It was cheers and tears all around when Chicago Defender staffers gathered last week to bid a fond adieu to Jimmie Wright, 83, and to celebrate her retirement after 31 years of dedicated and exemplary service as the newspaper’s cashier.

It was cheers and tears all around when Chicago Defender staffers gathered last week to bid a fond adieu to Jimmie Wright, 83, and to celebrate her retirement after 31 years of dedicated and exemplary service as the newspaper’s cashier. Indeed one of our favorite co-workers, she will certainly be missed, especially by those of us who stopped by her office on a daily basis to chit-chat – and most of all to surreptitiously dip our hands in the inviting, over-sized candy jar she kept filled to the brim on her desk. At the surprise party, a tearful Mrs. Wright was presented with a lovely retirement card, a sparkling, bejeweled crown denoting her royal status as our “Queen for the Day” along with a framed commemorative Defender front page centered with her portrait and a border signed by fellow employees. Standing at her side was her doting daughter, Avis, who challenged us all to stay in touch with her mom either by visits, by letters and/or by phone. Also joining in the retirement celebration: Robert A. (“Bobby”) Sengstacke, son of the late John H.H. Sengstacke, a former Chicago Defender editor-publisher, and Bobby’s daughter, Myiti, who both lovingly call the honoree “mother,” a testimony to “family-like” relationship.

We will miss you terribly, Mrs. Wright, as you have officially retired from our midst after over three decades, but we are holding you to your promises to drop in “every now and then” as a volunteer and to please come bearing candy.

The native of Louisiana (she was born and bred in New Orleans) is a proud graduate of Dillard University where she earned a bachelor’s degree in English. She moved to Chicago with her mother after the death of her father. Her husband, a former Chicago police officer, died after 59 years of marriage.

AKArama ‘08–"An Evening at Moulin Rouge," Theta Omega chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority’s annual benefit, is Oct. 18 at the Hyatt Regency Chicago hotel. Beginning with 6 p.m. cocktails, the night includes dinner, raffles, a silent auction and entertainment: Midnight Star Band, saxophonist Marqueal Jordan, Fresh Oil (blues and funk) and DJ Cisco Douglas. The grand raffle prize: seven-days at Oyster Bay Beach Resort in St. Maarten; and in the silent auction over 50 items, including one-of-a-kind memorabilia, airline tickets, weekend stays. Karen Haggerty, chair, says this year’s $90 a ticket event will celebrate both AKArama Foundation’s 28 years of service and the sorority’s Centennial Year. For tickets, contact her at 6220 S. Ingleside, Chicago 60637, (773) 363-6220.

Jazz Joint–Award-winning artist Najee performs and five folk receive coveted Freeing the Human Spirit awards when Habilitative Systems Inc., celebrates its 30th anniversary at “Jazz with Pizzazz 2008” Saturday at the Hyatt Regency Chicago. Honorees saluted “for continuing to enhance the lives of those less fortunate” are Ill. Senate President Emil Jones, Deputy Governor Louanner Peters, Ill. State Rep. Arthur Turner, Carol H. Williams (president/CEO of the giant advertising agency that bears her name) and the Rev. Dale Kelley, pastor, Clair Christian United Methodist Church.

With two platinum and four gold albums, Najee is a pioneer of contemporary jazz (a combination of jazz improvisation and R&B). Performing with him will be jazz vocalist Marguerite Mariama. Spearheads: Lynn Norment, fundraising committee chair; Cynthia Washington, HSI board chair; Donald Dew, president/CEO. NBC 5’s Art Norman and Ch. 9’s Micah Materre are emcees. Corporate sponsors: U.S. Cellular, State Farm, Rite-Way Construction Services, UPS, Ralph G. Moore & Associates, ABC Bank, American Family Insurance, Rush University Medical Center, Affordable Housing Corp. For tickets, call Sharon Moreland, (773) 854-8313.

Newsy Names–Media sis Leila Noelliste, former Defender reporter, has joined the Kankakee Daily Journal as a reporter, photographer and assistant to the senior editor.

Happy b’day to a long-time pal Troy Yates, who’s 75 and “glad about it!,” and to Mary Kensey, mom of communications guru, Barbara Kensey, who will celebrate her 90th year at a gala gathering on Saturday afternoon at Harambee House

Hats off to a fave friend, Atty. Jerome Butler, who has served as chief operating officer of the Ill. Dept. of Human Services since 2003. He’s been appointed by Gov. Blagojevich as the IDHS’s assistant secretary of operations. Before joining the department, Jerome was vice president, general counsel and chief operating officer of Sengstacke Enterprises and general counsel for Chicago Housing Authority. He received his B.A. in business administration from Fisk U. and his J.D. from Columbia U. Congratulations, Jerome! When’s the party?

But Never Forgotten–Condolences to the family and friends of Onikwa William (Bill) Wallace, 69, photojournalist and cameraman who died Oct. 1 from lung cancer. Active in the Civil Rights Movement, he chronicled the lives and experiences of activists, jazz musicians and street scenes, and captured American life as he covered the James Meredith March Against Fear through Mississippi, recorded other landmark marches and rallies, and contributed photographs to the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee and Muhammad Speaks newspapers. Beginning in 1979, he spent four years as a photographer for the Chicago Defender and filmed independent works ranging from documentaries to feature films. In Memphis, Onikwa worked as circulation manager and photographer for our sister newspaper, the Tri-State Defender, was a news cameraman for WHBK-13, wrote, co-produced, filmed and edited segments for Dateline Memphis, a weekly public affairs program, and operated a photography studio specializing in advertising and public relations. He also documented events and points of view from war-torn Liberia in West Africa, Navajo Reservations of the Southwest, resettled Hmong people of Minnesota and the temple of a voodoo priestess in New Orleans.

He founded BW Productions and his clients included DuSable Museum, McDonald’s, Kraft Foods, Independence Bank and others. His work was featured in several prominent traveling exhibits: Black Jazz produced by DuSable Museum and Eastman-Kodak, Black Aesthetic hosted by the Museum of Science and Industry, and Two Schools produced by Kenkeleba Gallery in NYC. In a large commissioned exhibition, Onikwa chronicled the work of the Public Defender’s office from the courtroom to Cook County jail. Additionally, his photos of jazz and blues legends were featured in a solo exhibit at eta Gallery.

Several of his images appear in Black Photographers 1940-1988: An Illustrated Bio- Bibliography by Deborah Willis-Thomas. Other career highlights: two African American erotica exhibits at the Ascension Gallery in Washington, D.C.: Afrodisa and Natural Beauty: the Aesthetics of the Black Nude. Prints from Afrodisa were later featured in the show, Sexing Myths, at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. His jazz photographs were exhibited in the first-ever jazz-themed McDonald’s restaurant and at Graystone International Jazz Museum in Detroit. More of his images were included in the book, A Century of African American Art: The Paul R. Jones Collection, edited by Amalia K. Amaki and published by University Museum, University of Delaware and Rutgers University Press.

Over the past 40 years his photographs have been seen in the Chicago Defender, Globe, People, Ebony, Jet, Commercial Appeal, N’Digo, Savoy, Jam Sessions, Home Furnishings Daily and Women’s Wear Daily. He’s been the recipient of several national awards, including Best News Photo of 1972 from the National Newspaper Publishers Association and the Dr. Martin Luther King Award from the National Association of Black Journalists.

Onikwa’s lifelong fascination with images began when his uncle and mentor, Ross Shannon, gave him a camera for his 10th birthday. Onikwa’s Services are Thursday at Cage Memorial Chapel, 77th and Jeffrey. Visition, 10 a.m.; funeral, 11 a.m. What a loss!

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Sisters, have you had or scheduled your yearly mammogram? If not, please do so immediately! It could save your life!

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