Black History Month Featured Evanstonians
It’s Black History Month! Each week in February, the City will highlight a Black Evanstonian who’s made an impact in the local community.
Geraldine (Gerri) Sizemore describes Evanston as "generous, compassionate [and] friendly," and those words could easily describe her. An Evanston resident for more than 50 years, Gerri has spent her time serving the community. Notably, in 1962, Gerri became the first African American to be hired as a High Low Foods grocery checker in the North Shore and subsequently trained many other checkers. In 1966, she began working for the United States Postal Service (USPS), where she worked for 37 years.
Aside from her time at USPS, Gerri has actively served the Evanston community through her extensive volunteerism, including currently as treasurer of the Foster Senior Club, Second Vice President of the Evanston (North Shore) Branch NAACP and as the Auxiliary President of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Technical Sergeant William B. Snell Post 7186. In addition, Gerri is on the board of the Forrest E. Powell Foundation, the Levy Senior Center Foundation and the Warren "Billy" Cherry Scholarship Fund. She is also an honorary board member at the Shorefront Legacy Center and a trustee at her church, Ebenezer A.M.E. Gerri has formerly served on the board at North Shore Village and at the Evanston Youth Job Center.
Over her rich life, Gerri has received numerous awards, including from the USPS, the 2015 Aging Well Award, the 2011 Outstanding Volunteers Award, the Vision Keeper Award, a community service award from the Chessman Club of the North Shore, Family Focus Evanston "Those who Make a Difference Award," the Forrest E. Powell Work Ethic Award, the Trailblazer Award and the Evanston Youth Job Center Volunteer Award. In her free time, Gerri loves to travel, catch up on the news and spend time with her family.
Hecky Powell was serving the Evanston community long before he began serving some of the nation’s best barbecue (“It’s the sauce!”). Before opening his restaurant at the corner of Emerson Street and Green Bay Road, Hecky served as executive director of Neighbors at Work, a community economic development association in Evanston. He later incorporated his passion for community service into his business plan at Hecky’s Barbecue, which has long provided local teens with jobs while providing visitors near and far with delicious barbecue.
In 1994, Hecky created the Forrest E. Powell Foundation in honor of his father to carry on the values of family, community, and spirituality. The Powell Foundation offers scholarships to local students, and its most recent endeavor, the Work Ethic Program, partners with local businesses to provide apprenticeships and mentoring to ETHS students interested in careers in technology and the trades.
Hecky is a recipient of the Evanston Chamber of Commerce Small Business Award, the Northeastern Illinois University Community Service Award, and the Northwestern University Black Alumni Association Award. In 2014, the corner of Green Bay and Emerson received the honorary designation of Hecky Powell Way.