Austin mourns pioneering community activist

Mildred Wiley was the founding chairperson for Austin Coming Together

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By Michael Romain


Community members are mourning a pioneering community activist who had her imprint on a range of social justice and development initiatives across the West Side. Mildred Wiley, who worked for years at the nonprofit Bethel New Life, died on March 26. 

Wiley was the founding chairperson of the board of directors for Austin Coming Together, an alliance of many different community organizations dedicated to bettering Austin's overall quality of life. 

Darnell Shields, ACT's executive director, explained in a statement that Wiley helped establish ACT nearly 10 years ago. 

"Mildred was always involved in every aspect of improving the quality of life here in Austin," Shields said. "Whether it was during her time at Bethel New Life or while serving as the chair for Austin's Community Action Council (CAC), Mildred took great pride in being present and stepping up to make the case for those who she believed deserved better." 

In a statement released last week, ACT officials said that Wiley "is the embodiment of our community: pragmatic, wise, resilient, loving, and courageous." 

Wiley grew up in Austin, where she raised her family. She first moved to the community in the 1960s. Not long after coming to Austin, she began fighting for others families to move here. 

"Throughout her professional career she continued to lead the way for others," the ACT statement explained. "Mildred has created opportunities for others all around the West Side, including the YWCA and most recently the Institute for Nonviolence Chicago. Mildred's greatest public achievements would include establishing Al Raby High School, helping to save the Green Line from discontinuation, and leading the creation of Austin Coming Together as its founding chairperson." 

A memorial service is planned for Wiley on April 6, 11 a.m. to noon, at Bethel New Life, Amburg Hall, 1140 N. Lamon. A repast is scheduled to happen from noon to 3 p.m.  In lieu of flowers, a donation to the American Cancer Society would be greatly appreciated.


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