A history display about Mahalia Jackson at the opening of the Mahalia Jackson Court in Chatham on Sept. 2, 2022. Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago

CHATHAM — A South Side organization needs a local star with singing and acting chops to portray a neighborhood legend this holiday season.

The Greater Chatham Initiative is looking for an impersonator to improvise, sing and act like iconic gospel singer and civil rights activist Mahalia Jackson. The paid opportunity is open to any upcoming actor hoping to shine as one of Chatham’s own. 

The Greater Chatham Initiative will host auditions 3-5:30 p.m. Saturday at 737 E. 79th St. and again at the same time and location Oct. 7. Those interested should come prepared with one gospel song to sing and a 30-second monologue. Questions can be sent to darryl@greaterchathaminitiative.org.

The selected local talent will perform as Jackson at fall and winter holiday events this year, organizers said.

The Greater Chatham Initiative often hosts events at the Mahalia Jackson Court, an 8,500-square-foot public plaza the organization opened at 1 E. 79th St. last year. 

The pop-up plaza was the first step in the organization’s plan to create the Mahalia Jackson Cultural District, said Nedra Sims Fears, executive director at the Greater Chatham Initiative. The district, which will run along 79th Street, will empower Black businesses and transform the corridor into a place for culture and growth, Fears previously said.

The Mahalia Jackson Court in Chatham on Sept. 2, 2022. Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago

Mahalia Jackson is considered one of the most important vocalists of the 20th century for her iconic performances of gospel music. She was the first gospel music artist to win a Grammy Award in 1962, eventually receiving four overall in her career, including a Lifetime Achievement Award in 1972.

Originally from New Orleans, Jackson was among thousands of Black people who moved to Chicago during the Great Migration. She came to Chicago in 1927 when she was 16 and lived in various places while she sang at South and West Side churches, according to South Side Weekly.

Jackson settled in Chatham — then a mostly white area — after buying a large, brick ranch house at 8358 S. Indiana Ave. in 1956. She moved to Hyde Park in 1970 and died two years later at the age of 60.

Neighbors can tour an exhibit honoring Jackson’s life at the Mahalia Jackson Court.

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Atavia Reed is a reporter for Block Club Chicago, covering the Englewood, Auburn Gresham and Chatham neighborhoods. Twitter @ataviawrotethis