The first-ever Hipsqueak Awards to honor Chicago’s best in family-friendly arts, entertainment and advocacy, was recently given to Chicago legend, Ella Jenkins . Time Out Chicago critics honored Jenkins, 88, of the Lincoln Park neighborhood, for her decades of “trailblazing work in the children’s music genre” – a passion that continues to this day.
Born in St. Louis in 1924, Jenkins grew up on Chicago’s South Side. She received a bachelor of arts in sociology with a minor in child psychology from San Francisco State University, and began writing children’s songs.
In the 1950’s she was invited on “The Totem Club,” a children’s program broadcast by WTTW-Channel 11.
I would like to make an observation in addition to the obvious impact she has on her community and the world. Pre-civil rights movement, working as an equal as a black person presented many challenges, even for those living in northern “free” states.
Jenkins soon became host of a Channel 11 program called “This Is Rhythm,” and later signed with Folkways Records, which released her first album, “Call and Response: Rhythmic Group Singing” in 1957. She won a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2004.