Part II of a special joint report of the Weekly and the Hyde Park Herald
Linda Thomas has lived in Woodlawn for seventy years.
About ten years ago, Maya Hodari says, she noticed an uptick in burglaries on her block, 65th Street and Drexel Avenue. In response, she and several other people living on her street formed a neighbors’ association, which began a series of projects—beautification, Clean and Green days, homeownership promotion—in an attempt to change the street for the better. One product of the group’s work with other Woodlawn residents was the Woodlawn Community Summit, an annual one-day neighborhood gathering entering its tenth year.
Nicole Johnson is one of between five and twelve candidates (depending on how petition challenges shake out) running to replace outgoing Alderman Willie Cochran in the 20th Ward, who has been indicted on corruption charges. The ward is made up of parts of Woodlawn, Washington Park, Englewood, and Back of the Yards. Johnson lives a block west of Halsted in Englewood—in the same house she grew up in—and has worked across the city: as a third grade math teacher on the South and West Sides, a consultant at Magic Johnson’s education nonprofit the Academy Group, and at community development nonprofit Teamwork Englewood. She’s also a peer advisor at the Obama Foundation, and volunteers with Alpha Kappa Alpha and the Chicago YMCA.
Jeanette Taylor first began thinking about a run for alderman after a September 2017 event with the Obama Foundation. Taylor, a local activist with the coalition calling for the Obama Foundation to accept a Community Benefits Agreement for its Presidential Center, asked the first question of Obama himself. (It came as a surprise: she didn’t know he’d be showing up to talk to the audience by video call.) The former president’s response to her request for a CBA was disappointing. If the center announced they might sign one, he said, “next thing I know I’ve got twenty organizations that are coming out of the woodwork.” “He got a lot of nerve saying that,” Taylor told Politico last year.