Robert Calhoun, also known as Rock, is one of the founding fathers of the North Lawndale organization known as Men Making a Difference (M.M.A.D.). He and other men in the community decided they needed to facilitate changes and offer youth examples of positive male role models.
“The organization was formed in a vacant lot with a group of men playing domino and just got up one day and said to each other, “to see a change, we have to do something about it,” said Calhoun when asked about the origin of the group. M.M.A.D. was formed in 2008 and continues to be there for the community as the big brothers and sisters and watchdogs.
Calhoun is one of the few men in the organization who lived and grew up in the community when the area’s neighborhoods were much safer, and violence was not much of a problem as it is today in North Lawndale. “We were raised by our parents and the other parents of the neighborhood and everybody knew each other. The community has gotten away from that, so we try to bring that feeling back, one of the members came up with having the “missing sounds of summer” to reappear.”
The M.M.A.D. men have always gone out of their way to make sure the youth have a good time. Calhoun says they set up “some places where they can go out and enjoy themselves in that short time that we have for summer.”
Whether it is organizing summer camp programs or taking youth on trips to museums and zoos, the group’s goal is to make sure the youth have a healthy meal, which is donated by the food depository,
Calhoun spoke about another program called “Bridge the Divide.” Six years ago, M.M.A.D. members, Chicago Police Department, and community representatives began to travel to California to talk about how Bridge the Divide works in Chicago.
He explains that typically meetings are on Saturday mornings. During the workshops, six or seven officers would have an open conversation with the youth. Their objective is to have everyone present to gain a better understanding of one another. Calhoun fondly talks about the events:
It was emotional, there were laughs. It ended up being developed in other districts, they would do challenges like cooking or cameras days against each other.
He also works hand-in-hand with other organizations in the North Lawndale community. For example, Derek Brown, youth advocate and founder of Boxing Out Negativity, has teamed up with Rock and Men Making a Difference. “We host programs together, he’s worked with me on the 1K North Lawndale and we’ll be working with again for our next 1K Man March next year.”
When asked to share more about the march, Calhoun said it was put together for the youth. But, it was more than just march. It was a way for the youth to get jobs for the summer and an opportunity to give them a stage. “Everybody always runs to the stage talking about they’re doing this and that, but it is about our youth, they are our future and more importantly our present.”
Other groups marched in support of a better future in North Lawndale. Some of them are St. Agatha Catholic Church, Y-Men, I am Able, Pastor Brooks of Harmony Church, and the Chicago Fire Department.
It felt like the whole neighborhood came together for this one purpose for supporting our youth and we hope to make it a bigger march for many years to come and hope for the youth to take a role in the march.
Every Thanksgiving and Christmas M.M.A.D. feeds and clothes the less fortunate. In November, they anticipate providing meals for 200-250. And for Christmas, the group plans to give 250 youth a Cold Weather Package containing a warm hat, gloves, scarf, coat, boots, and toy.
Written by Daylontie Jasper
Edited by Cathy Milne-Ware
Interview: Robert “Rock” Calhoun; Aug. 27, 2021
Images Courtesy of TNS Photography – Used With Permission