I received a call last week from Mr. Rickey P. Brown, the executive director of the Westside Historical Society, as well as the coordinator of Chicago's Westside Juneteenth Festival. He's also the owner of Planet Africa Graphic Design Company. He was upset, or a better word might be passionate, about a situation that he felt was about to take place in our community.
He told me about an injustice to black Americans. Because I have known Mr. Brown for quite sometime, I knew that he was going to get to the bottom of the situation, and that all hell was going to break lose if what he was telling me was true. He then told me not to worry yet. He said that he was on his way to a meeting to discuss the matter with the powers that be, and that he would be calling me later to discuss a plan of action to address this most pressing concern. Now, it seems to me, that there are not many issues that face us as African Americans that can get us "collectively upset."
It seems that we have become numb to the problems facing us as a people. Too often when we are faced with injustice, the community's response is "That your problem. I have my own problems to deal with."
The only time we seem to get upset is if someone challenges our African American president, Mr. Obama, or if someone defames the sanctity of our most beloved leader, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I must confess that in the beginning I did not see what the big deal was, but I knew that the passion Mr. Brown had was enough for me to become as concerned as he was, and that sometimes we just need to support those who labor among us.
The situation that invoked this passion involved the 6 ft. bronze statue of Dr. King, dressed as an African warrior, that had been standing watch in East Garfield Park on Madison Street and Kedzie since 1970. It was taken down recently by the owners after residents complained that the statue was in danger of falling. Channel 2 News reportedly had done an investigative story of the possible danger of the unsteady statue. The plan was to put the statue, which stood atop a cement pedestal, in storage or dispose of it at a later date. WHAT?!?!?!
You must be kidding? Mr. Brown noted that there is very little opportunity to see positive public images of art featuring African Americans on the city's West Side. Now, the only one that I know of on the West Side has been taken down. This is a sad day for our history. The fact is our kids can not be what they can not see.
Mr. Brown and members of the Westside Historical Society have been meeting with local political leaders and asking for letters of support to retain this piece of historic art. WHS has been meeting with the Austin African American Business Networking Association to find temporary or permanent location for the statue on Chicago Avenue's business district
The historical society has gathered information concerning the cost for moving, storing, and erecting the statue. Also, they've continued to meet with the property management company that owns the artwork. The owners have agreed that as long as there is aldermanic support, as well as community support, they are willing to donate this historic artwork so that it can be placed in a location to be viewed and enjoyed by generations to come.
I can say that the WHS is not just about gathering historical facts as it relates to the West Side, but is willing to fight for the soul of our people.
Congratulations to Mr. Brown and the members of the Westside Historical Society for not talking history but creating history.
Happy Black History Month.