Thursday, February 25, 2010

Black History Month is Always Relevant

As we come to the end of Black History Month (BHM) 2010, I wonder how many of you who are descendants of enslaved Africans chose not to participate? If you are one of those folks, I wonder if you have subconsciously fallen victim to the subtle but strong underlying current of a message that has been permeating the airwaves of late. It is a message that began shortly after President Obama's election, as if that occurrence had miraculously converted America into a post-racial society.

Many of us have heard the jokes about how BHM is the shortest month of the year from those who are too ignorant of their own history to learn why February is the month dedicated to celebrate our history. Add in that the major media has done an excellent job over the past couple of decades focusing their and our attention solely on Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech along with an obligatory tossing in of Rosa Parks and a sprinkling of everything else, and it's no wonder many have come to see BHM in the narrowest of terms - as if the month were a side salad to the meal as opposed to a never-ending buffet.

But in all of my 56 years on this earth, rarely have I heard so many questioning if BHM is still relevant or should even continue to be acknowledged. At first the question was a whisper. But by mid-month, I had Garrard McClendon of CLTV asking, both on his Facebook page and on the air, if BHM was still relevant. Even sadder, Monique Caradine, former host at WVON 1690-AM responded, "Black History Month is played out like 8 tracks and Afros."

The smugness of those who are dismissive regarding BHM is comparable to those who feel they have "made it" as they sit in comfortable jobs and go home to houses in the suburbs. They attribute their success to hard work with nary a though of the many maids and janitors who took a stance against legalized racism so those same young folks can have what they have today.

I got a chance last Sunday to meet some of the men who stood up to legalized racism in this country. In 1941, then-President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 8802 which allowed African Americans to join the Marines. When they went to basic training, they didn't go to the Marine training base at Camp Lejeune. Instead, a segregated base was built next door at Montford Point (now named Camp Johnson). There between the years 1942-1949, those men became some of the first African-American Marines to undergo basic training. They trained under segregated circumstances while being subjected to the racism of both the military in which they served and the City of Jacksonville, N.C. Then they were sent off to fight and die in WWII and other conflicts.

I had never heard of the Montford Point Marines prior to the event I attended. Their story is yet another dish at the Black History buffet that we cannot allow the younger generation or anyone else to summarily dismiss. The sacrifices of those black Marines to a country that didn't allow them 100 percent participation are immeasurable. Before the last of them die, we can do something to place a value on their contribution. That is to make sure the last surviving members who trained at Montford Point receive a Gold Medal from the U.S. Congress.

There are currently two bills before Congress. One is HR3927 for the House of Representatives; S1695 is the corresponding Senate version. Our two Illinois senators, Burris and Durbin have supported the Senate bill. Now we need everyone from all over the country to write, e-mail or fax their Congressional representatives and their senators to demand that those men who served, fought and died for this country be recognized for their valor. A medal is a small price to pay to honor the men whose service to this country wasn't in vain.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Political Correctness VS Common Sense

It's time! It's time for political correctness to no longer overrule common sense and public safety. It's time we all take a stand for the public good and not let those with agendas put our lives, safety and property at risk.

What am I talking about? I'm talking about the fire this past week in Cicero - a fire that took the lives of seven people, a fire whose risks of occurring multiplied exponentially because of the number of people (estimated to be 30-40) living in a two-story, 116-year-old frame building.

As I've written in the past, I have worked with the 25th District housing subcommittee regarding "illegal conversions." That is when an unscrupulous landlord or homeowner takes a space that wasn't designed for people to live in and turns it into a living quarter. During the early 1990s, this practice occurred so much in the Belmont-Cragin district, which lies just north of Austin, that almost every bungalow in the area eventually became an illegal apartment building. It also occurred during the heyday of lots of jobs and a booming economy. It occurred during a time when "no vacancy" was the norm and people couldn't find a place to live.

As I read about the deaths in Cicero, one part caught my attention: "Cicero tried to impose an occupancy limit in 1991, but the U.S. Justice Department sued, charging that the ordinance discriminated against Hispanics. In 1997, Cicero signed an agreement with the federal government over the ordinance."

The family members who died weren't Hispanics. They were African Americans and U.S. citizens. But because of illegal immigration and a desire to call any laws that would limit overcrowding as "racism" against Hispanics, who are the primary practitioners, a lot of municipalities were unable to do anything about it. So rules weren't enforced and landlords and homeowners went about putting as many people under one roof as possible.

Now 20 years later, with the U.S. economy in a shambles and the housing market crumbling, there are more vacancies than people who can afford to rent them. So families are doubling and tripling up because individually they are no longer able to afford a place of their own. And even if neighbors had complained about at least 12 people living in one apartment, Cicero couldn't do anything about it because the federal lawsuit limited the city's rights.

So we now have four dead children and three dead young adults. I bet the U.S. Justice Department won't be at the funeral to see seven caskets lined up in a row. Or show up to be pallbearers since it was their lawsuit that legally allowed so many folks to sardine in together.

I think I have the solution.

I am calling on our state legislators to pass a law that prevents the electric company from adding more electric meters to a building without a permit from the local municipality. For example, in a single family home, there should be a single meter for the building. In a two flat, there are three - one for each apartment and one for the basement and common area.

Currently, Com Ed will add an unlimited number of meters to a house. Why? Because there is nothing to prevent them. People who illegally convert their property want to separate out the electric bill. Otherwise one bill for an entire building can soar as each area runs electric devices, which consume tons of electricity. If a single bungalow is illegally converted, the owner will have the first floor, basement, and attic all on separate meters.

It is very interesting that People's Gas won't add additional gas meters, but Com Ed will. So to heat those locations, the owners install electric baseboard heaters which we all know run an electric bill sky-high. If an owner had to get a permit from the city before adding additional electric meters, guess what? They couldn't get permission because the city shows the home as single family and not a two- or three-flat.

What about houses that have already done this? The law should require electric companies to report all addresses that currently have more than one but less than, say, 10 meters. Every meter reader has to know there is something suspicious about a house in a neighborhood of single-family homes with five meters on the outside. The city can then investigate to see if the meters are legitimate, fine the landlord and have them deconvert the illegal conversion and allow only city-authorized electricians to remove the meter, thus forcing the owner to pay a ridiculous amount of money for the work and putting electricians back to work.

My suggestion might not have helped the Cicero fire victims, but if municipalities could set a limit on the number of individuals who can legally occupy a space, perhaps those babies would be alive today.

Shame on everybody for making their political agenda more important than people's lives.

West Chicago Ave Book Event

When I got to the library last night, the librarian immediately told me that they didn't get a chance to promote my visit like they wanted. So she didn't expect anyone to come.

But she did have in her office a young lady from Douglas High School who had read the book. I met Elizabeth and she is a charm. They somehow found my book while browsing the Internet looking for the next book for their bookclub at school. She was radiant as she talked about the book.

It was very interesting to hear that her reading teacher was amazed at all Elizabeth picked up from reading the book. From our conversation, it appears that the teacher never read the book. Elizabeth told me that the teacher thought the book was just about a lottery. But it isn't.

My book is for ages 12 and up. And best of all, the book did what I meant it to do as Elizabeth got it. She liked the story lines. She felt good about the WestSide being portrayed in a positive light. She had another bookclub member said they began searching the internet to see if they could find my character for real because the book felt like they could go to the 4600 block of west WestEnd and find my character Val.

Thank you Elizabeth. It is because of young children like yourself who need to see where they live in a very positive light that I write.

Friday, February 12, 2010


This week’s column is a hard one for me to write. Why? Because I’ve had to change my mind so many times about what I was going to say. Truthfully I don’t write my columns until the day they are due. Sometimes certain issues are so worrisome that by the time I finally sit down to write, many of my opinions are so well-formed that my fingers fly across the computer keyboard as the words just flow out of me. Today I am disgusted because I must write about last week’s elections. My focus is not only on the candidates, but also on the trifling folks who were too lazy to go to the polls and vote for some damn good choices. Those candidates lost and had a poor showing because far too many people have become jaded about the political process and therefore want the television version of elections as opposed to the reality.

President Barack Obama’s campaign was a rare fairy tale candidacy. But for all others, it is very hard work to try and get your name and opinions on the radar for the average voters. Running for office is a decision that most sincere candidates don’t take lightly. It is a sacrifice of their time, feelings, money, and most of all their energy as one goes about trying to convince voters that if they give that candidate a chance, the candidate will work to make a difference.

One of the biggest losers in last week’s elections was Sylvester Baker. This was his third attempt to become the Cook County Sheriff and black folks who represent about seventy percent of the inmates’ population did a piss poor job of coming out to support this man in his quest. Not only was Sylvester Baker highly qualified for the job, he came with ideas to give inmates knowledge so that they wouldn’t find themselves coming back to jail. But it is obvious that the black community loves the idea of their sons and daughters being incarcerated because if they didn’t, they would have done a better job of supporting Mr. Baker in his effort to become the democratic nominee for Cook County Sheriff. So the next time those of you who didn’t vote or voted to keep the incumbent sheriff in office have a love one at the jail, remember it was your indifference to the election that helps to keep the “status quo” and you can’t complain.

Another big loser in last week’s elections was Dorothy Brown. After all the talk about her qualifications and leads in the polls, voters weren’t fooled. This was the second time that Brown has displayed that she is dissatisfied with her position as Clerk of the Circuit Court. Three years ago, as Bill ‘Dock’ Walls ran a campaign for mayor; she entered at the last minute to split the black vote. She lost. Now she again demonstrated her dissatisfaction with the job she has by running for County Board President to do another splitting of the black vote. Fortunately many voters saw her candidacy for the farce it was and will remember it when the 2012 elections come along. As one politically savvy person told me, no longer will Brown be able to run for re-election unopposed. From the same names on her petitions as Terry O’Brien, to the pay-to-wear-jeans scandal, Brown has dug her own brown pile and the stench is obvious.

Then there were a lot of losers in the race to become a Metropolitan Water Reclamation Commissioner. I don’t know why that job attracted the attention of so many individuals to run for it, but the names and pedigrees of the ones who did run were like a who’s who list. Some were immensely qualified to do the job while others spent more money on the campaign than they would make over the six year period for the job in salary. That immediately has my curiosity peaked and at some point in the future I will follow up.

Lastly, if you’re not doing anything this Saturday afternoon, I am having a book signing at Munchies, 3511 S. King Dr. from 3 – 6pm. I will be reading from my novel, “Billion Dollar Winner.” I am currently on a mission to get one million people to visit my blog and read the prologue to the book. You can learn more by going to the website for the book at

Friday, February 05, 2010


I'm writing this column early in the morning on Tuesday, Feb. 2. The polls have just opened, and I hope many will get there and vote. It is also a day when there is no joy in liking, following or even wanting to be involved in politics. Why? Because this election has proven how low individuals will go to sling mud in order to get voters to vote for them.

Last week I took a stance and declared that I wouldn't vote for any politician who has used the Burr Oak tragedy in their political campaign. I also reiterated my feelings on the radio show that I do with Garfield Majors (Sundays, 10-midnight, 1450AM) which caused one of the candidates for judge to stop her proud announcement that she was one of the lead attorneys in a Burr Oak lawsuit.

One of the sickest comments regarding Burr Oak came out of the mouth of Congressman Danny Davis when he stated in a robocall left on my answering machine: "Hynes hopes you'll forget the African-American bodies left to rot in unmarked graves under his watch at Burr Oak Cemetery." Obviously, the pain and guilt many of us share about the Burr Oak situation wasn't a top priority on his list when he recorded that call for Pat Quinn.

There was a bright side to the Burr Oak debacle though. Sherriff Tom Dart was so self-assured that his role in bringing the tragedy to the forefront was such a "guaranteed" vote-getter in the African-American community, he didn't feel the need to even campaign there for his job. The only name you saw all over the county was Sylvester Baker. I appreciated Sheriff Dart not grandstanding on the problem, but I still want a candidate to solicit my vote and not just assume he is going to get it.

I felt like I was being patronized whenever I heard from Gov. Pat Quinn. His robocall to my house yesterday was filled with the list of people who had placed calls on his behalf, including Rev. Jackson, congressmen Rush, Davis, Gutierrez and Jackson, Jr. and a former employee of Mayor Harold Washington, Jacky Grimshaw. He named-dropped so much during his interview on WVON-1690AM that the issues he was addressing got lost in the limelight of all the names he kept bringing up. As far as I was concerned, it was one step above that old line, "One of my best friends is black." It was a turn-off and amounted to pandering to the black community for votes without offering substance.

I am going to have to investigate why there was so much interest from so many people to run for commissioner of the Water Reclamation Department. The job pays around $70,000 a year, yet one person was spending millions to get the job. There were giant ads and billboards all over the place. One has to wonder about what contracts are being given out and to whom for so many to be pursuing that position.

I have a feeling many of the incumbents will either lose their jobs or win by a narrow margin. If some of the Democratic incumbents win, then we need to hold their feet to the fire before the general election come November. No longer should a primary win be a shoo-in when the economy in the black community is on the verge of bankruptcy as we suffer unemployment figures as high as 50 percent among our teens and young men.

Lastly, there is no joy in acknowledging that Ald. Ike Carothers has resigned and pleaded guilty to bribery. His downfall and the possible indictment of several other aldermen still loom in the future. Developer Calvin Boender's reach into the black West Side wards may take down several more aldermen. Let's see what ex-Ald. Carothers has to say months from now when he does testify.