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NLCP Undefeated Champions in Heartland Conference

by Todd Thomas

North Lawndale College Prep built a championship-caliber basketball program several years ago under the guidance of the late Coach Lewis Thorpe, demonstrating that the charter school on the west side can perform athletically on a high level. Now the football program under third-year head coach Sam Williford is on an upward trajectory after going undefeated in Chicago Public League Heartland Conference and making it to the city and state playoffs.

The 2021 Phoenix football team decisively won the CPL Heartland Conference, holding all their conference opponents scoreless in the process. “Having a shutout to us was very important,” said coach Williford, who coached for 12 years at Al Raby before coming over to North Lawndale in 2018. “Me and my defensive coordinator come from the Al Raby program and playing strong defense and having shutouts has always been our strong point as coaches. We stress defense because we know defense wins championships.”
“The kids were locked in,” he adds. “Getting a shutout isn’t easy. When we got a shutout, it just confirms that we had a good week of practice, and everybody was locked in. It feels good to get those zeroes.” The season started off slowly for the Phoenix and they lost the season opener 38-0 to South Shore International. It wasn’t until the second half of the second game they hit their stride and started playing up to their potential, said senior running back Tyquan Sanders.

“We felt good and were eager to play coming in but after we gave up that first touchdown it’s like we gave up. But we improved after that. We realized we had a lot of new players, but we worked with what we had and improved after that,” Sanders said. “We were scoreless until the second half of the second game,” added coach Williford. “We knew we were better than that, but we weren’t playing up to our potential. I told them to keep going because we were stuck in idle. I also challenged the quarterback to be great and once he got his confidence up we started clicking.”

The Phoenix blazed through the rest of the conference schedule, then played CPL football powerhouse Simeon in the first round of the city playoffs, losing 38-0, although they did hold the favored Wolverines to just 14 first-half points. They were underdogs, but still up for the challenge said sophomore QB Earnest Rice. “The problem with Simeon was that everybody looks at the name. But when you go out on the field it’s just like playing against anybody else. There’s nothing they can do that we can’t,” Rice said.

“I feel like we had the materials to beat Simeon,” added Sanders. “They’ve been a strong football program for a long time, while we had a lot of new players. We had to build our confidence all through this season. They’re built like a college team but after they kicked the ball off we lost our fear and just started doing our job. We tried our best and held our own, especially in the first half.”
After losing in the city playoffs, the Phoenix moved on the face Deer Creek-Mackinaw in the class 2A state playoffs. They traveled by school bus down to Deer Creek’s home turf in Mackinaw, IL to prepare for the game. Upon arrival at the stadium it was evident that Deer-Creek had a quality football program.

“They were more privileged – they had the stadium, the lights and the nice turf field. But I came ready. Of course we didn’t win, but I like the team we had, and it was fun and a great experience,’ said senior Elijah Phillips, of the 40-14 defeat. “It all happened so fast,” said senior running back Michael Duckins. “I think if we could do it again we could beat them.”
Coach Williford also commented about the contrasting environments and circumstances experienced by city kids and some of their student-athlete counterparts from other communities.

“With so much going on in the city it’s hard for our kids to focus on just sports. I give it to programs like Phillips, and Kenwood – you have to tip your cap to them. Phillips played a state playoff game right after a shooting at the school before they traveled downstate. It’s hard to get city kids to buy into what the coaches are teaching because there are so many outside influences,” Williford said. “Downstate football is all they’ve got to be concerned about most of the time so they can concentrate and just play the game, while some of my kids might go home hungry. In the city of Chicago it’s tough, but I know none of my kids are involved in gangs and that’s a blessing”

Wakanna providing a healthy way into the CBD Space

Independent contractor, Mr. Eric U. Strickland, invited NLCN to the headquarters of Wakanna, a company formed by four African American women, with the idea of capitalizing on the legalization in Illinois of the Hemp plant, Cannabis, and the health products derived from these two plants.

With the newly legalized industry in Illinois having only a tiny percentage of black ownership, Melissa Boston, CEO, Dr. Patricia Van Pelt, President, Phyllis Nash, CSO Chief Sales Officer, and Rita J. McGuire, MD CMO Chief Medical Officer, along with their business structure of direct selling, found a way to allow more African Americans to have a piece of the revenue derived from the industry. They have helped over 5,000 minorities join the Cannabis/CBD business space. Their business structure allows people to become their own merchants using their duplicatable system.

The company, Wakanna, launched on April 20, 2019 with the goal of becoming the largest and most reputable minority-owned Cannabis/CBD company in the world. Its headquarters is located at 411 E 35th St. in Chicago, IL. By 2025, they hope to operate as a full service Cannabis company.

An important aspect of Wakanna is their commitment to organic and vegan products of high quality. They use state of the art methods to remove THC, which is the psychoactive part of the Hemp and Marijuana plant. The recent signing of the 2018 Farm Bill made certain components of the Cannabis plant (CBD with less than .3% THC) legally available in all 50 states.

CBD is non psychotropic and therefore doesn’t cause a euphoric high. It is extracted from Hemp and Marijuana plants. It has numerous health benefits and contains nutritious substances such as chlorophyll, omega-3 fatty acids, terpenes, vitamins, amino acids and other phytocannabinoids.

Illinois legalized the sale of medical cannabis in 2015. Recreational cannabis became legal in Illinois on January 1, 2020. As of February 2021, two percent of Illinois dispensary owners were Black or Latino, 1 black and 2 Latino. At the end of 2021, the industry in Illinois is still in a legal and legislative battle to resolve the issues in equitable minority ownership.

Wakanna products come in the form gummies, edibles, water solubles, oils, creams, culinary infusion, and vapes. Their products are infused and some products contain other essential oils. Products from other companies may have pork or and in many cases are sprayed on. Wakanna products are full spectrum meaning compounds that have health benefits and are more effective for pain than CBD isolates because of the combined effects of CBD and other compounds in the plant. Whereas isolates are CBD only. The Wakanna website gives a breakdown of each of their products, their benefits, recommended doses and other important information.

Wakanna also manufacture their products at a 3rd party validated facility that has stringent compliance with the FDA and is a GMP certified facility that uses quality control steps to produce safe and effective products. With a range of reported health benefits, the uses for full-spectrum CBD include anti-seizure, muscle spasm relief, antianxiety, pain relief, treatment for psychotic disorders, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory relief.

According to a World Health Organization (WHO) Trusted Source report, research has suggested that CBD oil may also have therapeutic benefits for the following conditions: Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, Huntington’s disease, hypoxia-ischemia injury, pain, psychosis, nausea, inflammatory diseases, rheumatoid arthritis, infection, inflammatory bowel disease, cardiovascular disease, and diabetic complications.

On the day of visiting the headquarters of Wakanna, Mr. Otis McLaurin rode with us. McLaurin, is also a Wakanna Independent Contractor. He was enrolled into the business by Eric Strickland. Said McLaurin, “We got in on the ground floor. We’ve only been in it for two years. And now we’re approaching a 7 million-dollar company.”
When asked why he got into the business he responded, “Well, what made me get into it was the people that were in it, and knowing how they are, and one particular person was Eric (Strickland). I know Eric doesn’t do anything unless he checks it from the bottom, inside out and upside down. He’s a leader and I follow leaders and I got into it because of him and I know that he only gets involved in things that have the potential of becoming something and he can make it grow.”

Mr. McLaurin, in turn, also has recruited several people into his business. One that he mentioned was a psychiatric counselor who has also recruited five people into the business. “She has done a whole lot to stimulate my business, said McLaurin. He also uses Wakanna products like the gummies and CBD that he applies with liquid drops that he puts under his tongue.

Once we arrived, we met with Shannon King and Charles Porter. On the first floor of the building there are two entrances, one on the street side and the other connected to a shared parking lot. Their signature colors of black and gold resonated throughout the building. On the second floor is their meeting space and administrative offices. The space gives you a modern feel of progress and future growth. The walls are painted with the names of members and televised screens of the people, products and vision of Wakanna for life.

Ms. Shannon King was working in a section where scheduled independent contractors can sell products to walk-in or by appointment customers. There are more than the 84 listed products on their website. Products can also be purchased at the Wakanna headquarters.
How much does it take to start a business in Wakanna? There are three different ways of participating in Wakanna for life franchises. You can purchase a Crown Jewel dispensary which is their best value. The Millennial Dispensary or the Stimulus Dispensary. They even have a no money down 30-day Test Drive Dispensary where they hope you make enough commission to start your business with product on them. Their goal is to eliminate any barriers so that the average person can win.

For more information, please go to the Wakanna website at or contact Eric U. Strickland at Office 872-204-6010

Christmas Holiday visit at Danville Correctional Center with Cong Danny Davis and community groups

Getting up early in the morning at 5:00 am to meet at Cong Danny K. Davis westside office at 2700 West Madison to get on an Aries Charter Bus proved to be very satisfying. Arriving there at 6:18am the bus had not arrived yet but the Congressman’s office was open. Several families going to visit incarcerated family members were parked in cars. Crystal and Willie Burton from the Davis’ office were there to greet those going on the trip. 

Photographer and videographer Keith McDonald had an interesting conversational about


Lyrical Lemonade’s Summer Smash 2021

SSGKobe, rapping at Summer Smash 2021 on Saturday before it rained. SSG stands for Super Saiyan God,” taken from the Dragon Ball Z animation.

Even amid Covid-19 and other negative factors, the third Summer Smash in Douglass Park seems to still have been a charm for more in the future.

The special effects of sound, lighting, pyrotechnics, and CO2 helped make Summer Smash 2021 more exciting, where it was used. It was a three-day event starting on Friday thru Sunday. The 1st day, Friday included headliner A$AP Rocky, also Latto, Lil Yachty, Swae Lee, Teezo Touchdown, Baha Bank$, Supa Bwe, and more even though it began a little disorganized.

The 2nd day, Saturday, experienced a 2-hour strong rain delay after Joey Purp and SSG Kobe performed. There was also conflict from some festival attendees stealing from and attacking the bartenders. Headliner, Lil Baby along with City Girls, Gunna, City Morgue, and many more. The day was full of excitement and downtime, but provided satisfactory energy at the end.

Day 3 of the event headlined by Lil Uzi Vert had surprise guests such as Chance the Rapper, Wocka Flocka Flame, Benny the Butcher, Bktherula, Lil Durk and many more performed. There was also a Juice WRLD tribute on that Sunday. The 3rd day ended better which convinced festival the organizers of Lyrical Lemonade Summer Smash to come back next year and do it better. The planning and logistics of a concert event is not an easy undertaking. Even though making a profit and an intense desire for the music genre is inherent there are a lot of other moving parts involved. Safety, security, timing, and good organization are always a challenge. Even mother nature and human nature can inflict disaster. All these were present this year but were overcome in the end.

Black Contractors protest dismantling of CHA’s JOC Program

Black Contractors protesting at the central headquarters of CHA because of the dismantling of JOC program that provided business and job opportunities.

Ms Patricia Davis (left) protesting unfair dismantling of CHA’s JOC Program which benefited small Black Contractors.

Black contractors, who were part of the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA)’s JOC (Job Order Contracting) Program, have not been able to work since November of 2020 because of the dismantling of the program by the CHA. Small black contractors and their employees came together to protest the loss last Wednesday, June 23rd at the CHA Central headquarters because of the drastic economic loss of livelihood and the impact of that loss. According to Patricia Davis, President of Unique Casework Installations, Inc., a contractor and also a certified union carpenter for over 20 years, they were under a contract that does not expire until September 2021. Another protest is planned on Thursday June 30 at city hall.

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The Federal Government began using JOC in the mid-1980’s as a delivery method for small to medium sized construction work. The purpose of Section 3 is to make HUD-financed employment and economic opportunities available to low-income residents, which includes CHA and low-income Chicago area residents. In June of 2018 NLCN ran a story on several small contractors who benefited from the program, Hood Construction Company owned by Dennis Hood a CHA resident and Community Section 3 Consulting, owned by Paul Mckinley, who successfully advocated for and participated in jobs and contracts for CHA residents. Unfortunately, Mr. Hood passed away in February of 2020.
The goal of the JOC program is to foster a partnering atmosphere between increasing Section 3 Business Concerns participation and provide them the opportunity to perform progressively complex and higher valued projects. Contractors are expected to consistently perform at a high level of performance quality on all assigned projects,
HUD recently changed its definition of a Section 3 Business. CHA will be transitioning to this new definition which is 51% owned by a CHA resident(s) or HCV participant(s), 51% owned by a low-income person (s), and A business where low-income persons make up 75% of the labor hours
The protesters were among the 115 companies in the Job Order Contracting (JOC) program and their fingers are being pointed at CHA, the mayor’s office and the administration appointed by the mayor. Stated Ms. Patricia Davis in an email to them, “the CHA is already aware of our issues which are the reinstatement of the JOC Program and the JOC Contractors. We also want to know why the JOC Program was dismantled in the first place; Try and make this, make sense to us, taking away the livelihood of Small Black Contractors and putting it in the hands of Wealthy Owned Companies,” Those wealthy companies are a who’s who list of development companies.
The CHA and larger companies took away the opportunity for the smaller companies to be their own general contractors. Now they have to wait on the development companies, and the general contractors have to wait on CHA to get paid. Creating and extra layer of delay to get paid and according Ms. Davis the process is taking away smaller jobs from the small black contractors. Which is why they are protesting, that they have been cutoff and are being put out of work, because the larger companies are eating up the opportunities and the small profit margins?
Davis and other JOC contractors that benefited from the program also stated the Administration was more favorable when Rahm Emmanuel was the mayor, Ben Carson was the HUD secretary, Eugene Jones was the Chief Executive Officer, and John T. Hooker was the CHA Board Chairman. Currently, Lori Lightfoot is the mayor, Marsha L Fudge is the HUD secretary, Tracey Scott is the Chief Executive Officer, and John T. Hooker was the CHA Board Chairman, and Angela Hurlock is the Board Chairperson. NLCN will be following this story to report on past HUD benefits and future outcomes with CHA compliance, HUD and JOC contractors that were part of the program.

Triton Basketball Plays On

By Todd Thomas

Back in March of 2020 when the coronavirus pandemic shut down sports at many schools Triton College decided to stay the course and let the student athletes play. The start of the season was delayed, and schedules had to be modified, but the school put protocols in place and commenced with the basketball season. Trojans’ Head Coach Steve Christiansen answered a few questions about the 2021 season with NLCN.
NLCN: Did you ever think you would not have a season?
Coach C: When the pandemic first started in the spring of 2020 we were concerned, but our school was committed to having a season from the beginning. We had confidence all along that this was going to happen.
NLCN: Once you got started how did it go. Did the COVID-19 protocols interfere?
Coach C: We wore masks at certain spots in the building, but not the players during games. We traveled with masks, but in hindsight it wasn’t that big of a deal to me, and we didn’t have one incident with coronavirus, and we were very fortunate in that regard. If your respectful of it (coronavirus) and treat it with the proper precautions, you can deal with it. I thought it was a little premature when some schools cancelled their seasons.
NLCN: Did the lack of fans in attendance have any effect?
Coach C: We always like to have the energy of the fans, but we’re not the type of team that sells out the building so that really didn’t affect us.
NLCN: You finished 20-4. How would you rate the season overall?
Coach C: We did alright, we had a nice group of kids, and they were about the right things. They played hard and I really enjoyed coaching this team. But in the playoffs we ran into a really good team in the Midwest District Championship game, and we just didn’t have enough left in the tank at the end of the season. It was different because of COVID and all, but it worked out. You’re always disappointed if you don’t win the ultimate prize, but we had a good year and I’m proud of them. They were good kids to coach and that was really enjoyable to me. I’m proud of them for that, and for me it was almost a therapeutic experience with mostly good stuff
NLCN: Have any of your players signed with four-year schools yet?
Coach C: Kejuan Clements is going to Eastern Illinois and Lewis Rowe is going to Virginia Military Institute. Because of coronavirus recruiting has slowed down a lot. Normally guys would have things lined up by now – we just have to be patient.