Strawberry Mansion: Five People Making Positive Change
In a neighborhood where the mainstream media seems to primarily report stories of violence and drugs, these individuals have made it a goal to show the city that there is more to Strawberry Mansion than the negativity that is portrayed. Each of these five, along with many others, spend their days tirelessly working to improve their community.
The “Mayor” of Strawberry Mansion
Derrick Ford (above) is the self-declared “Mayor” of Strawberry Mansion. Along with his “mayoral” duties, he is a community liaison at the Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual Disability Services, serves on the city Parks and Recreation commission, and is the founder and director of the Strawberry Mansion Athletic Association. He has also hosted his own radio and television shows. “I’m a true believer in the community, and I love my community,” said Ford. “So that’s why I’m here today. Most people chase a paycheck, but if you chase your passion, a paycheck will chase you.”
President, Neighborhood Action Center
Charles Lanier (above) is the president of the Strawberry Mansion Neighborhood Action Center (NAC) Board of Directors. The NAC provides services to the community such as housing, food and even a computer lab. The NAC also offers energy counseling and energy conservation workshops, as well as budget counseling. “I’m very happy I grew up in Strawberry Mansion,” Lanier said. “I’m very happy to be able to come back and give back to Strawberry Mansion, give back to the community.”
Executive Director, Neighborhood Action Center
Lenora Jackson-Evans (above left) has many different roles within the Strawberry Mansion community. Along with her duties as NAC executive director, she takes on further responsibilities in her roles as treasurer for the Strawberry Mansion Community Development Corporation and as a member of the Strawberry Mansion Health Center Advisory Board. “We got a tagline that says, ‘Building community through empowerment,’ and that’s basically what we want to do,” she explained of the CDC, an organization that partners with property managers and developers to renovate the area.
Democratic committee member, 32nd Ward
Ebony Gilliam (above), daughter of Lenora Jackson-Evans, has lived in Strawberry Mansion for 36 years. She works with the community by doing outreach projects. Earlier this month, the committee gave out free food and school supplies to those in need. She hopes to work with people in the community to clean up empty lots and improve the overall image of Strawberry Mansion.
President, Community Development Corporation
Tonnetta Graham (above) began influencing the community of Strawberry Mansion through her role as an educator at the neighborhood’s high school. She now also serves her neighbors as president of the CDC, as a member of the NAC executive board and as the treasurer for Friends of East Park. As CDC president, Graham continues to ensure the organization pursues its stated mission “to promote sustainable revitalization through residential, commercial and economic development, historic preservation and the empowerment of the Strawberry Mansion community.”
– Text and images by Lizzy O’Laughlin and Cindy Stansbury