Culminating a three-year campaign by the Obama Foundation, the Chicago City Council on Wednesday approved measures to allow construction of the Obama Presidential Center. The approval, which came on a 47-1 vote, means the foundation can move forward into federal reviews of the project with city support as a badge of endorsement.
No public comment was allowed during the council meeting, and aldermen discussed the matter for just over an hour — a contrast to the extended and heated debate last week during a Plan Commission hearing. Hundreds of residents, activists and leaders of cultural institutions testified both in favor of the presidential center and against it. The commission voted overwhelmingly in support, as did the Zoning Committee on Tuesday, which paved the way for Wednesday’s City Council vote.
The City Council decision was just another step in a long process. Besides the federal review — which is required because Jackson Park, the site of the center, is on the National Register of Historic Places — the foundation still must secure a formal long-term contract to lease Jackson Park from the city. The foundation already has hired a collective of construction firms to build the center, but they have to develop and hire a workforce.
Lorraine Vivian Hansberry, born May 19, 1930, was an award-winning playwright and activist. Her best known work, A Raisin in the Sun, was inspired by her family’s battle against racial and housing segregation in Chicago. She would have been 88 today.
Hansberry was the youngest of four children of Carl Hansberry, a successful real-estate broker, and Nannie Louise Perry, a school teacher. In 1938, her father bought a house in the Washington Park Subdivision of the South Side of Chicago, violating a restrictive covenant and incurring the wrath of many neighbors. The latter’s legal efforts to force the Hansberrys out culminated in the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1940 decision in Hansberry v. Lee, holding the restrictive covenant in the case contestable, though not inherently invalid.
Hansberry attended the University of Wisconsin–Madison, but left in 1950 to pursue her career as a writer in New York City, where she attended The New School. In 1951, she joined the staff of the black newspaper Freedom under the auspices of Paul Robeson, and worked with W. E. B. DuBois, whose office was in the same building. In 1953, she married Robert Nemiroff, a Jewish publisher, songwriter and political activist. She later joined the Daughters of Bilitis and contributed two letters to their magazine, The Ladder, in 1957 under her initials “LHN” that addressed feminism and homophobia. She separated from her husband at this time, but they continued to work together.
In 1959, Raisin In The Sun debuted, becoming the first play written by an African-American woman to be produced on Broadway. The 29-year-old author became the youngest American playwright and only the fifth woman to receive the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Play. A Raisin in the Sun was revived on Broadway in 2004 and received a Tony Award nomination for Best Revival of a Play. The cast included Sean “P Diddy” Combs as Walter Lee Younger Jr., Phylicia Rashad (Tony Award-winner for Best Actress) and Audra McDonald (Tony Award-winner for Best Featured Actress). It was produced for television in 2008 with the same cast, garnering two NAACP Image Awards.
While many of her other writings were published in her lifetime – essays, articles, and the text for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) book The Movement, the only other play of Hansberry’s given a contemporary production was The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window. The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window ran for 101 performances on Broadway and closed on January 12, 1965, the night she died after a battle with pancreatic cancer. Hansberry’s funeral was held in Harlem on January 15, 1965. Paul Robeson gave her eulogy. The presiding reverend, Eugene Callender, recited messages from James Baldwin and the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. which read: “Her creative ability and her profound grasp of the deep social issues confronting the world today will remain an inspiration to generations yet unborn.”
In January of this year, PBS aired an American Masters Documentary on Hansberry called “Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart.” Check out the trailer below and check your local listings for upcoming showings.
In August, 2010, an eighteen-year-old named Damian Turner, an aspiring musician and community organizer, was caught in the crossfire of a drive-by shooting on Chicago’s South Side. The bullet entered his body four blocks—one minute by car—from the University of Chicago Medical Center. But paramedics, following protocol, drove him nearly nine miles away, to Northwestern Memorial Hospital. City and state regulations dictate that gunshot victims be taken to a specialized trauma center, and the South Side was a “trauma desert.” Despite its epidemic of gun violence, it has not had its own Level 1 adult trauma center since the nineteen-nineties. At Northwest Memorial, Turner, the co-founder of the youth branch of Southside Together Organizing for Power, or stop, was pronounced dead.
Turner’s death marked the beginning of a movement. His mother told newspapers that he would have lived if not for the university’s lack of facilities. One of Turner’s fellow-activists, Brittany Blaney, suggested at a community meeting that locals hold the U.C.M.C. accountable. A hundred people marched to the hospital from the spot where Turner was shot. A year later, protesters camped out in tents. They argued that the U.C.M.C. had shirked its responsibility to its neighborhood. But university officials resisted. “You would have to transfer resources from the other things we do, and the things we do extraordinarily well and not a lot of other people do, and focus those resources on being an additional trauma center,” a spokesman for the medical center said at the time. Alex Goldenberg, now the executive director of stop, told me, “It took us two years just to get them to acknowledge that it was a problem.” Sharon O’Keefe, the president of the hospital, said, “We were obviously well aware of the community that we reside in. But it took us quite a period of time to really evaluate the broader needs of the community.”
One of the activists’ demands was that the university, which operated a pediatric trauma center, raise the age limit on admittance for children with gunshot wounds. In December, 2014, the university announced that it would raise the limit by two years, to include anyone younger than eighteen. This was a start. A few months later, during the university’s Alumni Weekend, Goldenberg and eight others locked themselves inside a university administration building. The fire department had to cut its way in with axes.
O’Keefe told me that, around that time, the hospital was considering “a more comprehensive plan that was more responsive to the demands of the community,” but it needed a way to cover the costs. “What we didn’t want to do was come up with a short-term response,” she told me. In September, 2015, the university announced plans to co-found a trauma center at Holy Cross Hospital, west of U.C.M.C. But officials soon realized that it would be too costly to help run a new facility five miles away. Finally, the following December, Goldenberg got an unexpected call from a university vice-president. “I have good news for you,” he said. The medical center had decided to open a Level 1 adult trauma center on campus.
The new center opens on May 1st. One of the doctors who will work there is Abdullah Pratt, a resident in emergency medicine. We first met about a year after the university announced its intention to open the trauma center, in a nearly empty U.C.M.C. waiting area, just after sunrise. Pratt, who has a thick beard and wears horn-rimmed glasses, had been working at the hospital since six o’clock the previous evening, and he looked it. He had seen patients with liver failure, vaginal bleeding, and cancer. “This is my fifth straight overnight shift,” he said. But he had stuck around to tell me about the trauma center, and the years of community activism that helped make it happen.
Pratt grew up on the South Side, just south of the hospital, which makes him extremely unusual among University of Chicago medical students and faculty. His was a neighborhood of both poverty and promise, shared by lawyers, athletes, gang members, and drug addicts. One of his friends was shot and killed after he bumped into a man’s girlfriend at a club, spilling her drink. “Everybody’s got a closet full of T-shirts with their friends or family members on it,” he said. Following in the footsteps of his brother Rashad, Pratt attended science camps and played high-school football. He went to college at Valparaiso. By the time he entered medical school, he was living in a high-rise apartment on the edge of Lake Michigan. Once, he showed it off to his brother, who reminded him of the importance of giving back to his community. “Never sell out,” Rashad told him. “You ain’t gonna be shit if you don’t put on for your block.”
Seven months later, Pratt got a call from his mother about Rashad. “He been shot,” she told him. “He’s killed.” Rashad had been sitting in his truck, in front of a friend’s house, when a stranger approached him with a gun. Rashad owned a handgun and tried to defend himself, but he was shot below the ribs, and the bullet hit his heart. “I don’t think that the pain will ever get as bad as that,” Pratt told me. “I know that there’s nobody immune from it. Every young person that I mentor, every one of my friends, has lost somebody. It’s a collective pain.”
After the shooting, Pratt considered taking a break from school. But he thought about his brother’s commitment to giving back, and he listened to a mentor who told him, “You have to use this.” Although a local trauma center would not have saved Rashad’s life, Pratt knew that it could save many others. “I began fighting for those issues, and stopping violence, and going to more of the community demonstrations,” he said. He eventually met with university officials, including O’Keefe, and tried to serve as a mediator between frustrated community members and the U.C.M.C. bureaucracy. “It was literally the only thing that allowed me to sleep at night,” he said.
Chicago first standardized its trauma-center network after the shooting death of another young black man, Benji Wilson, in 1984. Wilson was a seventeen-year-old basketball star. He was shot twice, in Chatham, on the South Side. He died after a long wait for an ambulance and a belated surgery at a local hospital that did not specialize in trauma. Several South Side institutions, including the University of Chicago, subsequently opened adult trauma centers. But trauma care is costly, serves patients who are not always able to pay, and receives little government support. The U.C.M.C. trauma center, which opened in 1986, was a financial failure, and it closed in 1988. “Then we got out of the business,” O’Keefe told me. Within a few years, every Level 1 adult trauma center on the South Side had shut down. In 2013, a study of Chicago gunshot victims showed that those who were shot more than five miles from a trauma center were disproportionately black and uninsured. Not surprisingly, they died at higher rates than other gunshot victims.
Selwyn Rogers, who was hired to direct the new adult trauma center, said he was initially surprised when he learned the U.C.M.C. didn’t already have one. But he hopes that the center can reduce the stark inequality between the university and its surroundings. He pointed out that Hyde Park, the university’s immediate neighborhood, has a life expectancy of more than eighty years. “Literally within a mile of where the University of Chicago sits, in Washington Park, the life expectancy is sixty-nine,” he said.
In addition to building a new emergency department, the U.C.M.C. has hired eighteen medical faculty and numerous staff members, so that patients have around-the-clock access to specialized care.
Emmy winner Lena Waithe‘s “The Chi” has been renewed for a second season at Showtime, the premium cabler announced Tuesday.
The renewal comes after the series has aired just four episodes of its 10 episode first season. In addition, Ayanna Floyd Davis has signed on for Season 2 as executive producer and showrunner. Davis, who wrote the third episode of the series, has written for and produced shows such as “Empire,” “Hannibal,” and “Private Practice.”
Produced entirely in Chicago, “The Chi” is a coming-of-age story centering on a group of residents who become linked by coincidence but bonded by the need for connection and redemption on the city’s South Side. The series was created and executive produced by actor/writer Waithe.
The ensemble cast for Season 1 includes Jason Mitchel, Jacob Latimore, Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine, Alex Hibbert, Yolonda Ross, Armando Riesco, and Tiffany Boone.
Dr. Charles V. Hamilton, a political scientist, activist and Professor Emeritus at Columbia University best known for his 1967 book co-written with Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael), Black Power: ThePolitics of Liberation in America, has established The Drs. Charles V. and Dona C. Hamilton Institute for Research and Civic Involvement at the DuSable Museum of African American History. The DuSable is scheduled to open the Hamilton Institute’s Reading Room on Monday, February 19, 2018 with a special dedication event.
The Hamilton Institute will provide a range of opportunities for visitors to peruse its non-circulating reference collection, including a special collection of rare books, to research the DuSable Museum archives and to attend scholarly lectures and history & policy discussions, many of which will be directed toward youth audiences to inspire their interest and encourage their involvement in topics that affect the African American community. Visitors to the Hamilton Institute’s Reading Room will include educators, authors, photo researchers, independent scholars, journalists, students, historians, community members and others. Visitors will be allowed access to the DuSable Museum Archives, one of the oldest and richest African American archival collections in the nation, which includes manuscripts, books and journals, photographs, slides, and other printed materials.
“I was interested in combining academic studies with political action. My concern was not only to profess but to participate. I see the DuSable Museum as a repository of study of those efforts; and people will come look at them with those eyes; that people will see someone who not just wrote books but participated,” said Dr. Charles V. Hamilton.
Although Dr. Charles V. Hamilton was born in Muskogee, Oklahoma, raised on the South Side of Chicago, and educated at Roosevelt University, Loyola University and the University of Chicago. The contribution to establish the Hamilton Research Institute and Reading Room is one that supports the continuation of progressive development for the city of Chicago—a place near and dear to Dr. Hamilton. His donation represents one of the largest individual gifts in the DuSable Museum’s history.
When President Truman integrated the military (1948), Hamilton served for a year. A chronicler of the Civil Rights Movement, he was a young adult at the time of Brown v. Board of Education (1954) and the Montgomery Bus Boycott (1955-56). He lived through the Jim Crow era and witnessed the political transformation that made possible the election of Black officials in the South. Watching the unfolding of civil rights history informed and enriched his scholarship as he created a role for himself as an intellectual amongst activists.
In 1969, Hamilton arrived at Columbia University as a Ford Foundation funded professor in urban political science and became one of the first African Americans to hold an academic chair at an Ivy League university. It was the height of the turbulent 1960s and the nation was reeling from assassinations, demonstrations and riots. Hamilton was at the peak of his fame as the intellectual half of the “Black Power Duo.”
The activist half was Stokely Carmichael (later known as Kwame Ture), a former leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, self-professed Black Nationalist and nascent Pan-Africanist. In a brilliant stroke, Hamilton had teamed up with Carmichael, a folk hero and icon for his generation to write what would be Hamilton’s most famous book, Black Power: ThePolitics of Liberation in America (1967).
“This is a game changer for the DuSable Museum,” said Perri Irmer, President and CEO. “The over-arching mission of this institution is the education of all people through African American history, art and culture. The creation of the Hamilton Institute gives concrete form to this education mission, allowing us to present a commitment to a superior level of scholarly activity and engagement. Now, thanks to Dr. Hamilton, we will have the infrastructure and a vehicle for the engagement of young audiences and visitors of all ages, from around the world, in what I believe will become a center for black thought leadership and intellectual exploration. What better place to do this but Chicago, and in what finer institution than the DuSable Museum of African American History?”
About The Hamilton Research Institute and Reading Room
The Drs. Charles V. and Dona C. Hamilton Institute for Research and Civic Involvement’s Reading Room will be open by appointment only, Tuesday through Saturday to anyone who is at least 14 years of age or in the ninth grade (younger visitors must be accompanied by an adult). The Hamilton Institute staff will provide a range of services to visitors interested in conducting research in the Museum. Reading Room Procedures and Policies will be made available on DuSable’s website, and visitors will be able to make follow-up appointments as related to research needs during the time of their visit.
About The DuSable Museum of African American History
The DuSable Museum of African American History is one of the oldest institutions of its kind in the country. Their mission is to promote understanding and inspire appreciation of the achievements, contributions and experiences of African Americans through exhibits, programs and activities that illustrate African and African American history, culture and art. The DuSable Museum is a Smithsonian Institution Affiliate. For more information on the Museum and its programs, call 773-947-0600 or visit at www.dusablemuseum.
Four Englewood teenagers coerced into confessing to a rape and murder they did not commit before being exonerated by DNA evidence will divide a $31 million settlement from Chicago taxpayers, one of the largest in the city’s history.
Michael Saunders, Vincent Thames, Harold Richardson and Terrill Swift were between 15 and 18 when they were arrested for the November 1994 murder of Nina Glover. An autopsy concluded that the 30-year-old prostitute had been strangled. Her naked body was discovered behind a liquor store at 1400 W. Garfield wrapped in a bloody sheet and stuffed in a dumpster.
In 2011, a judge overturned the conviction of the “Englewood Four,” freeing Richardson and Saunders after they spent 17 years behind bars. Swift and Thames, who served more than a dozen years, had already been released.
“These were four young men who no way possible they could have committed the crime they were manipulated and coerced into confessing to. They all spent . . . over a decade in prison for something they didn’t do. The number is very large and the magnitude of the injury is very large,” said attorney Locke Bowman, who represented Swift.
Bowman said the $31 million settlement would not have been possible if former assistant state’s attorney Terence Johnson hadn’t “broken ranks from the other law enforcement personnel” and provided a statement to the FBI that confirmed what the Englewood Four had long maintained.
“This was psychological coercion primarily in all four of the cases. They were tricked and coerced into confessing . . . They were fed the information. And they were the victims of police overreaching,” Bowman said Friday.
The Illinois Service Federal and Loan Association (ISF) is the last black-owned bank in Chicago. According to CBS Chicago, Kurt Summers, the city’s treasurer, has decided to make a momentous investment in the bank. Summers announced Monday that the city will be depositing $20 million into the black-owned institution.
At the announcement, the treasurer called this investment his department’s first step towards addressing the city’s history of segregation, something that he claims is one of the root causes of the city’s current violence. So, what will this investment mean for the city? According to Summers, the contribution will increase the number of successful black-owned businesses in Chicago.”If we’re going to be serious about supporting those communities and supporting community banks and what they do for small businesses, we have to look for opportunities like this,” he said, Business Day reports.
When going to large, national banks, Chicago’s black business owners only receive the full amount of their loan requests 47 percent of the time. White business owners receive all the money they ask for 76 percent of the time. Summers hopes that this investment will give black small business owners some place to go to find funding for their endeavors. “The community banks are often more capable of evaluating the risks of local borrowers than large remote financial institutions,” said Summers.
This is only one of the changes Chicago politicians are anticipating following the deposit. Alderman Roderick Sawyer told CBS that he believes that this investment will help resolve the issue of economic disparity in Chicago, and, ultimately, even violence. Papa Kwesi Nduom, the chairperson of the Illinois Service Federal and Loan Association, agrees with him. Nduom said the deposit will give his bank a “much-needed boost to our financial foundation, ensuring that we can strengthen the economic base of our communities and help people fulfill their dreams.”
The black-owned bank has been providing services to the black communities of the South Side of Chicago for more than 80 years.
Fresh on the heels of kicking off his Hope & Redemption Tour, Common is bringing his social activism to center stage. The “Glory” rapper recently paid a visit to the Folsom State Prison in California, where he treated the inmates to a concert in part with his Imagine Justice initiative.
Imagine Justice took to social media to share the photos of Common’s inspiring trip through its “Faces of Mass Incarceration” photo series. The photos capture the men captivated by the MC, smiling with raised fists as the Chi-Town native performed. Other photos show Common heading down to the crowd of inmates to greet them.
“I’m blessed to have the opportunity to connect with my brothers inside Folsom State Prison and perform for them to inspire them and spread a message of hope, redemption, justice, love and compassion,” the rapper wrote in an Instagram post.
The multi-hyphenate star recently documented his four-day prison tour visits in a YouTube web series titled The Hope & Redemption Tour, giving viewers the opportunity to hear the heartfelt stories of the women and men facing lengthy prison sentences and what their lives are like behind the prison walls.
Dick Gregory, who became the first black stand-up comic to break the color barrier in major nightclubs in the early 1960s, a decade in which he satirized segregation and race relations in his act and launched his lifetime commitment to civil rights and other social justice issues, died Saturday. He was 84.
His death was confirmed on his official social media accounts by his family. “It is with enormous sadness that the Gregory family confirms that their father, comedic legend and civil rights activist Mr. Dick Gregory departed this earth tonight in Washington, DC.,” his son Christian Gregory wrote. Even before the confirmation from the family, Rev. Jesse Jackson, a longtime friend of Gregory’s, had memorialized him in a tweet: “He taught us how to laugh. He taught us how to fight. He taught us how to live. Dick Gregory was committed to justice. I miss him already.”
In a life that began in poverty in St. Louis during the Depression, the former Southern Illinois University track star became known as an author, lecturer, nutrition guru and self-described agitator who marched, ran and fasted to call attention to issues ranging from police brutality to world famine. An invitation from civil rights leader Medgar Evers to speak at voter registration rallies in Jackson, Miss., in 1962 launched Gregory into what he called “the civil rights fight.” He was frequently arrested for his activities in the ’60s, and once spent five days in jail in Birmingham, Ala. after joining demonstrators in 1963 at the request of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
Gregory, who was shot in the leg while trying to help defuse the Watts riots in 1965, made a failed run for mayor of Chicago as a write-in candidate in 1967. A year later, he ran for president as a write-in candidate for the Freedom and Peace Party, a splinter group of the Peace and Freedom Party. Hunter S. Thompson was one of his most vocal supporters.
In the late ’60s, Gregory began going on 40-day fasts to protest the Vietnam War. In 1980, impatient with President Carter’s handling of the Iranian hostage crisis, he flew to Iran and began a fast, had a “ceremonial visit” with revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and met with the revolutionary students inside the embassy. After four and a half months in Iran, his weight down to 106 pounds, he returned home.
But before Dick Gregory the activist, there was Dick Gregory the groundbreaking comedian. He was a struggling 28-year-old stand-up comic in Chicago who had launched his career in small black clubs when he received a life-changing, last-minute phone call from his agent in January 1961: The prestigious Playboy Club in Chicago needed someone to fill in for comedian Irwin Corey on Sunday night. Gregory was so broke he had to borrow a quarter from his landlord for bus fare downtown. Never mind that his audience turned out to be a convention of white frozen-food-industry executives from the South.
“Good evening, ladies and gentlemen,” Gregory said, coolly eyeing the audience. “I understand there are a good many Southerners in the room tonight. I know the South very well. I spent 20 years there one night. …“Last time I was down South, I walked into this restaurant, and this white waitress came up to me and said: ‘We don’t serve colored people here.’ I said: ‘That’s all right, I don’t eat colored people. Bring me a whole fried chicken.’ ”Despite having to deal with what he later described as “dirty, little, insulting statements” from some members of the audience, the heckling soon stopped as Gregory won them over with his provocatively funny but nonbelligerent satirical humor.
“Segregation is not all bad,” he said on stage. “Have you ever heard of a wreck where the people on the back of the bus got hurt?” What was supposed to be a 55-minute show, Gregory later recalled, went on for about an hour and 40 minutes. And by the time he walked off stage, the audience gave him a thundering ovation. He did so well, he was booked at the club for two weeks and then held over for several more.
Chicago-based mother Keesha Hall is changing lives for the better by helping moms help their kids.
After learning that her fourth child began showing signs of developmental disability, Chicago-based mother Keesha Hall changed her life for the better. After becoming unemployed, broke and on the brink of poverty, being a mother, she was determined to learn how to become a champion for her son. Through the help of non-profit organization Educare, she learned how to accept her son’s diagnosis and strengthened his social, emotional and behavioral health. This is her advice for young mothers who faced similar challenges and how she turned an unfortunate situation into a gift for many other mothers too.