By Lee Edwards
Facilitators of the community-based civic engagement initiative, Loving Lawndale To Life, recently held a workshop on citizen journalism at Carey Tercentenary AME Church, 1448 S. Homan Ave.
The West Side church facilitated the initiative along with the Chicago Westside Branch NAACP. The program was launched with funding from the Chicago Community Trust after the two entities won an Acting Up award that the Trust administers in conjunction with its annual On the Table series of citywide community conversations.
According to the Trust's website, the awards "provide small prizes to On the Table participants to help them implement their ideas, work together and take action for the public good. In 2017, the program was expanded to offer a choice of applying for $1,000 or $2,500 awards — and 71 projects were awarded more than $135,000 to make their ideas come to life."
The dialogue that led to the Loving Lawndale campaign was centered on three areas of concern for residents of the West Side—a lack of self-respect and community involvement; an intergenerational gap between Millennials, Generation X, and Baby Boomers; and a need for more arts and culture programs.
"Loving Lawndale" was launched in July 1 and extends to Oct. 31, with the goal of reaching 1,000 North Lawndale residents.
Valerie Leonard, a lifelong member of Carey Tercentenary AME Church, led the citizen journalist program, which entailed Leonard teaching a range of fundamental skills — from grammar proficiency to podcast production.
Leonard said that the podcasts will be available on the Loving Lawndale to Life channel at blogtalkradio.com/lovinglawndaletolife in the coming weeks.
Typically, 25 young people are active in Loving Lawndale programming, although everyone who participated in the most recent citizen journalism workshop was adult. Leonard said she hopes to attract another 15 to 25 participants between the ages of 12 to 25.
Willie Cole, a former reporter, who facilitated the citizen journalism aspect of the evening, said that the work of journalists are pivotal to driving community dialogues that benefit the public.
"I think you can contribute to your community, you get a voice in speaking about what's happening and perhaps your perspective will incite or ignite a passion in others to join you if it is something that is critically affecting everyone," said Cole. "It gives people the opportunity to say that I care about that issue as well, let me join you."
Walter C. Harris, Sr., a lifelong West Side resident and pastor of Carey Tercentenary AME Church for more than a decade, said he's concerned with the well-being of the neighborhood and is struggling to find positive avenues to success for young men when jobs are scarce.
Harris said that gathering like-minded people together is the key to future success, especially when the individuals involved live in the community and love the community. He said he works closely with the Chicago Westside NAACP to makes sure his church's space is open and accessible to all.
"The part I like tying in to the West Side NAACP and this Loving Lawndale to Life movement is we are trying to look at the neighborhood people and see how we can actually help them," said Harris. "I am praying that we will be able to gather in people who are jobless and send them out with various products that would give them financial resources in their pocket."
To learn more about Loving Lawndale To Life visit https://www.facebook.com/lovinglawndaletolife/.
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