Heroes in the Hood: Phillip Jackson to be honored on program’s 25th Anniversary

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Phillip Jackson

Crusader Staff Report

Phillip Jackson is a crusader who just won’t quit. While Black America has cooled after the arrest of two Black men at a Philadelphia Starbucks, Jackson is turning up the heat on the coffee house chain. In this issue, he presents an open letter that keeps Starbucks under the national spotlight as it continues to develop its image as an inclusive company that respects customers of all colors. But Jackson wants to make sure their word is good to the last drop.

For his efforts and to acknowledge a storied record of community activism, Jackson will be honored at this year’s Heroes in the Hood observance. Sponsored by GoAirport Express and the Chicago Crusader, the Heroes in the Hood program celebrates its 25th Anniversary this year. Honoring Jackson will be a fitting tribute to a program that has reached a significant milestone.

The Heroes in the Hood ceremony will be held May 21 at the DuSable Museum of African American History. The celebration begins with a reception at 5 p.m. before NBC Channel 5 Journalist Art Norman takes the podium as Master of Ceremonies during the awards presentation at 6 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

The 25th anniversary celebration will honor adult and youth heroes of 2018. Jackson, who is founder and executive director of the Black Star Project, and Melissa Washington, Vice President of External Affairs for ComEd, will be honored as this year’s Role Models.

Jackson founded the Black Star Project (TBSP) in 1996 to provide educational services that improve the lives of less-advantaged Black communities  and to close the racial academic achievement gap. TBSP accomplishes its mission by educating, organizing and mobilizing parents and volunteers, and working with community partners to facilitate a wide variety of solid programs, high-visibility campaigns and other special initiatives.

After receiving a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy, with honors, from Roosevelt University in 1974, he was quickly promoted from stock clerk to assistant manager at Kroch’s and Brentano’s Book Stores, where he had been employed since 1969.

During his 24-year career with Chicago’s oldest bookstore chain, he climbed to the position of Senior Vice President of Operations. He helped build and manage the company but parted ways with the other executives when they turned on the employees, denying them their hard earned pensions. Motivated by these injustices, Phillip led, financed and won a class-action lawsuit that restored pensions to wrongfully terminated employees.

After leaving Kroch’s & Brentano’s, he worked in the Office of Budget and Management for the City of Chicago and became Assistant Budget Director within six months. In the Budget Office, he led the Quick-Pay task force that took action to make sure that all vendors (especially minority owned enterprises) doing business with the City of Chicago were paid in a timely and proper fashion.

In 1995, he joined the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) transition team with Paul Vallas. During his five-year tenure he served as Deputy Chief of Staff, Director of Intergovernmental Affairs, and Chief of Staff. Jackson helped CPS achieve the highest number of contracts in Chicago history with businesses owned by Blacks, Latinos, and women.

In 1999, Jackson became the CEO of the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA). During his dynamic stewardship of the CHA, Jackson negotiated a $1.6 billion deal with the federal government to transform public housing in Chicago with a focus on residents’ quality of life, not just the bricks and mortar.

Following this concept, Phillip Jackson worked to improve the living conditions in public housing for the youth residents, he even made certain that all children received gifts of books around the holiday season. His hands-on approach included driving to every building multiple times each week to talk with residents and to take note of the status of the grounds and repairs.

He designed an award-winning summer school program from which 92 percent of failed 8th-grade participants made sufficient summer progress to be promoted to high school. The average success rate for the same population citywide hovered around 63 percent.

Before Melissa Washington ascended to the corporate ranks of ComEd, Washington served as chief of staff to the executive vice president of finance and legal at Exelon in Chicago.

A glimpse into the path she climbed provides an unquestionable explanation as to why Washington is being presented with the Honored Role Model Award. Although she has spent more than a decade between Exelon and ComEd and is now the V.P. of External Affairs and Large Customer Service at ComEd, Washington’s tenure with the energy giant has always included relationship building and a community service role.

Prior to becoming a Vice President of Corporate Affairs for Exelon, she served as Vice President of Regulatory Policy and Strategy for ComEd, where she managed the utility’s relationships with the Illinois Commerce Commission and its staff, as well as other regulatory bodies.

Before joining ComEd’s regulatory team, she was the Director of Investor Relations for Exelon. In that role, she was responsible for developing compelling messaging to convey Exelon’s value proposition, strategies, financial results and current and future financial, operational and regulatory performance drivers to the financial community. Washington communicated with investors and members of the financial community on a regular basis regarding current issues and events that impacted Exelon and its subsidiaries, as well as the broader industry.

In her current position at ComEd, Washington leads the External Affairs and Large Customer Service organization in continuing to build strong relationships with municipalities and communities, as well as large customers. On any given day of the week, weekend, or evening – Williams may be seen actively participating in ComEd’s commitment to the community. From volunteering at charitable events to spearheading community initiatives, Washington continues to make a positive impact.

She has an MBA from the Keller Graduate School of Management at DeVry University and a B.A. degree from Lewis University.

BUSINESSMAN LARRY HUGGINS smiles with youth who received bicycles for their service and activism in their community.

Founded in 1993 by GO Airport Express, the Chicago Crusader and the DuSable Museum, for 25 years Heroes in the ‘Hood has recognized and rewarded outstanding teens from economically disadvantaged Chicago neighborhoods. Since the program’s inception, more than 400 Chicago teens have been honored for donating their time and talent to their communities.

In 2008, the program added a new award called “Stop the Violence,” which acknowledges a principal, teacher, counselor or community leader who has made an extraordinary effort to promote non-violence through school or an organization-based program.

The programs culminate in an exciting awards ceremony attended by youth applicants, school representatives, city officials, aldermen, media, community leaders and other VIPs. In the past, the event has received pre-event, on-site, and post-event media coverage on television and radio stations, and in daily and community papers.

Some 25 nominations have been submitted from individuals and community organizations.

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