Fighting injustice – 'for bread and roses, too'

I first knew George in 1997 from reading Substance. I saw his righteousness and passion in its pages. Then I met him and I was blown away by his intelligence, endurance, and experience. He seemed to have done everything while still doing more. I saw how injustice enraged him and he was compelled to fight. He knew that bullies had to be forced to stop and bosses had to be forced to do the right things.

We worked together on the first story I reported for Substance in February 1998. It was so exciting to be with George, who cared so much about telling of this injustice: Mayor Daley and the Chicago board of education were going to wipe out a wonderful school, Jones Commercial High School, which provided paying jobs for all its students, most of whom came from poor homes on the south and west sides of Chicago and would never have had a chance to get into these business-oriented jobs without the school. The mayor, Paul Vallas and Gery Chico were closing it because they wanted to get rid of the Pacific Garden homeless mission, Jones’ neighbor on State Street. By changing Jones from a business school to a selective enrollment college prep for more advantaged students, they'd “have to” expand the building and move out the homeless.

George and Danny in April 1998 in Portage Park, Chicago. Photo by Sharon SchmidtAfter we published the March 1998 issue of Substance, with my story on page one, above the fold, and with dozens of other important pieces in the issue, too, we became friends and I fell in love with George. And I spent time with him and Danny, who was eight years old, without working on Substance. One warm Saturday, the three of us went for a bike ride in Portage Park.

Previously, George had bought several bikes at garage sales, so there was one for me. This was typical of George, to always have extra – a full coffee pot, extra bundles of Substance, his closet containing more than a dozen purple dress shirts, which he was wearing to Bowen High School at the time.

I knew George was good. But on that bike ride, I saw his tenderness with Dan and the joy he had in being with his son and me, and he looked blissful, not like the guy who kept pounding out the outrages on his keyboard, and I loved him even more.

I figured out then that George didn’t love the fights he fought. He liked his work and liked to write, and he was so gifted. He wanted people like me to tell the truth about what we saw where we worked. But he didn’t work for the fight. He fought racist policies, gangs, inadequate pay and corrupt leaders because they hurt people.

He fought so others could have happiness he never took for granted – like the freedom to bike in a safe park, the time to spend with a son he adored, the means to have an extra bike for me.

Of God and George being good

My thoughts about George and his godly work.§ion=Article


October 8, 2018 at 4:15 PM

By: Sharon Schmidt

'Bread and Roses' and comments about Van Dyke and Kavanaugh

At the visitation we held for George on Sept. 20, someone left a framed copy of "Bread and Roses," on a table in the back. Thank you.

When I wrote this story about George wanting others to have happiness, like he had, which I first saw that day in the park, I was reminded of the song.


To those who wrote about the Bret Kavanaugh confirmation and the Van Dyke conviction in the comment section of another article about George — this is not the place. Why not post your comments at the Reader or some other Chicago site that publishes multiple comments?


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