We’re not crying you’re crying.
If there is one positive to take away from this turbulent year, it’s unity. The global pandemic galvanized communities little and large, inspiring kindness, harmony, and solidarity. In Chicago, we witnessed so many inspiring events and individuals that helped spread positivity in times of hardship. When Chicago’s were called upon to help each other out, they duly delivered, and when they weren’t, they helped anyway. Local individuals of all different ages and backgrounds became our beacons of hope amid the chaos of 2020 and here we’ve rounded up some of the most moving and awesome Chicagoans out there.
Back in June, after seeing the 70-year-old Don Rosario known as ‘Paleta Man’, working on Father’s Day, Michaelangelo Mosqueda bought all of his paletas so that Rosario could go home and spend the day with his family. Mosqueda then set up a GoFundMe page in order to help Don Rosario retire. With a goal of $10,000, it exceeded $60,000 in less than 24 hours. “The funds that we are raising will be used to help Don Rosario retire. The money raised will hopefully allow him to no longer have to work in the heat. I intend to withdraw the money and personally deliver it to him,” Mosqueda wrote. The emotional interaction has been viewed over 5 million times on TikTok and you can view it below.
Another inspiring moment was born from the struggles of Claudio Velez, better known in Chicago as the ‘Tamale Guy’. Velez was a familiar face of Chicago’s late-night scene in Wicker Park, Bucktown, West Town, and Logan Square, where he would be often spotted slinging tamales to the glee of bar patrons in need of a refuel. Many Chicagoans considered an encounter with Velez to be a sign of good luck. When Covid-19 emerged, Velez had to adjust his business and began making home deliveries, only to get hit with a cease-and-desist from the city. What followed was an outpouring of support again via a GoFundMe which, within a month, fulfilled Velez’s dream of owning his own brick-and-mortar restaurant in the Ukrainian Village.
When Covid-19 hit Chicago wife and husband duo, Erika Castro and Pablo Sanchez, took turns preparing free daily meals for loyal Evanston customers struggling with layoffs, no health insurance, and sick family members. As the situation exacerbated demand grew and taking it in turns was not enough. With no employees, struggles from the repercussions of Covid-19, and having given away over 23,840 free meals, their business was on its last legs. Amy Landolt, an Evanston resident, got wind of the situation, and knowing that the couple had spent their time helping the community and not building their business, Landolt organized an online auction with the objective of raising $5,000. Instead of asking for donations from local businesses and families who may be struggling themselves, she enlisted the help of her 19-year-old twins, two recent graduates of Evanston Township High School. Her son offered his services as a math tutor and her daughter offers to read virtual bedtime stories in either Spanish or English. Evanston Township High School students and local Evanston businesses then continued to sign up offering various products and services to help save Erika and Pablo’s Gyros Planet and Taqueria.
Perhaps one of the most iconic Chicago moments from 2020 was when, Bea Lumpkin, 102-year-old former Chicago public school teacher and active member of Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees, stepped out to cast her ballot. Born before women held the right to vote, Beatrice had voted in every election since 1940 and wasn’t going to let Covid-19 stop her from casting her vote in 2020. In October she headed out and cast her mail-in ballot in what she called the “most important election of my life” because “democracy is on the line.” A photo shared by Chicago Teachers Union showed Bea Lumpkin casting her vote by mail in a personal makeshift hazmat suit made by her grandson. Her story then inspired the slogan “Be like Bea” and the image was shared by politicians, celebrities, and Americans in their thousands.
While 102-year-old Bea Lumpkin showed spirit and strength in her vote, young Chicagoans like Darius Mason helped keep others safe in any way they could. The South Side 7th-grader did not know how to sew before the coronavirus outbreak arrived on our shores. After his great-great-aunt died from coronavirus he decided he wanted to help and taught himself how to sew. Darius and his family then began making hundreds of masks for Chicago’s essential workers including officers at the Chicago Police Department, workers at Cook County Juvenile Detention Center, and medical staff at numerous Chicago health care centers.
With lockdowns and stay-at-home advisories forcing us into isolation and quarantine, people around the world were productive, resourceful, and charitable beyond measure. One of the most moving of these was a Chicago local who grew up without a Dad and created a YouTube channel of “dadvice” for those growing up without a father-figure themselves. Rob Kenney set up the channel named “Dad, how do I?” to teach basic skills or explains everyday things. When an Arizona woman discovered the channel and shared it with the internet calling it the “purest thing”, the tweet received almost 600,000 retweets and prompted a surge in subscribers to “Dad, how do I” which now numbers nearly 3 million. Though his videos show an impressive array of talents from jump-starting a car to making pumpkin pie the father of two modestly stated that he’s just there to help kids who’re growing up in the same situation he had.
As the country reckoned with racial injustice issues Fred Hampton Jr sort to breathe new life into the mural honoring his father in West Side Chicago. An original mural of the Illinois Black Panther Party chairman was commissioned by Hampton’s son Fred Hampton Jr and the Chilean political hip hop duo Rebel Diaz back in 2010. The mural was revamped by Bronx artist Andre Trenier in October of 2020 inspiring interest and intrigue from locals who sort to learn more about Fred Hampton’s story.
Born on August 30, 1948, Frederick Hampton rose to prominence in his teen years and became chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party and deputy chairman of the national Black Panther Party. He is credited with founding the Rainbow coalition, a multicultural organization that united prominent Chicago groups fighting against oppression and racial inequality. In 1967 an illegal FBI operation seeking to prevent “the rise of a messiah” saw Hampton as a radical threat and two years later at the age of 21, he was assassinated in a police raid as he slept next to his fiancé Akua Njeri. The revamped mural shows Hampton, joined by other activists from the ‘the Massacre on Monroe’, looking towards his neighborhood.
After losing 9 friends and minsters to COVID-19, Dr. Willie Wilson continued his unparalleled generosity in May of 2020 when the businessman and former mayoral candidate donated 5 million masks to first responders and Illinois citizens. “It is well documented that there is a shortage of face masks and other personal protective equipment for healthcare workers and the general public. I am moved by compassion and a deep sense of responsibility to step up and make this donation to help my neighbors in Chicago and throughout Illinois,” said Wilson in a press release.
In many ways, the global pandemic laid bare the frailty of society but it also shed clarity on social infrastructure and highlighted those we rely on most. Quickly, the essential workers of our world were revealed and rightfully applauded and appreciated. It became clear that without Chicago’s postal workers, teachers, healthcare professionals, and many of the lowest paid, but most demanding jobs, we would fall apart. These fundamental jobs were put into the limelight and their importance emphasized as it had never been before. In September, the National Workers Alliance funded a new mural by local artist Sam Kirk. The poignant piece pays respects to the millions of domestic workers and essential workers in this country who continue to work in the midst of the pandemic. The piece features four portraits of real-life workers in Chicago; Juan Burrell, a Chavez Elementary school lunchroom manager, Carilla Hayden, a USPS Postal Worker, Veronica Sanchez, Leader with the Latino Union of Chicago, and Nanny, and Maggie Zylinska, a Domestic Worker.
Regardless of your political inclinations, nobody would want the responsibility for Chicago’s wellbeing. Other political views aside, Lightfoot, Arwady, and so many other medical staff have taken on the weight of this year with integrity and courage remaining calm in one of the most turbulent years in recent history. From their sweeping plan to bridge a racial divide tied to the coronavirus pandemic to their tireless efforts to do the best for the city, the efforts of those in charge, especially those who were required to provide daily updates and make daily decisions, must be acknowledged.