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For African-Americans, struggle and some gains
Eighty years after the Great Migration from the South end nearly a decade after the 1987 death of Chicago's first black mayor, Chicago's African-American community is moving in many directions, separated by class and political division. Most of Chicago's African-Americans live in all-black conununities, many hard-hit by decades of poverty. Yet with a metro-area population of 1.4 million and fast-growing suburban populations, the black community is more disparate and different than ever before. From el trains and sidewalks to suburban subdivisions, the range takes in staff of Ebony Magazine, bankers, superstars Michael Jordan and Oprah Winfrey, homeowners from South Side Chatham to north suburban Evanston, Gangster Disciples gang members, public housing tenant leaders, entrepreneurs and blue-collar workers. Until World War I, the community was packed into a South Side strip known as Bronzeville or the Black Belt, but when its population expoded mid-century, it pushed into previously all-white neighborhoods, often as panicked residents moved out. Segregation, civic neglect and the decline of nearby industrial jobs took a toll on many West and South Side areas; hundreds of thousands of middle- and working-class blacks moved out of the ghetto, leaving todely's patchwork of intensely poor areas alongside more stable areas. POLITICAL RISE AND FALL Black politics has changed enormously since the days when neighborhood boss Bill Dawson delivered votes for the white-run Democratic Machine. An independent grassroots movement culminated in 1983 election of Harold Washington as city's first black mayor. Washington spent much of his first term fighting with white opponents in City Council; he consolidated power after 1987 reelection but died without appointing a successor. Ensuing political fray tore apart the coalition of blacks, Latinos and liberal whites, leaving community with persistent divisions, no agenda. Congressman Bobby Rush, 773-224-6500, was a Black Panther and community activist before becoming alderman, then U.S, representative; is advocate for public housing residents and reirvestment in low-income areas. Cook County commissioner and Congressional candidate Danny Davis, 312-443-4566, was a West Side Washington ally in City CounciL can offer historical perspective. Richard Barnett, 773-277-7833, is West Side activist and school council member who helped convince Harold Washington to run for mayor. Timuel Black, 773-373-3972, .is educator, historian and decades-long veteran of political campaigns, now a fellow at DePaul's Egan Center. Founded in 1971, Operation PUSH evolved into potent political organization; has lost some of its might but is rebuilding under leadership of Rev. Jesse Jackson and board chairwoman Rev. Willie Barrow, 773-373-3366. Jesse Jackson Jr., 202-225-0899, was elected in December to U.S. House seat, 2nd District, on strength of black vote in south suburbs; promises support of proposed third airport in Peotone. The Chicago Reporter has been tracking trends in race, COMMUNITY LIFE Segregated physically and emotionally from other Chicagoans, blacks created institutions as backbones of community life. From early migrant support groups and churches grew political and cultural organizations, plus a musical tradition so powerful that Langston Hughes - describing the South State Street "Stroll" in 1918 - proclaimed that ff you held a trumpet up at night it would play itself, such was the activity at the jazz clubs. Many churches have played dual role of spiritual anchor and center of activism. Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Trinity Church, 773-962-5650, is active on Southern Africa struggles, supports linking local and international issues. Rev. Clay Evans, Fellowship Baptist Church, 773-924-3732, was once the only major church to welcome Dr. Martin Luther King to Chicago during civil rights movement. Rev. Al Sampson, 773-445-7125, works on the Million Man March Metropolitan Area Planning Corp., maintaining networks developed during the Washington, D.C. march. Mass migration from the South prompted creation of support groups that today have a family-reunion flavor: ViEthel
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poverty and political power since 1972; editor and publisher is Laura Washington, 312-427-4830. MAKING A LIVING Blacks were often last hired and first fired - at bottom of Chicago's economic ladder. Tune and persistence have helped a core gain middle- or upper-income status, but lack of education and capital mean many still toil at low pay - or remain unemployed. Hard labor in steel mills and packing houses - or domestic work for women - was the economic entry point for most Chicago blacks. They became a key constituent in the labor movement, rising to leadership positions. Charles Hayes, 773-783-6209, was a vp in United Packinghouse Workers and later a U.S. Congressman, always a voice for the working poor. The late Jacqueline Vaughn was president of Chicago Teachers Union. Eric Amesen at University of Illinois at Chicago, 312-996-7648, is an expert on blacks in the labor movement. Government jobs played key role in development of black middle class, starting with federal jobs and spreading into city and state, plus agencies such as Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), Board of Education. Former City Hall official Valerie Jarrett, 312-527-5400, can comment on black role in government; she is now chair of CTA and vice president of Habitat Co., private developer that oversees Chicago Housing Authority scattered site program. Entrepreneurship thrived in the Black Belt as neighbors served neighbors in the trades, retail, insurance and other industries. That tradition faltered somewhat as business-minded blacks joined corporate America and inner-city retailing became dominated by immigrants. Chicago has proven fertile for a small cadre of black entrepreneurs. Consuelo Pope , president and CEO of the Cosmopolitan Chamber of Commerce, 312-786-0212, focuses on building business networks among entrepreneurs. Paul King, 312-939-0505, chairman of city's largest black-owned construction firm, UBM Inc., wrote recent piece in Chicago Tribune about need for businesses and institutions to mentor young black men, as his firm has done. Princeton University graduate John Rogers , 312-726-0140, founded mutual fund firm Ariel Capital Management in 1983, is now president of Chicago Park District, overseeing major effort to boost use of parks citywide. Historian and businessman Dempsey Travis, 773-994-7200, builds new housing for middle-class blacks when not writing books about music and Chicago politics. Buyers of his homes in solid South Side neighborhoods include many who have risen through corporate ranks, a population tracked by sociology professor Sharon M. Collins at University of Illinois at Chicago, 312-996-2274. Collins interviewed 76 Chicago executives at the director level and above in 1986 and again in 1990s, finding .stagnatiorv and frustrations that spurred some to create their oayn businesses. Another
Wills, 773-224-8758, rallies old-timers in the Greenville (Mississippi) Club; Grace Bowers , 773-533-9435, runs the Mississippi Culture Club. More issue-oriented are legal and other support groups such as the African-American Patrolman's League, working on racial bias issues in the police department, Patricia Hill, 773-779-8226. Attorney James Chapman of the Prison Action Committee, 312-408-0330, focuses on prison reforms through advocacy, education and legislation. Linda Mills, 8CO-602-5640, is an attorney and lobbyist working on poverty issues. Cultural maven Dr. Margaret Burroughs, 773-947-0600, is founder of DuSable Museum of African American History and long-time supporter of black Chicago artists. Willie Dixon, 773-846-0837, is radio host and keeper of much oral history of the black community. Archie Motley, 312-642-4600, is son of famous black painter and curator at the Chicago Historical Society. MEET & EAT 1. Edna's: 3175 W. Madison, 312-638-7079. Former hangout for civil rights workers on West Side; great peach cobbler. 2. Glady's Luncheonette: 4527 S. Indiana, 312-548-4566. Stone's throw from Robert Taylor Homes, has attended parking, is frequented by City Council members. 3. Soul Queen No. 2: 9031 S. Stony Island, 312-731-3366. Offers 24-hour buffet of Southern-style food. 4. Army and Lou's: 422 E. 75th St., 312-483-3100. Was favorite of Mayor Harold Washington; has great jukebox. 5. Soul Vegetarian East 203 E. 75th St., 312-224-0104. Features a gift shop and is close to the Dan Ryan
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UIC expert, Cedrick Herring, 312-413-0296, recently convened black intellectuals to discuss the state of black America; he can provide a broad perspective And additional sources, as can Barbara Ransby of DePaul University's African-American studies department, 773-325-7512.
ORGANIZING AND ISLAM Organizing in neighborhoods has taken two paths that reflect historic dichotomy between integrationist and nationalist strategies. Many top conununity leaders collaborate on urban issues through city's grasgroots network, forging multi-racial coalitions, while others take black nationalist approach, looking only within the African-American community for leadership and resources. In first category are Ani Russell of community policing network, 312-461-0444; Jacky Grimshaw, former strategist for Harold Washington now working an community transportation issues; 773-278-4800, ext. 133; and Barack Obama, 773-684-4809, whose work to empower blacks has included his law practice, community organizing, philanthropy and most recently electoral politics: he is a candidate for state senate. A quiet leader with broad vision of empowerment and redevelopment in the Grand Boulevard neighborhood is Sokoni Karanja, 773-373-5700, whose nonprofit Centers for New Horizons provides social services, youth programs, education and child care. Chicago is national center of black nationalist thought and organization. Head of the nation's largest secular black-nationalist organization, the National Black United Front, Conrad Worrill, 773-268-5658, is a professor at Northeastern Illinois University's Center for Inner City Studies and was prominent speaker at last year's Million Man Man March. Another Northeastern professor, Robert Starks, 773-268-7500, heads local Task Force for Political Empowerment, along with Worrill was major organizer in Harold Washington campaigns. Radio commentator and former newspaper columnist and publisher, Lu Palmer, 773-624-0242, holds forth two nights a week on a WVON-1450AM political talk show. He founded the Black Independent Political Orgization and Chicago Black United Communities. Eddie Read, 773-663-0704, is president of both organizations mentioned above; CBUC members have shut down construction sites where blacks don't get fair share of jobs. Salim Muwakkil, 773-643-3730, is senior editor of In These Times and contributing columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times. He has done extensive coverage of black activism and the black nationalist movement. Chicago is home base for African-American Muslim organizations. Muslims have been visible forces for organizing and stability in many neighborhoods, only some of them aligned with controversial leader Louis Farrakhan and his Nation of Islam. Organizer Kublai Toure, 773-538-7217, is a member of Jim Brown's Amer-I-Can youth organization, with projects ranging from helping arrange gang traces to trips to Chicago Cubs baseball Sitines for public housing youth. Mikail Bilal, 773-721-6588, is chek of the Muslim addiction-prevention group Millati Wami, with twice-weekly meetings on South Drexel St. for recovering substance abusers. Abdul Rashid Akbar is the Muslim chaplin at Cook County jail, 773-721-6588, where many incarcerated African-Americans convert to Islam. The Nation of Islam's contact point for the media and editor-chief of The Final Call newspaper is James Muhammad, 773-602-1230. Ayesha Mustafaa reports on the larger Muslim community as editor of The Muslim Journal, 312-243-7600.
COPYRIGHT 2001. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. 312-344-6400.
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