North Lawndale Resident Honored During Women’s History Month for Supporting Families, Women in the Community

alt text By Pat Nabong, Arts and Culture Editor, The Real Chi
When Annetta Wilson went to Ghana, she didn’t know that listening to elders talk about a mythical bird would change her and her North Lawndale community.

“Sankofa— [it means] you have to look back, know where you came from to know where you’re going. So this mythical bird that we adopted, it looks back and goes forward,” said Wilson, who was a pregnant and parenting ward of the state for Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) at that time.

Sankofa would later become the name of the organization she established after working at DCFS for 22 years. Called Sankofa Safe Child Initiative, it takes an intergenerational approach in supporting North Lawndale residents through various services that focus on strengthening families and keeping families together. The organization provides support for grandparents raising their grandchildren, parenting and anger management classes, mentorship, counseling, empowerment initiatives for women and housing assistance, among others. The organization has been around since 1999 and is celebrating its 20th anniversary in June.

Through her work, Wilson has not only seen the effects of family separation, but she has also lived that experience — and that’s what continues to fuel her to this day, she said.

“I know the feeling personally about being separated,” Wilson said. “That’s why I work so hard.”

Because of decades-long work in her community, Wilson, who is a long-time resident of North Lawndale, was celebrated during Women’s History Month. She was one of several people who received the Women Unite North Lawndale Community Coordinating Council (NLCCC) Legacy Leader Award on March 1. The annual event “honors sung and unsung sheros, rooted/raised/restored as leading legacy leaders of the Westside of Chicago who are making a positive impact on this city.”

“We wanted to make certain that we can really look at who made significant contributions … that have had a positive influence on the economic viability on the West Side,” said Tanesha House, a community organizer at New Covenant Community Development Corporation, which is part of NLCCC.

They wanted to award Wilson and other women “so they could see the great leadership and the great accomplishments made by women on the West Side because, unfortunately, the West Side does not give the just recognition that it should,” House said.

The Real Chi sat down with Wilson to look back on the history of Sankofa Safe Child Initiative, reflect on how her own experiences influence her work and talk about supporting young women today.