A quick google search will tell you quite a bit about Diane Latiker and how in 2003 she started Kids off the Block with the encouragement of her mother, as a way to keep connected to her youngest daughter Aisha and her friends. Diane started with no plan to become an official business or organization, she was just trying to do something with the kids in her neighborhood. She spent an afternoon talking to them, listening to them, and discussing the issues that they were enduring such as: gangs, abuse, absentee fathers, poor grades, and fears of violence. After that first afternoon, she knew what she had been called to do. That day, she vowed to give the kids all that she had to show them a better way.
As time went on she would have the kids in her house as she helped with homework, others were writing raps, and doing various things to stay productive and off the street.. On occasion she would even invite the parents over to see what the children were working on. What started with her daughter and her friends began to grow and before she knew it she had kids sleeping on her floor and she became a surrogate mother to many. That’s the short and sweet story of how Kids off the Block was born.
On this May morning in 2020, I had the chance to catch up with Diane and I chatted with her about the current work that she is doing. We had a brief but impactful conversation.
When Diane answered my call she was on the go. You see we are currently in the middle of a pandemic and she has work to do. Diane and her team, which consists of her husband James, sister Tammy, and Dawn Valenti are busy preparing to serve the residents of Chicago. For the last month or so they have been providing meals, hand sanitizer, masks, and gloves to those in need. With the help of the community and organizations such as Rainbow Push, they have been able to deliver necessities to nursing homes, hospitals, community centers, and even to those on the streets.
The Kids off the Block team is delivering over 500 meals a day to the residents in Chicago. They are truly a blessing to many. Talking to her for just a short period of time will make you want to do your part or do more. When I asked her how she came up with this plan her reply was so authentic, she said “There is nothing major or magical about helping people, you decide what you are going to do and you roll.”
I went on to ask her how she determines where the help is needed. She said that the need is great and organizations have been reaching out to them with requests. Diane and her team do their best to fulfill the requests that they receive, however there are never enough supplies. Their days begin early as they prepare to make and or assemble the items to be delivered for the day. On an average day, they are in the van as early as 9:30 am until as late as 6:00 pm traveling from the far south suburbs all the way across town to the west side of Chicago, making stops in several communities in between.
Diane is leading by example. She sees a need and develops a course of action. We want to thank her for her continued commitment to people. Diane Latiker is a community hero that you should know.
If you would like to help to provide supplies for the community, there is a constant need for hand sanitizer, gloves, masks, and face shields. Monetary donations are helpful as well. To connect with Diane or to learn more:
I was deep in thought at my favorite coffee shop, “Sip and Savor”, located in the heart of Chicago’s Bronzeville community on 43rd st. I heard a steady stream of people coming into the shop and making a bee line to the table of an unassuming well dressed man who seemed to be adored by most everyone who passed through. I looked over at him as I sipped my caramel apple cider, and continued on with my work. Imagine my surprise when I was asked to interview Philip Beckham III, in the midst of researching him I was finally able to put a name to a face and everything clicked. Of course Philip Beckham III would be the center of the universe in Chicago’s iconic Bronzeville community, he was not only an early supporter of Sip and Savor, (previously known as “The Sip”), he was embarking on changing the landscape of the community with his development company P3 Markets. His inaugural project is aptly named 43 Green and is a 91 unit 27 million dollar project located on the south side of 43rd and Calumet Ave just steps from the 43rd st CTA Green Line stop.
I asked Philip what prompted him to get into development, his answer went back generations, his grandfather Philip Beckham was among one of the first Black licensed contractors in Chicago in 1918. Equipped with a sixth grade education and a no holds bar attitude he formed PL Beckham and Sons, his grandfather’s company transformed the Morgan Park community by building more than 50 homes, and rehabbing countless properties in the Black Belt of the city. In 1966 with only 2 buses and a vision Philip Beckham II founded Beckham Transit, a school bus company that shuttled school children across the southside of the city. His company grew from a two van operation, to a major player in transit, with more than 100 buses and dozens of employees, Philip Beckham III sold the company in 2010 in a deal that would have made his late father proud.
In 2016 Philip founded MSBARC (Mid-South Business Association and Resource Center), a non-profit with an aim to build Black businesses to scale by walking them through the important steps needed to create, maintain and expand their operations. To date MSBARC has impacted over 200 businesses. Philip displays his commitment to his community by helping to create a strong business corridor in the Black Belt, similar to the one that existed in the 1900’s. In 2018 he received a call from Alderman Pat Dowell informing him that no one had responded to her RFP (Request For Proposal), for a swath of land that had been vacant for years. With no development experience, Philip saw an opportunity that he couldn’t pass up. Philip envisioned a plan to anchor what he refers to as, “Downtown Bronzeville” with affordable, accessible, chic housing that combines Black culture with access to fine dining, hip boutiques and entertainment venues. After months of rejection from developers he found a partner who shared his vision. The Habitat Corporation and developer, Juan Saldana partnered with him to make his vision a reality. Months after cementing his partnership, Philip secured the 27 million dollars needed for the project, and will break ground in 2021, a world wind turnaround time in the development world.
I asked Philip about the fears that some in the Black community have raised about being priced out of the housing market, his response was that there are many apartments affordably priced in Bronzeville. The problem is that in the social media age, young people want to pivot from college to half a million dollar homes and that’s just not feasible. His advice, live in a smaller affordable space until upgrading to a larger space is sensible. By remaining focused and practicing fiscal restraint home ownership in the Black Belt will be within reach. Philip knows a thing or two about focus. He has fond memories of working for his fathers transit company from, cleaning and driving buses with his brother to sitting at the helm of the company. He believes that there are levels in life and one must appreciate them while climbing the ladder. He continues his legacy by having his twin daughters and son accompany him to meetings with developers and city officials. Continuing his family legacy of uncovering opportunities that have a lasting impact on this generation and the ones to come.
Black Firms stepping up to help stop carjackings
The move comes amid a spike in carjackings and is meant to ease the minds of women and seniors from feeling like easy targets while pumping gas.
To combat a rash of carjackings, a private security firm will be stationing guards at gas stations in areas of the city and suburbs that have been particularly hard hit.
William Kates, CEO of Kates Detective and Security Agency, said that beginning Friday between 25 and 30 guards would be posted at various gas stations, mostly on the South Side, in an effort dubbed “Operation Safe Pump.” The guards will be in security vehicles with the lights flashing between 6 and 8 p.m.
The operation is expected to last for 30 days but could be extended.
Kates is partnering with Ald. Stephanie Coleman (16th). Kates said he will be paying for the service.
“This is to help seniors, as well as women, to feel safe at service stations when they pump gas,” said Kates, who wasn’t sure if the guards would be armed.
The guards will be meant “more to deter than to detain,” Kates said during a news conference at an Englewood gas station at 59th Street and Ashland Avenue, the site of a Christmas Day carjacking that left a 63-year-old woman uninjured but badly shaken.
“No one is exempt from this other pandemic,” said Coleman, who called on other security firms to join in the effort.
“Our police department, they’re doing the best they can, and we’re just here to help,” she said.
Early Walker, who owns W&W Towing and runs I’m Telling Don’t Shoot, an anti-violence organization, said he came up with the idea because his company, through contracts with various police departments, regularly tows carjacked vehicles that are later found abandoned.
“I talk to a lot of victims, and I often hear, ‘I got carjacked at a gas station,’” said Walker, who reached out to Coleman to get the ball rolling.
The alderman said she hopes “Operation Safe Pump” helps change the narrative that some people have of Chicago being “crime, guns and violence.”
A list of the gas stations where guards will be located is expected to be posted at www.imtellingdontshoot.com.
Chicago Police Supt. David Brown said Thursday there had been 144 carjackings since the beginning of the year.
The skyrocketing figure from the first three weeks of 2021 comes after the number of carjackings more than doubled to 1,417 carjackings in 2020.
Friday night, at a town hall meeting for the 2nd police district — which covers South Side neighborhoods such as Hyde Park, Oakland and Washington Park — police reiterated they are taking every step they can to stem the tide of carjackings and offered tips for residents to stay safe: Namely, pay attention to your surroundings.
Police also warned residents not to get in their vehicle and spend time on their phone or with other distractions, and to never leave their vehicle running unattended. They noted the majority of carjackings across the city are being perpetrated by teenagers who use the vehicles to commit other crimes, or simply take them on a joyride.
“We’ve got to put our arms around the entire community and reach out to those young people who might be on the edge of falling in with a bad crowd … to say, ‘Hey, this is not a game, somebody can get hurt,’” said Glen Brooks, the department’s director of public engagement.
“We are scared to death of a tragic instance where, one, a victim gets hurt or killed, and two, that one of these children will think this is a game and point a weapon at an officer, and we have tragic circumstances.”
‘Black-Owned Business’ signs show solidarity in communities hit hard by looting
After large-scale protests in response to the death of George Floyd devolved into violence and looting downtown and in surrounding neighborhoods, many small businesses in Chicago have been hurt by property damage and inventory loss.
Keeana Barber, owner and CEO of WDB Marketing Group, said she was distressed to see businesses damaged, especially knowing that many black-owned businesses were among those affected. After a conversation with a friend about what could be done to help protect local businesses, Barber realized she could use her unique skill set and resources to help.
The Roseland native enlisted her company’s printing services to produce signs that read “Black-Owned Business” and “Don’t Destroy Our Black Business,” and set to work distributing them to stores, particularly on the hard-hit South and West sides.
“I was heartbroken to see so many black-owned businesses get looted,” Barber said. “I don’t know how much [the signs] will protect some people. … I think, more than anything, it gives people pride, unifying them in something they can stand for.”
On Monday, after printing about 500 signs, Barber posted photos of them Facebook and urged business owners to come pick one up if they wanted to display it. She was flooded with offers from volunteers to help hand them out, and inquiries about donating to help cover her printing costs.
As of Tuesday, hundreds of storefronts on the South and West Sides — along with businesses in the south suburbs — were displaying her signs in their windows.
“I didn’t expect it to be that popular,” Barber said Tuesday, adding that she had since printed another 250 signs to keep up with demand.
“What I love about it is that it’s not just us; we’re a vehicle for people who are saying, ‘Hey, I just want to give these out in my community. I want to give [black-owned businesses] something special to have, and to be proud to identify themselves.’”
Vanetta Roy, owner of Surf’s Up South Shore, a restaurant that specializes in seafood, noticed someone had placed a sign in her window when she came in Tuesday morning.
“I saw it and I said, ‘Thank God,’” Roy said. “We had no idea this was happening.”
Barber says her goal isn’t to drive would-be looters to other businesses, but to send a broader message to the community about solidarity.
“I support all small businesses,” she said. “But at the same time, I am going to give my businesses the support to identify themselves. There’s nothing wrong with identifying ourselves to protect ourselves.”
Article Sourced from Chicago Sun Times –
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