Clean sweep: James Forrest presses choir robes at Forrest Cleaners, a business on West Chicago Avenue, started by his father in 1963. It was the first black owned dry cleaners on the city's West Side.(DAVID PIERINI/Staff Photographer)

Now that we are in the month of February it is time to celebrate the accomplishments of African Americans. I often wonder what was on the mind of Dr. Carter Granville Woodson in 1915 when he began his work as the founder of the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History.
  I wonder about the challenges that he must have faced and how the idea of chronicling Negro history was received.  I also think that people must have thought that he was crazy in 1926 when he proposed the idea of celebrating Negro History Week. Now through the hard work of many we have Black History Month, a time when people of all ethnicities and social backgrounds acknowledge the black experience.
When I think about Black History Month I often think about those giants of men and women who blazed trails for many of us today. I think about men like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and women like Sojourner Truth. I think about people from a far off time which seems so long ago and so distant from the reality of today. It seems like black history makers are a thing of the past. In this day in which we live are there any more opportunities to be the first black this or the first black that. It seems as though the men and women of our past were just so great and so courageous and so committed to the struggle of our people. It seems as though the uplifting of the past has distanced us from today.
While it is extremely important for us to recognize the accomplishments of our past, we should also seek out and highlight the accomplishments of those men and women who shape the face of our everyday black history.  One such person is Mr. James Forrest.  Mr. Forrest is the proprietor of Forrest Cleaners located at 5925 W. Chicago Ave. on Chicago’s West Side.  James was born into the dry cleaning business. His father opened their first dry cleaners on the West Side back in 1963 before the race riots.
As a young boy, James spent a lot of time at his father’s dry-cleaning plant during summer break from school, mostly preparing hangers for the pressers, tagging clothes, and sweeping floors.  As many summer breaks went by, his knowledge of dry-cleaning increased.  In the year 1981, his father began delegating his knowledge of dry-cleaning to him.  As he learned the business and gained more confidence in his abilities as a dry-cleaner, he decided to follow in his father’s footsteps and opened a drop-off dry-cleaning company of his own in the year 1990.  While his first dry cleaners was located on the South Side of Chicago he always remembered his roots on the West Side. When his uncle, who was also in the dry cleaning business, decided it was time to slow down,  James jumped at the opportunity to open a green dry cleaners in the Austin community where his uncle’s Double Door Cleaners was located.  Forrest Cleaners is a Certified GreenEarth Dry Cleaners.  James believes that being a second generation dry-cleaning company allows the opportunity to provide outstanding dry-cleaning services.  James stated that “You can see, smell, and touch the difference in your clothes!”
Wouldn’t it be great if someday the history writers noted that there was a movement that began on the West Side of Chicago.  That African Americans heard the call and decide to support one of their own businesses in mass numbers, creating a buzz among the people to shop black in mass numbers.
 The caption would read: “Blacks took matters into their own hands and decided to control their own economic destiny.”
Please join us as we support this business in the Austin community.