CHICAGO—The Diane Latiker Fierce Over 40 Awards Gala took place at The Park Supper Club in Chicago. The brunch event, themed “In Honor of Women of Washington Park,” was a perfect fit for the honorees.
Ten amazing and fierce female community activists within the Washington Park area received acknowledgment and awards for their tireless work.
Ms. Latiker is founder and president of non-profit Kids Off The Block Inc., an organization that provides recreational activities and educational opportunities for young people primarily in the Roseland neighborhood.
A mother of eight and grandmother to over 20, Ms. Latiker has opened her home to 3,000-plus children over the years. “I am one of those women holding down the community, and I just want to acknowledge other women, specifically Black women who are holding down their communities,” she told The Final Call.
“I decided five years ago that I wanted to honor women in each community. We have to let everybody know that they are there … nobody else will. We honored the women of Roseland first, then the women of Englewood, then the women of South Shore, and then we started looking at the women in Washington Park. We want to make sure that women are holding these communities down, during the violence, during the pandemic. Women deserve to be acknowledged.”
The youngest of Ms. Latiker’s children, Aisha Latiker, is a recruiter for Kids Off The Block and organized the brunch for the women of Washington Park.
Aisha said the occasion marked the fourth annual event honoring women throughout Chicago in different communities for the work they do. “We wanted to shine a light on the women, no matter the status, no matter the age, no matter the color. We allow the community to nominate which women in their communities that should be honored, through a poll on social media. Once the women are selected, we send invitations out to them,” Aisha said.
Honoree Lakeisha Gray-Sewell is founder and director of the nonprofit Girls Like Me Project. The organization serves Black girls specifically, helping them to understand the sociological, political, and ideological messages found in media and the negative stereotypes that are promoted and directed to Black girls.
“We help them to understand what policies are impacted and influenced by these negative messages, how these negative messages help to impact their own sense of self-worth. We also help them to understand how their ambition and what they want to do in life is shaped by media messages. We give them the tools and the power to create their own narrative and reclaim their narrative and represent themselves in the media in a positive light,” stated Ms. Gray-Sewell.
Sandra Bivens has dedicated over 25 years in community service through assisting with access to affordable housing and economic development. “This is fabulous, fabulous because when you do this work you don’t look for nobody to pat you on the back because it’s not a job, it’s not even a career, it’s your passion in life. We’re trying to make change happen in our communities,” Ms. Bivens said.
Paula Robinson has served the community for over 30 years through community development work; Cecilia Butler is a lifelong Washington Park resident, activist and currently serves as president of the Washington Park Advisory Council and the Washington Park Advocacy Council. Both women were honored at the brunch.
“The event was special and reflective for me because it fell on the Juneteenth and Father’s Day weekend,” said Ms. Robinson, who runs the Bronzeville Community Development Partnership and the Black Metropolis National Heritage Area Commission. “Initially, I was thinking that it’s so much going on. I’ve been involved in the community for over 30 years.”
“When I got the call that I was invited to be part of this event, I was proud as I can be, because I’ve seen Diane on television getting awards and I know the work that she has done, and to be acknowledged, amongst people I know well, thank you,” stated Ms. Butler.
Jennifer Maddox, a Chicago police officer for over 27 years and founder of Future Ties, a mentoring group, told The Final Call: “I have followed the work that Mama Latiker has done over the years. She’s been a change agent; she’s been inspirational; she’s paved the way.
I want to stress that when we’re doing the work, we cannot forget about our parents … because our parents are the foundation of these young people. We have to mold these parents as well. We have to nurture their parents; that’s when we really start seeing a change in our young people.
“We’re trying to make a change,” she continued. “Be that change agent to change the culture of this violence that’s plaguing our communities. It’s a war on our young people and we’re trying to take our streets back.”
For more information about Kids Off The Block and Diane Latiker, visit www.kidsofftheblock.us.
Shawntell Muhammad can be contacted at [email protected]