Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Tale of Three Grannys

This is the tale of several grandmothers living on the same street less than a mile apart. It is also the story of two twelve-year-olds who are out of control. As I juxtapose their stories, I’ll let you be the judge.

Corliss Holland is a 50-year-old grandmother who I can tell comes from my school of being “no nonsense.” We don’t know the reason why she has her grandson under her tutelage. But like many black parents, her word is law and she runs a dictatorship and not a democracy.

At some point she told her 12-year-old grandson to not leave off the 8200 block of South Coles where they live. The stubborn and willful child who has decided that his decisions outweigh his grandmother’s warning opted to leave the block. Grandma Corliss on September 25, 2010 rewarded his decision with an introduction of her ironing cord to his hardheaded butt.

“I’m not messing around anymore and this is what he needed,” she allegedly told the police. Ms. Corliss’ reward; she was arrested, charged with aggravated battery of a child and has a bond amount of $50,000.

Now fast-forward to a different grandmother. Margaret Matthews is a woman in her 70’s who come home to the 7600 block of south Coles to find several 12-year-olds running away from her home and her windows broken by bricks. She goes inside only to have the hardheaded young thugs return with profanity laced mouths and additional bricks to threaten/scare her. She like the other grandmother is also a “no nonsense” woman. She doesn’t back down from the young punks and when they continue to threaten her, she pulls out her pistol and shoots one of them. Her aim is even good enough so that the one she shoots is wounded in the arm and not dead.

Of course we gotta’ have a third grandmother come into the fray. She is the grandmother of the alleged perpetrator. She has quickly appeared on television with the perennial “my grandbaby is a good boy” story as well as claiming the boy was just walking down the street when the woman with the broken windows came out of her house shooting at her “sweet, little, innocent choirboy.”

Of course Grandma Virges’ story carries very little weight when neighbors of Ms. Matthews are willing to go on camera and call Dion a “little monster.” The woman’s windows didn’t get broken by being so old that they fell apart. And Dion who is not the brightest star but more appropriately entitled the “baddest” star in the sky has no idea that his DNA is all over the bricks he picked up to toss. Or that climbing over a locked fence and standing on the woman’s shed as he tortures her with profanity and bricks are criminal behavior of the juvenile detention ilk.

We are living in a very rough time here in Chicago. A granny tries to keep her grandson from being another young thug and her reward is jail and bond. Another granny refuses to see the behavior of her grandson and he ends up with a bullet in his arm. The granny in the middle has to suffer because as a society we are sending the message to our children that they can do what they want to whom they want without consequences.

I gotta’ ask. Where’s the outrage?

Loretto Celebrates the Road to Recovery

The word "recovery" has a variety of meanings, depending on which industry you're in. For me as a former data processing professional, the word means a computer system that has gone awry and now I need to recover data. To the hip-hop world, "Recovery" is the title of Eminem's latest CD. To an economist, "recovery" is what our economy needs for us to go on successfully.

So when I got an invitation to go to Loretto Hospital to be a guest at their sixth annual "recovery month" program celebration, my curiosity was piqued. Loretto Hospital is another gem in Austin that is often overlooked. Located at Congress and Central avenues, its status as a hospital is not often on people's radar in an emergency. It is not a Level One trauma center or a hospital that handles births.

But September is national Alcohol and Drug Addition Recovery Month, and Loretto Hospital has positioned itself to be at the forefront in that field, servicing adults 18 and older. The program I attended may have been the sixth annual celebration, but Loretto proper has been in the business of dealing with "recovery" for over 40 years, including the last 25 years during the "crack" epidemic.

What are the current top drugs of choice? Well, they're no longer cocaine or marijuana. The old standby, alcohol, still reigns supreme, followed closely by heroin, the current substance of choice. Those are the two main areas where Loretto has opted to put its focus.

Loretto has allocated 44 beds to its recovery program. It has succeeded as a program because of word of mouth, networking, and recommendations from various agencies. The patients coming to Loretto's Substance Abuse Services Program range from here on the West Side to as far away as Rockford.

Loretto Hospital has four levels of treatment available. They have an in-patient detox program that can last 3-5 days, depending on the severity of the dependency. They offer Residential Rehab, which involves partial hospitalization. That program can last from 17-28 days. The Intensive Outpatient service lasts five days, three hours a day and includes 75 hours of outpatient services. Lastly, Adult Aftercare is done on an outpatient basis for 25 hours.

Other services available include DUI Evaluation Services, Compulsive Gambling Assessment and Education, Family HIV Support Program, Comprehensive Family Education Program, Active Alumni Group and open self-help groups, (Alcohol Anonymous, Narcotic Anonymous and ALANON, as well as others). Many of the treatment services can be paid for by Medicaid, Medicare or private insurance. But lack of money shouldn't be an impetus to not seek help. If you or someone you know needs "recovery," call the hospital at 773-854-5445 to speak with a certified addiction counselor who can assess each individual's needs.

The 6th Annual National Recovery Month celebration that I attended on Sept. 21 had as its theme, "Join the Voices of Recovery: Now More Than Ever." And that is just what happened. It was a very inspirational program, and I was grateful to newly installed addiction service coordinator, Michael Applegate, for reaching out to invite me. The audience was packed with many of the graduates of the recovery program. We heard from Congressman Danny Davis who spoke on behalf of his annual Walk for Recovery event.

Also, we heard from Edith Ozark, clinical supervisor, who spoke on the subject of relapse. It was refreshingly honest to hear those in the recovery business admit that the road will be hard and lapses will occur, but the program and the people committed to it will be there to support those in the recovery movement if they stumble.

I got to hear several testimonials from alumni in the recovery community. Their passionate pride in contrasting where they came from to where they are now was evident in their voices. They were supplemented by the newly graduated recovery members who had gone down the same road.

The keynote speaker, "Kwesi" Ronald E. Harris, director of the African American Male Resource Center at Chicago State University, gave a motivational speech that had everyone on their feet clapping. It was a positive and inspirational message that one need not be in "recovery" to enjoy and absorb.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Miracle of September 8, 2010

A miracle occurred on Sept. 8, 2010 - a miracle that amazed me and a lot of others who follow local politics. A miracle so profound that historians will analyze it for decades to come. And even those who were the recipients of the miracle will forever ponder it in retrospect, amazed at what a difference less than 24 hours can make.

What was the miracle that engulfed our local politicians that has me so in awe? It was the sudden discovery of vocal chords in politicians who found themselves no longer suffering from 21 years of Daley-laryngitis. You know, the condition that afflicted almost 100 percent of our local politicos who until that day never raised their voice in any significant manner against anything the mayor did. They never had anything but kind words to say, even as he demolished Meigs Field, sold off the Skyway and parking meters, and basically anointed himself despot.

But the simple words that came out of Daley's mouth on Sept. 7, stating that he will not seek election for another term, sent a shockwave of words blubbering forth from politicians who want his job. Aldermen regained their critiquing voice and began pontificating that they, too, can and should be the next mayor of Chicago. The city clerk changed his re-election petitions to ones that indicate he now wants to be mayor. Congressmen, state senators and representatives were miraculous in their praise of the mayor on one hand while taking jabs at what he had been doing in order to make themselves appear more palatable to the voting public. Even retired politicians stumbled in front of television cameras to say that they, too, could be mayor even if they have hadn't been active in politics in decades.

The entire scenario of scrambling for the mayor's job would be hysterical if it weren't for the near bankrupt state this city is in. Yes, folks, it is that bad. Every boarded up and vacant home is money not being paid in property taxes. Every empty storefront is one not sending sales taxes downtown. Even the proposed WalMarts can't cut the deficit looming over the city budget. The next mayor of the city of Chicago will have to have plans that involve an influx of money from both inside and outside the city. That means people spending money within the city limits and outside meaning more than just city residents will need to do the spending.

As our local politicians jockey for position in the mayor's race, here's something to keep in mind. Alderman or city clerk, they will have to give up running for that position in order to run for mayor. So those are very serious candidates - willing to lose one job while seeking another.

If the person is a state senator, state representative or congressman, they still have a job. So we need to ask them to be serious in seeking the job of mayor. That seriousness should involve a willingness to give up their current position in order to seek the new position. I've already been told "that ain't gonna happen," but it is still a valid question to ask. I tire of politicians who get elected to one job and then seek another, all the while knowing they have the safety net of their current position to fall back on. They take no risks in running for a different office. How may employees in the private sector can spend time looking for another job on the company's dime without risking the wrath of their employer? Well, we taxpayers are the employer of all these politicians, and if they are so unhappy with their current position, then resign from it and let the voters know they are that serious about the new position. Otherwise we're being played.

Another question to ask these Johnnies-come-lately is why they had nothing to say on Sept. 6 and everything in the world to say on Sept. 8? Prior to that time, the only declared candidate for mayor was Bill Dock Walls, whom I have supported every time he has run. To those who call him the "perennial candidate," I counter that had Dock not run, there wouldn't have been a single voice against the mayor. I dismiss the candidacy of Dorothy Brown because as many of us know, she was just a shill for the mayor. Interestingly, hers is not one of the names being touted for mayor this time around.

Ask for detailed plans on what these candidates want to do and don't accept the generic fluff response, "I want to bring more jobs." When they do that, ask them, "How?" If their answers don't make sense, then they're offering nonsense, and it is not what's needed. Even if the responses make sense, ask for specifics. Make your vote one that is servicing your best interest.

Lastly, this Sunday, Sept. 26 from 4 to 7 p.m., the NAACP will host a candidate forum at Christ the King School, 5088 W. Jackson. It will involve those running for governor, lt. governor, U.S. senate and a few more. Everyone needs to come out and learn what is going on with those who want to make the laws that affect your life.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Delores left giant footsteps for us to follow

When we lose people in our lives, we always want to ask the question: "Why?" Why did they die so soon? What about them made God want them now and not later? Why does God take some and not others? I can't answer those questions but I can ponder the responses. I have concluded that when God called Delores McCain home, it was because he had a big story and only she could report on it. Lord knows she knew how to lift every stone to get to the answers.

She was everywhere and on top of everything. She was an opinionated voice who brought many ideas to the table. And she loved this newspaper and reporting for it. One of my earliest memories of the Austin Weekly News was seeing my neighbor's brother-in-law in the Streetbeat section. I felt like he was a star getting his picture and comments in a newspaper. Over the years, that part of the paper has always been my favorite. Delores handled that feature and I loved being able to see the average Austinite's opinion regarding current issues.

The first time I ever met Delores, I was sitting at home in front of my computer and the phone rang. It was Dee. I will always remember that call because since I don't have an office at the Weekly, I was honored that she took the time to reach out to me. I was a new person writing for the paper and she had read what I had written and wanted to get to know me. I remember we talked about a number of things, but mostly about the paper and my writings.

Over the years, I would run into Dee at different events. It was always a pleasure to see her. Why will I miss her? Because she was a source of information and would freely pass on her knowledge. If an important event happened where she got the "inside" photos, she passed it on. I still have a number of emails in my inbox where she sent me things that no one else did. Delores and I both shared a passion for how black people are portrayed in the media. We both have been advocates in making sure this neighborhood paper does its best to put out real news and information. Her shoes will be hard to fill, but anyone walking down the path she forged will have giant footsteps to follow.

When you saw Delores McCain, 99 percent of the time she had Frank Pinc by her side. He was her photographer and Frank's "other wife." They traveled together so often as a team that I couldn't imagine Delores doing anything without him. Even after Frank announced his "retirement," I still saw the two of them together doing Streetbeat. Life will go on after Delores' passing, but what she added while here is immeasurable.

She will be missed.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Delores McCain Funeral Information

Delores McCain lost her battle with life on Saturday, September 11, 2010. Her funeral will be held on Wednesday, September 15, 2010, at Greater St. John Bible Church, 1256 N. Waller. Visitation is at 10:00, with the funeral to follow at 11:00 AM. Unique Funeral Home, 3425 W. Chicago, Chicago, Il in charge

Friday, September 10, 2010

We Survived the first one, we'll survive the second one too

For months now, I have been getting emails from potential candidates in the 37th ward asking me if I was going to again run for alderman. Every time my response was the same: an emphatic "NO!" I even told Ald. Mitts that I wasn't going to run because my current focus is on spending the last half of my life as an author. So when I heard the announcement that Mayor Daley wouldn't be seeking reelection, I wasn't surprised.

As I've told anyone who asked me why I didn't want to run, my response is simple: the city is broke, almost bankrupt. Fixing the problem is gonna be the hardest part. It is going to take a savvy, smart, and creative person to fix all that is broken. And it will be a major headache to undo a lot of the negative decisions perpetrated by Daley.

Now, the writing has been on the wall for weeks that something was up. I first noticed it when many of the long-term aldermen began announcing that they wouldn't seek reelection. As I read their names something smelled fishy. And now the biggest fish of them all has decided to get out of the race, and all the wannabees are coming out of the woodwork.

If you don't follow politics, I suggest you pay attention now like you've never done before. Without Mayor Daley in the race, those who never could find the time to have anything to say are cackling like a chicken. As I write this column, I'm listening to WVON. All the politicians are frothing at the mouth as they try and position themselves as "the only candidate" for mayor.

I am particularly incensed whenever a white candidate comes on WVON and panders to the black community. I'd rather have a candidate that doesn't know a damn thing about black culture but who wants to create jobs and economic development, versus someone who talks about listening to jazz and drinking Kool-Aide.

As we begin to hear from the mayoral candidates, we need to carefully vet them. Now is the time to find out their plans for the city, asking them hard questions. How will they fix the budget shortfall? What are their plans for the burgeoning crime problems involving guns? How fast will they kick out Ron Huberman from CPS and bring in a real educator? Will they continue with Daley's plans for the fast-track demolition of public housing or will they save the remaining buildings as safety nets for those who need it?

What of the shortage in manpower at the Chicago Police Department? Will the next mayor work with the city council or will we have "Council Wars 2011?" What can be done to renegotiate the parking lease agreement? Will the TIF (tax increment financing) monies-which had been controlled by Daley-be audited to make sure that it is all there like it's supposed to be? How will the next mayor work to bring jobs and opportunities back to the city?

Many names are being thrown around as the 2011 mayoral race begins. I have always said that you can't have a race without runners. As all the runners are now lining up, don't just watch the race but participate in it. Ask the runners questions. Make sure they answer them and not give you the run around. When those aldermanic candidates begin to appear, asking you to sign their petitions to run for office, find out who they are willing to publicly support for mayor.

That is always an eye opener.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Weis Met With The Wrong Gangleaders

Like a lot of people, the headlines and stories in the newspapers and on the TV news sounded impressive. Police Superintendant Jodie Weis tells gang leaders they will be held responsible for the mayhem their members are creating on the streets. But once past the headlines and given the opportunity to learn more about the meeting, my initial impression has quickly fizzled to hysterical laughter. You see, if I could have instructed Weis on convening a meeting with gang leaders, it is not the ones on the streets that I would have had sitting in a room. It’s the ones currently in jail who he should have spoken with.

Why? Because the message to inmates will quickly resonate amongst the criminal elements on the street. The message is quite simple. Kill someone on the streets and upon your arrival in jail, there will be someone waiting to kill you. Point blank. Jail and prison will no longer offer you a safe haven amongst your ilk.

Now in ordinary times, it is “unconscionable” for those in the position of leadership and law enforcement to send out that kind of message. But these are not ordinary times and thus extraordinary measures are needed. Because one of the underlying positions that our young people have taken is that they are not scared to go to jail. In truth, going to jail is seen by some of them as a badge of honor. But if one doesn’t make it out of the prison system alive to tell about it, then the message on the streets will be glaring. Going to jail will be akin to signing their own death sentence.

The first thing out of Weis’ mouth should have been that the prison industrial complex (yeah he should call it just what the activist have labeled it) is no longer concerned about the safety of inmates. If you are a 4-corner-hustler, we are going to house you with the members of the Mexican Mafia. If you are a Latin King, we’re going to house you with the Gangster Disciples. If you’re black, we’re going to put you in the same cell as the Skinheads. If you’re white, we’re practicing integration and putting you in the cell with the blacks. And if any of this leads to your losing your life, a limb or two or becoming someone’s girlfriend while in jail—oh well, you shouldn’t have been involved in that mess to begin with.

Now initially the murders won’t stop overnight. But then again, no new program will immediately stop the mayhem. But as the word gets out on the street that Pookie got 20 years for murder and he’s now in prison in Idaho where blacks can be counted on one hand, the message will slowly but surely resonate. Or let’s outsource our prisoners to jails in Mexico and other third world nations where water is a privilege and food not laden with bugs a rarity.

A second piece of the discussion Weis should have had is to have gone on television and announced that heads of households will now be responsible for the actions of everyone living under their roofs. So if you are the girlfriend and “yo’ man” is shooting up folks, when he goes to jail you’ll be going with him. If “yo’ baby” or “grandbaby” is committing heinous acts while bloodsucking off of you by living under your roof, you’ll share a cell with him or her. I could go on, but I’m sure you folks get my drift. Only when we take harsh actions can the message get out to those that normally don’t listen.

Now after reading this column, I hope you all know that I’m just being cynical. But there is a sliver of truth to what I’ve written. And that truth is that very few of our criminals when caught can maintain that bravado that they had on the streets. Yet far too often, their breakdown is not a subject for public discourse. When we make it such, the message will resonate louder than any public service announcement.

I was inspired to write this column after reading an article regarding 17-yr-old India Spellman from Philadelphia. She along with an accomplice is alleged to be responsible for the vicious murder of an 87-yr-old vet in his front yard. Her mug shot with one tear running down her face and her eyes reflecting deep thought for possibly the first time in her life needs the following caption; “I’m accused of a crime and now I’m finally scared cause I just realized my butt is on the line.”

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Like Most Folks, I too Suffered Flood Damage

Like most people, when I went to bed on the night of July 23, I knew that it had rained and the night was stormy. So when I got a call that woke me up on July 24 asking if I needed help cleaning out my basement, I was taken aback.

In the 21 years I have lived in my home, I have flooded only twice before. The first time was about a year after I moved in and then again in 1996. This time, I got more water than I have ever seen, and it must have stood in my basement for hours.

The flooding of my basement has been a slight blessing in disguise. After years of becoming the place where we put the stuff we didn't just want to throw out, so much stuff got ruined by the sewer water that backed up, I was forced to make decisions about things I had been putting off for years. I am about 85 percent done with cleaning up from the storm, and it has been very hard work.

Storm damage has been the constant subject of the townhall meetings Congressman Danny Davis has been hosting all over town. I have witnessed angry homeowners, upset with all the damage their property and personal possessions have undergone. Davis has had the FEMA representatives out to talk, but if there is truly anger about the flood and the damage, it should be directed at the city.

Everyone by now should know the FEMA number (1-800-621-3362) to call and put in their claim. I am hearing that people are learning FEMA will not cover everything damaged by the flood. Many people, like me, lost furniture. I had bookcases that I bought when I was 16 years old from the Montgomery Ward catalog store on Chicago Avenue. Those bookcases had survived at least seven moves, but the sewage water that backed up into my basement did them in.

I have spent the last four weeks working on my basement as time permitted. Fortunately, the water that drained out didn't leave an odor, but still I had to start to clean and sanitize everything because it was sewer water.

I started with my storage room. Fortunately, it is filled with those storage shelves that are metal with particle board shelves. I found so much stuff in there that didn't get touched by the storm water but made me realize I will have to host a yard sale before the end of summer. As I worked on my basement, throwing out the various items that I no longer wanted, there were tears in my eyes when I opened the metal file cabinet to discover all my children's school pictures that I had filed away got wet and damaged.

It is mentally taxing to have to sort through so many of life's treasures. I was amazed that the Christmas Wrapping paper plastic bins had a hole that allowed the water to seep in and held it inside. Tossing out wrapping paper, thankfully, isn't as heartbreaking as tossing those pictures out.

One of the few things I had done in the past and forgot to do for the filing cabinet was to build stands for everything to sit on. I normally use a 2 x 4 and build a base the exact dimensions of the item and then cover it with some plywood. I have even stained the stand to match the item so it doesn't look out of place. Since both my basement refrigerator and filing cabinets didn't have one, I have another project to undertake in the coming days.

Last week I wrote a column asking people to attend the City of Chicago's Budget Hearing Meetings. After writing that column and sending it off to this paper, the city announced that the hearing had been postponed until September. Everyone should be done cleaning and assessing their basement by the time those meetings are held, and I hope that the two held on the West Side will be filled to capacity with residents seeking relief from the city. If the city can't compensate us for our losses, the least they can do is freeze our taxes so that in this rough economy we can have some relief in order to purchase and replace all the items we lost in the flood.