Today’s column is dedicated to my heroes.
My first hero I met several weeks ago. At an early morning breakfast following the elections, I met Eric Monte in person. If his name doesn’t ring an immediate bell in your mind, Eric is the writer who created Good Times, The Jeffersons, and the movie that for hundreds of us who grew up in the Cabrini-Green housing projects, will always be our “coming of age” saga; Cooley High. I have been Facebook friends with Eric for awhile. I was originally under the impression that he was living in California, but in actuality Eric has been back here living in Chicago for a number of years. Eric’s story is unfortunately like a lot of individuals who garnered fame and fortune only to lose the money it brought to drugs, and being cheated out of earnings by Hollywood moguls and bad financial decisions.
Eric’s story of his rise to fame and subsequent fall should be a movie/novel or both. Hollywood is not kind and Eric made mistakes that allowed those in the business to take advantage of his naïveté. He did end up getting a $1 million settlement out of a lawsuit over Good Times, but that money was lost in his quest to put on a play he wrote. He ended up broke and living in a homeless shelter. Eric suffered a stroke, which left his speech impaired.
Fortunately, there are people who want to help Eric. After being introduced to him and hearing of his struggle, I immediately began to look into giving him a tribute that would put some money in his pocket. As I reached out to other former residents of Cabrini, I learned that a tribute was already in the works for him. Jackie Taylor, playwright and CEO of Black Ensemble Theatre, is honoring Eric and several other black playwrights on Monday, Dec. 6. The show starts at 6 p.m., the cost of the ticket is $20, and the theatre is located at 4520 N. Beacon. I’ll be there and hope that you too will join me to honor the man who helped put a positive light on people who lived in public housing.
My second hero is someone I didn’t know but I, along with the entire country, am grateful for what he did. Staff Sergeant Derrick Westmoreland spent 10 years in the Marines and the last 10 months doing a tour in Afghanistan. It is so interesting that we call it a “tour’ seeing that going to Afghanistan is not on anyone’s vacation radar.
Derrick is Johnny Westmoreland’s brother. Johnny is another constant fixture on the Garfield Major Show that we do each Sunday night on WRLL 1450AM from 10 until midnight. Johnny’s family, when learning that their brother was coming home, contacted the USO. Together the USO and the Westmoreland family put on a hero’s welcome for Derrick. They arranged for television coverage of his return home, and a police escorted procession to his family’s home in Oak Park. It was a magnificent sight to see. The response from people on the streets was fantastic, too. Thank you Derrick Westmoreland for a job well done.
My third hero is Terrence Davis, who recently held his retirement ceremony from the Navy. Davis was given the opportunity to make one final request for “permission to go ashore.” I had never attended a ceremony celebrating a person’s leaving of the service before. It was a wonderful event to see and the young sailors from Great Lakes Naval Base came out in force to put on a ceremony that was both informative and entertaining. “Anchors Away” Petty Officer Terrence Davis.
Visit my blog to see the links to the videos for both Derrick and Terrence.