The public memorial for Chicago school board President Michael Scott gave a platform for prominent figures to share memories, but the event also allowed West Side residents to say goodbye to one of their own.
Longtime resident Calvin Muhammad never met Scott, a native of the North Lawndale neighborhood and popular confidant to Mayor Richard Daley. Scott died last week in what was ruled a suicide, but police are still investigating. Muhammad said he felt compelled to attend Scott's Sunday farewell at the UIC Forum, 725 W. Roosevelt Rd.
"He's from the West Side, I'm from the West Side and that's one thing about the West Side, we have a very strong bond," he said. "Though we may not have personally shaken hands, that's the kind of bond we have on the West Side. We respect one another."
Muhammad was one of more than a thousand people at the memorial that brought out notable figures such as Gov. Pat Quinn, U.S. Rep Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill., and Chicago Public Schools chief Ron Huberman. A private funeral was held Saturday, where Daley spoke. On Sunday, speakers paid homage to Scott's sturdy ties to the West Side, from his start as a community organizer decades ago and continuing through his fight for the West Side's inclusion and advancement.
"He was one of us. He was the best of us," West Side Ald. Sharon Dixon, 24th, told the audience.
U.S. Rep Danny Davis, D-Ill., himself a fixture on the West Side, said that as a younger man, Scott showed the qualities that made him successful. "We saw that Michael had talent and Michael continued to emerge," Davis said.
The roughly two-hour memorial featured stirring gospel solos dedicated to Scott and speakers often quoting Scripture to console members of his family. One of Scott's nieces read a letter of condolence from President Barack Obama.
Scott's adult children thanked those in attendance and asked for their continued support as they dealt with the tragedy. Their mother, Scott's former wife, Millicent, died in May.
"Don't have sympathy for us, pray for us," said Scott's daughter, Monique, standing beside Michael Jr. "At this point, losing a mother and father five months apart, we need prayer."