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Evanston native Alice Tregay’s documentary, “Alice’s Ordinary People,” was presented to a full house at Shorefront Legacy Center, 2010 Dewey Ave., on June 19. Filmed by Craig Dudnick, the documentary is the story of those Ms. Tregay calls “ordinary people who made things happen.” She selected the individuals who were interviewed. As a child growing up in Evanston, she was known as Lucille Hicks. The name she uses in her professional life is Alice Tregay.
Her accomplishments are many; the impact she has had is enormous. Ms. Tregay became active in the 1960s, when there were relatively few women in public leadership roles. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, in a tribute on Feb. 26, 2012, commemorated the many accomplishments of Ms. Tregay in saying, “Alice has spent almost five decades pouring her heart and soul into promoting social change. Over the years, her activism has taken on many different forms: she has advocated on behalf of the disadvantaged, registered thousands of new voters, managed high profile political campaigns, and more. As a result of her actions, citizens of Illinois and those across the country are better off.”
The documentary tells the story of Ms. Tregay’s early advocacy in equal housing, school integration and Operation Breadbasket which became Operation Push in 1971. She started the political education division within Operation Push in 1971 and taught thousands of students how to organize citizens and lead political campaigns. Ms. Tregay was often a campaign leader in mayoral and presidential elections. Eventually she went on to serve as director and chief lobbyist for the Black Illinois Legislative Lobby in Springfield from 1977-82. In a phone conversation, Ms. Tregay said she was recommended and became part of the staff/team who did the advance work for Walter Mondale.
She and her husband, James Tregay, marched many times alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in support of open housing and desegregation in the Chicago public schools. Mr. Tregay was also the president of the South Shore Organization for Human Rights. She stood up against prejudice, discrimination in access to education and jobs as well as voting rights for women and African Americans. Ms. Tregay continues to assist in voter registration drives as she did on June 28 at Evanston Township High School, when she registered more than 250 students.
The documentary and her responses to questions from the audience painted a portrait of a dynamic woman with a resilient spirit. It is that extraordinary spirit that animates her documentary about those she calls “ordinary people.”