Marquette Park family off to inaugural again — after changes
BY MAUDLYNE IHEJIRIKA Staff Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org January 18, 2013 9:00PM
Pamela Frazier (front) and her grandchildren: from left Semaja Frazier, 12; Brian Jackson, 12, and Asia Wright, 16, will repeat the trip that they took four years ago to Washington D.C. to witness the inauguration of President Obama. Also making the trip will be grandchild McKinley Wright. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times
Updated: February 21, 2013 6:41AM
A lot has changed since the Frazier family of Marquette Park joined two million people who flooded the National Mall four years ago, determined to bear witness to the inauguration of America’s first black president.
The changes aren’t limited to accomplishments that Frazier family matriarch Pamela Frazier ticks off for that president: the Nobel Peace Prize; passing a $787 billion stimulus package; saving the U.S. auto industry; ending the War in Iraq; killing Osama bin Laden; and passing a historic health care reform bill.
They’re also reflected in the life’s ebb and flow for an urban family, whose hopes of the American Dream were raised by the election of Barack Obama.
Retirement, graduations, college.
Murder, job loss, teen pregnancy.
All in four years.
“God is in control,” says Frazier, who you won’t get to utter one Obama criticism.
“I just really believe in my president, and I believe in his vision,” she says.
Chicago Sun-Times readers first met the divorced, middle-class mother of five, a grandmother and great-grandmother, in our 2009 “Road Trip to History” series.
Now 62, Frazier has since retired from her job of 21 years as an addictions counselor at the Women’s Treatment Center, 140 N. Ashland. She decided it was time to focus on her own business — N’The Spirit Transformational Living Center — a women’s recovery home in Englewood that she’s run for the past 10 years.
“I wanted to spend time on my own vision,” says Frazier, a two-flat homeowner.
“I opted not to draw down Social Security, so right now I have no insurance,” she says. “But I stepped out on faith and the promise of Obama’s health care act.”
Pamela Frazier saved up $5,000 four years ago to take eight members of her brood on that historic road trip. And she isn’t missing Obama’s second inauguration.
‘I knew I was going back’
Frazier will again join one of the many bus charters traveling in caravans from Chicago to D.C. for the Monday event. This time, the family is traveling with the “Women for Obama Presidential Inauguration Trip,” led by event planner W&A Entertainment.
And Frazier is traveling with just four family members — all grandchildren.
“The day he won, I knew I was going back,” Frazier says. “I try to take my grandkids places they’ll learn things. For instance, we went to Memphis for the 40th anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination, and they marched with Al Sharpton.”
The Fraziers’ bus was scheduled to leave at 9 a.m. Saturday and return at 2 a.m. on Tuesday.
Within the past four years, Frazier’s family suffered the murder of 18-year-old grandson Michael Frazier III, who was 16 when he attended the inauguration on Jan. 20, 2009.
Michael III was shot and killed on Nov. 3, 2010, walking in the Grand Boulevard neighborhood with his younger brother, Mylon, and two other youths.
His murder remains an unsolved case with the Chicago Police Department.
“Michael was my road dog. They lived upstairs. Every Saturday when I went out, I’d snatch Mikey to go with me. He’d carry my purse, bag, whatever,” Pamela Frazier says.
“They said the shooter was after one of the youth Mikey was with. They never found him, and they never will, because everyday it’s five new killings. Police don’t have time to look for all the killers out here. It’s so bad. It’s sad.”
Pregnancy, cancer, downsizing
Pamela’ Frazier’s granddaughter, Ryaan Frazier, who attended the first inauguration at age 17, is now a young mother of 21. Her 18-month-old is the first great-grandchild.
Ryaan Frazier is looking for work in an economy offering scarce job opportunities for the so-called millennial generation ages 18-29, and won’t be attending this time.
Pamela Frazier’s own mother, Margie Edwards, 82, in 2009 told the Sun-Times that Obama’s election was a dream she never thought she’d see realized, having lived through Jim Crow and the Civil Rights Movement. She’d fervently wished she could attend the inauguration but couldn’t take the walking.
Edwards underwent cancer surgery last week, and remains hospitalized. Pamela Frazier says she knows her mother will be unable to continue living alone in the house she’s rented in Englewood for 22 years, and “we’ll have to figure out what’s next.”
Another family member Sun-Times readers met in 2009, Michael Frazier, Jr. — Michael III’s father — couldn’t afford to take time off from his Museum of Science & Industry job to join his family four years ago, but he was so proud his two sons would see a president sworn in that looks like them.
He has since lost his job to downsizing. His two years of federal extended unemployment benefits ended just before Christmas. He continues pounding the pavement for employment, amidst an 8.7 percent unemployment rate in Illinois.
‘I still have that same feeling’
After Michael III’s killing, his parents eventually separated. Michael III’s mother moved her other son, Mylon, to Roselle, far from the inner city. Mylon was 13 when we first met him. He recently started classes at Harper College in Palatine, and can’t go this time.
Three of his cousins who went the first time are going — Asia Wright, 15, and her brother, Bryan Jackson, 12; also, 12-year-old Semaja Frazier, Ryaan’s sister.
Unable to attend are the children’s mothers, Marquita Wright, 32, and Lataunya Frazier, 42, who accompanied them the first time.
It will be the first inauguration for a fourth grandchild, McKinley Wright IV, 14, of St. Paul, Minn., who flew in to Chicago Friday to make the trip.
And one final family member will attend — Pamela Frazier’s son, Marquis Wright, 32, whom we also met in 2009, is flying in. Four years ago, when the Southwest Airlines flight attendant flew into D.C. with friends, finding his family in the crowds was a hopeless proposition. Neither he nor Pamela Frazier expects it will be any less so.
“I’m just so excited,” Pamela Frazier says, as she packed hand warmers in remembrance of 2009’s bitter cold. “I was looking at our scrapbook and the picture of me crying when he was taking the oath. I still have that same feeling, that he’s moving us forward. And it falling on the Martin Luther King holiday? That’s a God thing.”