By DASCHELL M. PHILLIPS
Community leaders, elected officials and adoring fans from all over the city gathered at 51st Street and Blackstone Avenue Saturday afternoon to be a part of the Chaka Khan street naming ceremony.
The intersection, which is the home to Khan’s alma mater, Kenwood Academy High School, is now called Chaka Khan Way.
“Thank you for loving me for so many years and hanging in there with me,” Khan said to the crowd after signing part of her song “Ain’t Nobody” with them. “ I can’t believe my name is hanging there under Blackstone – that’s hot!”
The ceremony began with performances from the Kenwood Jazz Ensemble and the Kenwood Choir and a few words from several community leaders and elected officials.
“We know history is still being made and we are very pleased to join this great icon in history on this special day,” said Carol Adams, president of DuSable Museum of African American History.
The museum hosted a special reception for Khan after the street naming ceremony.
Ald. Will Burns (4th) said the event was a morale booster for the South Side.
“A lot of the time people come here to talk about bad things,” said Burns, who said he sponsored the ordinance to have the street named after Khan. “I’m glad the media came out to celebrate one of our very own.”
State Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie (D-25) thanked Chaka Khan and the Kenwood jazz ensemble and choir and said she was “thrilled beyond words to be a part of this day.”
State Sen. Kwame Raoul (D-13) said he was excited to join in the celebration because Khan has made her stamp on Chicago and the world.
Before leading the crowd in his trademark chant of “I am somebody,” Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. said he was glad that today was a day of celebration on the South Side.
Khan spent Saturday morning at Rainbow/PUSH headquarters with Jackson speaking about youth violence in the city.
“After so many sad stories today we have a glad story,” Jackson said. “Chaka Khan is from our great school Kenwood we watched her grow, her success is our success.”
State Rep. Christian Mitchell (D-26) said Khan set a great example for “me and others from Kenwood.”
“That’s my boo,” said Fr. Michael Pfleger, who said Khan made a big impact on Saint Sabina Catholic School. “She is a graduate of Saint Sabina and we have a room named after her.”
On Sunday evening in Millennium Park Khan was honored in a ceremony proclaiming that day “Chaka Khan Day.” After the ceremony she gave a free concert to thank the city for the honors.
Both events were a part of The Chaka Khan 40th Year Music Anniversary celebration. Monica Haslip, founder of Little Black Pearl and Carl McKenzie, of Artworks Chicago and Celebrate Hyde Park, joined together with the City of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) and Millennium Park to produce the event. The two entities hope that this event will lead to future events with DCASE and Millenium Park that cater to the broader urban community in Chicago.