The real blue and gold
Took a photo by the Bernie Mac auditorium at CVS. Not a trespasser. This is home.
I have a hard time driving pass my alma mater without smiling thinking of the best memories from each corner of the 750,000 square-foot campus. Chicago Vocational High School stands three stories tall, sits on one neighborhood block on the city’s South Side and at first glance it could be mistaken for a junior college.
The property once was owned by the U.S. Navy, was the most modern and best equipped trade school not just in Chicago, but in the United States. Other trade schools in the city like Dunbar and Simeon naturally became our rivals challenging our first class athletic teams, performing arts entities and every other area we were deemed a threat. My apologies in advance to my friends from Simeon and Dunbar (who had similar school colors), but CVS is known as the real Blue and Gold.
As in the movie, Coming to America, always seemed to be a misunderstanding between us (CVS) and them (Dunbar & Simeon). Consider those other city trade schools the McDowells and we were the machine known as McDonalds. If you’ve watched the Coming to America movie then you already know about the “necessary tension”.
A wealth of talent came from CVS. Celebrities such as Bernie Mac, Juwan Howard and Michael Baisden to name a few. Even if you weren’t in the spotlight to the degree of a celebrity, at CVS you were still a star!
From my graduating class, we had some of THE best trained hairstylists in the city. Like my girl Derricka aka Tootie. There was no hairstyle she couldn’t do well. Tameaka was another great hairstylist. If I remember correctly, her specialty was stacked ponytails, which everybody and I mean everybody rocked at some point. Me. I could do a mean custom French roll. I don’t know how our instructors Ms. King, Mrs. Montgomery and Mrs. Gunn put up with our shenanigans as a class, yet we won countless state competitions and passed the state board exam officially becoming licensed cosmetologists.
Dear Cosmetology Instructors:
On behalf of the “cosmo” graduating class of 1999, we appreciate you, we love you and we miss you. We now understand why at times you were hard on us. Thank you for your pour.
Now let’s get down to the get down!
CVS Marching Band
I grew up 5 blocks away from the school. Even in the distance I would always hear the perfect sound to the beat of drums, the crisp wind of horn instruments on my block and so my curiosity led me walking to 87th street. In the back parking lot of the school, I would find a crowd of people near the gate watching Dr. Michelangelo Taylor directing Marching Band practice for upcoming performances. Hearing the passion in his rebukes and how students quickly fell in line just by his facial expression, its safe to say I was eager to focus in on what all the fuss was about. Amongst the crowd, neighborhood residents and students from Dunbar, Simeon, Corliss, and Julian closely studied their competition respectfully known as The Pride of Chicago.
CVS Marching Band was a soulful, visually stimulating concert in motion. See the face of the drum major above? The band was known as the best for playing music because they played no games especially when the drum majors posed the famous question to the band. “What time is it?”
I did not play an instrument, but one thing I could do effortlessly was dance. And so I became a Dancing Doll in 1996. I loved every second of dancing alongside the band. Discipline, precision, dedication, hard work and sportsmanship were some of the greatest lessons learned during my 3 years of band participation. Performing at football games, parades, school concerts (spring concerts in the auditorium were like a movie) and band competitions, I just thoroughly enjoyed it all.
Here’s my first performance as a Dancing Doll at the Jackie Robinson parade/band competition.
Band Director, Dr. Taylor is the narrator during our performance.
Dancing Dolls standing at attention.
By the time 1999 arrived, the legendary band director stepped down and we were honored to be “adopted” by our new leader also known as “Crazy Joe” or “Doc”. A nod to the role Morgan Freeman played in the movie, Lean on Me.
I feel the need to offer movie references so you’ll have a better understanding of the experience because its challenging to put in words. You just had to be there to see Ms. Harvell and Dr. Miller in action as they oversaw the movement and multitasked in other roles at the school. They were extended family. Good times.
Ms. Clara Harvell - Dean of Girls
Circa 1999 ~ See the Dancing Doll captain with the sequin body suit on? Guess who? Thought I was FINE in this uniform! Lol.
The Marching Band was known as the Pride of Chicago. As most of you know, pride always comes before a fall. A few years after I graduated, Ms. Harvell retired, other happenings happened and before we knew it the band program/support violently declined. The alumni association reached out with a mission to awaken the school spirit once again through the band. I decided to volunteer, took classes to get certified and eventually became the Dancing Doll coach for the last standing three teams. It tickled me to see other schools get nervous when the new band of students arrived to perform. Just like old times.
2014 Dancing Dolls
2014/2015 Dancing Dolls
2015 Dancing Dolls, Me and THE one and only mini CVS dancing doll
Here’s the 2015 marching band homecoming performance. My last season as coach. A fellow CVS Band alum narrated this performance to keep the tradition going in honor of Dr. Taylor. If you were not in attendance during this homecoming game, I have to say it was something to see. Up close.
My experience at CVS afforded me the opportunity to inspire a younger generation teaching them some of the great lessons I’ve learned. It was an honor to give back, leave my mark and serve my school in that capacity. This year marks 20 years since my departure as a student. Who would’ve thought? Initially, I wanted to attend Hyde Park Career Academy with my brother, but missed the testing deadline and decided to attend CVS. When I tell you my high school days were some of the 👏🏽 best 👏🏽days of 👏🏽my 👏🏽life! Some days were good and others not so good, but I can honestly and happily say, I’m SOOOOOOO glad I went to CVS! 💙💛
A final shout to Dr. Aryee for teaching us the real real about some of our culture and the Swahili language.
You’re the real MVP.