Four Englewood teenagers coerced into confessing to a rape and murder they did not commit before being exonerated by DNA evidence will divide a $31 million settlement from Chicago taxpayers, one of the largest in the city’s history.
Michael Saunders, Vincent Thames, Harold Richardson and Terrill Swift were between 15 and 18 when they were arrested for the November 1994 murder of Nina Glover. An autopsy concluded that the 30-year-old prostitute had been strangled. Her naked body was discovered behind a liquor store at 1400 W. Garfield wrapped in a bloody sheet and stuffed in a dumpster.
In 2011, a judge overturned the conviction of the “Englewood Four,” freeing Richardson and Saunders after they spent 17 years behind bars. Swift and Thames, who served more than a dozen years, had already been released.
“These were four young men who no way possible they could have committed the crime they were manipulated and coerced into confessing to. They all spent . . . over a decade in prison for something they didn’t do. The number is very large and the magnitude of the injury is very large,” said attorney Locke Bowman, who represented Swift.
Bowman said the $31 million settlement would not have been possible if former assistant state’s attorney Terence Johnson hadn’t “broken ranks from the other law enforcement personnel” and provided a statement to the FBI that confirmed what the Englewood Four had long maintained.
“This was psychological coercion primarily in all four of the cases. They were tricked and coerced into confessing . . . They were fed the information. And they were the victims of police overreaching,” Bowman said Friday.
“The birthday is just another day,” Agnes Fenton whispered, pooh-poohing the milestone she reaches Saturday. Fenton, who has a lovely face, celebrated No. 110.
And just like that, the beloved Englewood resident — who has extolled the wonders of Miller High Life and Johnnie Walker — punched her ticket into the ultra-exclusive “supercentenarian” club.
Of the 7 billion people on the planet, a microscopic number are 110 or older. Robert Young, director of the Gerontology Research Group, which keeps track of supercentenarians, estimates 600. Dr. Thomas Perls, founding director of the New England Centenarian Study at Boston University School of Medicine, of which Fenton is a participant, puts the number at 360.
That means roughly 1 in every 10 million people in the world is a supercentenarian. Which makes Agnes Fenton special. Just don’t tell her that.
When a reporter visited her in the run-up to the big birthday, Fenton answered “lousy” when asked how she felt. But she warmed to the conversation and emphasized that God is the reason she’s lived this long.
“When I was 100 years old, I went to the mirror to thank God that I was still here. And I thank him every morning,” she said in a voice one must strain to hear. She sat in a wheelchair at the kitchen table in her green-shingled, Cape Cod-style home near Route 4.
“He gave me a long life and a good life, and I have nothing to complain about. … You’ve got to have God in your life. Without God, you’ve got nothing.”
Agnes Fenton was born Agnes Jones on Aug. 1, 1905, in Holly Springs, Miss. She spent her early years in Memphis and ran a restaurant there called Pal’s Duck Inn. Fenton, who has no children, came north to Englewood in the 1950s with her second husband, Vincent Fenton. She worked as a cafeteria manager for a magazine publisher, then as a nanny. Her husband, whom she called “Fenton,” died in 1970.
When Tamar Manasseh formed Mothers Against Senseless Killings to patrol the neighborhood in Englewood, IL after a murder in the 7500 block of South Stewart last month, she hoped to stop any retaliatory violence. So far, in the five weeks since a man opened fire on three women on June 23, killing 34-year-old Lucille Barnes, there have been no shootings on the block or on the 7500 block of South Harvard where the patrols have also been set up, according to a DNAinfo Chicago map of shootings in the city.
“When you have sisters like sister Manasseh and others out here just participating, it makes a big difference,” said Johnny Banks, the executive director of the community organization A Knock at Midnight.
But Manasseh, who makes the trek daily from her home in Bronzeville to the neighborhood, said her group really needs more people in the area to join the effort, and that recruitment has been difficult. “Recruiting and getting more volunteers has been quite the challenge,” Manasseh said as she sat on her folding chair on 75th Street and Stewart Avenue, watching over the block, not far from where she used to live at 55th Street and Bishop Avenue.
Right now there are about 15 adult volunteers who have pledged to be out there every day until Labor Day. That’s about the same number the group had when it started a few days after the June shooting.
Manasseh said she didn’t think it would be this difficult to bring in more concerned residents.
“What we’ve learned since we’ve been out here is that people’s attention spans are short,” she said. “It’s hard to keep their interests between tragedies.”
Andrea Watson says organizers want moms to remain active:
The block and surrounding area where the “army of mothers,” as she refers to it, have set up have been peaceful since the group formed, she said, but the lack of adult volunteers surprised her.
“It’s like some people want to put their children in a bubble because they have good kids,” she said. “They want to separate their good kids from all of these bad kids, but your kids are going to grow up in the world alongside those very kids that you tried to shield them from. So wouldn’t it be better if you tried to save them all instead of just yours?”
She said she had higher expectations for the adults, but underestimated the teens from the neighborhood. At least two dozen teens have taken an interest in keeping their community safe and have taken part in the patrols, Manasseh said.
The ultimate goal is to get people on other blocks to follow her and start their own neighborhood patrols. She said she wants to hold an orientation in the near future to teach them conflict resolution and strategic placement.
Community policing in Englewood and on the South Side is important to Manasseh, she said, because she wants to help save her own children from becoming victims of the violence.
Chicago Police did not respond to a request for comment.
Banks’ group, which provides direct services such as workforce development, family advocacy and more to Englewood residents, encourages more adults to volunteer, but he said he understands why some might be hesitant.
“It’s not easy,” he said. “Our people are afraid so they don’t participate.”
He said that’s all the more reason the group of moms and others should be praised for their courage and determination.
Manasseh said although the neighborhood has changed since she was a child, she is holding on to one day seeing a better, safer community. “It’s like Englewood is the land that time forgot,” she said. “It’s the land that has been forgotten, but I have hope, I see hope here.”
In addition to seeking more volunteers, she’s asking for water and any other donations, which can be dropped off daily between 4-8 p.m. at 75th and Stewart.
Remembering where you come from nowadays seems like it’s just a saying. With ambitions of a family, wealth and better health, most of those living in low-income neighborhoods move away and rarely have time to give back. But a Chicago doctor decided to do something different.
Dr. Fred Richardson returned to the neighborhood where he grew up to specifically provide care to those who need it most: his old neighbors.
Dr. Richardson was raised in Englewood, a low-income area on Chicago’s South Side with one of the highest unemployment and crime rates in the Midwest. After finishing medical school, for the past 25 years, Richardson has given back by making house calls in some of the city’s most dangerous neighborhoods so residents can get proper medical support.
Though house calls may seem a little bit old-fashioned in these days of selfies, online appointments and doctors Skyping, Richardson says that sometimes it’s the only way his patients can receive support.
“These old guys can’t get out,” he told the “Today” show, explaining that some of his patients are unable to leave their homes for care. “Medicare will pay for a home visit — actually will reimburse better than [for] an office visit.”
And his patients love the down-to-earth, personable care that sometimes lacks in a big, busy, corporate hospital setting.
“One of the things I enjoy the most about having a doctor like Dr. Fred is that he’s a good listener,” Alberta Bowles, one of his house call patients told the Chicago Tribune. “You can talk to him. He does not rush you to do anything and he never dismisses anything you say.”
Richardson was the only African American in his medical class, and he received a great measure of negative feedback.
“I was told many times, ‘Your grades aren’t high enough to do this,” Richardson told one class. “They said I would never do it.” However, he proved that he could. That’s why Richardson, who works six days a week, and is on call 24 hours a day, also finds time to empower future generations. Several nights a week, in his office, he mentors minority medical students who are struggling free of charge. To date he has helped 50 students become successful doctors! His daughter Jessica is one of those doctors.
Giving back isn’t just something that sounds good to Dr. Fred, it’s a way of life.
Cory Nieves wants to become a household name because of his decadent cookies. CBS News reports that every Saturday, Nieves can be found along with his wagon cart of treats, selling homemade cookies to clients at various city locations. In an interview, Nieves told a CBS reporter the reason why his cookies are so good is because they are “made with love”… and without preservatives. Nieves founded his company, Mr. Cory’s Cookies at the age of five. Currently, he is the founder, CEO and head of distribution for his company. He created Mr. Cory’s when he and his mother moved from the Bronx to Englewood, New Jersey; his mother recalls the conversation that birthed his business:
“One day, we were on the bus and he just came out and was like, ‘Ma, you know, I wanna get a car or whatever. Cause it’s too cold.’ I said, ‘Cory, how am I gettin’ a car, off of my looks?’ I told him that and then, he said, ‘Well, we can sell hot cocoa. And then, he wanted to add something to that, like, something, a dessert base. And he wanted to try the cookies.”
Although Nieves did not know much about baking, he set forth to research the craft before making into an enterprise. He shared: “I didn’t really know. I just looked it up with some magazines, websites. Looked it up. Little search. ‘What is this? How you make that?’ And I didn’t like the recipes, so I just started changin’ it around.” From a humble beginning in his home kitchen, Nieves has now moved into a commercial space to bake his desserts. He sells a thousand cookies a weekend at about $1 a piece.
Besides becoming a culinary mogul, Nieves would like to own a fashion line. With over 30,000 followers on Instagram and press appearances, his most recent on The Ellen Degeneres Show we are sure Nieves will be a name we won’t forget.
Tameka Lawson is changing her Chicago neighborhood one yoga pose as at a time. Lawson, a yoga enthusiast for only a year, is the executive director of I Grow Chicago, a non-profit organization in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood.
Lawson said she started practicing yoga because she needed to learn how to slow down and relax, and she thought the idea of bringing it to her community would bring people closer together.
Not long after she took up yoga, the student became a teacher as she began to lead classes for youth in Englewood through her organization.
Initially, the classes took place inside the five area schools her group works with as a means of helping the young students cope with the stresses of their environment. While Lawson does go through basic yoga poses and breathing exercises with her young students, the lessons she hopes they will take away from her work extend far beyond the practice of yoga itself.
Built into each class, she says, are elements of art therapy, motivational speaking, mentoring and job skills. Yoga is simply the gateway to that information.
“There are lots of elements causing these youth to have stress,” Lawson said. “We want to get at the center of these youth and give them a moment to breathe in a way that will change the way they react and process things.”
The classes have been such a hit that Lawson and her group have taken their show on the road — or, more specifically, to the street. They’ve held regular, free community yoga classes on a blocked-off stretch of 64th Street, and are also offering free lessons the first Monday of every month at Kusanya Cafe.
“If we can prevent one 8-year-old from growing up to become a person who could potentially pick up a gun, we’ve succeeded,” she said. “If we can intervene for a 14-year-old who has made bad choices from making another bad choice, we’ve succeeded. If a 28-year-old who says he wants to stop selling drugs and just needs the opportunity, we’ve succeeded. We don’t have the answers, but we’re trying to come up with creative solutions.”
This week, a Bachelor of Arts diploma that belonged to Richard T. Greener, the first African-American to graduate from Harvard, will hit the auction block in Chicago, when it’s sold by Leslie Hindman Auctioneers to the tune of $15,000.
“Greener was a pioneer of social and racial equality in the racially divided South. His Harvard diploma, a document of incalculable historical significance, has never before been offered at public auction,” according to representatives from Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, who will put the diploma out to bid on Wednesday.
The document, dated July 1870, along with piles of other personal papers and artwork that belonged to Greener, were previously thought to have been lost during a San Francisco earthquake in 1906. In 2009, however, Rufus McDonald, a 52-year-old contractor, stumbled upon a treasure trove of Greener’s belongings while cleaning out an old house in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood.
After he found what Harvard University officials have called priceless artifacts, McDonald started selling his discovery to those who he thought could benefit from having them as part of their own collections.
McDonald sold some of the documents for around $52,000 to the University of South Carolina, where Greener taught. “It was like the Holy Grail. It’s such an important symbol of that time period,” Elizabeth West, university archivist at USC, told Boston last year.
When he approached Harvard with a collection that included the diploma, McDonald said he was offered a lowball amount based on appraisals he had done, and instead threatened to torch the document if the school didn’t meet his demands.
“I’ll roast and burn them,” he said in October of last year, when trying to negotiate with the Cambridge university. “It might sound crazy, but people who know me know I’d really do it—I’m sick and tired of Harvard’s BS.”
While the actual amount that Harvard offered McDonald was never revealed, Henry Gates, Jr., who leads Harvard’s W.E.B. DuBois Institute for African-American Research, told Boston that he wanted the documents to end up back at the school.
“I very much hope that Harvard acquires these documents at a fairly appraised value. Mr. McDonald’s discovery was extraordinary,” he said at the time McDonald threatened to burn them.
The price tag set on the diploma alone—valued between $10,000 and $15,000— is lower than McDonald’s original demands from the school for a pile of items owned by Greener. In October of 2013, McDonald was calling on the school to fork over around $65,000 for the Harvard degree and several other documents, after he had them appraised.
Because it’s being sold through an auction house, McDonald doesn’t stand to pocket the full amount of the sale, either. According to a spokesperson from Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, the company will take a cut of the profit once the sale is complete. “If it sells, [Mr. McDonald] gets a portion of that sale. If it doesn’t sell, he can take the document back with him,” the spokesperson said over the phone on Tuesday.
Camiella Williams grew up in a violent neighborhood in Chicago and bought herself a gun for $25 when she was in sixth grade. Tired of all the death and pain around her, Camiella has changed her life and is now working toward peace.
As an activist and gun reform advocate, the 26-year-old speaks about the ways people can reduce gun violence. She told MTV Act about her background, the reality of the underground market for guns and ways that our generation can truly make a difference.
ACT: You grew up around violence and were used to it. What experiences changed your views on gun violence and inspired you to make a difference?
CAMIELLA: My personal stories changed my views. I have been affected by gun violence directly and indirectly. I’ve lost loved ones to gun violence, and I’ve seen violence. My home was shot up before. My neighbors upstairs were shot and killed. The blood was still on my porch. Seeing all this is what made me want to make a difference. I got tired of going to funerals. I got tired of crying and living in sorrow. That’s basically what it was: You go to a funeral every other week.
ACT: Many people are unaware of the underground market for guns. Can you tell us a bit about it?
CAMIELLA: In the community I grew up in — Englewood, on the south side of Chicago — guns are very accessible because they were selling them in hole-in-wall restaurants and hole-in-a-wall apartments and unnamed convenient stores. If you want a gun, you can get a gun. You don’t have to have a FOID [Firearms Owners Identification] card, you don’t have to be 18 or 21. If you say, “Hey, I want a gun,” and you know somebody who can get you a gun, they’ll get it for you.
ACT: Some people feel that gun reform would infringe on their Second Amendment rights. What are your thoughts on this?
CAMIELLA: Gun reform will not infringe on Second Amendment rights. First you have to think about our rights to live in peace and be happy. The issue that people do not understand is that in order for these guns to become illegal, they were once legal. Meaning that someone — a straw purchaser [someone who buys a gun for someone else who can’t legally buy them or doesn’t want their name tracked] or a gun dealer — went and bought these guns and brought them back to the community and is there selling them. They look at it as, “You shot somebody? I sold you the gun, yeah, so what? You shoot somebody, that’s on you.”
For example, in 2006, Starkesia Reed was shot and killed in Englewood. Her shooter went to a gun dealer and bought an AK-47 [an assault rifle originally made for the military] for $150. He shot up the block and a bullet ending up going through her eye. When I went to court with the family of Starkesia Reed, the gun dealer testified, “Yeah, I sold him the AK-47.” And that was it. He knew [the killer’s] I.D. was fake, there wasn’t a thorough background check. He knew he didn’t look like a hunter, but he sold him the gun anyway. And now we have an innocent 14-year-old girl dead. The gun dealers are not being held accountable.
Urban Prep Academy is continuing its record of success. For the last three years, all graduating seniors from the charter school’s Englewood campus have been college bound. This year, the inaugural graduating class of the West Campus has accomplished the same goal. In all, 167 seniors, all African-American males, have been accepted to a four-year college or university.
“What this 100 percent proves beyond a doubt is that it need not be the exception but it should be the expectation for every child in the city of Chicago,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said at a ceremony where the final students exchanged their red uniform neckties with the red-and-gold striped ones that signify their college-bound status.
Urban Prep founder Tim King said he was exceedingly proud of the young men. “It’s really heartwarming. It’s really an inspiration,” said Tim King. “These guys are an inspiration to all of us because they show you what can happen when you really work hard and do the right thing. I feel great. There are no words to describe how powerful and wonderful it is to be a part of Urban Prep.”