Historic Honorary Board

Dr. Margaret T. Burroughs

Dr. Margaret T. Burroughs, artist, poet, and legendary founder of the DuSable Museum of African American History, has had many articles and books written about her, including the book she wrote about herself, Life With Margaret; the Official Autobiography. An especially good summary of her life can be found online on the History Makers website – www.thehistorymakers.org

Dr. Burroughs’ life, one might say, is “an open book.”

Not as well known is this legendary person’s support of the book programs of the Clarence Darrow Library of the Cook County Department of Corrections, a forerunner of The Freadom® Road Foundation. Even after the closing of that library – which she and her friends fought to prevent – Dr. Burroughs remained passionately supportive of the idea that the work begun there continue. – and that it continue in a more developed and broader incarnation. When shown a draft of new concepts to carry forward book programs in correctional institutions, Dr. Burroughs commented “When this goes national…” In an added show of support, she granted consent to cite her name in connection with our work.

Dr. Burroughs’ initial and continued encouragement, advice and inspiration are woven into the very fabric of The Freadom® Road Foundation.

Dr. Burroughs was a close personal and professional friend of Queen Mother Reverend Helen Sinclair, a like-minded legend, also on our Historic Honorary Board.

Dr. Burroughs passed November 21, 2010.

Dr. Burroughs can be heard and seen reading the philosophies of her life in the Resources video section of our website.

Dr. Rita Simó

Rita Simó’s triple talents as virtuoso pianist, humanitarian and entrepreneurial founder of Chicago’s famed People’s Music School guarantee her rich contribution of skills and wisdom to The Freadom® Road Foundation.

Born in the Dominican Republic she reached such heights of musical artistry as to be designated the National Concert Pianist of the Dominican Republic. On a scholarship from the National Conservatory she immigrated to the United States earning B.A. and M.A. degrees from the Julliard School of Music in New York and her D. MA in piano performance from Boston University. She has played solo concerts, performed with numerous chamber music groups and soloed with orchestras in the U.S., Germany and Latin America. In addition to her concert performances Rita has taught Master Classes in the National Conservatories of Costa Rica, Bolivia and the Dominican Republic as well as teaching at Julliard, Rosary College (now Dominican University) Leslie College and Emmanuel College.

Not satisfied with such enormous personal and artistic success, Rita turned her thoughts to the many children in the US living in poverty. These children would never have the kind of opportunities for a classical music education she had had in the Dominican Republic where classes were available to all regardless of ability to pay.

Rita’s solution? In 1976 she founded The People’s Music School. With only $626 and a piano donated by St. Thomas of Canterbury Catholic Church she opened the doors of The People’s Music School in a vacant storefront in the Uptown neighborhood of Chicago. Rita placed a sign on the window that said ’FREE MUSIC LESSONS’ and a handful of students began to trickle in.”

Under Rita’s vision and leadership a beautiful multi-million dollar building was constructed at 931 West Eastwood Avenue and now houses The People’s Music School. “Still in the culturally diverse Uptown neighborhood where it first began,” the school attracted so many prospective students “lined around the block” that finally, the school went to a lottery system.

Throughout these years Rita was involved with the Chicago Public Library, whether giving concerts at the downtown or branch locations, having People’s Music School students perform at Branch openings or miraculously getting a baby grand piano into the Clarence Darrow Branch Library at the Cook County Department of Corrections (Jail)!

Rita has more awards than wall space to display them. Just a few include:
… In the … issue of … Rita was cited as one of 100 Chicago women who made a difference and was honored with one of the 100 stones placed throughout Chicago.

Rita’s story is told in the book Music is a gift:pass it on: Rita Simó and the People’s Music School by Cynthia Willis Pinkerton. It is available on Amazon.com… The book while extremely personal, is also a virtual “How to” found and nurture a not for profit organization. A must resource for anyone contemplating the daunting venture of starting and growing a not for profit organization.

Rita Simó, passed September 22, 2020. Rita was a longtime supporter, advisor, Board Member and constant inspiration for the founding and development of The Freadom® Road Foundation. A farewell tribute was posted in our News section for Sunday, September 27, 2020.

Queen Mother - Rev. Helen Sinclair

“Queen Mother” Rev. Helen Sinclair is a living legend. Born on July 14, 1920, she has followed in the footsteps of her famous mother Jessie “Ma” Houston. Like “Ma” she has dedicated her life to prison reform, correctional ministry and civil rights. Reverend Sinclair is National Director of Jessie “Ma” Houston Prison Outpost of Rainbow Push Coalition. The original Prison Outpost was founded by “Ma” in whose honor a Chicago Park was named.

An ordained worldwide prison minister, Reverend Sinclair was named the first and only female chaplain in adult male maximum security prisons in the Illinois Department of Corrections. She logs thousands of miles yearly visiting these prisoners. She listens to them, prays for them, counsels them and advocates for them. She has recruited others including Mayor Harold Washington, Minister Louis Farrakhan, Reverend Al Sharpton, Congressman Danny Davis, County Commissioner Bobbie Steele and Du Sable Museum of African American History Founder, Dr. Margaret Burroughs, to minister to the prisoners with her.

In her international work she has serviced in Israel, the Peace Corps in Central Africa and Cuba.

She has marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Dick Gregory, Al Raby, Reverend Jesse Jackson and many other Civil Rights Movement legends.

She holds a BA in Public Administration/Criminal Justice from Northeastern Illinois University and a Certificate in Early Childhood Development from Harry Truman Chicago City College which she earned at age 65!

She has won awards covering three walls of her home. Among these awards are several from three Illinois Governors!

Queen Mother Reverend Helen Sinclair, one of the initial Board Members and advocates of The Freadom® Road Foundation, was an early and constant inspiration for its founding dating back to her tireless support of the book programs of the Clarence Darrow Library of The Cook County Department of Corrections, a forerunner of our organization.