Chicago's Unsung Heroes

Courtesy of Andrea L. Zopp/Courtesy of Naomi Davis/Apostolic Church of God

With all of the hand-wringing over Chicago's failure to respond to exploding youth-gang violence, it would seem that no one is doing anything to help. But there are people who are quietly working to help combat the problem, whether it's through charitable donations or toiling on the frontlines in communities. The Root has put together a list of some of Chicago's unsung heroes who are making a difference.

Ill. State Rep. Monique Davis


Davis, who has been a Democratic member of the State Assembly for 26 years, turned up the heat this summer on the Chicago Police Department by raising concerns of her South Side constituents about police conduct, which earned her the ire of Republicans. While she later walked back on some of the community's most controversial concerns — that they suspect "police are killing some of these kids" — she was lauded for shining the spotlight on their issues. She recently sponsored legislation that requires all probationary officers to undergo training in Taser use in an effort to protect the public and police officers.

Byron T. Bishop Brazier

Apostolic Church of God

Brazier serves as pastor of Apostolic Church of God, a megachurch on Chicago's South Side. He took over about three years ago after the death of his father, Bishop Arthur Brazier, who had presided over it since 1960, serving as a strong advocate for better housing and schools. The younger Brazier has followed in his father's footsteps, delving deep into community service. He works closely with the Cook County Sheriff's Department to address crime and is working through the judicial system to address the disproportionate number of minorities incarcerated within the Cook County judicial system.

Andrea L. Zopp

Courtesy of Andrea L. Zopp

Zopp is president and CEO of the Chicago Urban League. For the last three years, she has been instrumental in lending a voice to reducing youth-gang violence, trumpeting the importance of the Affordable Care Act, education reform and job creation for African Americans. She was appointed to the Chicago Board of Education in May of 2011 by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and supported controversial school closings to the dismay of some African Americans. But she said it was an opportunity to help students and families by closing underutilized and low-performing schools.

Diane Latiker

Courtesy of Diane Latiker

Latiker is head and founder of Kids Off the Block, an award-winning nonprofit based in the Roseland community on Chicago's South Side. She started out in July 2003, opening her home to children to keep them off the streets and away from violence. She later had to expand to a neighboring building because she ran out of room. The organization provides students with homework help, afterschool sports and conflict-resolution training, among other things. She also takes students on field trips to museums and on fishing trips.

Willie T. Barrow


The Rev. Barrow has been known for years for her work as a social and spiritual activist after spending much of her life at the heart of the civil rights struggle. She serves as co-chairwoman of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, the organization that grew out of Operation Breadbasket. She coordinates the activities of the national organization and serves as an aide to the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr.

James Reynolds Jr.

Courtesy of James Reynolds Jr.

When he's not out shooting hoops with President Barack Obama, Reynolds, co-founder and CEO of Loop Capital, is busy running one of the largest minority-owned investment banking firms in the country. Reynolds, who grew up in Englewood on Chicago's South Side, is also dedicated to addressing the city's violence problem. He is co-chairman of Mayor Emanuel's private-sector effort that hopes to garner at least $50 million over five years to help pay for extracurricular activities, including weekend basketball leagues for kids in communities that the mayor says have been hardest hit by violence.

Dwyane Wade

Wikipedia Commons

Wade, the Miami Heat star, is head of the Chicago-based Wade's World Foundation, which has served communities across the nation for the last 10 years. The Chicago native uses the foundation to promote the importance of literacy and health to children and youth and fatherhood to men.

Naomi Davis

Courtesy of Naomi Davis

Davis is president and founder of Blacks in Green, an award-winning economic development organization based in Chicago's West Woodlawn neighborhood on the South Side. She receives funding to promote green communities, where African Americans live in environmentally friendly houses, farm close to home, shop and walk to work. The neighborhoods encourage business, close civic ties and healthy living. 

Connie Payton


Payton, widow of Chicago Bears running back Walter Payton, is founder of the Walter and Connie Payton Foundation, where she has carried on the Payton name by caring for thousands of children who have become wards of the state. Through the foundation, Payton works closely with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. The foundation also hosts a Holiday Giving Program, which helps provide gifts for about 14,000 children at Christmas. An annual back-to-school drive is sponsored by the foundation to help provide school supplies to children.

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