Friday, June 19, 2009

University of Chicago Construction Update

Monday, June 8, 2009 the University of Chicago held a Community Meeting to update residents on its University South Campus Plan. The $702 million dollar capital program includes the soon-to-be-open New Residence Hall and the Reva and David Logan Center for Creative and Performing Arts, that will be breaking ground this summer. Logan Center is a 450 seat auditorium designed to house music, cinema, and the performance arts space and personnel. It features two theatres, a cafe, art studios, digital labs, shops and rehearsal space. One of its many special features is a solar powered roof.

While this spectacular capital campaign in the midst of a poor economic climate seems counterintuitive U of C appears to be thriving despite the economic downturn. Its construction of new facilities increases its ability to attract and serve its student body that is drawn from all over the world. However, its neighbors are less than thrilled. Some of the concerns expressed by residents include:

noise (contractors are not honoring agreements about start and ending times); vibrations (monitors were installed but not monitored. They have since been removed); pot holes (Alderman Willie Cochran has asked for repairs and even offered to pay half the cost. But until the meeting he had had no response to his offer)traffic); residential buildings have sustained structural damage (one landlord reported $150,000 in damages to his buildind. Impact fees are available for damage and repairs); traffic; impact on health (including lead in the soil; the Alderman cited incidents of asthma and respiratory illnesses due to fumes from trucks); limited jurisdiction (to Evans - the initial promise was to expand public safety to S. Lawrence.However, public safety officers jurisdiction is only 1 1/2 blocks south and 3 1/2 miles east; blocked sewers (Sewer department is coming to clean the sewers at 61st and S. Woodlawn); There is already inadequate parking for existing residents problems No parking has been provided for the 811 bed residential hall. U of C representatives claimed that only 100 of the 300 students transferring from Shoreland own a car. First year students are not permitted to have cars. However, this seems a little short sighted even though residents were assured that a shuttle service will be available for students to 55th St. and that they really will not require cars).

Some residents speculated that 61st street would become a major industrial street. The University assured them that was not the case.

Considering the fact that some of the residents present had been living with these construction problems for years they were polite, amenable to generating solutions and willing to work with the University. Some of the solutions that were offered included:

reroute heavy traffic; provide list of minority contractors (The goal is 25% minority contracts); a minority apprenticeship program; Alderman promised to repair 61st stree if U of C repairs other streets; enforce weight ordinance for streets with school on it; detailed analysis on construction and operational analysis; asphalt and cement pads on streets where buses travel; host a meeting around economic impact issues as relates to Logan Ctr in partnership with Alderman's office and work with local businesses.

Malunda indicated that the garden located at 61st and Dorchester will have to be relocated due to the construction of the Chicago Theological Seminary (CTS.) The site will become a major staging site. The Alderman's office is working to find an alternative garden site.

Sonya Malunda, Associate VP Office of Civic Engagement of U of C promised to respond in writing to residents concerns by July 1.

The meeting was advertised as a one hour meeting to begin at 6pm. However, when I finally left at 8pm it was still going strong with only a few individuals of the more than 75 or so individuals having left. The majority of attendees were still asking questions of the U of C representatives.

One individual pointed out the symbolic turning away from the community that was he saw in the architectual design of U of C's plan. Evidently the original design featured the main entrace of Logan Ctr. on 61st. That has been redesigned.

The residents present appeared to be very savvy and know how to hold the U of C accountable. Nevertheless it was clear that U of C was going to proceed with its plan regardless to public opinion. The question is how successful can the community be at negotiating for some redress to its grievances and to what extent can it leverage its power to entice the Unversity to consider what is at stake.
Only time will tell.

blessings! Rev. Qiyaman

This trailer has been the home of several University of Chicago Public Safety Officers while their new home is being built across the street. They will be able to move in by the end of July.

This picture shows the newly constructed office building parking garage with office space for public safety. It is located at 61st and Drexel. Public safety will begin occupying the office space by the end of July, 2009

These pictures show the new residence hall and dining facility. It will have 811 beds and 541 seat dining. The students will start moving in September, 2009.

More pictures of the new residence and dining facility

Thursday, June 18, 2009

There is Not Only One Way to Express God

I believe that whenever we come together in a spirit of friendship and love we tap into a primordial expression of our yearning and inclination toward a God consciousness, our best selves. Thus, reaching out to family, friends,community and beyond allows us to express our higher and best selves. These opportunities generate a sense of universality and oneness. What powerful expressions of God! So while there exists a diversity of religious traditions and beliefs among us we can cultivate harmony and peace in the world by claiming the best of who we are and letting our inner light shine. Diverse theologies might express it with different concepts and in the end it is about being the best of who we are and generating life affirming circumstances. What legacy do you desire to leave the world?

Q. How might you express God/the Sacred/the Divine in your life?

Rev. Qiyamah, Falance from Burundi and Rev. Jill McAllister (minister in Kalamazoo, MI)

L-R Rev. Qiyamah in my beautiful dress. This was a gift from an Atlanta friend, Wilda.Thank you so much for spreading your good taste!

L-R BJ Holmes (sister), Libra Finley (oldest daughter) and James Finley (Libra's father)

L-R Walter (Libra's partner) and Libra preparing a nutritious and tasty dinner at the home that they are making for themselves.

Seniors Steppin' Out in Atlanta

The fact that we are seniors, my sister, BJ Holmes, her friend Wilda hadn't crossed my mind as we gathered for a day together. And yet that fact influences our lives in a variety of ways. How one gets about and what form of transportation are based on ones level of ability/disability. Where one can go and how long for a senior is based on ones stamina and how the body is feeling on any particular day. Responses to how are you? might be followed by, "a day above ground is a good day." If this sounds morbid it does not have to if one fully embraces life as senior with gusto.

The "S" word - senior can be a wonderful time of life if we get on top of things and make some adjustments. Exercise, nutritional eating, a strong and healthy support network and fulfilling work - paid or unpaid can keep an individual vital and rejuvenated. A healthy outlook helps maintain a life sustaining perspective during the senior years. Identifying those issues that you might need to pay particular attention to can determine whether your senior years are a blessing or curse. In the days to come I will be talking about life as a senior and posting some reflections. Meanwhile, join me on a day in the life of three seniors.

So, we got together for a day on the town. It started with a big breakfast at the Helene S. Mills Multi-purpose Facility where we had a great breakfast $3 for individuals 60 and over and $2 for 55 years and under. The Facility is quite impressive. Go to for a look. It has a staff of 35 ranging from the Senior Services Manager to the Yoga Instructor. Activities include clubs such as book, bowling, gardening, and toastmasters. Classes, too many to name ranged from computer classes, aquatics to foreign languages.

Wilda and BJ signed up for a spiritual health and wellness class. All three of us had chair massages for $1 a minute. I was greedy and had a 15 minute one. From there we went downtown to pick up some information from the Council on Aging. If you are a senior 60 and over then you may want to investigage what services and benefits are available to you.

We ran some errands that included a trip to the bank and CVS. I enlisted BJ and Wilda's assistance on a shopping excursion to help me find a couple of outfits.Life on a fixed income for some seniors means really pinching pennies and being frugal. Planning for the future is important. Fortunately, I am still working and investing into my 401k.

Shopping made us hungry and so we drove over to Fish Supreme in the West End. By then it was time for me to head home so I could pack for my flight back to Chicago.

I had a great weekend visiting with family.Perhaps next time I will even get to see some of my friends. lol

As a single woman that will celebrate my 61st birthday this year, living a full life is the important lesson I leave you with. I saw individuals at the Mills Facility doing exactly that! I invite you to think about what that would look like for you.

Q. When was the last time you took time to just enjoy life and do nothing? What are some ways that you can keep doing that? What would need to happen for more leisure time and family time to be available to you?

Blessings! Rev. Qiyamah

The sign reads, "Proudly Made in Georgia"! Like most cities in our country seniors constitue a large percentage of the population in Georgia. So besides peanuts and peaches, Georgia grows its unique brand of seniors. Come with us for a day in the life of a senior.

Every community should have a Y. The intergenerational focus of the Y allows a diverse age spectrum to receive services. Programs like theY also help to build community by bringing community members together in healthy and constructive ways.

Affordable housing is an essential component to ensuring seniors quality of life. The Renaissance is a seniors building where my sister lives. She has a nice 2 bedroom apartment with 2 baths that she has comfortably furnished. The building is fully staffed and includes a staff person responsible for generating activities. Besides apartments, the building includes: a beauty salon, laundry rooms in the individual apartments and communal laundry space, library, outwork room, community center, and a media room. Rent is based on ones income.

Ms. BJ Holmes. If you want to know anything about seniors then this is the lady to ask! She is a strong advocate on behalf of seniors and you want her on your side in a fight! While she wears many hats her work as Chair of the Commission on Aging is some of her most important and rewarding work.Seniors call her for everything from how to idenify services to helping to fill out paperwork.

L-R BJ Holmes, Rev. Qiyamah and Wilda Lunching at Fish Supreme on Ralph David Abernathy in the West End. Their fish is supreme! It has no ambiance. It is small but nice and clean.

I met this gentleman at the Mills Multipurpose Seniors Center. He is a widower and has five daughters. I asked him to show me his scape book that his daughters had given him for his birthday. He is retired from the Board of Education.

The Mills multipurpose Senior Center is a place where seniors can come for classes ranging from computers to spiritual healing which my sister, BJ signed up for. We had a delicious breakfast for less than $4 each. The building is very nice and I could see myself utilizing its services if I were a senior and if I lived in Atlanta.

Seniors were signing up for classes through a lottery system. My number was called and I gave it to BJ.

L-R BJ Holmes and Dr. Ayers. He was there to advertise his chiropractic services. He and Betty hit it off!

James Finley, my oldest daughters father at her and her boyfriends house cooling out.

Bro. Jabari, a masseur, is working his magic.

Wilda, a friend of BJ's and resident of the Renaissance.

BJ watching a movie at the end of a long day. In a little while she will head home and start all over again tomorrow.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Africa International House USA, Inc

I am delighted that the Africa International House (AIH)has located in my neighborhood, Woodlawn, in Chicago, IL in the 20th Ward. Woodlawn is a community in transition that has the best and worst of neighborhoods that is evolving out of years of economic neglect and urban blight. The best is the development of businesses, housing and services that are being attracted and created in the area. The worst is the gentrification that displaces long term and lower income residents who are being priced out of the area by middle class professionals drawn to the area. Many others have already been displaced as a result of the vast urban development that has left multiple empty lots that scatter the community. The upside of all this development is the community is slowly turning around. The downside is that the residents that have endured years of neglect and high crime and slow and no response from law enforcement and government will not be able to reap the benefits because of increased property taxes. Many apartment buildings are converting to coops whose average cost begins around $200,000. The Alderman, Willie Cochran and his Chief of Staff, Karin Norrington-Reeves have assured concerned citizens that affordable housing is a high priority in the development plan.

One of the newest residents attracted to the Woodlawn Community is Africa International House (AIH). AIH seeks to expose and educate people in the Chicago area to the individual works and collective contributions of African culture. I stumbled upon the newly located AIH in the Harris Park Recreation Center located at 6200 S.Drexel where I take water aerobics. At the time they were featuring their Traditional African Art Exhibit which ran April 17-May 2, 2009. The Exhibit included sculptures in wood, bronze and stones from the following ethnic groups: Igbo, Baoule, Senufo, Bobo, Dogon, Bambara, Dan-Kpelle, Shona, Nupe, Yoruba, Edo, Pende, Barnum, Tchokwe and Baga. While the objects reflect many similarities they also depict the functional aspect of art in African cultures. Dayo Laoye, Curator maintains the following about Shona sculpture,"All Shona sculpture maybe understood as a spiritual expression. The interaction between carver and stone is an interaction of spirits-each enhancing and elevating the other within the spiritual continuum of all life."

AIH has projected an itinerary into the end of the year that includes some of the following: art exhibits, dance workshops, history, music and drum classes, African Diaspora Film Festival, social networking, sports (soccer), art and craft marketing, reading and writing festival and photography exhibit.

One of the biggest annual events hosted by the AIH is the African Festival of the Arts. The 20th Annual Chrysler Financial African Festival of the Arts will continue its summer tradition that features hundreds of vendors that represent a full continuum of wares and products from the African world. It has become on of the key venues for not only African music but it also features world music representing diverse genre.

Above are some pictures I took during my most recent visit when I attended a presentation that AIH hosted for dance instructors from recreational centers in Chicago. The event, complete with music and food was intended to expose the dance instructors to African dance in the hope that they would include it in their existing repertoire. For more information on AIH visit their website at:

Q. How are you nurturing your cultural roots? What have you done recently to support the cultural arts in your community?
Blessings! Rev. Qiyamah A. Rahman

Monday, June 1, 2009

Youth Expo: a Summer Kickoff!

One of the fun aspects of my job as Director of Contexual Ministry at Meadville Lombard Theological School in Chicago is that I get to attend meetings of community organizations and community events. I took the pictures below in May when the Alderman's office co-sponsored a Youth Expo along with Pasha Hunt-Golliday, Executive Director of Washington Park & Area Homeowners Association. Pasha did an outstanding job attracting vendors that ranged from health services, early childhood development centers, literacy, Housing Authority (featuring a scholarship program, entrepreneurial youth organizations (one bought their silk screening apparatus and demonstrated silk screening while also selling their wares).

Pasha and I both serve on the Alderman's 20th Ward Women's Auxiliary. There were so many things going on the day of the Youth Expo that none of the other members were able to attend. They were off doing other things. I had offered to staff a resource table for the Women's Auxiliary. So I put together a flyer for the table, went by the Alderman's office and gathered up some resource materials for the table. A large number of new books and magazines were donated for the table that we gave away as freebies. I made a sign and that attracted a lot of traffic. While we had a lot of vendors the Expo did not draw as many youth as I am sure the promoters would have liked.

The Women's Auxiliary was started by Alderman Willie Cochran. The focus of the Women's Auxiliary is youth, parent involvement and literacy. We have identified a school that has a parent safety patrol program that needs to be expanded. We have targetted the school to focus on to help increase the parent involvement.

So what does all this have to do with what I do at the School? It is all about building relationships in the community and getting familiar with the resources.

Question: What is your involvement in your community? How do you give back and show your support? How might the gifts that you have to offer benefit the community?
Blessings! Rev. Qiyamah

l-r Sista Muhammad, a former Olympic track medalist and Willie Cochran, 20th Ward Alderman and retired policeman

Willie Cochran, 20th Ward Alderman - Cochran was elected last year and replaced a black woman Alderman that is being prosecuted for mismanagement of funds. People speculate that she will go to prison. He is doing a great job and I am observing politics on the ground. It appears that short of the Board of Education that Alderman and City Council are the most accessible route to civic involvement for citizens that want to be directly involved in influencing county and city government.

One of the vendors provided free massages for the Expo participants.

left - Pasha Hunt-Golliday, the organizer of the Youth Expo

This is the flyer that I created for the table I staffed. It is a simple skill using microsoft word's template and clip art. I created and printed the flyer at the Alderman's office. He has promised flyers and a banner for future events! I plan to hold him to it!


vision from the past! My locs are no more. picture taken in Charlotte, NC during a dinner at which My sister Betty came to visit me around 2006.

Changes are afoot in my life beginning with my hair. My locs are no more. Sista Niela, a Yoruba Priestess faciitated an intense ceremony to cut my locs off. The ceremony included invoking the presence of the sacred and divine, prayers and thanks before and after my locs were cut. This was followed by dancing and music. Sista Niela ushered me through this important ceremony that allowed me a greater appreciation of the need for increased
prayer and devotion during this period of change in my life.

Question: What in your life do you need to let go to move to the next level in your life? Who do you need to invite into your life to help facilitate that change?

Blessings! Rev. Qiyamah

Office of Sankofa - Chicago, IL 2007

May 30, 2009 short fro - Getting ready for changes in my life! l-r Qiyamah and Kaleema (daughter) in Austin, TX

2006 Qiyamah with an afro at former home in Charlotte, NC

Sista Naila doing her magic!

Lookin' good! Ready, set, going for my new look and new life!

Teaching Pastors Advisory Group

Changes are always challenging. However, the Teaching Pastors Advisory Group has facilitated the transition toward our New Meadville Lombard Education Model. The role that the Teaching Pastors have been assigned is that of theological coach for students. They are partnered at the onset of the student's matriculation until their completion of the Masters of Divinity (MDiv.)

We salute these pioneers as they work to ensure excellence in ministry!
Blessing! Rev. Qiyamah

l-r Rev. Emmy Lou Belcher, Qiyamah A. Rahman and Brian Covell

l-r background Rev. Brian Covell and Rev. Dr. John Tolley foreground Dr. Sharon Welch, Provost

l-r Rev. Dr. Susie Pangerl and Rev. Emmy Lou Belcher

Mother's Day in Mo Town!

I had an opportunity to hang out with family in Detroit this past Mother's Day. It is always a pleasure to see my family and particularly those I see so seldom and to catch up on graduations, birthdays, report cards, new babies, new houses, cars and other accomplishments.Besides still having my mother around who is sound of body and a strong prayer warrior it was good to see my sister-in-law, Sandra healing from recent surgery. We are all holding her in prayer.

May our family continue to grow stong and come together !
in love, laughter and friendship
Blessing! Rev. Qiyamah

see below some of the beautiful faces of a few of my family members!