By Mike SANDROLINI
MAYWOOD | Proviso East alumni from the Class of 1984 got together last weekend for
their 30th anniversary class reunion.
But a group of those who attended the reunion did more than celebrate and reminisce
about old times. Around 30 alumni gathered at the northeast corner of 1st Avenue and
Madison Street to call attention to the here and now—specifically, to walk for peace in a
village which has seen drug use, gangs, crime and violent crime increase since they
attended Proviso East.
According to statistics, compiled by NeighborhoodScout.com, the chances of becoming
a victim of violent crime in Illinois is 1 in 241. In Maywood, it’s 1 in 102. Maywood’s
crime index is 8, which means Maywood is safer than 8 percent of the cities in the
United States (with 100 being the safest).
Carrying “Walk for Peace” signs, and participating in chants such as, “What do we want
(what do we want)? More peace (more peace)” and “Stop the violence, increase the
peace,” class members walked west on Madison from 1st Avenue to 17th Avenue and
then back to the high school. Passersby in vehicles honked their horns in support.
Darnell Williams, who along with Liza (Wordlaw) Simmons and class president
Twymeni (Hrobowski) Purchase, felt compelled to organize the walk after noting
classmates and relatives of classmates who had died over the past year-and-a-half.
“We were keeping track of events of our class for the reunion on Facebook,” Williams
explained, “and we’ve had three classmates that have passed away that were really
involved in the community from Proviso East class of ’84, and other classmates who’ve
had relatives that have been shot or died in the community.”
“We were just thinking about doing something to honor Maywood where we all grew up
and where we all come from, the Maywood-Broadview area,” said Simmons, who now
lives in Virginia and returned for the reunion, but still has relatives that live in the area.
“We remember what it was like when we lived here and how it was such a blessing to
be a child and to have a childhood here in Maywood. “To see the condition of it today,
we just want give this city some hope.”
Purchase, who’s lived in El Paso, Texas for the past eight years after her job relocated
there, came up for the reunion as well. Her parents and brothers all reside in Maywood.
“Upon coming home (for homecoming) we hear of the tragedies, we hear everything,
we see the statistics and we’ve got to do something,” she said. “It’s part of our social
responsibility being a class to provide this peace walk to say, ‘Hey, we’re alumni; we
come from many different walks of life across the country, but we’re here to say to our
town, ‘We do believe in Maywood and we support it.”
Being victimized by crime 30 years ago never crossed their minds. “It was quite
different (in 1984),” said Leon Melton, Jr., whose father, Leon Sr., has been a Maywood
Police officer for 30 years. “You could leave your front door open and sleep on the porch.
You can’t do that today.”
“Thirty years ago you could walk anywhere, everybody knew each other, everybody was
friendly, everybody was family,” Simmons added. “We all cared about each other and
looked out for each other. There was no crime.”
, in their opinion, has changed in Maywood over the past 30 years that’s led to an uptick
in crime? “I think the focus on our future has changed,” Purchase said. “When my
parents 54 years ago bought our home, they were going to live and die for Maywood.
And that’s what we said to ourselves. My brothers are still here; I’m the only one that’s
left, but my heart is still here in Maywood. That’s why I’m back here as often as I
possibly can. Not just to see my relatives and parents, but say, ‘Hey, where can I
contribute? Where can I volunteer to give back?’ ”
“I’m really not sure,” Simmons replied. “When we left, drugs were just infiltrating the
area. I think drugs have a lot to do with it because drugs usually lead to everything else
that happens—to crime, to unemployment, to not being educated. I think that is what
started it and from there it just took off. The crime came, and everything that was not a
benefit that wasn’t good started coming into Maywood.”
Some alumni believe getting back to how people used to look out for, and encourage,
one other years ago would be an important step to help reduce crime rates in the
village. “It’s hard,” Simmons said. “I think people have to start caring about each other
and start caring about community the way the used to. And start standing up and
speaking up for what they want and demanding that it be better.”
Williams, who works in the far western suburbs but recently moved back to Maywood,
said, “I think a lot of it, for us, we think about the reason that we didn’t get in(to) trouble,
the reason by the grace of God that we were here is people in our lives that encouraged
us that we could do better and make a better life for ourselves.”
Statistics posted on the village of Maywood’s website indicate that crime has been
reduced in certain categories. Although overall crime rose by 2.5 percent at the end of
2012, homicides and shootings were down by 46 and 20 percent, respectively, from
2012 to 2011. The number of overall arrests also were down by 40 percent over that
In addition, Maywood has 76 total police officers, or 3.0 officers per 1,000 residents,
according to areavibes.com. That’s better than the statewide average (2.5 officers per
1,000 residents) and the national average (2.8 officers per 1,000 residents).
“I’m excited about the future,” Purchase said. “I think there’s a good administrative staff
and the mayor that is here. They want to see the fruits of their labors because they, too,
have come through these (school) hallways and these avenues and boulevards. But I
think now that we have that focus, the change is going to come. “Despite the violence,
there’s still hope and I believe in that.”
Proviso East Class of ’84 holds