Improving the West Side - my passion in life

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Arlene Jones

This is my final column. No, the major newspapers didn't offer me a better job, nor was my contract up and my editors came to their senses and chose not to renew it. No, I'm not leaving to "spend more time with my family." In fact, for the next couple of months, I'll see less and less of them.

Four years ago, I wanted to make a difference on the West Side. I ran for alderman of the 37th Ward. I lost.

I am again going to run for alderman of the 37th Ward. You see, all the aldermanic seats are now open, and you cannot have a race without runners. So I will not write this column while running.

When I lost four years ago, rather than retreat, I was given the opportunity to write this column. I was given this opportunity because I wrote "so many" letters to the editor. If the reporting seemed unfair or if events in Austin weren't being covered, I was quick to send an e-mail.

As we e-mailed each other back and forth about the column possibility, the underlying tone was "let's see what you can come up with." Well, folks, you've seen what I can come up with, and it's been one heck of a ride ever since!

I am extremely proud that one of my efforts won an Illinois Press Association award for an individual column. That means what I have been writing about in our community is being seen by many other folks all over the state, and, with the Internet-the world.

I have never been at a loss for words. In Chicago, there is never a dull moment when it comes to politics. And for the West Side, well, we get left out all the time, or the coverage is negative. So it was important for me to want to highlight issues right here in the community.

My very first column asked a basic question: "Why do you live in Austin?" Three and a half years later, it's still a valid question. Some were born into this community. Others like myself, moved here on purpose. We recognized the value in the housing stock. We saw lots of parks and churches. If you don't know the history of Austin as a community, it was never a hick town that just got incorporated into Chicago. Instead, it was a planned community, a suburb of Chicago at one time with Austin Town Hall being the center of the community.

Over the years, I have tried to keep this column at the forefront of where the West Side is today-hence my e-mail address of westside2day***yahoo.com. Now let me make it perfectly clear: The understanding that I have of this side of town was not by accident. There were many Westsiders who came before me and who paved the way for me to have the vision that I have. And I keep them in mind whenever I sit down to write. People like the late great West Side activist Nancy Jefferson.

I never had the opportunity to meet Ms. Jefferson, but her name was always in the paper as she and the Midwest Community Council advocated for the West Side. Jefferson took a lot of stances on police issues. It was with her in mind that I wrote the piece on Howard Morgan and described his being shot 25 times by Chicago police. I used each of the 25 "pows" to highlight what it must have been like to be shot so many times.

When I sit at my computer and begin to write my column, I think of Cortez Peters. I don't know if he was a Westsider by birth, but for years the Cortez Peters business school highlighted a man who was known to be able to type up to 300 words a minute.

Although my fingers can never go as fast as Mr. Peters' did, when I write on a subject on which I am passionate, my fingers seem to fly across the keyboards attempting to get all the words onto my computer screen the same way he got words onto the paper in his typewriter.

If you want to get a perspective on the history of the black West Side, then Dr. Christopher Reed of Roosevelt University is the person to call. His book, Beyond Chicago's Black Metropolis: A History Of The West Side's First Century, 1837-1940, proves that we've been a presence on this side of town for more than 150 years. The question still remains what our presence will be on this side of town when the 200th anniversary rolls around.

I am leaving this column, but my voice will not be silent. Instead, you can hear me every Sunday night on WPNA 1490 AM from 10 p.m. to midnight. I also have my website, www.arlenejones.blogspot.com. There, you will be able to read my current opinions, and you can even reply. Lastly, starting Jan. 2 until Feb. 27 at 9 p.m. I will do the conference call Monday through Friday. So my voice just won't be in this column, but it will still be out here.

For the conference, call 605/772-3200 (this is long distance, so use your cell) and enter the access code: 806598#. I can host up to 96 people.

I'll leave you with my favorite African Proverb, "On the Day of Victory, No One Will be Tired."

 

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