AUBURN GRESHAM — Mayor Rahm Emanuel declared Wednesday "Andrew Holmes Day" in honor of the longtime community activist who decided to help others after being shot 25 years ago.
Emanuel thanked Holmes Wednesday during an appearance on the "Steve Harvey" Show. The segment with Holmes is part of "Harvey's Heroes," which is a recurring segment in which the host recognizes everyday people from across the country who are “doing extraordinary things to uplift and inspire their communities," Harvey said.
"This declaration today from the city of Chicago is for what you've done for our children and our neighborhoods. You give families a sense of hope," Emanuel said. "What you’re talking about is that communities have to live by a moral code, not a code of silence. And I want to thank you for creating that moral code out there."
Holmes, of Auburn Gresham, was honored throughout the day. A lunch dedication by Morrison Investigations, where Holmes works, was held at a West Loop restaurant. On Wednesday evening Ald. Latasha Thomas (17th) saluted Holmes at a Bridgeport event.
"It is rare that community activists are honored, but I say it should happen more often," Thomas said. "Andrew not only lives in my ward, but he works with my staff and the police to help solve crimes and mentor young folks on the street. That is why I felt the need to honor a man like him."
For Holmes, all the attention Wednesday made him feel like a superstar.
"Now I know how it feels to win the Olympics or an NBA championship. It feels great to be recognized for something you love doing," Holmes said. "Obviously I don't do this for money because I am not paid for my work. I do this because I love helping people, especially our young folks. I know what it is like to be a victim of gun violence."
Holmes recalled the day he was shot 25 years ago in the 7400 block of South Laflin Avenue.
"I remember driving through an alley and seeing two guys standing and one was holding a gun. All of a sudden I heard shots and before I knew what had happened I had been shot in the artery and temporarily lost my ability to walk."
Holmes said he often finds himself at present-day crime scenes, and comforts young people who, like he was 25 years ago, are victims of violence.
And as I am holding their hand and talking to them they often tell me they are afraid to close their eyes because they might not wake up," he said. "As I hold their hand their grip feels like they are holding on for dear life."
Too often the young people on the street come from broken homes, Holmes said, adding more parents need to get involved with their children — especially their school work — if they don't want them to turn to a life of crime.
Next to violence, one of the biggest challenges facing the black community is a lack of economic development," Holmes said.
"Without economic development the black community will continue to struggle above the madness," he said.
Joining Holmes at the lunch dedication was his son, Thaddus, 29, and mother, Helen Holmes.
"I am so proud of him. I have eight children and I love all of them. The community service work Andrew does is not surprising because he has always been a helpful guy," Helen said. "One thing I do worry about is his safety because he goes to some dangerous neighborhoods late at night."