I don’t want to leave anyone under the impression from my previous post, that in ‘My America’ it was only doom and gloom. The fascinating thing about the people from the South Side of Chicago, is that if “there is a will there is a way.” There is another side to ‘My America’, this side shows what a little hard work and determination can do.

I’ll start off close to home, heck my home. I lived in Shoreline Condominiums. My neighbors were some of the city’s most prominent African Americans (Senator Obama moved into the Condominium next door to us). My step-father was a prominent Attorney and had his own practice. Not only did he have a practice, he was also The Attorney for the Village of Robins Illinois and East Chicago Heights. He was one of the best things that happened in my life and I loved him dearly. He was loved by all my friends too, the whole neighborhood joined me in calling him “Baba” (my biological father was not having us call anybody ‘daddy’ but him so we called our step-dad ‘Baba’). He died in 1999, ten years after he and my mother divorced. I will post two references to his passing and testaments to his achievements:

From The Illnois Bar Association

Retired Chicago attorney Walter Kerrigan Black died Aug. 21 at age 84. A 1952 graduate of The John Marshall Law School, he entered on the G.I. Bill after Army service during World War II, attaining the rank of master sergeant.

Mr. Black practiced with McCoy, Ming & Leighton, later McCoy, Ming & Black, for most of his legal career. He later was a partner in Mitchell & Black and Caldwell & Black before retiring in 1991 as a solo practitioner.

A star high school basketball player, Mr. Black earned a competitive academic scholarship to the University of Illinois but was not permitted to try out for the team because of his race.

He received a degree in political science and history in 1939 and played on the Greenbaum Tannery basketball team in Milwaukee. He organized tannery workers to affiliate with the National Fur and Leather Workers Union.

In 1967, Mr. Black was instrumental in the election of Richard Hatcher as the first black mayor of Gary, Ind.

From The Illnois House of Representatives

1                          HOUSE RESOLUTION

2        WHEREAS,  The  members   of   the   Illinois   House   of
3    Representatives  are saddened to learn of the death of Walter
4    Kerrigan Black, who recently passed away; and

5        WHEREAS, Walter Black was born in Birmingham, Alabama, on
6    January 27, 1915; his  parents  were  Timuel  D.  and  Mattie
7    McConner Black; the family moved to the south side of Chicago
8    in  1918,  and  young Walter attended Burke Elementary School
9    and Tilden High School; during the years of  the  Depression,
10    Walter  dropped  out of school to help support his family; he
11    returned to Tilden and was co-captain of the basketball team,
12    standing with his teammates  when  they  won  the  1935  City
13    Championship;  as  a  result of winning an essay contest that
14    same year, Walter won a Legislative Scholarship, choosing  to
15    attend the University of Illinois; and

16        WHEREAS,  Walter  Black  studied  political  science  and
17    history at the U of I; he was one of but a few black students
18    on  the large campus, and found his activities limited due to
19    the prejudices of the time; in 1939  he  graduated  from  the
20    University  of  Illinois  and  moved to Milwaukee; he went to
21    work  for  the  Greenbaum  Tannery,  where  he  also   played
22    basketball; and

23        WHEREAS, Walter Black went into the United States Army in
24    1942;  he  received  basic  training  at Camp Butner in North
25    Carolina, then went on to serve his  county  in  England  and
26    Austria during World War II; and

27        WHEREAS,  Taking advantage of the G.I. Bill, Walter Black
28    attended and studied  at  John  Marshall  Law  School;  while
29    attending  school  he clerked under Attorney Fleetwood McCoy;
30    upon graduation, he passed the Bar Exam on his first try;  he
31    took  a  job  in the legal firm of McCoy, Ming, and Leighton,
32    and was made a partner in 1952; he worked on  many  important

                            -2-                LRB9108004KBkb
1    cases  as an attorney, including representing Fuller Products
2    and saving the company from  bankruptcy;  together  with  his
3    partner  Robert  Ming,  Walter  Black  helped Richard Hatcher
4    become the first black mayor of Gary, Indiana; and

5        WHEREAS, Walter Black is survived by his brother,  Timuel
6    (Zenobia);  his  niece,  Ermetra  Black-Thomas (Maurice); his
7    many cousins; and many colleagues and friends; therefore,  be
8    it

9        RESOLVED,   BY   THE  HOUSE  OF  REPRESENTATIVES  OF  THE
10    NINETY-FIRST GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS,  that
11    we  mourn,  along  with  his family and friends, the death of
12    Walter Black; may all that knew him find comfort in this time
13    of need; and be it further

14        RESOLVED, That a suitable  copy  of  this  resolution  be
15    presented to the family of Walter Black.

I didn’t find out about his death until weeks later. I had friends call me from Chicago (I was living in Virginia at the time), to give their condolences after reading his obituary in the Chicago Defender and Jet Magazine. My mother and sister told me that because I was in a high risk pregnancy they did not tell me about his death. If it were not for him I would have never known first hand the struggle our people had and how they overcame it. His brother Professor Timuel Black is a historian who has a book out talking about the plight of our people.

Timuel Black was born and raised in Chicago – a place he loves to call home. He is a revered and highly respected educator, political activist, community leader, oral historian and philosopher.

After matriculating from Burke Elementary School and DuSable High School in Chicago, Black enrolled at Roosevelt University. There, he received his bachelor’s degree. Black also later earned a master’s degree from the University of Chicago. One of his first jobs involved working as a field representative for the Metropolitan Burial Society.

After being drafted into the Army during World War II, Black returned to school and became a social worker. He has taught at a variety of high schools as well as colleges and universities. He is a pioneer in the independent black political movement and coined the phrase “plantation politics.” Timuel Black has run for public office several times, including campaigns for Chicago’s 4th Ward Alderman, State Senator of the 22nd District and State Representative of the 22nd District. Black has spent his life furthering the cause of social justice. Black has recently completed a book, Bridges of Memory: Chicago’s First Wave of Great Migration. The book chronicles black Chicago history from the 1920s to the present, and is based on interviews he conducted.

You can read reviews of his book Bridges of Memory, [Vol. I,] Chicago’s First Wave of Black Migration. Here. Be sure to check out his amazing Video Archive here where he talks about the slavery of his grandparents (yes my mom married a man old enough to be her father)!

Also living in our building were many black doctors, dentist, educators,celebrities (Chicago Bulls player Reggie Theus) and business owners.

Barbara Proctor, who owned the penthouse and 3 other units was often hostess to many famous African Americans, who would rather stay in her luxurious penthouse than a hotel. Imagine how excited I was as a child to meet all the people I was fans of.

Bio:
Proctor launched the first adverting agency owned and managed by an African-American woman in 1970. She gained a strong reputation for integrity by refusing to accept assignments for objectionable products and advertising that demeaned women or African-Americans. Over the years, she built her agency into the second largest advertising firm run by an African-American by securing business from Jewel Foods, Sears, Roebuck and Company, and Alberto-Culver.

Although the building was primarily black we did have a few white notables. Dr. Jules Masserman, once revered worldwide by his peers as a leading psychiatric practitioner, was a past president of the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and honorary life president of the World Association for Social Psychiatry.  I remember the night I heard the gun go off (he lived directly under me), later the ambulance came and took his body away. The next day the news papers reported his death, mentioned his lung ailments, but no word of the gun that went off. I’ll always remember him and his wife as the friendly old people with the fisherman caps and vest, who were always so proud of us when my mother bragged about our achievements.

Which leads me to my sister. Another product of excellence from the south side of Chicago. We both went to the same elementary school, but after being tired of following in her footsteps and being told by my 7th grade science teacher, Mrs. Gray, “you’re nothing like your sister” (in reference to my sister always getting our school past the district science fair and into the city science fair and me not even being able to get past the school science fair), I decided not to go to the same high-school she went to. She attended the best public High school in Chicago, Whitney Young (I attended the 2nd best). She is now a University Professor and neuropsychologist. She beat all of the odds…BLACK, FEMALE, and MUSLIM! Masha’Allah.

I will conclude with one last person/point. Actually, this was the reason I wrote this post in the first place, but got side tracked when I googled Baba’s and Uncle Tim’s name and actually came up with their bios!

In ‘My America’, hailing from the SOUTH SIDE (shout out!) of Chicago, we have what could very well be America’s first BLACK FIRST LADY! That’s right, let’s give it up for a real home girl (my exact neighborhood and attended the same High-school as my sister), Michelle Robinson – wife of what could be America’s First BLACK PRESIDENT (anybody remember Eddie Murphy’s skit, “Run Jessie run”? BTW Jessie Jackson and his family lived down the street from us and the younger Congressman also attend the same high-school as my sister). All the hoopla has been about Obama, but I believe some recognition needs to be brought to his wife, who would give a whole new look to the WHITE HOUSE as the FIRST BLACK FIRST LADY. The Chicago Tribune and Chicago Suntimes ran excellent pieces on her this week and just reading about her life here and here  brought back so many memories of the South side of Chicago and the good that comes out of it.

*Always a disciplined and serious student, the former Michelle Robinson followed her plan from early on. It took her to Princeton University, to Harvard Law School, and on to a career at one of Chicago’s top law firms.

*Barack Obama’s credentials have become familiar to millions: first African American president of the Harvard Law Review; University of Chicago law professor; two-term Illinois state senator; third African American U.S. senator since Reconstruction.

Michelle’s resume may be less well known, but it is impressive.

She is a 1985 cum laude graduate of Princeton University; a 1988 graduate of Harvard Law School; a former associate dean at the University of Chicago, and currently a vice president at the University of Chicago Hospitals.

*”My experiences at Princeton have made me far more aware of my ‘Blackness’ than ever before,” Michelle wrote in a 1985 thesis entitled “Princeton Educated Blacks and the Black Community.”

“I have found that at Princeton, no matter how liberal and open-minded some of my White professors and classmates try to be toward me, I sometimes feel like a visitor on campus, as if I really don’t belong.

“Regardless of the circumstances under which I interact with Whites at Princeton, it often seems as if, to them, I will always be Black first and a student second.”

Early on at Princeton, Michelle wrote, she was determined to “utilize all of my present and future resources to benefit [the black] community first and foremost.” Yet she now realized attending a launching pad like Princeton would “likely lead to my further integration and/or assimilation into a White cultural and social structure . . .

“As I enter my final year at Princeton, I find myself striving for many of the same goals as my White classmates — acceptance to a prestigious graduate or professional school or a high-paying position in a successful corporation. Thus, my goals are not as clear as before.”

Masha’Allah, they are a real life ‘Cosby’ family. Note: not all successful black men marry outside of their race. I wonder what Tariq Nelson has to say about this in light of his views on The New ‘Passing’. But that’s a whole ‘nother story.

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