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Uniting Through Music and Community: The Westside House Head Festival Block Party

By Todd Thomas

In the heart of K-town, something special is brewing this Friday, June 21st weekend. Reverend Marvin Hunter, along with Grace at Jerusalem C.D.C Hugs Ministry and the Hospitality Ministry and R&B Justice, are orchestrating The Westside House Head Festival Block Party, a celebration aimed not just at entertaining, but at spreading a message of harmony and reflection. At the core of this event is the belief that music can serve as a powerful medium for social change and unity.“My message and purpose this year is to promote peace, unity and love,” Hunter said.
Headlining the festival is none other than the King of House music himself, Farley Jackmaster Funk. Also performing is the RockNation Band. For Hunter, this collaboration isn’t just about music, it’s about forging connections and fostering a sense of community.
“I know nothing about house music – period, ” he said. “The concert is like a red worm to a fisherman, and if we want to get to the bottom of violence and hatred then we have to have a broad draw.”
Reflecting on the creation of the event, Hunter said he received spiritual guidance affirming that this festival is more than just a concert—it’s a platform for peace, unity, and love. Through the block party, Hunter aims to engage individuals from all walks of life, and start a conversation about tackling violence and division within the community.
Beyond the festival itself, Hunter is committed to sustaining the momentum through ongoing community engagement. He said he wants the block club concept to become a catalyst for local development and empowerment. By encouraging pastors to spearhead neighborhood revitalization projects, Hunter seeks to address fundamental issues that continue to plague, not just the West Side, but the entire city of Chicago.
“In my ministry I ask pastors to come up with a 4-square block redevelopment plan around their church and come up with a mission. My mission is food, housing and education. Then we all meet in the middle,” Hunter said.
Anticipating between 1000 to 5000 participants, Hunter is optimistic about the festival’s impact on crime reduction. By providing a space for joy and connection, he hopes to create a temporary reprieve from the cycle of violence that plagues many communities. For Hunter, this event isn’t just about entertainment—it’s about building a safer, more cohesive society.
The weekend also holds personal significance as Hunter celebrates his 58th birthday, and the day after the Block Party he will hold another celebration at the church featuring The Williams Singers of Indianapolis, Indiana and Pastor Marvin Hunter and Sons.

North Lawndale College Prep Phoenix bound for Playoffs

By Todd Thomas

North Lawndale College Prep football has only lost one game this season and at 8-1 they are looking to be one of the most successful football teams in the school’s history. After the challenging regular season schedule the Phoenix are headed to the first round of the IHSA playoffs. They play Fairbury (Prairie Central) Saturday, October 28 at Lane Stadium. Game time is 12:00 noon and the stadium is located at 2601 W. Addison St. in Chicago, IL.

North Lawndale started the season on a four-game win streak, before losing to conference rival Payton 21-20. That was the last game they lost before stringing together four consecutive wins – capping off the regular season schedule with a 36-6 win against Sullivan. The Phoenix, although known for basketball, have made considerable strides since Sam Williford took over as head coach five years ago, and they have made it to the playoffs the past two seasons.

This year’s team features a spread offense that allows them to highlight the speed they have at the skill positions, and several members of the track team play wide receiver, running back and quarterback. “We retooled the team from last year and we have a lot of options, so we figured out a way with the spread offense to get them the ball,” Williford said. “It allows us to feature certain players and put them in the right situations to take advantage of their strengths.”

The keys to the Phoenix engine belong to senior quarterback Earnest Rice, who has steadily improved and blossomed into the type of all-around player the team needs. He has great speed and runs well, and also throws a nice deep ball. “My deep balls are my favorite and they’re very accurate. I can throw over 60 yards, that’s my strong suit,” Rice said. He does still use his legs often and has no problem leaving the pocket, but he said he wants to concentrate more on the passing game. “Passing is more fun and it’s better for my teammates and gets more people involved and gets everybody hyped,” he said.

And getting players on the team adequate playing time and keeping them involved is also part of Williford’s strategy. He freely substitutes players depending on the situation. That might not go down well with some athletes, but the players for the most part have bought into the team concept. “I know what I’m capable of,” said wide receiver and defensive back Charlie Davis. “But I don’t trip because coach knows what’s best at the end of the day. The key thing is we want to win and whatever coach feels we should do we just go with it.

Although North Lawndale is 8-1 they do see room for improvement, especially if they plan on making it out of the first round ot the state playoffs, which they failed to do in the last two campaigns.
“We need to communicate more on the field and make sure everybody is doing the right thing. If we do the right thing everything will fall into place and we’ll be good,” said junior wide receiver Quotangelo Temples. “We need to talk more on the field so we won’t make those minor mistakes. That will help us keep developing and winning games,” added Davis.

Coach Williford thinks he has the right student/athletes to have a successful season. He said they have been performing well in the classroom, and are dedicated to the sport – which he said is key to being successful, especially in the game of football. “You can’t make a kid play football – he has to want to do it. I don’t want to force any kid to do something they don’t want to do because they’re not going to give it their all,” he said.

Playing sports has also helped many of the football players avoid some of the problems that have plagued the community with violence, although they did have one of their own players gunned down and killed last season. “This is extracurricular so instead of being out here on the streets just walking around doing stuff I don’t have any business doing I’m just out here on the football field trying to get better and succeed in life,” Temples said. “If you play a sport and you want to be great at it you’re going to go to practice and not be worrying about the streets – that’s why I want to play sports. There’s too many people getting killed and I’m not about to be one of them,” running back Avron Johnson said.

DCASE – Refresh Your Grocery Game – at Your Local Farmers Market

Birding on the West Side

American Goldfinch at Garfield Park

Red-tailed Hawk at Douglas Park

Great-blue Heron at Douglas Park

Eric Gyllenhaal monitors and counts birds in Douglas Park

By Todd Thomas

The West Side of Chicago is fortunate to have three major parks in the area that offer a host of outdoor activities, and among them is bird watching or birding which has become more popular in recent years.
The beauty and importance of birds in these parks is captured, and recorded on a regular basis by Eric Gyllenhaal, a local retired naturalist who spends countless hours roaming the parks observing and counting birds.
The 2023 official spring bird count occurred just a few weeks ago and Gyllenhaal and a host of volunteers counted birds in Douglas, Garfield, Columbus and Riis Parks. They counted 90 species of birds and reported the findings to the online database eBird.
One of the key reasons bird counts are critical to understand birds is that bird populations have plummeted, and over the last 50 years the United States has seen bird populations plummet by the billions – not – millions, but billions.
“Counting birds helps us keep track of how birds are reacting to the changes we are doing to the environment, and there have been some major drops because habitat is disappearing. Counting helps us keep track of the bird population’s changes and try to figure out ways to counteract negative changes that have happened,” explained Gyllenhaal.
After the bird count Gyllenhaal did note that the numbers of one of the area’s major migrants – warblers were lower than expected.
“We’re not at peak migration yet,” Gyllenhaal said a few days after the count. “During peak migration we would expect to find 25 species of warblers in one day, but we only found 18 and there weren’t huge numbers for any warblers.”
Some of the birds that showed up in big numbers in the count were Red-wing Blackbirds, Canada Geese, Herring Gulls, Barn Swallows, Robins and Northern Cardinals. The cardinals are a favorite of many bird enthusiasts, but Gyllenhaal said he doesn’t like one particular bird more than any other.
“I don’t have a favorite bird – I’m interested in all of them. Whatever bird has my attention at that moment that’s where I focus, and when another one comes along that’s where I focus. I don’t like this one better than that one. It’s a holistic approach – I like them all, even the house sparrows,” he said.
All species of birds do stand to benefit from the information garnered from the bird counts, and land managers have been receptive and helpful in using the data to make improvements by helping to restore bird’s natural habitats.
Collecting data on birds is important and having a thriving bird population an important part of a healthy community. The presence of healthy trees, and the birds singing are important in their own right.
“People talk about environmental justice these days especially on the South and West sides of Chicago especially around pollution, but part of environmental justice is living in a neighborhood with enough trees to deal with pollution, and more trees will help bring back the birds as well,” Gyllenhaal said.
The youth in the area can also benefit from more exposure to the natural environment around them. He suggests spending a little more time away from electronic devices and engaging in more outdoor activity.
“Kids are so distracted by online things, screens,laptops and cell phones and there’s so much great natural reality out there that kids aren’t paying attention to. And it’s not just kids, but everyone in the community can benefit from being surrounded by trees and birds,” Gyllenhaal said.
“People are missing something from their lives if they’re not paying attention to nature. It brings beauty and joy – it gets you paying attention to what’s going on around you and it’s an inexpensive way to enjoy your life.”
The mega-festivals that are held in Chicago’s parks also have a negative impact on birds by destroying habitat and deterring them from landing. Gyllenhaal encourages people to help keep them out of the parks.
“Join a group that is trying to get the meg- festivals out of places like Douglas Park and watch who you vote for,” he said.
Gyllenhaal also holds nature-themed events and the next one in North Lawndale will be June 25th at Sunday’s on the Boulevard from 1-4pm. He and his wife will have a Make your Own Nature Museum booth and information and fun activities for the kids.
You can also follow Gyllenhaal and the birds of the West Side on social media. Check out the Nature in Douglas Park (Chicago), and Nature in Columbus Park (Chicago) facebook group pages.

CB Johnson Endorsed for 29th Ward Alderman by Cong. Danny Davis

At a fundraiser for CB Johnson, candidate for 29th Ward Alderman, Cong Davis spoke on his own service and why he is endorsing Johnson.

C.B. Johnson, CEO of Campaign for a Drug Free Westside is going for another run at the 29th Ward Aldermanic seat. He ran back in 2011 and 2019. Congressman Danny Davis who lives in the 29th Ward has endorsed CB Johnson for the new 29th Ward Aldermanic seat. Davis made the announcement on January 14.
There are currently three candidates on the ballot for that seat. They are current Ald. Chris Taliaferro, CB Johnson, and Corey Dooley. Since 1999, Johnson has been the CEO of the Campaign for a Drug Free West Side, helping to resolve major problems of people impacted by drug use.

CB held a fundraiser at his campaign office where Cong Davis was there to give reasons for endorsing Johnson. “I like people who go out and organize the community, be engaged and be involved. People who come up with stuff and do stuff. CB’s that kind of guy,” said Congressman Davis. … “and that is one of the things that elected officials need to do,” said Davis. Davis and some of his staff are residents in the 29th Ward. The ward consists of parts of six communities, Austin, and the other five (just north and west of Austin), Galewood, Belmont, Cragin, Dunning and Montclare.

Stated CB, “The Alderman’s job is a thankless job. It’s a part-time job. But I will be a fulltime Alderman. The best thing that you dan do is care about someone else. ….I don’t know what the other camp is doing but we can outwork them. I will work every single day. I will be someone working for what is in the best interest of the people they represent.”
Early voting starts from March 20 through Election Day on Tuesday April 4.

Alderman ChrisTaliaferro endorsed by local clergy

Pastors John Harrell, Marshall Hatch Sr., Steve Spiller ,and Leon Miller gave statements of support for Chris Taliaferro to be re-elected as Alderman of the 29th Ward. Also assisting Taliaferro as his Campaign manager is retired Water Reclamation Commissioner Barbara McGowan.

Rev Ira Acree, pastor of Greater St. John Bible Church located at 1256 N Waller Ave, Chicago hosted a clergy for Taliaferro Lunch Program.

The Montclare Supportive Living Community – Superbowl