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“The Human Spirit” By Mae Catherine Godhigh

A few days ago, former Peoria TV reporter, Denise Jackson entered the Peoria City Council Race.

My morning commute led me to a rocky vacant lot on the corners of Ann and Western Avenue. As I continued my drive, I noticed the blatant and neglect of Peoria’s Southside. It mirrored promises made and promises broken. Loud is the stench of abandonment. My mind grappled with the fact I was entering a “food desert.” As I took a turn down the side streets and observed the blight, it felt like an emotional mission to Mars. My eyes began to mist as I reminisced about days gone past. Today, Peoria’s Southside is a poster child and a stark reminder of our city’s history of intentional inequity, and it didn’t take COVID- 19 to reveal it.

As I approached my destination, I realized Peoria’s best-kept secret. It is more than zip codes that divide this city.

Surrounded by a long-forgotten and underdeveloped community, Denise Jackson, a product from the neighborhood, stood at the podium and outlined her vision. Jackson’s vision was clear. She vowed to work hard to resuscitate a section of the city already on life support. Included in her speech was a consummate reminder to city fathers about the step-child left behind. A group of family and supporters lent their energy to encourage her.

You become strong by lifting others up, not pulling them down.” – Matshona Dhliwayo

After Jackson delivered her speech, she introduced Peoria native Patrice Foster. I’ll be perfectly honest with you; I didn’t know much about her, only that she was a contender for District One.

To my amazement, Patrice chased away my Covid-19 and World Blues. Foster, with formidable grace candidly announced she would suspend her campaign and support Jackson. Wow! It was so invigorating to witness total unselfishness, especially in today’s climate of endless mayhem. I watched this giant capture the essence of the human spirit as she delivered the hope and dreams of our ancestors; a unified people.

You see, it takes a big person to humble yourself for the greater good. Patrice understood suspending her campaign didn’t mean she collected her marbles and went home. I was in the presence of a visionary and team player. Patrice Foster, I applaud you. This is the stuff real leaders are made from. Thank you for a teachable moment.

Delay Doesn’t Mean Denial…”

I am reminded of a scripture in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. There is a call to plant, to love, to live and to (work). This scripture also reminds us of “God’s perfect timing.”

Another example of God’s perfect timing and humility is Peoria’s Councilwoman- at- Large Dr. Rita Ali. Ali lost her first run for the 5th District by a margin of one vote. Later, Dr. Ali dropped her plan to challenge the one-vote loss (humility), but she did not lose her vision. Dr. Ali ran a second time and became Peoria’s first African-American woman to be seated as Councilwoman-at-Large.

A Party Divided Will Drink Its Own Poison.”

Allow me to speak directly into the hearts of Peoria’s 2021 mayoral candidates. Can we put aside our individual and secret agendas? Can we unite behind one mayoral candidate and work together instead of becoming a village of chiefs? There is much work to be done, and we need servants of change and boots on the ground to accomplish our goal. When it is NOT in God’s Time, you can’t force it. When it is God’s Time, you can’t stop it!

I leave you with the words of the former President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela: I dream of the realization of the unity of Africa, whereby its leaders combine in their efforts to solve the problems of this continent. I dream of vast deserts, of our forests, and all of our great wilderness.

Peoria, it will take a united effort, a united people, a united vote, and the human spirit to overcome the wilderness of our city. Together, we can make ALL of Peoria Matter.