Posts Tagged ‘Member Monday’

Written By: Cordell Longstreath Transcribed By: Jeremy Jones Edited By: Asiaha Butler

After a long break, R.A.G.E. is relaunching the Member Monday campaign during this time of COVID-19. 2020 has been a wild year, but our association will continue to support our community with emergency relief, census advocacy, and stewardship for community development, and Member Mondays are an opportunity for the individual residents who are often unsung heroes to be highlighted. We will be publishing a member profile every other week and this week’s member is Ea ‘The Wholistic Artist’ Williams, a community wellness guru who uses their diverse talents and experiences to heal Greater Englewood and was also awarded last year’s Member of Year at RAGE’s award ceremony. 

Cordell Longstreath (Interviewer)- CL

Ea Williams- EW

CL: Who are you and where did you grow up?

EW: I am Ea Williams. I was raised in Uptown Chicago, Heart of Uptown, right by Truman College off of Racine and Montrose. My family is from Englewood. My mom and her older sister are the only ones who live on the north side, everybody else is from Englewood, which I actually just found out.The Original Holy Ark is my grandfather’s church and I think that’s on 52nd and Wood and that’s the one he started and was at a deacon at forever, so I spent a lot of my younger years over there but I had no idea I was in Englewood. Now I understand why I kept coming back here. I was K-8, for the most part, in Uptown and then I went to private school; I was sponsored by my grandparent who was a little affluent in LA and didn’t want me going to public school. I had the blessing to go to private school, then came high school and my mom moved to the suburbs to keep the good education going, then I did two years at Downer’s Grove South, then I went to Waubonsie Valley High School.

CL: What did you do for fun growing up?

EW:  I’m probably the most consistent person and character you will ever meet. I was already all these things, way back then, which didn’t stand out on the north side where there’s a bunch of different types of people, a bunch of different cultures and everybody’s interested in uplifting each other’s different ideas and cultures. I have always been a dancer; dancing was my mom’s way of keeping me out of the streets and keeping me focused, so I’ve always been into dance. My mom will tell you I should’ve always been a massage therapist. She said  I got it naturally, she said my father was good at it naturally, so if you believe those types of things are in DNA well I can thank him for that!

CL: Any clubs or organizations?

EW: Growing up I danced a lot at the park district and I started off with the formative years in ballet at Joseph Holmes. I was on my way to ballet class and across the street at Gill Park I heard these drums playing and it was Fred Baker’s West Indian Folk Dance Company, so that was about at 10 and I started dancing with him with the West Indian Dance Theater and that was my first professional experience.

CL: DId you go to college?

EW: I went directly to college, did not pass go, I went to Howard, it was either Howard or the military if you can believe I was that gung-ho about the military. So I only applied to Howard and if I wasn’t going to make it to Howard I was going to go the the military, but I made it to Howard.

I Just (only) went to Howard then my mom got in a really bad accident and then I was pregnant and I didn’t want to go to college in the first place. It was my mother making me go. It was a great experience, I discovered the band, I was there for all the experience. It was like “do the right thing” and I was living on all of that.

CL: What did you play?

EW:My feet! Man, I’m a dancer, I told you I was a dancer. I was in Oo La La, the dancing girls in the band. I danced.I actually went to be in the drumline…I always wanted to be a drummer and I went to go be a drummer, but there was still that sexist role-playing and he was like “ooh aren’t you cute, you’re here for the dancer auditions” and he literally took me by the shoulders and turned me around and gave me a cute little nudge to the dancer auditions and I was just like, “first of all how you’d even know I’m a dance? When I told you I was looking for the drummer auditions”! But I love Mr Newsome it was a great experience.

CL: What led you back to Chicago?

EW: So, I left college to take care of my mom, because she had an accident and broke all her foot and had a cast all the way up her hip, and at that time I was pregnant with my first son so I was six months pregnant so I came back to take care of her and have my first baby. I did that, went back to school, decided it was bullshit, left to paramedic school in New York while I was in that little break and I was like “I’m gonna take that to New York and that’s gonna be my day job while I pursue the dancing and acting career, but it was a super good old boy network up there and there was a hiring freeze and there was like no opportunities and so I started doing other things and then they bombed the towers then aI left and I didn’t know they bombed the pentagon until I got there so I left came back to Chicago for a second went back to New York because I had another opportunity then back to DC. Ended up pregnant. Stayed there and then his dad was like “enough of that you need to come to Chicago”, and then we arranged for Miller Beach, It was great… until it wasn’t and then that’s how I ended up on the south side.

CL: Did you immediately come to the southside?

EW: I was already here. I couldn’t afford to be in Uptown anymore and it wasn’t the same energy that I left even though it was still a good mix of people.

(she continues)

EW: They weren’t grassroots down to earth people. Which is what it was when I grew up. Now it’s all those same colors, but the same people come in and the colors are the same but the attitude is different. I was trying to figure out why I wasn’t comfortable there and I loved it so much.

CL: Did you go straight to Englewood?

EW: Yeah, it was Auburn Gresham but it’s all the same. It’s literally here on 79th and Racine so.. That’s where I moved and I’ve always been into community activism. Not on purpose just as a human being. By helping people in the community the way my mom was… Cats would run away from school, run away from home. Their parents be like, “yo, is Katie over there?”. Mom was like, “alright”. They would run to my momma house cause my momma was like the … pretty much everybody house in the neighborhood where you can go and you’re very safe. Safe haven. It was like everybody’s crib, so it wasn’t even about community activism it was just like you so and so a crackhead and they got kids. Feed them, cloth them, bathe them, and don’t let them be out here like that. Just because they mama, being like “uggh” seeing they momma then you know she going through something. You know nowadays mama a crackhead, daddy an alcoholic, and you’ll watch the kids be raggedy in the streets and people talk about them?! We’ll still feed em, still take care of them, as much as we could, you wouldn’t give mama nothing cause you know, she’ll sell it. But you don’t not take care of the kids

CL: What led you to Englewood?

EW: Believe it or not, an affordable place to live. I ended up getting a good job and I couldn’t afford to live in Hyde Park and when I was living in Hyde Park I hated it. I didn’t like being over there, again the atmosphere had changed. It’s not the Hyde Park of the 70’s,80’s, or 90’s. Now over there people are being looked at, like the boys are over like ‘what yall doing here?’. My kids aren’t the wear-your-pants-saggy kind of kids. One might have locs, but  clothes are nice. So they don’t look like trouble or anything, but that was starting to happen. In real life, people grabbing at they purse when they walk past.

(She adds)

 That’s what brought me back to Englewood, just an open apartment and affordable housing.

CL: What got you involved with R.A.G.E.?

So like I said, I’ve always done this work and for the last two years I’ve done it for large scale nonprofit organizations and I just kept seeing the same thing over and over again. I’m always into recognizing patterns because you have to recognize patterns if you want to make a change. Cause if there’s a pattern happening then that means it’s a routine that needs to be changed. So after working with those places so long and just seeing the same results… like, why do we have these so called art programs in our neighborhood to address our trauma and nothing changing? Why do we keep needing them? If we have all the programs working for them… Understand these larger no for profits. How much money they’re making, it’s just like why do they think non profits make any money? So I learned a lot about non profits and boards and my place in the system and how to be a better more effective supporter of the system. I was just having a conversation about colonized minds and how they colonize. There’s a whole other layer they develop that nobody understands. So, by working on finding a better way to use my energy. There weren’t any other organizations making moves that I heard of.. Other than RAGE.

CL: Are you involved with any EQLP Task Forces?

Jobs and Economic Development Task Force, because that goes along with what I feel is my purpose and that’s that it’s not about healing bodies and minds, you need to heal the infrastructures and we’ll heal the rest of ourselves from that. Jobs and Economic Development, and Health and Wellness as a Health Navigator. They pretty much all call on me  because I have stuff for everybody and I’m generally called in.

CL: What is one of your favorite RAGE moments?

I love all the So Fresh Saturdays. At the So Fresh Saturdays I do chair massage and that’s another reason I appreciate RAGE, a lot of these organization people are calling me to come out and do stuff but nobody wants to sustain me and pay me, but I have to say that every time RAGE has invited me out they also would throw something back, though I would do it for free anyway. So I appreciate that because they actually recognize this is what I do for a living. But I love all the So Fresh Saturdays because I get to interact with the community through doing massage and just the enlightenment to how great massage is. It’s very rewarding to me of course because I am a massage therapist.

Ea has become a staple of Greater Englewood’s community events. She spent time with I Grow Chicago leading community yoga sessions on Saturdays at Kusanya Cafe, and since spearheading her own endeavors you can catch her everywhere but especially at her location called Space Englewood. I personally spotted her bike marshalling at Think Outside Da Block’s Roll -N- Peace 5, her own Pimp Picnic, and the most recent So Fresh Saturday on 66th and Halsted. Dancing, drumming, making art, and healing bodies with her hands are consistent actions that define her character. Support Ea’s goal of being a wandering guru by donating to her fundraiser to get her Thug Hippie School Bus!

Thank You

For Serving

Greater Englewood!!!

Origins: Home-grown in Englewood

From EG Woode Member Profile

This Member Monday will highlight Antoine Tyree Butler, one of our founding members. Butler, aka DJ Dap, is an Englewood native who founded our youth outreach team, piloted edutainment events, and supplies the music to events like Whole Foods Englewood “$5 after $5” and of course So Fresh Saturdays!  Dap is a DJ, court clerk, landlord, husband, and owner of a soon to be opened bar & grill. How did he become a leader in Englewood?

Dap attended school at Curie High School and grew up on 67th & May Street. He witnessed the rise of hip hop and house and his friend group was made up of musicians and dancers. Dap had that  “cool uncle” named Uncle Johnnie who would take him to “parties I shouldn’t have been at”. It was his love and curiosity of music that introduced Antoine, the DJ, to Asiaha Butler, our current President who has a great love for dancing, through their mutual friends. This friendship continued through Dap’s college time and still does today. Dap describes the serendipity of meeting Asiaha: “she grew up on the good block and I grew up on the bad block”, even adding, “she was close friends to one of my best friends”.

Career: Family, Community, and Role Model

The Butlers at their daughter’s Prom Send-Off

Throughout college, Dap had started to earn his moniker as a DJ, as well as starting his career as a court clerk at the Criminal Court on 26th & California. He has been a clerk for over 20 years and continues to advocate for many of the young people in Englewood who unfortunately have had a run-in with the system. Dap attended Daley’s College and Chicago State University, but when Asiaha became pregnant with their only daughter, he knew he would have to take his position more seriously. Now with Samaiya on Team Butler, the couple began on the path of creating a better future for the children of Englewood.

Raising a child in Englewood during the 2000s seemed like a bad idea. The Butlers were property owners, but Englewood was going through the transformative perils of disenfranchisement. With all the structural forces at play to push them out Dap reflects back, “we was going to relocate  to Atlanta like many of our families and friends; however, witnessing that there were not considered the norm on the block and that they could help uplift it, the Butlers decided to stay and make Englewood their own Atlanta. With their block becoming less and less occupied, the Butlers started the community work that would grow into the association it is today, all starting on their famous porch on Union.

Dap’s community work started on Union. After deciding to be stewards for their block, Dap started paying the local teens to keep the block clean. This led into mornings “where 10 kids would be on my porch waiting for work”. As Dap organized the youth he was simultaneously planting seeds for the eventual management of the street outreach team that flyers neighborhoods before every event. While he worked on youth development through this and events like Docs and Dialogue and co-produced Real Talk on CanTV, Asiaha was collaborating with like-minded individuals who would help found RAGE.

Englewood, RAGE, and Life

From his Profile on Englewood Rising

Dap has many options for his favorite RAGE moments since he was part of its preconception. Seeing his daughter grow up on a block they were once ready to move from and earn a full-ride scholarship to her ideal college through volunteering with RAGE could be one. He even watched the same boys he paid to clean up the block become leaders of the outreach team. His favorite RAGE moment is a Father’s Day where a friend of his wanted to throw a celebration for his block and RAGE made it happen. Early RAGE would facilitate outdoor events by just finding a vacant lot and “Asiaha would bring the resources, I would bring the music”, Dap says. During the event, one mother told Dap this was the first time her kids had ever celebrated Father’s day. He adds, “it was Alieon Brooks on 74th and it was one of my best father’s day ever.” 

On top of djing, clerk-work, being a father and husband, landlord, and founder of RAGE, Dap is also part of EG Woode. EG Woode is an entrepreneurial firm that will utilize Deon Lucas’s architectural vision and the funding of the Retail Thrive Zone Grant; Dap will be opening Ellie’s Urban Grill at their location on 63rd. Inspired by his mother’s cooking, Dap’s goal is to create a rare Englewood experience where one could “walk over and have a sit-down meal”. He’s excited to model economic success through EG Woode’s business incubation model.

Antoine Butler is a positive role model for Englewood. He chose to stay in Englewood because, “I want kids in our community to see a working man, a husband, a father”. His family represents all faculties of community leadership. To quote Samaiya Butler from her interview with Voyage ATL, ” my dad is also someone that I would call my mentor; he has shown me how to create; how to do what you love”, also adding, “I am so thankful for his journey and being able to watch him before I go through the same thing”. Our association would be missing an element of style, masculinity, and stoic perseverance without you and we are proud that you are a part of RAGE! You can also catch DJ Dap at 5 After 5 at Whole Englewoods on the 2nd and 4th Fridays of the month! 


Origins: Background and Education

Lauren – Senior Fitness

Lauren Providence’s business motto is, “If your body isn’t becoming to you, you should be coming to us”. The leader of RXercises© and Fort Providence Senior Boot Camp, she is a certified personal trainer, life coach, and paraprofessional certified diabetes educator through the American Association of Diabetes Educators. Her favorite R.A.G.E. moment was at So Fresh Family Fitness Night at Ogden Park- March Madness Edition, where she was able to serve the 50+ community . This Member Monday we will see how Lauren brings resources and opportunities to Englewood.

Lauren was born and raised in Queens, New York, and Philadelphia before making Chicago her home. She graduated from the city’s number one STEM, Stuyvesant High School and continued her college education at the Wharton School of Business, at the University of Pennsylvania” where she graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in Finance and Bachelor of Arts in Marketing. Her early entry to Wall Street, and the opportunities afforded to her by Travis Bell, the owner of Daniels & Bell Inc, the only Black investment firm with a seat on the New York Stock Exchange for decades.

Career: Finance and Health

 She became the first black female to own and control an investment banking and securities brokerage firm in this country, and also was the first minority firm to complete an initial public offering (IPO) of stock for a company.  Lauren clarifies,” with the support of politicians, like Harold Washington and many other black mayors and dignitaries nationwide she had the support to maintain her position as 51% owner of a municipal bond firm named, Gibbons Hester Providence Inc”. Lauren provided individuals of diverse backgrounds the opportunity to explore investment banking and securities brokerage. The opportunities were granted to 30 individuals from Chicago’s south and west sides to broaden the horizons for their community

Over the following years,  Lauren felt there was an issue of awareness of healthcare resources and utilization. Lauren calls this “disparities in healthcare”. As someone who has dealt with COPD, Lauren believes you should “love yourself as who you are but rather than dwell on the negatives, delve into the possibilities”! She practices that model through her health coaching services throughout the community.

Lauren with a group of seniors in her fitness program

She founded Fort Providence Fitness and Rxecercises©  as ways to offer seniors and individuals suffering from a gamut of over 65 pathologies. Those diseases include diabetes and all of its comorbidities like hypertension, neuropathy, heart disease, obesity and more. Scientific evidence suggests that exercise and food are medicine. Upon that premise, she gave individuals an outlet for personalized exercise at several local senior residential housing facilities that included Englewood’s Tolton Manor, as well as Brendan and Hayes Manors.

 In a health partnership with the Chicago Housing Authority, she positively impacted the health of scores of seniors. As an advocate of the President’s Council on Sports Fitness and Nutrition, many senior participants received commendations signed by Barack Obama.  Lauren believes you should “love yourself as who you are but rather than dwell on the negatives, delve into the possibilities!” She practices that model through her health coaching services throughout the community.

Lauren impacts the community in multiple ways with her partnership with Catholic Charities and Chicago Housing Authority. Lauren was able to provide a program to deal with health through exercise and participation with the, a food distribution program servicing the Englewood community, she offered her menu planning services and revenues generated through her efforts helped to support her senior fitness programs. Through Rxercises© she partnered with local organizations to offer a Fall Prevention Program with Georgia Doty Comprehensive Health. Her organizations offered programs on balance and other health and fitness issues related to diabetic neuropathy for those over 55.

Englewood, Life, and RAGE

Lauren became a R.A.G.E. member in 2017 after attending a few community meetings. Lauren’s new hobby is buying property and she states that watching Aysha Butler “impressed” her and “promulgated” her to buy her first property in Englewood. Lauren has a wealth of information on Englewood’s healthcare resources, so the Quality of Life Plan’s Health and Wellness Taskforce was a natural fit for this health professional. Regarding one of the recent programs, Englewood health navigators, Lauren states that her interests were sparked since she is “looking to partner with someone in the community that battles disparities in health within communities of color”. Lauren believes R.A.G.E. is important for Englewood because of its leadership that “attracts people and stays relevant”.

Lauren’s favorite R.A.G.E. moment was hosting her senior fitness class at So Fresh Family Fitness Night. It was her first event in a community space that was open to the public and she was really impressed by the turnout. She plans on offering that to the community again, but she was also inspired to launch more community events like an upcoming event for National Diabetes Day. She also wants to utilize her Englewood property to either make a veteran housing center or housing for “mothers on the come-up”. 

 She uses different coaching protocols for issues, financial or physical, and has plans of creating support for under-resourced communities, like veterans and mothers. Lauren lives near a group of girls who are part of a dance team she has seen at multiple events. Recently Lauren mustered up the motivation to run out and say, “I love this!”, when they were practicing their routine. She is now sponsoring Englewood’s Golden Elite Dance Group at this season’s Bud Billiken parade. She encourages the community to support them and other groups with a positive impact here. 

This Fall, RXercises© will be launching WateRworxxX, an alkaline/ CBD infused hydrating beverage; she’s seeking mixed-use, retail and residential space to house the endeavor and provide employment and housing under the Opportunity Zone constraints. When speaking of National Diabetes Day, where she will be facilitating an event, and Englewood, she said, “65% of the area is obese and obesity causes heart disease”.She will also be launching a pre-diabetes prevention program, this November, that is fully backed by the Center For Disease Control; she hopes to be a CDC recognized facilitator within 2020.  RAGE is excited to have Lauren as a member and hope her message and work reaches more residents in Englewood!

Thank You, Ms Providence, For Your Dedication To R.A.G.E.!!!

#MemberMondays is proudly relaunching with our Feature on Vora Long Williams

For Vora Long Williams Englewood is home. She has spent all but three years of her life living in Englewood and is leaving her mark. From being told to pick up the block by some neighbor to being that neighbor to tell people to clean up the block, Vora is an asset to Englewood.

Vora Long Williams at the Sweet Water Foundation. Image is from their February article on her.

   An Englewood native, Vora was born in the Cook County Hospital in 1960. Marrying Anthony Long at 17 and graduating from Simeon High School in 1978, she found herself on a three-year journey from Chicago to Nuremberg, Germany and eventually Fort Dixon, New Jersey. Her husband was in the military and by the age of 21 he passed; By 1981 Vora was a widow with two children. Vora states, “I was a widow at 21 so I was focused on raising my children”.

   Now a retired postal worker raising her grandson with Mr. Long, Vora has become one of the leaders in Englewood. Right after retirement in 2012, she noticed the playground in Edmonds Park needed renovation. She got involved with the alderman at that time, Joann Thompson, and was able to secure a new playground and equipment for her neighborhood park. This was during the beginning of the $1 Large Lot Program which brought Voran and R.A.G.E. president Aysha Butler into contact. This was a large victory for Vora, yet it wasn’t the only contributions she would make in her community.

   The large lot program opened up the opportunity for community residents to be stewards of their neighborhood. Vora had the opportunity to buy a lot on her block thanks to this program. She transformed the vacant lot into “The Peace Garden” before her and other residents created the Edmonds Homeowner’s Association, which inspired her to change the name of her lot into the “Edmonds Peace Garden”. Her reasoning, “I created that lot for the seniors like myself”, adding,” so I created the peace garden and I changed it over to the Edmonds Homeowner’s Association because we created that out of the peace garden and everything else on the block”.

  Images from Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago 2016 article.

Vora has become a mother of her block and to some, “Little Miss Molly”. When Vora was a kid, Molly Edmonds was the person in the neighborhood telling kids to pick up trash. She was also responsible for getting the playground that has become Edmonds Park. Vora explains, “Miss Molly was the person that, when I was a girl, everybody couldn’t stand her cause she told on us; she made us pick up paper and everything and she was really involved”. She continues, “Now I’m the one the kids hate and they are going to love me like I grew to love her”. Vora is this generation’s mother of the 700 block of South 61st.

   Vora meeting Aysha at the large lot program meetings showed they had a common interest. They both understood the value of the lot program and were deeply invested in the future of the Englewood community. What impressed Vora was the Aysha was a resident, like herself, so joining R.A.G.E. was the most logical decision at the time. Vora adds, “when you are a resident you want to invest where you live at”.

   Vora has been a member of R.A.G.E. for close to five years. She’s involved with the Quality of Life Plan, participating in Housing and Public Spaces Task Force as well as Jobs and Economic Development Task Force. The day we were able to interview her was during a meeting on ‘Zombie Properties’, which are abandoned properties that the homeowners retain the title to. She’s also Chicago Cares Community Coordinator for the Englewood area where she works on allocating corporate support for various projects supporting nonprofit organization. Her work with Chicago Cares even included the lot and planters at the R.A.G.E. Headquarters on 66th and Union. It seems retirement has freed Vora to become a steward of Englewood.

   Englewood isn’t Vora’s only passion. Raising her grandson is just as important and our community is the legacy we leave the next generation. When choosing her favorite R.A.G.E moments she says, “ all of them”, before putting So Fresh Saturday’s and her Chicago Cares contributions high on the list. She goes back to Aysha stating, “what I love about her is she lives in the Englewood community. She has not moved and so many people get older, like most the people in my generation, and move to another community. Even my daughter moved to a suburb because the crime that was going on”. Vora’s passion for the future is firmly placed in the reality of the now.

   Vora’s favorite quote is “Englewood is on the rise”, which she describes, “through the alderman, through the wards being squared off, seeing new homes, seeing new people, seeing the homeowners, seeing reduction in our vacant lots, seeing our boarded-up buildings occupied again, seeing growth”. By qualifying and quantifying her statement she shows how she sees the community rising. Her aspirations aren’t just on the individual level but on the community level. She’s looking to secure a greater Englewood for all residents of Englewood.

   Vora sees promise in the future of Englewood. Pointing to new leadership, like 16th ward alderman Stephanie Coleman and Mayor Lightfoot, she sees Englewood “Rising Again”. One issue she looking forward to being addressed is the number of Aldermen and wards that separate the Englewood community. Vora states, “I want to see what the mayor has for the southside”, adding “ I would like her (Lightfoot) to eliminate the five aldermen we and narrow it down to a smaller number or rezone it so we don’t have the 17th ward right across from the 20th ward”.

Thank You Vora Long Williams For Your Dedication To The Greater Englewood Community!!!