Hundreds of miles away from home and away from the issues that afforded them an opportunity to be in Washington, D.C., two Chicagoans starting new chapters in their own lives were on an expense-paid trip to witness the historic swearing-in of the nation&r
Hundreds of miles away from home and away from the issues that afforded them an opportunity to be in Washington, D.C., two Chicagoans starting new chapters in their own lives were on an expense-paid trip to witness the historic swearing-in of the nation’s first elected Black president.
Last year was a good one for John Henley. For Cynthia Long, this year she has hope.
The Stafford Foundation, as part of the People’s Inaugural Project, provided accommodations and activities for Henley and Long to be in D.C. after the Chicago and National Urban Leagues selected them to go.
At age 15, Henley got a bitter taste of homelessness after his parents divorced.
Never in one place too long, Henley changed addresses and schools a number of times growing up.
“I grew up quicker than I wanted to. So at the age of 15, I was probably like 22,” he told the Defender in an interview at the posh J.W. Marriott hotel in Washington where he was staying.
He’d spend the next decade of his young life trying to recover from that experience.
“I spent a lot of my time just surviving on a day-to-day basis,” Henley, now 26 years old, said.
He sold drugs for a “brief period of time.”
“I always knew that that wasn’t the right way. All while I was doing it I felt bad about it. But beforehand it was just rough,” he explained.
But then came the turning for him. February 2008, an uncle told him about a special program offered through the Chicago Urban League. It would prove to be a defining time in his life.
“What the Urban League did was give me some direction, it was like a navigational tool,” he said.
Henley said he lacked direction for the better part of his life. In fact, it wasn’t until he was an adult that the question of what he wanted to do or what he wanted to be in life was even posed to him.
“That was the most aggravating part of growing up …I never had an ideal thing. All I knew was work … I wanted to make it to tomorrow or make it to my next check,” Henley said.
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