Longtime community- and social justice-activist Takala Welch will receive an Activist Award from Hoop Hard Or Get Off The Court June 10 at St. Sabina Gymnasium, 1210 W. 78th Pl., during one of the organization's tournament games.
The tournament begins at 10 a.m. with the awards ceremony taking place at 2:00 p.m. The ceremony will be hosted by Hoop Hard Or Get Off The Court Founder Larry Daniels.
Welch was born in Chicago and raised in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. She received her bachelors degree in social work from Almeda University in Boise, and has worked in the social services field for over three decades in a variety of capacities.
She was a substance use counselor for 13 years, and then moved on to working with people impacted by HIV/AIDS in 1997, after "a dear friend died from AIDS. I felt that working in that community would be more rewarding."
Additionally, Welch has worked at Access Community Health Center as their Women Returning Home Program coordinator, and at AIDSCARE as their intake coordinator. She currently works at Mother and Child Alliance (MACA), which focuses on pregnant women living with HIV, as an enhanced medical case manager.
Welch is considering retiring soon from her day-to-day job while also continuing her work as an activist. She told Windy City Times that her independent community and social justice activism started in 1998, and describes it as both "God-given" and the result of "my overall compassion and dedication as a chosen one."
When asked what fills Welch with the most pride, she cited her 40 years of sobriety and counting, as well as raising "two beautiful daughters and two joyous grandchildren" alongside her professional achievements.
Those achievements include six previous community activist awards; an award from MACA recognizing her 11 years of service; co-founding three substance use programs; and founding the first Illinois Department of Corrections all-female graduation program at Access Community Health Center, in which the participants were able to fully re-enter society with their children.
Welch also was founder of the Women Returning Home softball team; founder of the Women Returning Home Outpatient Support Group; and a co-founder of a traveling forum, where she and others educate families and the community on "police accountability and their rights in the aftermath of losing a loved one to senseless violence."
Reflecting on her activism, Welch noted that, "A lot of my activist work consisted of pre-planning funeral arrangements; coordinating balloon releases and memorials; educating families on their rights; and connecting families with resources, such as victims' compensation to help with the cost of funerals, grief support groups and grief counseling. I am humbled to receive this award in recognition for all of my service to the community."
When Welch is not working or doing her activism, she can be found dancing, playing five different African drums, going to fine arts exhibits and watching plays, comedy shows and concerts.
"Working in social service and fulfilling my God-given duty freely as an activist would not be an easy task to do daily for someone who is not chosen," said Welch. "Through God's guidance and grace, I have fulfilled both duties honorably and successfully."
Hoop Hard Or Get Off The Court will also be posthumously honoring fallen Chicago Police Officer Areanah Preston that this event. Attendees are asked to pay $20 in cash at the door.