I met the real Black Klansman, Ron Stallworth, author of the memoir, BlackKklansman, last Monday night at our local Evanston Book store, Bookends and Beginnings. It's a small, indie bookstore with nooks and crannies, that somehow packed in about 100 people. The event was sold out weeks in advance with a waiting list.
Martin Luther King made his "I have a dream" speech on August 28th, 1963. It was held that day in honor of the anniversary of Emmett Till's torture and murder on the same date, in 1955.
Before Oprah spoke the name, "Recy Taylor" at the Golden Globe Awards on January 7th, most people hadn't heard of Mrs. Taylor, even though a new documentary, "The Rape of Recy Taylor," a film by Nancy Buirski had been released on December 7th, just a month before Oprah's speech.
Today is the first day of "Black History Month," an excellent opportunity to recognize the contributions of our fellow black citizens to America's history. Throughout the month, we'll read of scientists, artists, writers, astronauts (even women astronauts!), historians, inventors. Blacks have excelled in every field. They've just been short on recognition.
My dad and my two brothers, ages nineteen and thirteen, started shoveling out our car that had been mired for two days in snow after the city's greatest twenty-four hour snowfall had brought Chicago to a standstill. They were down near thirty-third and Wentworth, close to IIT (Illinois Institute of Technology) where my older brother, Paul attended, but commuted from our home on Keeler near Montrose. As they dug in their shovels around each of the tires, tossing snow over their shoulders, a group of twelve African American men moved toward them with determined strides.
With the 17th anniversary of the 9-11 attacks drawing near, my mind is drawn back to the images of the First Responders, laden with gear, climbing up the stairs at the twin towers as everyone else was coming down to escape. I am thinking about all the lives lost that horrid day, including the lives of the First Responders- the fire fighters who put their lives on the line every day.
"Thirty-seven-year-old Medgar Evers, Mississippi’s NAACP field secretary, was shot in the back with a high-powered rifle as he walked from his car to his home on June 12, 1963. He died an hour later. Again, mass black protests, followed by mass arrests were broadcast on TV around the world. I later learned that neighbors had heard Evers’s children screaming, “Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!” I thought of my daddy. What would I do without my daddy?
“…district threatened with Negro encroachment” is a direct quote from the portion shown here of a 1940 map of Chicago area neighborhoods, illustrating the color grade given to various areas by the New Deal’s creation, the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation (HOLC).