Friday, July 20, 2012


     June 1 was a very special day for the Miller & Clear families. The matriarch of this large family, Essie Clear, whom everyone calls Dear, celebrated her 80th birthday and 150 family members arrived in Chicago from St. Louis, Memphis, Oklahoma, Minnesota, Williamsburg, Virginia, and New York to join Chicago-based relatives in throwing a huge party for Dear. Essie is mother to eleven children, all high school graduates who went on to attend college. They include three prominent ministers on Chicago’s West Side – Reverend Johnny L. Miller, Reverend Matthew Miller, PhD, and Reverend Leon Miller – a physician, Dr. James L. Miller; Colonel Samuel L Clear, U.S. Army; and a U.S. Naval officer with a PhD, currently serving in Afghanistan; plus five hardworking and successful daughters. Dear has 32 grandchildren and 30 great-grandchildren. Essie may have come from humble beginnings in Mississippi, but her children remember her as a beautiful, strong woman singing hymns and cooking great meals. She delivered the same speech each morning as she sent her children off to school: “Go to school, listen and learn so that you can be successful.” They followed her orders. Happy Birthday, Dear!


Alarmed by the increasing epidemic of violence on the streets of Chicago, The L.E.A.D.E.R.’s Network, a clergy-based social justice advocacy and disaster relief organization, called an emergency meeting with 60 ministers of different denominations, races, and cultural backgrounds from across the city working to determine how the faith community can respond to the escalating violence gripping Chicago’s neighborhoods this summer. The meeting was held at Greater St. John Bible Church, 1256 North Waller Avenue, Reverend Ira J. Acree, Pastor. The summit was facilitated by Pastor Cy Fields of New Landmark M.B. Church and President of The L.E.A.D.E.R.’s Network.            
The pastors recommended creating a Faith Community Clearinghouse highlighting effective programs at other churches and faith-based organizations. Pastor Acree stated, “As I listen to the pastors talk about the number of youth and children’s activities that their churches currently host, I am pleasantly surprised. Many safe havens already exist, but are underutilized due to limited marketing.” This information will be gathered, posted on a website and constantly updated.
Father Michael Pfleger galvanized the clergy’s major concern about the easy availability and volume of guns on the streets, especially assault weapons that are frequently used in fatal shootings. He told the group that the NRA is quietly working to pass legislation that will effectively allow concealed carry of firearms in Illinois and urged the pastors to contact legislators to ensure the measure does not become law.
Pastor Slim Coleman observed that the lack of jobs has created a drug economy that is sustained by the use of guns. Pastor Marshall Hatch of New Mt. Pilgrim M.B. Church added, “Father Pfleger has been on point and passionate about this issue. Moving forward, we will put the support of this group behind him and fight vehemently for sensible gun legislation.”
Pastor Leslie Sanders moderated a discussion about the need for modifications in police strategy and structure to improve community relations and curb violence. Pastor Walter Turner expressed concern that Chicago Public Schools students may not start class on time and that budget cuts will prevent churches from keeping children out of harm’s way during the critical after-school hours. Pastor Jacques Conway challenged faith leaders to confront the entertainment industry about negative influences on youth from violent video games and music lyrics.
Pastor Hatch announced plans for a citywide multi-racial ecumenical Peace Weekend. The event will urge all Chicagoans to attend churches, synagogues, and mosques to promote respect for human life, moral regard, and community mobilization to stop violence. The clergy coalition will become a vehicle to inform the general public about what community-based organizations are doing to make Chicago a safer place.
Larry Greenfield of the American Baptist Churches of Metro Chicago declared, “We’re looking forward to mobilizing our clergy group to help address the violence issue in our city.”
The clergy voted unanimously to adopt the strategic proposals and initiate an implementation plan of action. For information, contact Rev. Cy Fields at, Rev. Ira J. Acree at, or Rev. Marshall Hatch at:

They call Me Big Llou, On Sale Now!


Austin residents and parents joined students and community leaders from across the city at a recent rally demanding great schools. The parent-led Voice Your Choice for Great Schools Rally kicked off a series of community initiatives aimed at engaging community members in a citywide effort to give every child access to a quality school. “We need our kids to succeed in science and math, to be college-ready when they graduate, to receive an education that prepares them to compete with the best from around the world,” says LaKisha Taylor, a parent of two from Austin. “And to do that, we need more parents to join us and help us bring better schools to our community.” In the coming months, parents like Ms Taylor will work with their friends, neighbors, and leaders to find solutions for the education crisis in Austin and other communities, including Lawndale, Humboldt Park, Englewood, and Roseland. They will hold town hall meetings, house parties, and roundtable discussions to explore options and rally around quality school solutions. Earlier this year, about 200 parents from across the city gathered to discuss what they want from public schools, identifying specific criteria, dubbed the 5 Fundamentals of every Great School. The criteria include strong academic programs, high expectations and respect for every student, meaningful testing, quality instruction and supported teachers, and effective community involvement. “As parents, we have a responsibility to do everything in our power to make sure our kids get a good education,” explains Janise Collins, a parent of two. 
“Whether that is researching the best options or demanding better quality schools, I am going to do everything I can to make sure my children have the education they deserve. I’ve always lived in Austin, always worked in Austin, my kids go to school in Austin, and I want to continue that.” With more than 123.000 students attending low-performing or failing schools, Chicago finds itself in an education crisis. Parents and students who spoke at the rally called on their peers, city officials, and community leaders to join the effort to address and ultimately solve the crisis by making highly effective schools available to substantially more students. They pointed out that the movement has been quietly gaining momentum over the last few months. “We’ve gone from 27 parents connecting at a community meeting in March to more than 1,000 individuals and 100 organizations,” points out Chris Butler, Advocacy and Outreach Director of New Schools for Chicago. “We are at a tipping point and urge everyone who cares about public education to join us today.” For more information and to join the movement, go to or call 773/4-SCHOOLS.