Wednesday, September 23, 2009

We Need More Elected Officials Willing To Fight

By now, the entire country has heard about U.S. Congressman Joe Wilson's outburst during President Barack Obama's speech before Congress. During the speech, Rep. Wilson shouted, "You lie!" in response to President Obama's contention that the health care reform bill he's trying to get passed won't cover illegal aliens.

In researching the issue, there are those on both sides of the table who argue and make excellent points regarding whether President Obama is correct or Rep. Wilson is correct. The health care bill does state that those here illegally won't be covered. But a side issue is that there wasn't anything concrete in the bill to enforce that measure and there are ways for them to indirectly benefit.

Besides, even a third-grader can see that we have laws regarding immigration, and the fact that we have possibly 20 million people here illegally says a lot about Congress and laws being ignored and not enforced. But I digress.

My issue today isn't to argue for either side but rather to focus on the reaction, especially within the black community, to what Rep. Wilson did. He interrupted the president during his speech, and I am amazed at the number of black folks who have been screaming on how rude it was.

Especially amazing is that it comes on the heels of black people for the past eight years calling former President George W. Bush a "little shrub." Now that is not one of my terms for him, but I have to admit I could never look directly at the man. I couldn't stand to hear him speak and turned off the television anytime he came on. And I know I wasn't alone. So to now see and hear many of those who despised Bush having a hissy fit about "disrespecting the presidency" is amazing.

Let's turn the tide for one second and say that it was Bush addressing Congress several years ago and speaking about going to war in Iraq and mentioning the often-forgotten "weapons of mass destruction." Imagine if a Democratic congressman had the "balls" to shout out to Bush, "You lie!" Would that person be lambasted or placed on a pedestal? I say the latter.

It is also becoming quite common for many in the black community to holler "racism" any time anyone disagrees with President Obama. Knowing how much the black community disliked Bush, if the same criteria were applied to us, we would all be wearing the "racist" label. Don't forget it was Kanye West who shouted on national television after Hurricane Katrina that "George Bush don't like black people." Was West ostracized after making that comment about a sitting president? Was there outrage from the black community? The answer is no. In fact, one of the hottest selling T-shirts was an all-black one with those very words in white writing. I know. I bought one myself.

To be truthful, I want a Congress that is full of people who are going to take a stand and support their beliefs and be ready for a battle. People badger me to vote for them so that they can go to Congress to fight for me, so I want them to do just that - fight! I want bills before Congress that will affect the very foundation of this country to be debated vigorously. If there are loopholes in the bill, I want them found before they become law.

To make my point even more salient, imagine if our aldermen were like Rep. Wilson when it came to the parking meter deal. Maybe if one of them had been willing to shout "You lie!" at the mayor, we wouldn't be stuck in a deal that lasts 75 years and will only benefit those who put up one billion bucks to reap tens of billions of dollars in the future.

Lastly, and with a change of subject, my first novel Billion Dollar Winner is available via Amazon.com. I will be participating in the Chicago Read-In on Saturday, Oct. 3, at Kennedy King College Theatre, 740 W. 63rd Street from noon until 3 p.m. I will have copies of my book available for sale and will be reading from the novel. There will be books available for all ages of readers, plus a special guest - legendary DJ Herb Kent will be on the panel with me promoting his new book. So come out and support this event and meet me, along with numerous other authors.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Myth of Church as a Sanctuary

It is easy to see how someone can be led to believe that the church is a sanctuary. Many of us have fresh memories of watching Elvira Arellano flaunt her illegal status as she took refuge in a storefront church and dared law enforcement to enter the church to arrest her. For over one year's time as she remained defiant, law enforcement didn't do anything as she made headline news challenging them to "come get her."

Perhaps that might have been in the back of Mark Anthony Barmore's mind when the 23-year-old ran into the basement of the House of Grace Daycare and Preschool located in the basement of a church in Rockford. Reports say he had been walking and talking with the pastor's wife when he was spotted by two Rockford police officers. Barmore was wanted by the police for a domestic dispute that involved use of a knife.

When he was spotted by the two officers, he took off and ran into the church building. Once inside, he hid out in a basement utility room. That room was quickly surrounded by two police officers who ordered him to come out. But from the moment he came out of the utility room, the story of the witnesses to the shooting and the police officer's versions are polar opposite.

This is what is not in dispute. Barmore ended up dead. Shot by the police officers who chased him. Three of the shots that killed him were to his back. A fourth bullet grazed his neck. The witnesses to the shooting are the workers and children who were in the daycare at the time of the shooting. Because Barmore was not alleged to be "armed and dangerous," many in the Rockford area have been marching and protesting the shooting. The decision of those officers to use deadly force is not being accepted without question.

And if the church isn't a sanctuary, neither is being an ordained pastor. In Georgia a local pastor Jonathan Ayers, 28, pastor of Shoal Creek Baptist Church was seen in a car with a woman who was being investigated as a drug suspect. The pastor dropped the woman off at a local gas station and went inside the convenience store. The pastor was wearing a red shirt with a cross emblazoned on the front. As he returned to his car, a Cadillac Escalade pulled up and four undercover officers in plain clothes jumped out, guns drawn and approached his car. The surveillance videotape from the gas station showed the pastor backing up, almost striking one officer, and then pulling forward to get away. The police began shooting and hit the pastor in the stomach. He subsequently died from his wounds.

Both of these police shootings situations should outrage the public. In neither case was the suspect in danger of doing any immediate harm to anyone. In the Barmore case, the police were familiar with his case. Being wanted on a domestic dispute didn't warrant the outcome. In the Ayers case, a real pastor is often seen with those whose lifestyles are less than perfect as they minister to them. So it is not shocking to see the minister attempt to get away when an unmarked SUV, filled with men with guns drawn, pulls up and descends upon his vehicle.

These police shootings, one involving a black victim and the other a white victim, are not the vision of equal opportunity that this country should condone

Friday, September 04, 2009

Save Kiddieland -

Todd Stroger will be a guest on LaShawn Ford's radio show. It comes on Sunday night at 9:00pm on WVON 1690 AM. Let's advocate that he try and save Kiddieland.


Here's a link to my article to save Kiddieland:

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Damn, He was wrong, but it did work!

A Gwinnett County man is in custody accused of slapping a stranger’s crying toddler in a Stone Mountain Wal-Mart on Monday.

Sonya Mathews, the mother of the 2-year-old child, told police that both were walking in the aisles of the Rockbridge Road store when Roger Stephens, 61, approached and said “if you don’t shut that baby up, I will shut her up for you,” according to a police report.

A few moments later, in another aisle, Stephens grabbed the 2-year-old and slapped her across the face four or five times, according to the report.

Stephens then told Mathews, “See, I told you I would shut her up,” according to the report.

A bystander held Stephens until store security came to assist, according to a WSB-TV report.

When police arrived, Stephens said that he slapped the child and that he apologized to Mathews, according to the report.

Stephens was charged with felony cruelty to children. He had his first court appearance Tuesday and is being held at the Gwinnett County Detention Center without bond, according to the Gwinnett Police Department spokesman Cpl. David Schiralli.


The 2-year-old victim sustained slight redness to the face, according to the report. There was no video footage in the area the incident took place, according to the report.

My Book has been keeping me Occupied

Its almost here. My first book is at the printers. Visit my other blogspot at www.billiondollarwinner.blogspot.com

Parking Scheme is a LAZy Way to Make Money

I'm a member of a writers club. Once a month, I meet with fellow writers, and we all share our writings. The critiques those individuals give the works of many in my group have helped me become a better writer.

This past Sunday, the meeting was held at the home of a member who lives in Hyde Park. There wasn't any parking on his street, so I went to park around the corner on 53rd Street.

After finding a spot, I read the meter box: Monday through Sunday, from 8 a.m. until 9 p.m., with a two-hour time limit. The city, via the villains who own LAZ Parking, wants people to pay to park. LAZ Parking is the entity that underpaid for the right to all the revenue in the city parking deal. Every time I see that name, I wonder why they left off the "Y" because the deal is so lopsidedly in their favor, they can now just sit back and be "lazy" and let the revenue stream roll in.

Admittedly, Hyde Park isn't my side of town. But there is something sinister and evil when the Mayor and his band of 50 aldermen want people to pay to park on a Sunday. City Hall isn't open. City services are basically nil, but revenue collection to further line the pockets of those who own LAZ Parking is what we Chicagoans must face, seven days a week.

Knowing my meetings can last as long as six hours, and I refuse to have to "feed" a meter, I searched until I found a spot on a street where I didn't have to pay. But my anger continues at a very basic level. Why should anyone have to pay to park on a city street on a Sunday? This is the same city that turns a blind eye to double parking on some major streets where major churches are located. This is the same city that can find money to do anything so long as it meets the needs of the Mayor's whims while the rest of us suffer the consequences.

Several years ago at a budget hearing meeting, I asked Mayor Daley when was the last time he had driven a car in Chicago. He couldn't even recall. The mayor is driven everywhere he goes by members of his security force. He never has to worry about where to park or how much it will cost. Be it his summer home in Michigan or his everyday home downtown, parking is never a concern on his agenda. But for the rest of us, parking plays an important consideration in everything we do. If I can't park, I won't go. That is my simple solution. I've turned down a number of events simply because they were held downtown and I refuse to deal with the hassle of trying to park.

Today is the last chance for people in the city to attend the budget hearing and give the Mayor a piece of their minds on parking and anything else they feel the need to speak up on. The meeting will be held at Falconer School, 3020 N. Lamon, beginning at 6 p.m. Testimonies begin at 7 p.m. Or if you're like me and have already attended a budget hearing, tonight at Malcolm X College, 1900 W. Van Buren, there will be a forum with candidates for Cook County Board President. In either case, pay attention, Chicago. These folks will affect everything you do for the next four years, and ignoring them won't make things go better.

City Budget Hearings and A WestSide Parade

As I watched the news this past Monday, my mantra that I have been writing this year-"Pay Attention Chicago"- obviously wasn't heeded by many. Those who didn't heed it were the folks who showed up at public buildings on Monday Aug. 17, to take care of their business, only to find that the city had shut down for the day. Now this is the city that works-ha, ha.

This is the city that used to work. Now it is a mere shadow of its previous self. A slew of businesses and manufacturers are long gone, and our tax base is being driven by tickets for parking and red light violations. This is a city that is paying salaries to many individuals who could never make as much in the private market. And one of its biggest expenses is the never-ending retirement plan for city workers. While many in private industries have had to put their retirement into 401k(s) and contribute part of their current salaries to their future retirement, that is not the case for city workers-individuals with the luxury of being well paid, along with the city contributing to their pension plan.

Every year since I began writing for Austin Weekly News, I have encouraged those that read it to attend the city's budget hearings. It is the only mandatory public hearing that the mayor must attend, and he must listen to the concerns of the citizens.

Why do I like the budget hearings so much?-because no subject is off limits. Schools, parking, littering, garbage pick up, 311 calls, loud music, corn carts, storefront churches...potholes, taxes, CTA, library, water bills, sewer cleaning, tree trimming, new curbs and sidewalks...unemployment, job training, city contracts, shootings, drug dealing, CHA, dogs, bikes, ex-cons...and on and on-all can be brought up at the hearings. The mayor has the directors from every department there to answer questions or get back to you with a response at a later day. Go and make your voice heard.


How about a parade?

Did you know that there will be a huge West Side parade this Saturday beginning at 9:00 a.m.? It will start at Cicero and Madison traveling east to California. Then it will travel south to Jackson and back west to Central Park Avenue, where it will end at Garfield Park. The parade is sponsored by the Westside Service Organization along with state Sen. Rickey Hendon (5th). The parade has more than 300 different groups participating. Actor Harry Lennix (The Five Heartbeats), star of FOX's Doll House will serve as the parade's grand marshal. Entertainment, free food and book bags for kids are also available. Once the parade ends at Garfield Park, there will be a free picnic along with 100 nonprofit organizations present. I will be there at table number 63 on the Independence side passing out Austin Weekly newspapers and pluggers for my first book, Billion Dollar Winner, about a West Side community activist who wins a $1 billion prize from the very lottery she's protested against. It will be available in the coming weeks. Saturday's parade is in memory of Diane Spence, a community activist and legislative aide to Hendon.

A Few Bright Ideas

I am not much of a television watcher. Truthfully, until a friend gave me a converter box, the only channel I could watch was Channel 23. During the day, I let all the judge shows play while I surfed the Internet. At night, I learned to love House of Payne and reruns of The Bernie Mac Show.

This past Sunday, I saw a show that anyone who has ever dreamed of going into business or feels that they have the next great idea should see. The show was Shark Tank. It airs on Sunday on Channel 7 at 8 p.m.

The premise of the show is very simple. People with ideas go before five self-made millionaires and present their business ideas. They are asking those millionaires to invest money for a percentage of the business.

Now, those millionaires are not kind and benevolent money lenders. They are sharks out to invest in a business, but not necessarily for the percentage of ownership that the people who come before them are offering. One of the reasons I like the show was to hear the blunt comments that they made regarding people's business idea.

For example, one guy had an idea to implant a Bluetooth device in a person's head. Yeah, I said implant, meaning surgery. The millionaires looked at him like he was from Planet Out-Of-His-Mind as they asked if he was serious.

Did he really want people to have a permanent device surgically put into their heads? Would people seriously really want to put an electrical plug into their head to recharge the battery? What about when the device needed upgrading, would another surgery have to be done?

The man presenting the idea responded with a straight face that, yes, another surgery would be required. Needless to say, that guy didn't get an offer from anyone to lend him money for his idea.

If you have ever had an idea for a product or invention, this is the show to watch. From knowing that one should do a patent search when they come up with an idea for an invention to watching the entrepreneurs learn that people aren't willing to invest in your idea for a huge percentage of ownership, this is the most fascinating television I've seen in ages. So check it out.

Speaking of inventions, here's an idea. I want the future dog licenses to be micro-chipped with a radio frequency device that can be scanned from 50 feet away. Why? Because in my current exercise craze of biking for miles, I am seeing a huge number of individuals walking very large dogs who don't have on any dog tags. It's impossible to tell whether the animals are registered and or been vaccinated against diseases.

The people walking those dogs know that no one in the city is actively doing anything about it. Where are the dog catchers? If someone could point a device at the dog and the tag isn't there to be read, the animal should be immediately impounded and the individual fined $500.

And speaking of fining, let's get a new ordinance for street cleaning. Our aldermen can use the Olympic 2016 quest as their impetus to put forth a new ordinance requiring all businesses on major streets to be responsible for cleaning the sidewalks in front of their businesses by 10 a.m. every single day.

Besides cleaning for litter, they should also be responsible for snow removal in the winter by the same time. I am seeing so much garbage as I bike down our major business streets. Far too much of it is in front of storefront churches that only seem to feel the obligation to sanitize once a week on Sunday morning. It is time to hold those who want to occupy business locations to the same level as anyone else on a business strip.

And cleaning in front of those locations can be an employment opportunity, since it's cheaper to pay someone several dollars a day when the alternative is a fine for several hundred dollars.

Exercise Really Does Dress Up the Body

At the beginning of June, I went to Las Vegas not just to gamble but to also attend my sister's wedding. I knew for weeks that I was going, but the constant procrastinator in me had me packing the night before the trip.

My daughter had already shown me a really nice dress that she was thinking of wearing. I had a similar dress and as with those of us who do things at the last minute, I packed the dress, matching shoes and purse at the last second.

It was only after I got to Vegas that my inner voice chastised me for not having tried on the dress before leaving Chicago. For the past year and a half I have been unemployed, so wearing "dress" clothes hasn't been a priority. As I stared at the dress while getting ready to go to the wedding, the first thing that came to my mind was, "I hope it fits."

Well the dress did fit; barely. I had to hold my breath and suck in my stomach as my daughter struggled to zip it. "Good thing Aunt Toni won't be serving much food," my daughter told me shaking her head at the way the dress barely fit, "because you'll bust the zipper if you eat anything."

"Do I look real bad?" I asked her, not really wanting to know the answer from the child who now wears a size three and exercises every single day. She shook her head to indicate that I looked okay and we went to the wedding where I managed not to bust the zipper.

Once I returned home from Vegas I vowed to begin an exercise routine. One of my friends suggested joining a health club. I thought about it a second but my daughter goes every day to the health club and I didn't want to join her. I wanted to plan my own exercise routine that would be filled with just what I wanted to do. A friend suggested bike riding and since I had a new bike and I do like to ride I decided that was one kind of exercise I could do. Another friend suggested walking. I used to walk everyday when I was employed, but had gotten out of the habit not going to a 9 to 5 job every single day.

I decided not to choose between walking and riding but rather to do both. Down in the recesses of my basement, hidden in a corner, is my treadmill. A friend gave it to me several years ago when she moved out of state. When I first brought it home, it sat in the living room. Every now and then I would turn it on and walk. My daughter would turn it on and actually run. I didn't really want it as part of my living room d├ęcor so I had my son put it in the basement where I promptly forgot it.

I went down to the basement and looked at the treadmill. I swear it seemed like the machine actually growled at me. I turned it on hoping that it wouldn't work, but it did. So, I started an exercise routine of walking for a half-an-hour on the treadmill - five minutes of warm up, 20 minutes of cardio walking, five minutes of cool down. I followed the treadmill routine by doing a simple bike ride for three miles. That was six weeks ago. I still walk the treadmill for the half hour, but I am now able to do a longer distance in the same period of time as well as increase the calories I burn. My bike riding is now up to eight miles, which takes me just under an hour to complete.

I've lost 20 pounds so far. And have faithfully stuck to the routine every single day. My goal is to lose another 30 pounds, to have a body that is toned and to keep many of the diseases that come with obesity at bay. High blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease are just some of the illnesses that come with being overweight.

Exercising is becoming something I do, and, like any other habit, I am doing it without thinking too much about it. The immediate benefits, besides the weight loss, has been seeing the dark circles under my eyes fade and feeling a lot stronger and healthier.

Best of all, I don't need any help zipping up the dress that barely fit in Vegas.

Equal Opportunity Shootings

Black women in Austin take note. We are now slowly approaching our moment of true equality. It may not, however, be the kind of equality that we want. You see, in just the past two weeks we have had three females shot in Austin. Thankfully, 9-year-old Cathy Haywood, who was shot while at a family function in the 1000 block of North LeClaire, survived the bullet that tore through her leg. But two others weren't so lucky.

On July 17, in the 1600 block of North Mason, 28-year-old Tomiko Ellis was shot in the head. This past Friday night, 23-year-old Rosalyn Tripp was shot as she sat with relatives in a car parked in the 400 block of North Laramie.

I haven't found any news articles that tell of the capture of anyone responsible for the shooting of Haywood or Ellis. So we still have two people who don't give a rat's ass about somebody else's life while walking the streets of Austin looking for the next person to take out at will. But thankfully, when it came to the murder of Rosalyn Tripp, we know who the alleged killer is; 17-year-old Vincent Collier of the 300 block of North Central. I'm sure his parents are real proud of they way he got his name and picture in the news.

As I wrote last week, there is something very sick about the ages of the people who are doing most of the shooting - individuals in their mid-to-late teens. They've barely begun to live themselves, and now, because they were able to possess a gun, they have again taken someone else's life. I am not a proponent of the death penalty, but would sure love to see some of those young punks publicly flogged.

And if the person doing the shooting is under 21, charge their parents - even daddy if he's been out of picture - with "contributing to the delinquency of a minor." Publicly flog their butts as well. Public flogging, if instituted, would immediately send an excellent "butt whipping" message to those whose entire existence is dedicated to creating and maintaining havoc.

As many of you who read this column know, I am not a fan of Mayor Daley. While I was watching Channel 7 News' coverage of the rally that occurred after the murder of Rosalyn Tripp, someone asked the mayor about the effect of Chicago's murder rate on his Olympic 2016 bid. His response: "It has no effect because, first of all, you look at all the victims; they know each other and the offenders..."

Well, ain't that just dandy?

Our mayor, who normally spends his weekends in the peaceful calm of his Michigan summer home and away from the carnage going on in the streets, now justifies the murders of people because they "know each other?" Pay attention Chicago. The sight of Sherry Tripp crying into the cameras after having now lost a sister to gun violence - and previously a brother - doesn't strike me as the hurt of someone who was disparaging violence amongst acquaintances.

There is something very wrong and sick-minded when the man elected to lead this city dismisses the murder of anyone with such a snide remark. It is even more wrong when he does it in response to a question about this city's bid to host the 2016 Olympics. If our city does get the Olympics and we have an international incident between athletes from warring countries, will he dismiss the actions of the perpetrator by saying that the "victim knew their offender"?

One of the current, most widely accused crimes after murder is domestic violence. And yet, no one dismisses the seriousness of that situation with the crude remark that it involves a "victim knowing their offender."

The murders in Austin, as well as the underlying causes, are valid reasons for all to get involved stopping the atrocities. The victims are no longer just men. They are women and children. The perpetrators continue to be individuals who can't even vote, but elect to take a life as if they are God. Our elected officials are more concerned with their legacy than the murder rate of the citizens who elected them.

Pay attention Chicago. So that in February 2011, you can choose to send those who don't give a damn about your life to a new life - as an unelected official.

To Those Whose Facilitate the Carnage - You Must Pay Too!

Back on April 2, I wrote about already dreading the long, hot summer. Even before the weather broke, while the days were balmy and the sun shone for more than just a few hours a day, I was already predicting that this would be a horrific summer. The news over the weekend that seven people were shot in just one hour's time in Austin should have this entire community in an uproar.

One of the seven individuals shot Sunday night was a 9-year-old child. I don't care what is going on. There is no excuse for individuals to be doing drive-by shootings - ever. And when the unintended target of those shootings ends up being a child, the outrage from this community should be fast and swift. Everyone in this community should be ranting and raving about the violence. We should be demanding that those responsible for the carnage receive a punishment that would make a lifetime sentence at Tamms Correctional Center seem like a holiday.

Now, if the Chicago police had accidentally shot a 9-year-old child, the Austin community would have been outraged. All over the television, we would have seen a variety of livid West Side ministers. But let the sons, daughters, nieces, nephews, brothers, sisters - or even some of their own church members shoot a child - and all I am hearing is silence. Even the online version of this newspaper didn't have it as a breaking news story. So let's all just be honest. We just don't give a damn.

Recently in Miami, a woman living in public housing held a birthday party for her 20-year-old son. More than 200 young people were in attendance. The occasion had been advertised on Myspace.com. The party filled the streets with the individuals setting off fireworks, downing drinks and listening to the beat of the DJ's blaring rap music. Shortly after midnight on that Sunday night, according to police, "shots were fired from at least two directions and that six guns were used - five pistols and an AK-47 assault rifle." In the end, 12 people were shot and of those, two died. As a result of the shooting, the woman was evicted from her public housing unit. Officials in Florida cited, "criminal activity" and "drug and alcohol abuse" as the reason for the woman being asked to leave.

I thought about that after hearing of the latest carnage not only in Austin but all over Chicago. The individuals doing a lot of the shootings haven't even been here two decades. They are not taxpayers working to better this society. For the most part, they have been the recipients of taxpayer's dollars. So maybe we as a society and community need to take a tougher stance. Maybe have a zero tolerance when it comes to the criminal activity of those whose feed off the public trough. If your family member is involved in "criminal activity" and /or "drug and alcohol abuse," should that lead to the family becoming permanently ineligible to receive any public assistance forever? Should the entire family have to pay the price for the actions of one member? Is it fair to continue to give Link card benefits to people who use those services to maintain their life of crime?

Of course, there is the possibility that the individuals who did the recent shootings in Austin are working for a living. But I'll bet a couple of dollars that they don't work. But they are eating, and the source for that food is probably off of public dollars. They are sleeping all day and doing their carnage at night. They are not looking for work or standing around thinking of ways to create work. Rather, their entire life is obsessed with whatever kind of havoc they can generate. They are living in their mama's house or living in their girlfriend's house, but they are not living on their own and paying rent. Their idle time allows them to obtain guns, drugs and alcohol while doing little to better themselves - monetarily or educationally.

I understand that some may take issue with my point of view. I take issue with watching any of my tax dollars abused, by politicians and criminals alike. As a member of this society, I'm sick and tired of those whose life's goal seems to be nothing more than creating and maintaining havoc. Those who supplement them in that lifestyle need to be penalized as well.

The woman in Florida lost her home. Although she didn't pull the trigger, she made the carnage possible by hosting an event that should never have taken place in a home. Two hundred people at a house party; dancing and drinking in the streets? That wasn't a party; it was a disaster waiting to happen. There are some individuals here in Austin who are housing other disasters waiting to happen.

When the disaster does strike, we need to make all those who help contribute to it pay.

Chicago 2016 Is Starting To Have A New Meaning

I think that the City of Chicago should invest in producing some public service announcements. Those announcements should be run on every regular TV and cable channel. The announcements also need to be on every radio station and texted to anyone with a 773 or 312 cell phone number. Billboards all over the city should be used to display the announcement, as well as signs on CTA buses and trains. Even taxi cabs, which are literally extinct in the black community, should carry the message.

Even Commonwealth Edison and Peoples Gas, which mail bills to anyone with a 606 zip code prefix, should join in.

All of the police cars should be emblazoned with this message. All the ambulances and fire trucks too. In fact, all city-owned and leased vehicles need to carry the message. The city should reach out to all the major fast food businesses to ask them to support it by having every food wrapper, bag and cup stenciled with the message. And if we have to, we can hang the message down both the sides of the Sears Tower and the John Hancock building. Even City Hall can hang the message from its roof.

What message does this entire city need to get so badly that I am advocating it be hung from every rooftop and doorway? The message is quite simple: "Chicago 2016" stands for our attempt to get the Olympics for that specific year and is not a message telling people to make it the murder rate for the City of Chicago.

I don't know if you've been paying attention like I've been telling you, but for the Forth of July weekend alone, in one six hour period we had four individuals killed and 20 two people wounded. For the entire weekend there were more than a dozen people killed and more than 30 people shot. And even though very little of the mayhem was covered by the media, the honest truth is that the majority of the murders and shootings occurred in the black community. Black-on-black crime is now so rampant, prevalent, and common that when individuals are murdered, hardly anyone blinks an eye. This situation is so "normal" that even the murder of 9-year-old Chastity Turner last month - shot in the back of the neck as she washed some pit bull puppies with her father at their South Side residence - didn't cause this city to grind to a halt to stop the violence and nonsense engulfing us. And no outrage by the fact that those charged in Chastity's murder are the ripe old age of 17 and 19.

What we need as a city and a society are some blunt, in-your-face pictures, statistics and reminders that the killings and shootings happening day in and day out in the black community are done by people who look like us and live with us. The victims are not just names and "nice" pictures in the paper. The victims should be seen just as they are in the morgue, coroner's office and funeral homes. How many of us could look at an autopsy photo of a 9-year-old shot in the back of the head and still eat our dinner and talk bull-crap on the corners? How many of us if we had to look at her lifeless dead body could remain silent and harbor the criminals who live amongst us? How many churches would have their members' aghast if instead of the church bulletin, the members were handed crime scene photos of last week's murder victims-pictures of them sprawled on the ground, dead in their own blood and by the hands of some of those very members' relatives?

The carnage that is going on in Chicago isn't going on in a vacuum. It is being carried out by those whose ages get younger and younger as their crimes become even more vicious.

Chicago 2016 will soon be our actual death toll if we don't do something soon.

Cook County Board - Yes You Can Save KiddieLand

When my daughter was little, I can remember the long drive from the North Side to Kiddieland. I remember getting to the amusement park early and paying an extra fee for her to play in a special area in the back. By late evening, when I was exhausted from watching her have fun, she still didn't want to go home.

Years later, I moved to the West Side and gave birth to my son. Kiddieland was an even closer destination and one where, during his younger days, I took him to get his first experience with fun rides. So it is with sadness to hear that Kiddieland will be closing on Sept. 27 because of a family dispute.

One part of the family runs the business. The other part of the family controls the land. It was heartbreaking to hear a member of the family that runs Kiddieland say they'd love to continue to keep the park operational but moving the rides would be very difficult.

Anyone who has been to the corner of First and North avenues knows that Kiddieland sits on the northwest side of the street. But on the northeast side is forest preserve land - land that is paid for and maintained by the overburdened and overtaxed taxpayers of Cook County. Land that is hardly used at that corner. Land that - if the Cook County board wanted to - could be leased to move Kiddieland across the street and therefore preserve for generations to come one of the last vestiges of an old-fashioned amusement park for children.

Our children are the youngest and most vulnerable of all Cook County residents. Every generation has had their local amusement park. For me it was Riverview. For others it was FunTown at 95th and Stony Island Avenue. For little children, it has always been Kiddieland.

Right now, our current Cook County board has a less-than-stellar image. Most of the news coming out from the board hasn't been good. So I'd like to offer the Cook County board a chance to get some of the best positive press that it hasn't had in a long time:

They can get that press by reaching out and making sure that Kiddieland doesn't go away. Kiddieland has over the years given hundreds of local teenagers employment during the summer. As a business, Kiddieland has also contributed to the county tax base via both sales and property taxes.

A move across the street would be a win-win for everyone. Little children could still have their park. A business that is a source of revenue for the county could stay afloat. And a small sliver of rarely used forest preserve land could be given the opportunity to bring joy to all.

Michael Will Be Loved and Forever Missed!

How does one say goodbye to someone who has always been a part of their entire life? An entertainer whose first song "Big Boy" is one that the mainstream press doesn't readily acknowledge. But that is the first Jackson 5 song that I do remember. I still have vivid memories of the first time I heard that song. I was standing in the doorway of my row house in the Cabrini Green projects and the song came on the radio.

It was a warm spring day and I can recall the pride in hearing that a group of young black brothers out of Gary, Ind. were singing a song on the radio. It was wonderful growing up with a group like The Jackson 5. For every young girl, there was a Jackson in your age group to fall in love with. From the tall and handsome Jackie, to Jermaine - who was the heartthrob for my age group - to little Michael. There was a brother to fulfill any young girl's fantasy.

I only saw Michael Jackson perform live once in my entire life. And that was as an adult. I was leaving a Jewel store on the north side when an older woman approached me. She had won Michael Jackson concert tickets and asked if I knew anyone who would be interested in seeing the performance. My daughter was seven at the time and I felt it would be a good opportunity for her to see the hottest entertainer in history. So I paid the woman the money she wanted and took my daughter to the Rosemont Horizon to view the show.

If memory serves me correct, the concert was on a school day. And my daughter, being a young child, fell asleep halfway through the concert. But I was awake and enjoyed the entire performance.

Like many people, I have followed Michael Jackson's meteoric rise to fame. Unless you're under the age of 16, you remember when Michael Jackson broke the major color barrier on MTV. He was always at the forefront of groundbreaking initiatives in terms of artistic development. His music videos for "Billie Jean," "Thriller," and "Bad" Black, and on and on, will live on forever.

I recently got the chance to watch a rebroadcast of Martin Bashir's Living with Michael Jackson interview from 2003. In light of his death, the interview was even more chilling than when I saw it the first time. Considering that Michael Jackson was never convicted of child molestation charges-and the first boy that accused him has since recanted, according to several Web sites-I won't focus on that part of his life. But what I will look at was just how gifted Michael Jackson was.

He was gifted with the ability to be a commensurate entertainer. Put Michael Jackson next to anyone who has studied dance their entire life and you never once took your eyes off of him. His moves were so smooth, pure and fresh that he outshone everyone else.

I also heard the pain in his voice and in his mind as he retold Bashir the story of being teased by his father during his years following puberty. The nose and acne jokes were taken very seriously by a young man who had basically grown up in the public spotlight. If Michael's death serves any purpose it is that the black psyche isn't as strong as many in our community assume. There are young children who are brilliant, but who are pained by the harsh words of the adults in their lives.

I got a text message last Thursday that told of Michael Jackson's death. The text was more accurate than the regular media, who were still reporting him just being in the hospital. The news of his death was shocking and devastating. He will be always loved and forever missed. None of us know when our time on this earth will be up. But while we are here, let us honor Michael Jackson's message of love for one another.