The Chicago Committee To Defend The Bill of Rights (CCDBR) held their installation of officers, Nov. 19, at MacArthur’s Restaurant, 5412 W. Madison St., and presented Civil Liberties Advocate awards, following a breakfast of sausage, bacon, grits, eggs, biscuits, coffee and juice was served.
Sworn in by retired judge R. Eugene Pincham, the new officers included Robert H. Clarke, chair; Brenetta Howell Barrett, vice chairperson; Michael Krois Giocondo, vice chair; Luster H. Jackson, treasurer; and Anna Nessy Perlberg, secretary.
Special honoree Arlene Brigham was given the Justice for All Award. Brigham is a longtime activist, organizer, union stalwart and played a big part in the Emmet Till case. Arlene befriend Mamie Till Mobley after learning about the lynching. Arlene and her sisters visited Mamie and her mother at a time when many people were afraid because of Emmet’s terrible death. Arlene, along with Gus Savage, who owned a newspaper at the time, were two of the first individuals who figured prominently in having Mamie Till show her son’s mutilated remains.
Civil Liberties Advocate awardees were given to Cliff Kelley, WVON; attorney Lawrence E. Kennon; and Judge Pincham. The Civil Liberties Leadership Award was presented to Luster H. Jackson, past chair.
Master of Ceremonies for the morning festivities was Cliff Kelley, one of Chicago’s most sought-after emcees for his wealth of knowledge, tempered by a sense of humor.
A historical overview of the organization was given by David Bates, program coordinator. David is a survivor of the notorious Jon Burge, Chicago Police commander who was dismissed from the department in 1991 for alleged torture of individuals held in police custody.
“The CCDBR,” Bates said, “was founded in 1960 as the Midwest office of the National Committee Against Repressive Legislation. Its goal then and now has been to organize, educate, and work for legislation that will protect our precious First Amendment and due process rights. CCDBR cut its teeth on the successful struggle to abolish the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), which was used to smear progressives and destroy their careers. In 1969, the organization played a key role in organizing the broadly based Alliance to End Repression, which in 1974 filed the famous Red Squad Suit to stop the Chicago police from their century-old practice of spying on and seeking to disrupt dissident political activity.
“By 1981, CCDBR was a proud signatory of the Alliance/ACLU consent decree prohibiting such practices.”
Kelley, in his introduction of R. Eugene Pincham, noted, “We were all concerned because his lovely wife [who recently died] was more than a wife; she was a partner.”
Judge Pincham said, “The oath that these officers are about to take is really founded in superstition. There was a time when people thought that when they raised their hand and swore to God to ‘tell the truth and nothing but the truth’ and didn’t tell the truth that their arm would fall off. The reason the right arm was chosen instead of the left arm is because most people are right-handed, so it would be to their disadvantage for the right arm to fall off. So for many, many years and generations people told the truth when they took the oath because they were afraid their arm would fall off if they lied. There came a time when a man took the witness stand and he was asked some questions. The truth would have been far more detrimental to him than his arm falling off. So he lied under oath, and his arm did not fall off, and folks been lying under oath every since.” Pincham solemnly warned the officers that he had supernatural powers and if they did not do what was expected, their arms would fall off.
Also present at the breakfast were well-known retired Appellate Judge Ellis Reid and Dorothy Brown, Clerk of the Circuit Court. The breakfast was well attended by many civic leaders, realtors, financial consultants and residents of the Austin community.
Chairperson Richard Clarke made a special presentation to Brenetta Howell Barrett for her dedicated work. Attorney Lawrence Kennon, a member of the CCDBR advisory board, acknowledged the organization’s continued work for justice. Kennon said, “Justice is a word you rarely hear anymore. Now that we got this new president, all you hear about is terror. You never hear anybody mentioning justice anymore. Terror is a broad-span concept, and it has to do with torture, and our country has begun to do more and more torture around the world, in addition to what we have here. There is a person here in Chicago, Burge, who is a expert in torture and one of things this organization is doing is working against torture. I personally am working against Burge, having him penalized. He has violated the rights of primarily black people, their 14th Amendment rights.”