|Attendees at a Sabbath dinner to mark the end of the first Chicago Sukkah Design Festival cover their eyes during the lighting of candles Friday night.
Mrs. Chris Brown, a lady of a certain age and that age is private, thank you very much, insists the honorific must be used before her name: “Mrs. Brown.”
“Everyone in North Lawndale knows me as ‘Mrs. Brown,’” she said, forcefully enough that, while I did make a stab at explaining the rigidities of newspaper style, for today it seems both prudent and polite that the rule book be set aside in recognition of a force greater than itself.
Mrs. Brown, elegant in a bright red jacket, butterfly pin and pink cancer awareness ribbon, came up to Chicago from Mississippi by way of St. Louis in the 1960s. She remembers contract buying, redlining and the way Blacks were jammed into tightly constricted areas where they were forced to occupy substandard apartments at jacked-up rents.
“Coming from the South, I got an apartment of my own,” Mrs. Brown tells a group of about 30 gathered for Sabbath dinner Friday night at the Stone Temple Baptist Church on West Douglas Boulevard.
“If I told you what that apartment looked like, nobody in this room would believe me. It was in a six-unit building, an apartment designed for one family that was cut apart for multiple families. Our apartment was two rooms of that unit, the back part, which was a kitchen and a little bitty bedroom. ... Filthy. Dirty, dirty, dirty. I mean, dirt like outside, that took me weeks to really clean. Got it clean. Got a job. Started to work. Went on from there.”
Including her current work to improve North Lawndale.
”Our goal now is to get homes where people can live with dignity and pride,” she said.
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