This tribute to the late Sherlynn Reid ran in our Oct. 27, 1999 issue when she retired. We thought it was appropriate to run again to honor her memory.
Let me offer a bouquet of memories to Sherlynn Reid as she retires. She has been both friend and mentor for many years. I first met her on the way to the national board meeting for the Oak Park Exchange Congress. Jim McClure, Vernette Schultz, Bobbie Raymond and I were traveling on the Rapid Transit to a Cleveland suburb. Sherlynn and I connected because we had both lived in Cleveland and although our life experiences were different, we have remained committed to the racial diversity of communities.
While I lived, and later worked, in Bellwood for the Leadership Council, I often touched base with Sherlynn for advice. During the planning of the National Neighbors Conference, she was great support. Her leadership as president of the League of Women Voters and again as president of the Chicago Fair Housing Alliance, made her a recognized ally for developing strategies to build racially diverse neighborhoods.
When I sold real estate, I would see Sherlynn at training on Fair Housing; when I worked to preserve low-income housing for Latinos in Hodgkins, she provided guidance. We were co-trainers for First Colonial Banks after a lawsuit mandated Fair Lending Training. Her family’s experience with discriminatory mortgage lending in four metropolitan areas was the focus of a training video developed for examiners. The tape dramatically illustrates the disparity of lending practices when based only on race.
Our most memorable presentations were also the most difficult. One West Cook community had invited us to speak about home ownership and racial change. One questioner essentially wanted to know, “How do you keep people out?” Sherlynn skillfully re-directed the question to: “How to welcome new residents.”
In another meeting with area school administrators, we suggested that hiring practices needed to recruit people of color, education curricula needed to expand to showcase the contributions of all racial groups, and that all students needed to be prepared for a diverse workplace. We were met with blank faces; in those days it was too soon to expect a positive response; all the more reason that we needed each other for moral support.
As a friend, she has shared her family times, as well as her network of Fisk alumnae and Links members. She made me realize there are lively and interesting people around the country who mutually support each other in key leadership roles. Often this is invisible to the white majority.
At one point I asked Sherlynn, “Why do you have time for me and all my questions?” She said, “Oh, I definitely think you are teachable.” I took that as encouragement to speak out on community issues; to stand firm on fairness and the rights of the protected classes; and to work to build an interactive, multiracial community. At each stage in my development, I have felt Sherlynn’s kind support.
When I moved to Oak Park and later accepted the position of Housing Programs Manager, I found Sherlynn Reid to be both friend and mentor. Her legacy to all of us is that we, too, can take an active role in building community. Her contributions to Oak Park, her leadership in the region, and her reputation in Fair Housing are a beautiful bouquet of memories.