Aaron T. Lee: A Life and A Dream Fulfilled


By John W. Fountain
Aaron Timothy Lee, director and producer of
Dream Chaser, which airs this weekend
on Marquee Sports Network, starting
Friday, Nov. 25, at 7 p.m. CST

“I got you. Don’t worry, Professor Fountain. I got you.” I can still hear his words. “Thee Aaron Lee.” 

That’s what I called him. For that is how Aaron often referred to himself, almost in third-person while beaming and flashing his big white toothy smile, his eyes shining with the delight of a schoolboy who dreamt of someday becoming a professional sports reporter in this his hometown.

I first glimpsed that smile in what now seems like a lifetime ago, and after countless emails, texts and letters, office chats and telephone conversations shared between professor and student, mentor and mentee. Still hear the excitement in his voice, always detectable even when Aaron tried to bury the lead while delivering the latest news of some new job, journalism project or award. 

Aaron has some really big news this week. And I know he would call or text or email so that I could shout it from the rafters, celebrate. If he could... 

We both knew this day would come. That time waits for no man. It is a truth that Aaron arrived at in life much earlier than I did.

He was always young at heart. A dream chaser. 

A River Runs Between Us, But It Doesn't Have To

Ancestral Slave River in Assin Manso in Ghana is the historic site where shackled Africans
were forced to bathe before making the final journey to slave castles
John Fountain standing in Slave 
River in Ghana.
By John W. Fountain
I see brother turn against brother, Black man against Black man. Witness this perennial crabs-in-a-bucket mentality in which we continually cannibalize each other here in America in the streets, in public pages, on social media in various venues--entertainment, political and otherwise. And my mind drifts back to Africa, where centuries ago brother sold brother into slavery to the European.

I see us slaying each other today, by words and misdeeds, by the tongue and by gun, leaving a carnage of strange fruit in Urban streets. Divided by the self-hate rooted in Africa, where Africans slew Africans, instigated tribal wars to capture indigenous men, women and children in exchange for guns, ammunition, liquor, for trinkets and a semblance of power. 

Peace, Love & A Fragile Hope

Khalil White-EL, 18, was previously a member of The Faith Community of St. Sabina’s Brave Youth Program and most recently in the church’s Strong Futures Mentoring Program, where he was a mentee. He had recently landed a new job and was sharing his excitement about it with mentors Friday (August 19, at St. Sabina’s back-to-school Block Party held at Renaissance Park, at 1300 W. 79th Street, near the church. According to police, Khalil was fatally shot four days later on August 23, in an alley in the 8700 block of South Wabash Avenue, about three miles from St. Sabina.  (Photo: Provided)

By John W. Fountain

Peace. Into the night, the children smile. Their voices rise above the steady whir of bouncy house fans and the deep incurable pain that is not as easily detectable here, though its presence too is undeniable. Like the water that ripples in soft waves at a nearby park fountain. 

Like the mothers of murdered sons and daughters who don “Purpose Over Pain” T-shirts--decades of grief shared between them. Like the enthusiasm of Khalil White-EL, 18, who bubbles with excitement over his new job--his future as bright as his infectious smile. 

Peace. It flows here, on an August Friday night at Renaissance Park on West 79th Street. Drifting upon a premature autumn wind is a sense of the way life is supposed to be, even on this side of Chicago, where gunfire and murder confiscate childhood.

"Don’t we all bleed the same? Doesn’t every human soul carry the same worth?"

It's Time

John W. Fountain as a Cubs reporter at the Chicaho Tribune circa  1991

They say that "the people" appreciate my pen as a voice of Chicago. I pray this is true.

It has been my joy and honor for the last nearly 13 years as a freelance columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times. I do not know where my pen will land. But know this: I will continue speaking truth with purpose and passion as I seek to tell "our" stories with all my heart--as I have for the last 30-plus years as a journalist at places like the New York Times, Washington Post and Chicago Tribune.

But there comes a time when every writer/journalist must treat themselves with the respect their work and craft rendered deserves. 

I've always lived by: Never Internalize Their Disrespect.

I now say: "Never Accept Their Disrespect"

Thank you, everyone, for your support, love and even your criticisms over these years. This is not goodbye from my pen but the start of a new beginning, even if the road and destination are, for now, unclear. 

But God.

A Google search will always find me or my website: www.johnwfountain.com

I will be writing. I pray you will keep reading.

John W. Fountain

COMING SOON, "People of Accra" - ABOUT THE PROJECT

By John W. Fountain
ACCRA. CAPITAL CITY. POPULATION 2.6 MILLION. Forty journalism students, one goal: To tell the stories of everyday people. From its bustling boisterous markets. To the relentless entrepreneurial merchants who hawk their wares in perilous streets that buzz with motorists and merciless motorbikes that dart recklessly between traffic. To the faithful “Kayaye”—the young women who work as head porters, carrying more than their weight on their heads and a small child tied in a cloth on their backs.
"The consensus around here is that whatever superlatives may be used to describe Ghana, one must also interject the word, 'hard.'"
This is their story. It is a story of the rhythms of life and in this time. The story of a people whose hardship alone is not enough to dissuade them from viewing life through the prism of possibility, even when sweat is dripping like raindrops from their brow, their backs aching from carrying their burdens in the heat of the day, their fingers stretched, their feet wearied and worn, and another day’s journey of toil for little pay awaiting at the light of each new sunrise. 

Fountain Wins Top Honors in Chicago Headline Club LIsagor Awards

WestSide Press celebrates Chicago native son John W. Fountain, freelance columnist, named 1st Place Winner of this year’s Chicago Headline Club’s 45th Annual Peter Lisagor Awards for Best News Column, Editorial Writing or Commentary. Fountain won for his work on three selected columns: the Unforgotten 51 women, “Chicago Bleeds” and Jelani Day.