The Austin community and other parts of the city saw too many of their youth killed as a result of violence in 2009.
But the year also saw Austin youth shine on the basketball court, in the classroom and on stages showcasing their talents. 2009 also saw politics take front and center in the news as political scandals and squabbles sprouted up during the year.
Here are some of the events that dominated the news in Austin and West Side:
January: The Garfield Park Conservatory Alliance, located at the conservatory, 300 N. Central Park, celebrated the beginning of 2009 after reaching its $9 million capital campaign. The nonprofit arm of the conservatory will use the money to improve the urban botanical center and its exhibits.
Austin celebrated the inauguration of President Barack Obama. Some residents traveled to Washington, D.C., for the historic day that was Jan. 20, 2009. Back home, others watched the ceremony on TV, like students and teachers at Catalyst Circle Rock Elementary School, 5608 W. Washington.
Father Rollins Lambert, the first black ordained priest in the Archdiocese of Chicago, died at the age of 86. He became assistant pastor of St. Malachy Parish, 2252 W. Washington, on the West Side in 1949. Lambert spent 40 years in the priesthood.
Jan. 15 marked the one-year observance in the disappearance of Austin teen Yasmin Acree.
February: The national NAACP celebrated its 100 years of civil rights service. The West Side Branch NAACP was founded in 1966.
Austin Weekly News starts its series celebrating some of the community’s young rising stars. Fifteen-year-old Aaryn Marquise Finklea is a student at VOISE (Virtual Opportunities Inside a School Environment) Academy, located on the Austin high school campus at 231 M. Pine. At the time of this story, Finklea had perfect attendance for the past six years and a grade point average of 3.85. Freelance reporter Loretta Ragsdell wrote the series.
March: Cook County Commissioner Jerry Butler visits students of the Chicago West Community Music Center, located at the Garfield Park Gold Dome, 100 N. Central Park. But he didn’t come to talk about politics. The legendary soul singer came to talk about succeeding in the music business and also performed for the kids.
April: Father Maurizio Binaghi steps down as director of Austin’s Peace Corner, a faith-based after-school center for youth, 5014 W. Madison. Father Maurizio left to work as a missionary in Uganda, East Africa.
Marcus Andrew Thomas-Winfrey, 18, dies of a heart ailment. He was the brother of Daisy Winfrey, a freelance photographer for Austin Weekly News, and son of Beauty Winfrey.
Ronald E. McNair Elementary School, 4820 W. Walton, hosts the Beat the Street Spelling Bee, featuring West Side students. The bee was created by Danette King, director of Young Creative Minds, a nonprofit organization for Austin kids.
Austin resident Idella Oliver celebrates her 105th birthday.
May: Rev. Lewis Flowers steps down as director of the Westside Ministers Coalition, but remains with the organization. He served as director on and off since 1999.
Austin Green Team hosts its annual Memorial Garden ceremony. The garden is at Laramie and Washington.
Ald. Isaac Carothers (29th Ward) is indicted on federal corruption charges. He was elected in 1999.
June: Eyes on Austin, 5519 W. North Ave., temporarily closes as the downturn in the economy has affected the organization’s fundraising. It’s even forced to cancel its Labor of Love event, which rehabs the homes of seniors with the help of volunteers.
Austin activist Georgia Clayton dies after a long illness. She was also a member of the South Austin Coalition Community Council. Clayton was 74.
July: Burr Oak Cemetery scandal becomes public. Three workers are accused of reselling existing plots after removing the bodies from the gravesites and dumping them in other parts of the Alsip cemetery. Many Austin families have relatives buried there.
August: Gospel Truth Life Changing Ministries, 5301 W. Madison, is the site of a Saturday morning shooting outside the church. Five people are injured.
The Chicago West Community Music Center is profiled in Austin Weekly News. This particular story highlighted the nonprofit organization’s 10-year anniversary of teaching kids music.
September: Catalyst School Circle Rock, 5628 W. Washington, starts the new school year by opening its new Austin campus.
The city’s Police Internal Affairs finds misconduct in the investigation into Yasmin Acree’s disappearance in 2007.
October: Austin Weekly News photographer Frank Pinc retires. Frank also shot for AWN’s sister papers. By December, his colleague for work in Austin, Streetbeat reporter Delores McCain, got Frank back just for their Streetbeat series.
Austin Polytechnical Academy students visit Spain to learn about manufacturing in that country.
November: Austin activists join Oak Park residents to protest the federal takeover of Park National Bank in Oak Park. The bank, under the leadership of River Forest resident Mike Kelly, was a near-bottomless funding source for schools and social service agencies in Austin and on the West Side.
December: Austin and greater West Side students perform at the Power of Words poetry slam taking place at the Sankofa Business and Cultural Arts Center, 5820 W. Chicago.