NORTH LAWNDALE — One unsuspecting 12-year-old student at Frazier International Magnet School was surprised Thursday when he was honored by civil rights leader the Rev. Al Sharpton and NBA Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas with a community service award.
The award had just been given to Thomas from Education for a Better America and the National Action Network, a nonprofit Sharpton founded, at an event at Frazier International, 4027 W. Grenshaw St.
Thomas was recognized for his work with the Windy City Hoops basketball tournament at St. Sabina Church, which offers basketball to youths as an alternative to the streets.
But the former Detroit Pistons star and Chicago native decided on the spur of the moment to give the award to Isiah Golden, a seventh-grader at Frazier he had met earlier in the day.
"Isiah, I am here to tell you that I love, I care about you and I believe in you. And I want you to have this [award] from me," Thomas told the boy. "I don't want a poster on your wall of me playing basketball. I want a poster on your wall about Isiah Thomas speaking to Isiah about the importance of education. If you want to get out of this environment and change your life, then stay in school."
Isiah, who wants to be a lawyer, thanked Thomas and said he couldn't wait to go home and hang the plaque on his wall.
"As soon as I get home, it is going up," Isiah said.
Sharpton, who is renting an apartment in Austin, said he planned to commute once a week from New York to Chicago to put a spotlight on gun violence.
"Chicago has always been an example for the country. If we can get gun violence under control here, then the rest of the country could learn from it," said the 59-year-old Baptist minister. "We need to make our minds up that we are not going to be victims but victors."
Each week Sharpton is in Chicago, he said, he plans to meet with community activists and travel throughout the city.
"I plan on traveling to the South Side, too. I am on the West Side today, but I know on the South Side there are problems, too," Sharpton said. "We have got to stop this from the inside out and not from the outside in."
A lack of self-respect has led to minorities shooting each other, Sharpton told about 100 Frazier students in attendance.
"One thing that bothers me is that someone has convinced black and Latino youths that they don't matter and might as well shoot each other up," Sharpton said. "We need to value one another and get back to respecting yourself as a person who matters in life."
Joining Sharpton Thursday were Ald. Michael Chandler (24th), whose ward includes Frazier; the Rev. Marshall Hatch, pastor of New Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church; the Rev. Ira Acree, pastor of Greater St. John Bible Church; and Maureen Forte, president of the Chicago chapter of the National Action Network.
While in town, Sharpton will broadcast his national radio show from WVON-AM 1690 and his MSNBC show from NBC5 Chicago.