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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.

Former Phoenix Player “Z” Jones Living his Basketball Dream

By Todd Thomas

North Lawndale College Prep was on top of the Chicago-area basketball world between 2006-2009, winning a state and city championship in the process. The Phoenix weren’t stacked with star athletes, relying instead on a team of role players and unyielding defense.

Point guard Zilijin Jones was the team captain and leader on the court for most of the run, and while the five-foot nine floor general didn’t put up eye-popping statistics, he was valued for his toughness, basketball IQ, and leadership skills. This package of skill and effort would earn him a college basketball scholarship, and eventually a successful career playing professionally around the world.
Jones has played in the Dominican Republic, Morocco, Spain, El Salvador and China on his basketball journey. He said traveling the world gives him a unique perspective on certain aspects of life in the United States.

“The United States is very isolated and closed-minded. People think America is the land of the free, but here is where you usually end up putting yourself in debt. People work a billion hours on a job to obtain a big house with a white picket fence and a nice car. But what I learned is that you can get the same things in other countries for a lot cheaper without going into so much debt,” Jones said.
But it’s not just his financial awareness that grew while living abroad. He also bolstered his intellectual and cultural knowledge while traveling and living in different countries.
“The biggest plus to playing overseas is being exposed to other cultures,” Jones said. “I speak Moroccan, French and Spanish now – all because I was overseas. I was always focused on going overseas, and I never had any dreams of playing in the NBA. I knew what I wanted to do, and I always wanted to go overseas to play.”
However, playing basketball overseas is not all about experiencing other cultures. It’s about performing on the court and doing your job for your ball club that matters most.

“You have to be professional. A lot of Americans show up overseas and lose sight of why they’re there. You can’t just go clubbing every weekend. You have to remember that they signed you up to come over there to play basketball not to come experience their country. And if you’re not performing, they will send you home,” Jones said.

North Lawndale College Prep has built a solid reputation as a school that prepares it’s student for life after high school, and Jones said that his involvement in extracurricular activities there helped him succeed. “Outside of basketball at NLCP I was sent to a lot of Phoenix Rising programs that had me interact with different ethnicities and studying different religions and cultures. Every summer I went to programs out of state and that gave me a broader and better outlook on life, and I was ready to adapt to college,” he said.

Jones credits former NLCP head coach Lewis Thorpe, as well as mentor Lauren Foster, for helping him develop his skill and mentality on the basketball court.
“I owe my work ethic to coach Thorpe, and my toughness to Lauren Foster who already had me tough since I was in eighth grade. She and coach Thorpe helped me develop the mental aspect of the game and holding others accountable on the court. These are the things that have helped me succeed in basketball. I owe Lauren Foster everything,” he added.

Jones currently lives in Florida as he awaits the return to normalcy on the basketball circuit once the COVID-19 pandemic finally subsides. He isn’t interested in being overseas with the pandemic still raging, and many basketball leagues in other countries are playing without foreigners now.

Jones grew up on the west side of Chicago, not far from the NLCP Christiana campus, and recalls a lot of crime and gun violence that still plagues the community today. It’s been several years since he called Chicago home, and he said he doesn’t miss the trouble he’s seen on the streets of North Lawndale.

Another Phoenix standout basketball player, Jonathan Mills, was gunned down in 2016 in front of a store on Roosevelt Road in North Lawndale, and that tragic murder still weighs heavily on Jones, who was Mills’ cousin and whom he considered a brother.

“Right now, my brother (Mills) being killed is something I’m still not over. I try to stay away from Chicago because there’s nothing but bad memories for me. I’m in an area in Florida now where my car door is unlocked, and my keys are in the dash. I don’t have to worry and that’s what life is about – none of this craziness. It’s much more relaxing and pleasant here and overseas without living with your head on a swivel because you don’t know what’s coming next, Jones said.
Next for Jones will most likely be another stint playing overseas. His options are Spain, Russia or France, with France being his first option. And why not – he’s already played in Spain, so why not continue exploring the world playing the game he loves.

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FBRK Impact House to help serve the South and Westside of Chicago?

FBRK Impact House, pronounced (fab*rik) is a philanthropy hub tailored and designed to serve and support the philanthropic community by providing a place where granting organizations can work together, share ideas and resources, and operate with greater efficiency. It was the vision of former Chicago Bears defensive lineman Israel Idonije.

FBRK Impact House opened its doors just before the pandemic shutdown on March 1, 2020 which was the official grand opening with the following organizations signed on as long-term tenants: Forefront; Woods Fund of Chicago; The Field Foundation of Illinois, Inc.; United States Artists, Inc.; A Better Chicago; Chicago Public Library Foundation; Pillars; Children First Fund; Knight Family Foundation; The Academy Group; Gupta Foundation (Avani Narang); Public Good Partners; Enrich Chicago. The following entities are Access Members (Utilizing Work Lounges and Open Space): Baum Foundation; Comerstone Foundation; Comer Family Foundation; Verizon; Healthy Communities Foundation; and Crown Foundation.

Last year, because of the coronavirus pandemic, Impact leaders within Impact House community responded with over $50 million in COVID-19 relief funds. Also developed was the Mapping COVID-19 Recovery project which standardizes data through a series of maps that illustrate where public, private and philanthropic sector investments are going in BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) communities devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The map can be accessed through the FBRK website listed at the end of this article.
With the goal of strategic reinvestment and recovery to close historic funding gaps and rebuild stronger communities, the project seeks to correct history by strategically and collectively targeting investments in Chicago communities and suburban municipalities that are majority non-white (80% or over), and high poverty (25% or over) meant to be representative of how historically non-white communities have faced many of the same forces of structural racism that left them more vulnerable to a pandemic like COVID-19. Field Foundation President Angelique Power adapted the idea from the Field Foundation’s use of heat maps to illustrate divestment of resources and funding gaps that are geographically in Black and Latinx neighborhoods.

FBRK Impact House has another initiative. TRECC, the Technology Renewable Energy Command Center, a full-service mecca for entrepreneurs, businesses, and innovators building in the following industries: Renewable Energy, Technology, Finances, E- Commerce, Arts, Entertainment, and Lifestyle. It will facilitate communities in developing resiliency to climate and economic changes, while building a technologically innovative workforce. TRECC will weave together workspace, education, mentorship, workforce development, dining, entertainment, hospitality, and wellness to serve small businesses, entrepreneurs in every community TRECC abodes.
TRECC’s on site innovation center will offer focused skills training, job placement, and workforce development in the cyber security – advanced manufacturing & transportation – coding-hardware & software – finances- e-commerce- robotics – animation – hydroponics – automation industries. TRECC’s technology and renewable energy focused operations will offer an enhanced application of skills training and job placement programs for underserved communities. TRECC will make its debut in Chicago’s Historic Motor Row district. The Motor Row District is a historic district in Chicago’s Near South Side community area. Motor Row includes buildings on Michigan Avenue between 2200 and 2500 south, directly west of McCormick Place convention center. The district was built between 1905 and 1936 by a number of notable architects.

FBRK Impact House and TRECC are currently seeking State support from the governor and the state legislature. To leverage government support with public and private support to help achieve the goals outlined in their plans. A resolution has been sponsored by State Rep LaShawn K. Ford, 8th District and State Senator Rep. Emil Jones III, 14th District. It is currently up for hearing in the House Economic Opportunity & Equity Committee, where Representative Nicholas K. Smith (D) 34th District is the Chairperson, on May 19, 2021 at 3:00PM and it is in the Assignments Committee of the Senate Chamber, where State Senator Kimberly A. Lightfoot, 4th District is the Chairperson. Details of the resolution from State Rep Ford on the State website can be located at, then search under Resolutions for HR0263. For more information on the FBRK Impact House and TRECC, go to their website at You can also contact State Senator Jones and State Rep Ford for more information on the state level support.

About the Emergency Broadband and Computer Benefit for Individuals and Families

Clean Energy is for Everyone

What the Illinois Clean Energy Jobs Act is about

By Zaki Amir

Imagine Chicago, burning coal as its only source of electricity and then you realize that it is not the most efficient technology nor the healthiest. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration as of 2019, about 4,118 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity were generated at electricity generation facilities in the United States. About 63% of this electricity generation was from fossil fuels, coal-23.5%, natural gas-38.4%, petroleum-0.5%, and other gases-0.3%. About 20% was generation from nuclear energy. About 17.5% was generation from renewable energy sources, hydro-6.6%, wind-7.3%, biomass-1.4%, and solar-1.8%.

Non-renewable resources are also known as finite resources because they are natural resources that cannot be easily replaced by natural means fast enough to keep up with consumption. The term fossil fuels refer to coal, petroleum, and natural gas that are transformed from its original organic matter through heat and pressure becoming oil or gas.  Ground water in certain aquifers which only mean a layer of permeable rock, sand, or gravel through which ground water flows, containing enough water to supply wells and springs can be used to produce energy too.

Renewable energy comes from the sun, wind, biomass and geothermal energies and is based on the use of panels utilizing the sun, fans using the wind, and water used to power mechanisms that create hydropower, or tidal power in the use of the sea and wave power with radiant energy from geothermal heat used to create geothermal power. These are generally considered infinite and cannot be depleted.

Wave energy on the coastline could provide 1/5 of the world demand and hydroelectric power could supply 1/3 of the total energy needs for the planet. Geothermal energy could give 1.5 more times the energy needed and wind power could give 30 times over the needs of human consumption with solar at this time providing 0.1% of the demand for energy to the planet. If used properly, solar power could yield 4,000 times the power needed by 2050.

The Clean Energy Jobs Act is legislation to create Clean Job Workforce Hubs which are a network of organizations looking to provide support to disadvantaged and minority communities. Support in this context is also about renewable energy jobs that are much needed.

Sponsored by Sen. Scott Bennett, D-Champaign, and Rep. Carol Ammons, D-Urbana the bill is supported by the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District and the Prairie Rivers Network a state affiliate of the National Wildlife Federation aims to dramatically cut carbon emissions by making Illinois 100 percent renewable by 2050 through the installation of more than 40 million solar panels and 2,500 wind turbines in the coming decades. Rep. Carol Ammons said, “We’re trying to tie the job training programs to the actual industry and get people working,” and continued by saying, “We also want to make sure that this bill has the ability to make it affordable for people who live in low-income communities and seniors.”

The 365-page bill known as the Clean Energy Jobs Act or as (CEJA) creates long-term answers to our public health and economic challenges as a response to the Covid virus that has disproportionally affected Afro descendants and Latino citizens with higher death rates, more unemployment, and poorer air quality. It is created to achieve more equity in the placement administration and operation of coal-fired electric plants and strive towards environmental justice for all.

The idea in a nutshell is to commit Illinois to 100% renewable energy by 2050 and moving away from inefficient unclean, dirty expensive energy of the past while providing employment for Illinoisans’ that shows reduction in pollution from gas and diesel vehicles as early as 2030 reflecting the understanding that the planet is in trouble due to climate change and a better way of providing energy has to come into reality.

Sen. Scott Bennett, D-Champaign, said, “Given the current federal administration’s lack of leadership on growing clean energy economies, Illinois must create a path forward to ensure that both the jobs and economic benefits created by smarter energy and transportation come to our state,”

State Sen. Cristina Castro, D-Elgin, and Rep. Ann Williams, D-Chicago, introduced the Clean Jobs Act that came from the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition, a network of environmental groups, healthcare professionals, businesses and has been received favorably by Gov. J.B. Pritzker and deserves serious attention from the electorate as a beneficial piece of legislation that will help save  $2.6 billion in cumulative consumer savings over the next decade.



Covid-19 Rising again in Chicago and Illinois

Illinois Covid rate at 5.7% Chicago 14.9%, while Zip Code 60623 is at 22.3%

Chicago and the virus has started to spike again. Even though Covid-19 has restricted and minimized the freedoms of many Americans there are many who do not take the spread of the virus seriously and don’t abide by the restrictions.
Governor Pritzker has put into place new levels of restrictions because of the sprike and Mayor Lightfoot has promised more if improvement is not realized.
In the last 7 days Illinois has had 44 deaths and of that 44, Cook County had reported 9 people die because of Covid-19: 1 male 40s, 1 male 50s, 3 females 80s, 1 male 80s, 2 females 90s, and 1 male 90s. The total number cases in Illinois reached 360,159 deaths came to 9,387.
The City of Chicago as of the October 21 reported 91589 cases and 3,022 death. The positivity rate is now at 14.9% as of Oct. 17. What is alarming is zip codes such as 60632 is at 27.9 % positive, 60629 at 27.5%, 60638 at 26%and 60623 is at 22.3%, according to the city’s Dept of Health. These are the highest in the City of Chicago.

Student Athlete Alexis Haywood

By Todd Thomas

Alexis Haywood, a sophomore point guard for the Truman Community College women’s basketball team and a graduate of North Lawndale College Prep High School recently sat down with the North Lawndale Community Newspaper to discuss her basketball career and academic goals as she works toward her associates degree, and pursues her goal of playing basketball at a four-year university amidst the coronavirus pandemic.

NLCN: After playing basketball at North Lawndale College Prep (NLCP) why did you want to continue playing on the collegiate level?

Alexis: I want to be a pro and I love the game, so I started to take basketball more seriously in high school. And watching my brother Carlos (Carlos Hines, also a NLCP graduate plays at Northern Arizona University) and my role models in the WNBA and NBA made me want to keep getting better, so college was the next step for me.

NLCN: What about your relationship with the late North Lawndale head coach Lewis Thorpe?

Alexis: I wrote a paper once and coach Thorpe called me into his office and told me he was going to put it in the school newspaper – that was my first time meeting him and he asked me if I played basketball, and I said yeah. After that he became like a godfather to me. My relationship with him was smooth and he was my motivation. I wish I could have one more conversion with him, but the last conversation we had he told me to not give up and to keep hooping, because there were times I wanted to quit playing basketball. But once he passed away I promised to keep my word and keep pushing for him.

NLCN: What was your experience as a basketball player and student at North Lawndale?

Alexis: It was a good environment despite what was going on at times in and around the school. We were like a family and I want to go back sometimes. The energy is good there and you have a great support system. They’re not going to let you down and I felt like they were leading me to better things. The coaches stayed on me, but it was tough love and it was a good experience to play for them. But I played on junior varsity first and the competition wasn’t as good as varsity. Varsity is tougher and more intense, and I needed the experience going up against teams like Marshall on the varsity level.

NLCN: Why did you choose to attend Truman Community College?

Alexis: I was at Kennedy King first, but it didn’t work out over there with me and some of the coaches, so I contacted coach Glover at Truman. At first me and my mom were concerned about transportation because I live far away and she didn’t have a car. But coach Glover said the Red Line drops you off right in front of the school so I was like boom – alright I’m ready to go, and started the transfer process from Kennedy King to Truman. Now I like it over here. Coach Glover is one of my biggest supporters and he motivates me as well. I wish this was a four-year college.

NLCN: What was the 2019-20 season like for the Falcons?
Alexis: We went through a lot this season. We started with a full team and ended up with five girls. I’m proud of what we did. We played through injuries and played through it as a family. We did what we could with five girls, and our record could have been better, but we’ll take it. I love my teammates and we did what we could. We stuck together and we have a great relationship.

NLCN: What are some of the challenges of both studying and playing sports?

Alexis: There is a lot of responsibility. You have to focus on academics and once you’re done with that you’ve got to refocus and think about your sports. It’s a lot of pressure but having the support from my teachers and my coaches and my teammates gets you through it. It doesn’t stress me out that much but it is a big responsibility. But if I was a regular student it would be boring. When you have a sport that you love that’s what makes you want to come to school more – that’s what motivates you to get good grades so you can keep playing.

NLCN: Tell me about the change to remote learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic?

Alexis: Taking online classes is sometimes easier as far as being able to use your notes, especially if you have the resources you need. But it’s not good in terms of physically communicating with your teacher. It was better to be online for the most part and at the end of the spring semester we only had a few weeks of e-learning, so it wasn’t that bad finishing the semester online. But when you’re at home you do have to focus more because you want to watch TV, and you want to go out so basically it comes down to discipline.

NLCN: The gym and fitness center at Truman were also closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, how did that affect you?

Alexis: It hit hard because we had been in the gym for the whole season – it was difficult to deal with. When you’re an athlete you want to be in that environment, you want to put in the work and you want to be in the gym. Right after everything closed down all the gyms were closed so I just worked out at home doing whatever I could do. Just working on my body and not playing basketball.

NLCN: There is a real possibility that there won’t be a basketball season for 2020-2021. Are you prepared for that?

Alexis: I was hesitant to stay at Truman when I first found out we weren’t going to have a season. I was already doing bad in some of my classes with basketball, and now without basketball what will happen when I don’t have basketball to motivate me to want to keep up my grades. But after talking to coach Glover and AD Green they encouraged me to stay. They said that since I don’t have basketball I can really focus on my grades and possibly get into a good school that I’m interested in. So I decided that I might as well finish because I want to graduate and go to a university.

NLCN: Are you concerned about staying motivated through the school year without basketball?

Alexis: It’s going to be hard, but all I can do is try. My coaches and AD are there for me, so I think I’m going to be good. I don’t see coach every day like I did but talking over the phone still helps – it doesn’t matter if it’s on the phone or in person. Just to know that you have your coaches there to talk to is all that matters. But it is difficult sometimes because before the pandemic I was at school or in the gym in a good environment. But now I’m just at home and there are so many negative activities going on around me. I just have to discipline myself to stay positive and stay focused on my goals, and not give in to what goes on around me.