To say it gets pretty cold in Chicago is an absolute understatement.
In recent weeks, the chill has hovered in the teens and worse … the type of temperature that sends even the hardiest of residents fleeing to warm buses, cars and the creature comforts of home.
But the bone-chilling weather isn’t a factor for Chausii Roberson, a 42-year-old single mom of four. At least a few days a week, she is out in the elements in front of Andrew Carnegie Public School in the city’s Woodlawn neighborhood. Around 3 p.m., she parks her car about a block from the front door and waits patiently for middle schoolers to come streaming out of the doors, their shrieks piercing the winter air.
Then, her “store” opens for business.
Just outside her car door in a plot of dried, dying grass, she hawks packaged honey buns, potato chips, Skittles, and Snickers. Typically, she is sold out in 15 minutes or less with nothing but cardboard and wisps of plastic wrapper as a reminder of her efforts.
“I make $20 here, $30 there,” explains Roberson, who met with JET a few feet from her makeshift candy shop. “It’s not a lot of money I know, but every little bit helps.”
Roberson barely has a moment to even count the cash she collects. It’s almost immediately bound for Washington D.C. where her second oldest, daughter Jiara Love, is attending Howard University as a freshman. The meager candy sales, plus Roberson’s wages as a daycare worker and donations from well-meaning supporters are all that are sustaining the 18-year-old’s enrollment in the HBCU’s business program.
“I promised my baby that if she worked hard, got good grades that I would take care of the rest,” Roberson– clad in a quilted white jacket with her smooth bob framing her face– explains. “I was in the streets and I didn’t know any better and there was nobody to really show me better. I never got the opportunity to go to college and I want to make sure that she does.”
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BMWK, what would you do for your children?