ABC 7 Chicago celebrates Black History Month

Tune in for a series of news stories, vignettes and 'Our Chicago: Spirit and Perseverance'

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Sunday, February 26, 2023
Our Chicago: Spirit and Perseverance
ABC 7 celebrates Black History Month by showcasing unique stories, cultural contributions of Black Chicagoans

ABC 7 CHICAGO celebrates Black History Month with vignettes, a series of news stories and a half-hour special "OUR CHICAGO: SPIRIT AND PERSEVERANCE."

Hosted by ABC 7's Cheryl Burton and Hosea Sanders, "OUR CHICAGO: SPIRIT AND PERSEVERANCE" showcases the unique stories and cultural contributions of Black Chicagoans. The half-hour program airs Saturday, Feb. 25, at 6 p.m. with an encore presentation the following day on Sunday, Feb. 26, at 11 p.m. and will also stream live exclusively on and ABC 7's Connected TV Apps on Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, Apple TV and Roku.

Burton and Sanders host the special from historic Liberty Baptist Church, located at 49th Street and Martin Luther King Drive. Built in 1956, Liberty Baptist Church served as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s home base during his "Chicago Freedom Movement." They will kick off the show highlighting the historic influence of Black churches in Chicago.

Vignettes featuring amazing, every day Chicagoans will be showcased throughout February on ABC7, including Englewood resident, guitarist and engineer, Edward Vaughn, "Rockstar E.V."; inspirational, dancing crossing guard, Tammy Anderson; bakery and candy factory entrepreneur, Stephanie Hart; author and advocate Leanne Stuckey; Loyola University's AfroDescent Dance Team and caretaker Jeannette Jordan, who reflects on her remarkable love story with her husband, Dr. Robert Jordan.

"OUR CHICAGO: SPIRIT AND PERSEVERANCE" highlights individuals and groups in the Black Chicago community with unique stories and community contributions including the following:

Chicago Freedom Movement: In 1966, Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife, Coretta, moved to Chicago, where he launched the Chicago Freedom Movement, the historic open housing campaign, which was Dr. King's first major protest movement in the North. The campaign focused on a broad, ambitious platform for Black America, according to author Jonathan Eig, who writes extensively about the Chicago Freedom Movement in his new biography about MLK, "King: A Life", which is slated to be published by MacMillan Publishing in mid-May. It is the first major biography about Dr. King to be released in decades.

"King's main goal was to call attention to inequalities that existed not only in Chicago, but in the North," Eig said. "Specifically, around housing and schools, but also around jobs."

The campaign had a major influence on Chicago - it brought Jesse Jackson to the city, where he launched Operation Breadbasket, the landmark organization dedicated to improving the economic conditions of Black communities, which later became Operation PUSH.

It also brought other major figures to the city, like Rev. Al Sampson, a minister from Massachusetts who was personally ordained by Dr. King, and who later became the longtime pastor at Fernwood United Methodist Church on the Chicago's Far South Side.

The special revisits this historic campaign with Rev. Sampson and Eig.

ABC 7 celebrates Black History Month by showcasing unique stories, cultural contributions of Black Chicagoans

Life is Sweet: Chicago has long been a mecca for candy and sweets manufacturing, from the Mars candy plant on the city's North Side to the Nabisco cookie factory on the South Side and the Ferrara Pan candy factory in near west suburban Forest Park.

Now Black business woman Stephanie Hart is joining that prestigious group. Hart used a $200,00 grant from a program funded by the Chicago Community Trust to renovated and repurpose the old Cupid Candies factory at 7637 S. Western Ave.

There, she has launched her own candy line, the Brown Sugar Live Is Sweet confectionaries.

Hart, the longtime owner of Brown Sugar Bakery, is making cakes, taffy apples, sweets and candy the factory. And she's distributing her product to many notable businesses, including Macy's Department Stores, Lou Malnati's Pizza and Garrett's Popcorn Stores.

"We are shipping nationwide, moving into airports," Hart said. "And we'll be opening up more retail stores in 2024."

In "Our Chicago: Spirit and Perseverance", we visit Hart at her South Side factory.

Chicago's "Notebook" Love Story - In Sickness and in Health:Pastor Jeannette Jordan and her husband Dr. Robert Jordan have long been one of the most influential African American couples in the Chicago area.

The Jordans have been married for 60 years and share three children. Jeannette continues to be a leading minister in the area. And Robert, now retired, is a historical figure in medicine in the city. In 1980 he became the first Black chief resident in pediatrics at Rush University Medical Center. There, he cared for families in the south suburbs for more than 35 years.

"I often reflect on the journey we went through," says Jeannette Jordan.

But the Jordans' union was put to the test a few years ago, when Robert was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.

Now Jeannette has now dedicated her life to caring for him.

"It's gradual and it's not gradual," Jeannette said of her husband's debilitating illness. "He's not verbal anymore. But my vows have kicked in. When I look at him, he's the same fine man I found in 1962."

ABC 7 celebrates Black History Month by showcasing unique stories, cultural contributions of Black Chicagoans

In "Our Chicago: Spirit and Perseverance", we visit the couple as they contend with their challenge.

Mielle Organics: In 1964, South Side couple Edward and Bettiann Gardner launched the Soft Sheen hair care company in Chicago. The business became a multi-million dollar operation, which was a staple in Black households throughout the U.S.

Chicagoans Monique and Melvin Rodriguez are following in the Gardners footsteps. Around 10 years ago, they launched their own hair and skin care business, Mielle Organics, in the garage of their Chicago-area home.

Now, Mielle Organics is a multi-million dollar business, with a 70,000 square foot warehouse in Merrillville, Indiana.

"There are over 10 to 20,000 orders that we process on a daily basis," Melvin Rodriguez said.

ABC7 Chicago's Val Warner visits the married duo in at their factory in Merrillville.

ABC 7 celebrates Black History Month by showcasing unique stories, cultural contributions of Black Chicagoans

Loyola AfroDescent Dance Team: At Loyola University, African American students who majored in dance were looking for an outlet to express their appreciation of African dance through the generations.

The result was AfroDescent, an African and hip-hop dance team. The group utilizes movement from ancestral Africa, using a variety of styles that have transcended from the African diaspora.

"As a diverse team, we seek to highlight the joyous and artistic expression of African Dance and showcase them to the Loyola community," said Taylor Shelby, the co-captain of the group. "Our sole purpose is to share the art of dance through the vessel of Black people with the broader Loyola community.

There's more on this group in "Our Chicago: Spirit And Perseverance".

ABC 7 celebrates Black History Month by showcasing unique stories, cultural contributions of Black Chicagoans

Faith Leaders Bring Credit Union to Austin Neighborhood: In Chicago's working class and low-income Austin neighborhood, one out of every three adults don't have a checking or savings account, according to the Chicago Health Atlas.

"We see everything leaving our community, going to other places," said John Collins, the pastor at the Great True Vine Baptist Church in Austin. "We don't even have a grocery store in the community."

To address this issue, Collins and other faith leaders at the Great True Vine Baptist Church in Austin are joining forces with investment banker Michelle Collins, who lives in the area. Together, they are planning to open a credit union at the Sankofa Cultural Center at 5820 W. Chicago Ave. in Austin. They hope to open this credit union later this year, John Collins said.

The group hopes that this, combined with financial literacy classes staged monthly by the church, will help bring financial stability to Austin.

"You look around and you see empty lots and empty buildings here in Austin," Michelle Collins said. "So we're hoping that the credit union can help turn things around."

ABC7 Chicago's Cheryl Burton talks with both Rev. Collins and Michelle Collins about this plan in the special.

ABC7 Eyewitness News will feature many compelling stories for Black History Month under the banner "Building a Better Chicago," including the following:

-Anchor Rob Elgas takes a trip to Funky Town, the first Black-owned brewery in Chicago.

-Reporter Leah Hope reports on the local mother behind Ida's Artisan Ice Cream. Her ice cream will be featured at the Museum of Ice Cream starting in February.

-Anchor Samantha Chatman investigates diversity in dispensaries, exploring the number of Black marijuana dispensary applicants in comparison to the number of approved applicants that obtain dispensary licenses.

-Race and Culture Reporter Will Jones highlights a local entrepreneur spreading positive messages through clothing.

-Reporter John Garcia delves into The Bears Organization to uncover the progress of diversity in their program.

-Traffic Anchor Roz Varon takes a trip back in time visiting an exhibit called "The Negro Motorist Green Book."