Hundreds of well-wishers turned out at the Major Adams Community Center, 125 N. Hoyne, to sing Happy Birthday to the MACC’s legendary founder James “Major” Adams.
Hundreds of well-wishers turned out on January 17, 2015 to celebrate the 93rd birthday of James “Major” Adams, the legendary founder of the Major Adams Community Center (MACC). The gala event, which was held at MACC, 125 N. Hoyne, featured youth performances, an art show and plenty of food and fun.
While the focus was on the Major and his work with young people, a number of adults stood up to sing his praises including Alderman Walter Burnett (27th Ward) and Howard Lathan from Chicago Area Project.
The celebration was capped off by singing and Major dancing a little to the Happy Birthday song by Stevie Wonder. He was even heard to utter his signature “Oh Boy!,” his signature exclamation of excitement that is recognized by community residents throughout Chicago’s African American community.
James “Major” Adams retired at 90, but his legacy continues to positively influence communities throughout Chicago. MACC, an affiliate of Chicago Area Project, remains a guiding force among families on the west side. As Associate Executive Director of Chicago Area Project, Howard Lathan, one of the members of Major’s famous Hornets Drum and Bugle Corp, works with grass-roots CAP affiliated community organizations throughout the city.
Another of those who is giving back is Arthur Robertson, founder and executive director of CAP Affiliate, the South Shore Drill Team, winners of the 2011 World Championships in Winter Guard International A Class Finals. According to Robertson, the foundation of the South Shore Drill Team goes back to the years he spent in the 1970s under the mentorship of Major and the Hornets Drum and Bugle Corps when the group was located at the Henry Horner Boys Club.
“Major would always make sure that we practiced, make sure we had something to eat, make sure that we were safe,” Robertson reminisces. “Before I left the Hornets, I was an instructor…. Some of the things that Major did for us is to allow us to grow and become successful and productive.” When Robertson started the South Shore Drill Team on Chicago’s south side in 1980, Major backed him up with equipment and emotional support. It was the lessons of how Major ran the Hornets, however, that had the most impact. “One of the things I learned from Major is that we don’t only have a drill team, we have an organization that teaches discipline, teamwork, tries to build the spirit that helps kids become productive citizens,” states Robertson. “Another thing I learned from Major is that we’re involved with our kids. We go to the schools and talk to the teachers. We go to the homes. We talk to the kids about the importance of staying away from negative activities and the value of doing positive activities.”
James “Major” Adams is very proud of the young people that he mentored. “You wouldn’t believe—the worse kids we had sometimes turned out to be the best,” says Major. “Someone has to baby the kids in order to get anything out of them. When you’re dealing with a high-risk kid, you’re dealing with something real bad.”
Major’s dedication made him a highly respected figure in the west side community. He became the go-to person for community residents, young and old, in need. This is the legacy that continues. And according to Major, there are three key ingredients to that legacy. The first is being there for the kids. The second is having something the kids are interested in. And the third is listening to the kids. “That’s the main thing… I spent time with these kids,” says Major. That’s the most important thing. You’ve got to spend time with them. And you got something that they want because they’re coming back.” In addition, states Major, “Listen to what the kids have got to say. That means a lot… And understand the kid, the personality.”
The birthday celebration at MACC on January 17th was a thank you to this man who spent 73 years doing community service and mentoring youth. It is also a thank you to the many others who are carrying out James “Major” Adams legacy by being there for the kids.
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