I can think of several theme songs that can be our soundtrack for Chicago’s wet and dreary weather. From New Edition’s “Can You Stand the Rain” to SWV’s “Rain,” I’m gearing up for clearer skies and better “sunshine” fused theme songs. But, the funky weather has not halted activities around the windy city.

Chicago is a “get up” and “make it happen” kind of town, and when you don’t work, you don’t “eat.” The work is going into the Obama Presidential Center as both President Barack Obama and Mrs. Michelle Obama will join Mayor Rahm Emanuel and community leaders for a community event at the South Shore Cultural Center on Wednesday, May 3.

The constant message of the center being more than a “building or a museum,” the Obama Presidential Center will be a working center for civic engagement and a place to inspire people and communities to create change. According to an official statement, “President Obama will host a roundtable discussion to update the community on the progress of the Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park and hear directly from members of the community on their ideas for the Center.”

Expect community stakeholders from surrounding neighborhoods to bring up the concerns of a community benefits agreement—as residents worry about the prospects of eminent domain, rising property taxes and escalated gentrification in the Jackson Park and Woodlawn communities (see Cover Story on page 2).

Across town, ESPN network will be hosting espnW in Chicago on Wednesday. The all-day conference convenes female leaders in sports, including athletes, agencies and brands, for a series of panel discussions, networking and breakout sessions. This is the second time the event has been hosted in Chicago and will be held at Revel Fulton Market in the West Loop business district.

That Boy Illinois performs on the Taste of Chicago Bud Light Stage.

One of the highlights of “Summertime Chi” is the Taste of Chicago. The nation’s largest food festival will celebrate 37 years of non-stop food, fun and music in Grant Park July 5-9. The City announced the festival’s headline music performers which includes more soulful talent attractions—Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals on Friday, July 7 at 5:30pm and The O’Jays on Sunday, July 9 at 4:30pm.

There’s a short list of R&B and Hip Hop acts headlining the Petrillo Band Shell at this year’s Taste compared to last year’s line-up, but to keep the diversity card—an R&B/Hip Hop Day has been added to the Bud Light Stage on the first day of the festival. If you want to enjoy some fabulous Chicago urban talent including Chicago Made A&R winners That Boy Illinois and Justin Ruff—then you better make sure to catch the first day, which historically has been the “lightest” day in attendance at the Taste.

The Chicago Defender’s Women of Excellence awards ceremony will take place in a new location, the Marriott Hotel Downtown on the Magnificent Mile, this Thursday, May 4. We are excited to recognize and honor 50 Chicago African American women at a special high tea affair bringing together the city’s “movers and shakers” in business, community, education, finance, tech and performance arts. Expect some surprise guest speakers and public officials making the rounds. Hint—local and statewide elections are never far away in Illinois.  Ladies bring your “best” attitude, rock your sharp business attire and keep business cards plentiful.

Speaking of powerful and strong Black women—if you haven’t heard by now—Ms. Janet Jackson took to social media on Monday to announce her new “State of the World” tour. The Gary-born mega-star is in the middle of divorce proceedings with her soon-to-be ex-husband, Wissam Al Mana. The couple shares a beautiful son, Eissa, and the tour will honor all “rain check” ticketholders who purchased tickets for cancelled “Unstoppable” tour.

Live Nation announced tickets for the Chicago show at the Allstate Arena on October 26 will go on sale May 5. From the intimate Chicago Theatre to 18,000 seat Allstate, huh? This production should be “brand new” EVERYTHING—including a brand-new Janet and possible additional musical guests. 

R&B singer, Ledisi

Celebrity Sightings

Less than five minutes away from the Defender event, South of the Marriott, will be a special evening with Soul singing sensation Ledisi at the Chicago Cultural Center. The one-on-one talk with the Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter is a prelude to the Gospel Festival and will be moderated by Grammy nominated recording artist Jonathan Reynolds. BMI Vice President, Writer/Publisher Relations Catherine Brewton will join the discussion.

Birthday Wishes & Shout-outs

Happy belated birthday wishes to Cook County Board Commissioner Deborah L. Graham who celebrated on May 2. Illinois State Outreach Director for Gov. Rauner Vince Bass; and music industry manager Brandon Evans celebrate on May 3. Continued Taurus love goes out to Comedian/actor Jay Deep, Kellie Moore, DJ Nieana Drake, DJ Nell Seven and my friend Randy Scott holding it down May 5. Mom manager to television star Dante Brown and Chicago native, Joyce Kelly-Brown, kicks it up on May 6.

Public Announcement band mate and R&B singer Fel Davis; Zumba queen Tara Campbell; veteran House music promoter Ronda Flowers; and Chicago businesswoman Dawn Milhouse will celebrate in raw bull style on May 7.

A special birthday shout-out to Pastor Rev. James Bass as he celebrates his 97th birthday this Sunday, May 7 at 2nd Mt. Olive M.B. Church. Wow…how many of us pray that we can see, touch, breath in nearly a century of life on this earth? Send your love to the Bass family this weekend.

Father Clements celebrates 60 years of priesthood.

Congrats & Promotions

Father Clements will celebrate 60 years in priesthood with a stellar celebration on May 3 at the Hilton Chicago hotel. He became the first Black priest at Holy Angels Catholic Church in 1969. An active supporter of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.—he was an advocate of the Civil Rights movement when his life was captured on screen for a made-for-television movie, The Father Clements Story. Being the first priest to adopt a child—he has adopted four sons and is the grandfather of eight.

At 85-years-young, he continues to show his commitment to Catholics and the Black community, advocating peace against the heighten violence on the streets of Chicago.

Congratulations to Ariel Investments president Mellody Hobson, wife of film mogul—George Lucas. Hobson was named as the Chair of The Economic Club of Chicago effective July 1, 2017.

Ariel Investments President, Mellody Hobson.

“I am delighted that Mellody has agreed to serve as chair of the Economic Club,” said Ilene Gordon, the current chair. “Mellody has been an active member and has served on the board of directors for several years. The Club has 90 years of history filled with dynamic discussion among some of the world’s most critical thinkers. Mellody shares the board’s vision for continuing to build on this history for the Club’s future success.”

The Southsider joined the independent, nonprofit organization nearly 20 years ago as one of the youngest members to join the group. Despite the city’s loss of the Lucas Museum, due to the “c**k blocking” of Friends of the Park—we hope to see more of Mrs. Lucas on the scene and in the mix. She is an epitome of the importance of giving back while exemplifying class, grace and style.

Prayers and Condolences

We mourn the loss of a friend to The Chicago Defender, Real Times Media and National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) long-time member and publisher John B. Smith, Sr.

Mr. Smith was the publisher of the Atlanta Inquirer—one of the leading Black publications serving readers in the Atlanta metropolitan area for decades. A former Chairman of the NNPA, Mr. Smith passed on Thursday, April 27 in his hometown. He will continue to be admired and missed by many publishers, journalists and community stakeholders. Our condolences and prayers to his family, staff, friends and those he touched through his tireless commitment to serve his community.

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