership in my community?
    The Strawberry Girls are a youth organization that exists to prevent bullying, as well as verbal and physical violence in schools. They have worked in the Austin community and are excited about this project because they focused on how children in minority communities are portrayed in the media. They told the student participants, “We are not animals and we are not bad news. We are Change!” They want to shine a light on children who are striving to do well and believe in change.
    President Obama is recognized as one of the inspirational leaders for change, so the students wrote to him about their dreams and concerns. The Strawberry Girls were extremely impressed with the honesty and strength of the students as expressed in their letters.
    Nikita Adams is President of the Strawberry Girls. Her daughters, Nakia and Nadia Adams are the founders. Nikita expresses that her daughters give her the courage to continue to fight against verbal and physical violence.
    Barbara Foster was Assistant Director of the Strawberry Girls, but she has now taken on the volunteer leadership role of Ambassador of Youth Affairs. She says she works with youth because she is obligated to do so. “If I don’t do my part, who will?”
    Both Nikita and Barbara have dealt with extreme bullying in grammar school. Nikita says, “This is very important to me. Dealing with any type of harm or violence is hard. The Strawberry Girls is my way of not feeling the shame of having to run home. Helping children is using my voice to speak up to everyone who called me a black, ugly, bald-headed dog. There have been times that I have felt so low that I could not get out of my bed.” She says bullying is an ongoing form of abuse.
    “Students who bullied me did it year after year. Many of my classmates called me the same names over and over again, every school year. My mind was programmed to think that I was nothing. I think that being bullied may be a partial reason for why I depended on drugs and I know that it contributed to why I thought of suicide.” Nikita says, “There have been many days and weeks that I could not get out of bed because of depression. One way that I fight is by writing. Writing helped me. Therefore, I want other children to know that writing matters!”

The Strawberry Girls, Nikita Adams and Barbara Foster, with Grand Prize winners of the Letters to the President Project: Amber Eiland and Cortez Ladd; and 2nd Place winner: Taniya Thompson. (Photo by Brad)

Barbara says, “It has been very hard since the recent passing of my mother and I just want her to know that I still stand for what is good. I’m her legacy and I want her to know that I will never stop trying. I will never give up hope. This is my community voice.” They both thank Cricket for their support of the students’ writing project.
    The Strawberry Girls say, “Many of the writers did well, including Dallas Davis, who said, ‘Mr. President, I want to change, but I don’t know how!’”
    The Grand Prize winner is Amber Eiland, who addressed profanity in her letter to the President. Amber writes, “I believe that the media has an impact on the way that our youth act toward one another. The lyrics in today’s music just make kids believe that it is okay to offend one another.” Amber also stated that the bitch, main bitch, and hoe words are used casually in her community. “Women don’t realize that it is not okay to be called someone’s main female dog. Women don’t bark, they don’t have owners, and they definitely don’t walk on four legs,” Amber declares.
    Taniya Thompson won 2nd Place. In her letter Taniya says, “Male students have called me bitches and hoes. I feel very bad when they call me these things because they don’t know me outside of school and they should not judge me!” Taniya goes on to explain that a guy has told her to suck his private part. “I felt very insulted. I almost cried.”
    The singer Monica is Taniya’s role model because she doesn’t make everything negative. Many of the students named Alicia Keys as a positive role model as well. Many of the students did not claim perfection and admitted they need to change certain aspects of their lives. The most beautiful thing is that they believe it is possible.
    Thirty students received McDonald’s gift cards, nine received McDonald’s gift cards and journals. The Grand Prize winners received an Acer Wide Screen Laptop (1st Prize – Amber Eiland), an Acer Notebook (1st Place – Cortez Ladd), $75 gift card (2nd Prize – Taniya Thompson), $50 gift card (3rd Place – Justice Johnson), and $25 Foot Locker gift cards (Special Rewards – Dallas Davis & Princess Carter).
    The Strawberry Girls extend thanks to Ella Flagg Young School Principal Crystal Bell and Ms Chandler. They also thank their fiscal agent Goodcity for making this project come to life.
    Students who would like the Strawberry Girls to send their letters to President Obama or others who have questions or comments about the Strawberry Girls, e-mail to

NOTE: Some of the language in this article is offensive. However, the Strawberry Girls feel that it is important that it be included as the students expressed themselves in the spirit of keeping it real. For that reason, we respect their wishes and publish the students’ statements as they wrote them. –Editor

Forman Mills Bringing Popular Name Brand Clothes At Bargain Prices To The West Side

Two clerks display designer jeans at discount prices at Forman Mills Clothing Factory Warehouse, 1450 N. Cicero Ave. (Photo by Isaac Jones)
Ald. Jason Ervin is welcomed to a pre-opening sneak peek at Forman Mills Clothing Factory Warehouse, 1450 N. Cicero Ave., by Manager Michael Boyd. (Photo by Isaac Jones)
Super Shoppers: Commissioner Barbara McGowan & Ald. Deborah Graham load up on bargains during the sneak peek at the new Forman Mills store. (Photo by Isaac Jones)

Forman Mills Clothing Factory Warehouse is the latest discount store to arrive in Chicago’s Austin community. The huge store, in the bright and thoroughly remodeled building at 1450 North Cicero Avenue, is holding its Grand Opening starting Friday, March 18 at 7:00 AM, and continuing through Sunday.
    Radio personalities from WGCI, KISS-FM, and the Telemundo Money Machine will be on hand Saturday to welcome shoppers.
    Available are name brand clothing at bargain prices, including Timberland, LA Gear, Reebok, Infant Pelle, Derrick Rose jerseys, PhatFarm, Rocawear, and more. And, everything is 50%-80% off regular prices on the massive selection of men’s, women’s, and children’s clothing, shoes, and outerwear. According to Forman Mills Manager, Michael Boyd, the store has a staff of about 147. After the store is up and running, the permanent staff will probably be between 100 and 120 people working as sales clerks, cashiers, stock clerks, and managers. This is the second store in the Chicago area, with two more preparing to open at 111th & Halsted and 79th & Perry on the South Side, with more planned.
    Rick Forman started Forman Mills in South Philadelphia as a flea market and then grew the concept into a chain of discount department stores selling name brand overstock merchandise. He also emphasizes hiring employees from the neighborhoods served by the stores.
    At a special sneak peek this week, we met Alderman Deborah Graham and Commissioner Barbara McGowan with their arms full of clothes heading for the check-out. Alderman Emma Mitts had already shopped and was taking her bargains home.
Manager Michael Boyd (left) works with sales associates folding designer jeans at Forman Mills. (Photo by Isaac Jones)

Monday, March 21, 2011



At the Spencer Learning Fair, teachers instruct parents on ways to tutor their young children and help them master the basic skills needed to succeed as they progress in school. (Photo by Brad)
More Bad News: Mrs. Tanya Foster-Demers says the Indiana governor calculates the number of new prisons to build based upon the number of 2nd graders failing to perform at or above grade level. (Photo by Brad)
Dr. Shawn Jackson explains, “I am asking parents to help me improve a system that failed them.” He says chronic absenteeism & tardiness are retarding primary level learning, as are parents not sending children to Head Start. “Parents do not understand the vital need for early childhood education,” Jackson declares. (Photo by Brad)
Bad News: Mrs. Tanya Foster-Demers, Lead Kindergarten Teacher at Spencer School, warns parents at the Learning Fair that children who cannot read by 3rd grade will never read proficiently and will be permanently crippled intellectually. (Photo by Brad)
Spencer Elementary School, 214 North Lavergne Avenue, invited parents to a Nacho Party at the school, but the staff had a very serious ulterior motive: Involve parents in their children’s early educational development. The nachos bribed them to attend the school’s Primary Learning Fair. The school also showed movies for the children, so parents had no excuse for not attending.
Members of the Spencer Parent University are providing workshops for improving parenting skills & school involvement, plus helping to reduce student absenteeism, tardiness, and disciplinary problems. (Photo by Brad)
Once in the auditorium, primary teachers delivered sobering news with devastating predictions for their children’s futures if they don’t get involved NOW!
    Mrs. Tanya Foster-Demers declared that research shows that children who cannot read proficiently by grade 3 will never read at grade level and will be intellectually crippled for the rest of their lives. She told parents that the governor of Indiana calculated the number of new prisons his state needs to build by counting the number of 2nd graders performing below grade level. Then, the parents moved to separate classrooms to learn specific methods for working with their young children in ways that will improve academic performance in class and in upcoming standardized tests.Spencer Principal Dr. Shawn Jackson told members of the school’s Parent University that he is facing issues that have been festering for generations.
    “I am asking parents to help me improve a system that failed them. This is a very difficult assignment.”
    Jackson points out that his school has been on probation since 2001 for low student performance on standardized tests. He says Spencer is poised to come off probation this year, but problems remain. Although 52% of Spencer students are reading at or above state norms, they are not reading at grade level. Better news is that 80% of students are excelling at math. Jackson explains that math concepts are absolute, so students do well at comprehending and developing these skills.
    But, Jackson warns, the problem is a Primary Problem and Spencer is not unique among Chicago schools. Chronic absenteeism and tardiness are at dangerously high levels for students in kindergarten through 3rd grade. In fact, Spencer has among the lowest attendance rates in Austin. Many parents apparently do not understand that early childhood education lays the foundation for success in higher grades. Conversely, failure to master basic skills in primary grades guarantees academic disaster as the child moves to higher grades and is expected to learn more complex material without basic skills that were taught in lower grades.
    Many Spencer parents do not send their preschool children to Head Start, where they are taught basic educational skills and concepts, preparing them for primary grades. According to Dr. Jackson, these early problems are resulting in 46% of Spencer 3rd graders failing the ISAT tests. “These students never get to catch up,” Jackson declares. “We must get them ready in kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd grades,” he explains.
    Although Spencer is one of Austin’s largest elementary schools, its high absentee rate combined with the city’s fiscal difficulties may mean the school will lose full-day kindergarten. He warns that Head Start is already being cut.
    Spencer does offer after-school and Saturday School remedial classes and although this helps, it cannot make up for failure to learn the needed skills in the primary grades.
    Dr. Jackson says his staff and the Spencer Parent University members are launching a full-court press to teach parents how to tutor their children and get involved with teachers at the earliest stages of their children’s learning process.