Tag: Abraham Lincoln

Don’t Call It A Re-Enactment — On May 12 Maywood Was A Stage For Living History

Tuesday, May 15, 2018 || By Elizabeth Abunaw || @maywoodnews 

Featured image: Living historians dramatize Civil War history on the corner of First and Lake in Maywood on May 12. | Courtesy Laura Rogers 

Replica flags? Check. Period pieces like guns dating to the mid-19th Century? Check. Actors dressed in historical clothing? Check. Abraham Lincoln? Check.

Continue reading “Don’t Call It A Re-Enactment — On May 12 Maywood Was A Stage For Living History”

Thanksgiving in Maywood, Before It Was ‘Official,’ Was About Cultivation

Thursday, November 23, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews 

Featured image: A drawing of a Potawatomi Indian with a French fur trader found in Doug Deuchler’s book, Maywood

It may be hard to imagine nowadays, but Thanksgiving didn’t always mean taking off of work or school; watching games on TV; the one day where the smell of chitterlings, and third and fourth plates of food, are all forgiven; heated arguments about politics that are covers for long-subdued family frictions; (maybe) taking in a church service; and the day before Black Friday.

Continue reading “Thanksgiving in Maywood, Before It Was ‘Official,’ Was About Cultivation”

In Maywood, a Juneteenth Celebration Prompts an Abiding Question: Are Blacks Really Free?

Panel 1

Community members during a panel discussion last Saturday about the significance of Juneteenth and its current resonance. | Michael Romain/VFP

Panel 2Thursday, June 22, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews

When Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger issued on June 19, 1865 General Order No. 3, announcing that “in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free,” President Abraham Lincoln (the executive referenced in the order) was dead and the 13th Amendment “was well on its way to ratification,” according to historian Henry Louis Gates, Jr.’s online essay, “What is Juneteenth?”

A major reason why news of emancipation reached Texas last was because for many slave owners, the Lone Star State offered temporary refuge from the Union Army’s advances.

“Since the capture of New Orleans in 1862, slave owners in Mississippi, Louisiana and other points east had been migrating to Texas to escape the Union Army’s reach,” Gates explains. “In a hurried re-enactment of the original Middle Passage, more than 150,000 slaves had made the trek west, according to historian Leon Litwack in his book ‘Been in the Storm So Long: The Aftermath of Slavery.’ As one former slave he quotes recalled, ‘It looked like everybody in the world was going to Texas.’”

Since then, Gates notes, Juneteenth has become “the most popular annual celebration of emancipation from slavery in the United States.”

In Maywood last week, the holiday presented former and current residents with an opportunity to reflect not just on a historical event with national resonance but also on the village’s local history with respect to race relations.

On June 13 and 14, Operation Uplift Inc., the organization’s West Town Museum of Cultural History and the village of Maywood sponsored Reflections of the Past tours, during which community members learned about significant historical sites — including a section of Maywood where only African Americans and Jews lived.

Last Saturday, the organizations hosted a proclamation ceremony that included a reenactment of the Union army’s arrival at Galveston, Texas and a reading of Gen. Granger’s order. After the ceremony, community members gathered for a Juneteenth Soul Food Feast and a panel discussion that begged the question of whether or not blacks can be considered free — Gen. Granger’s order from more than 150 years ago notwithstanding.

The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, “all slaves are tree.” This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor.

The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes, and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts, and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.

“I’m not clear we’re not still in slavery,” said Judge Gay F. Chase, who sat on a 9-person panel during a discussion that was moderated by radio personality Al B. Sylk. Around 20 audience members listened intently under a tent pitched beside the West Town Museum of Cultural History, 104 S. 5th Ave. in Maywood.

George Stone, Operation Uplift’s interim executive director, likened the panel discussion to an old-fashioned community gathering designed to resolve local problems and find common ground — even though most of the problems mentioned during the 2-hour panel are pervasive, plaguing largely minority urban centers from sea to shining sea.

While the panelists were unanimous in their discussion about the many problems ailing the African American population, including chronically high unemployment rates, gun violence, drug abuse and high dropout rates, there was a clear break in consensus when it came to plotting a clear path beyond those systemic problems.

“We need to uplift our race and find out what our issues are so we can heal our people,” said Stone. “We’re not looking for outside healing or a handout. We’ll take reparations because they’re owed to us, but we want to heal ourselves.”

In diagnosing what he called “Post-Traumatic Slave Syndrome,” Stone laid many of the problems ailing some blacks to “a false sense of priority” and a range of dysfunctional behavioral patterns (“black men wanting to be pimps,” “women being promiscuous,”) that he said is rooted in slavery.

“We never had any counseling after slavery, we just kept persevering,” Stone said. “This trickles down from generation to generation. We have a lot of mental illness — not just in the youth but in the parents who raise them and their parents.”

Michael Burton, an attorney, said that he attributes most of the problems affecting blacks in America to the breakdown of the family structure.

“When you have prisons for profit, they have to be filled up in order for the stakeholders to make money,” Burton said. “For the stakeholders to make money, they’re going to fill them up with black and brown bodies. The men who are taken away from the family weakens the family, therefore youth are exposed to things they ordinarily would not be exposed to had there been a strong male role model in the house.”

Stephen Allan Hall (also known as Ifagbayi Malefi Ayodeji Adéyafa), a community mental health specialist and DePaul University psychology instructor, modified Stone’s diagnose before emphasizing, along with other panelists and an audience member, what he said is the root cause of the present social dysfunction among blacks.

“One of my colleagues said during a conference a couple of weeks ago that she had good and bad news,” Hall said. “The good news is our community isn’t suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome. The bad news is the reason they’re not suffering from PTSD is because there is no post. We are in a continual state of traumatized lives.”

Hall said he isn’t necessarily convinced that the social conditions in many black communities are due to broken families. He said the deeper cause of blacks’ problems is white supremacy.

“I think it’s important that we not victim blame,” he said. “Black folks in the United States since our beginning in this country have been victims. That is real. We’ve been victims because folks have oppressed us and we need to own that. [One professor] said this: ‘If you don’t understand white supremacy, white racism, everything you do understand will only confuse you.”

Hall described a history of devastation heaped upon successful, self-contained black communities like Chicago, Atlanta and Tulsa.

“Look at communities that, historically, were black and self-contained,” Hall said. “They were punished for that. They were burned to the ground. People were killed.”

Rasaan Booker, an African American audience member with dreadlocks, had been subtly chastised by another audience member to pull his shorts up while walking to the center of the tent to comment.

Ironically, Booker criticized ‘respectability politics,’ or when, according to an essay in Dissent by Columbia political science professor Frederick C. Harris, the “virtues of self-care and self-correction [i.e., dressing appropriately] are framed as strategies to lift the black poor out of their condition by preparing them for the market economy.”

Booker said respectability politics now defines the black church, long the most powerful agent of social uplift that African Americans could leverage.

“The church doesn’t really allow for resistance and only encourages docility,” he said. “It’s difficult when you’re constantly being told to fit into this respectability model and that there’s always something wrong with you.

“[People say], ‘Trayvon Martin wouldn’t have been killed if he hadn’t worn a hoodie or people wouldn’t get stopped if their pants weren’t sagging,’” Booker said. “Respectability has never saved us. When Martin Luther King was marching in his finest suit, he was still stabbed and arrested multiple times.”

Rev. Ronald Beauchamp, the pastor of Bethel New Life Church in Wheaton, agreed with Maywood Park District Commissioner Bill Hampton for the effectiveness, if not for the moral validity, of respectability politics.

“Nobody told me to come out here today and wear my collar and suit coat,” Beauchamp said. “Nobody told me that, but because of my position, because of my understanding of my role, I did what I felt was appropriate. I could’ve come in shorts and a t-shirt, but I knew I wanted to have an image and a presentation. I wanted you to respect the words coming out of my mouth.”

“The way we carry ourselves has a lot to do with how we think,” said Hampton. “Take professional gangsters. You can’t tell they’re gangsters. If you give yourself away with the pants sagging and [profanity] coming out of your mouth, that builds into ignorance … Dr. King said, ‘I want you to be first in moral excellency.’”

“Yeah, but that’s always on black people! You have white kids walking around with their pants sagging and they won’t get shot,” said Brandy Booker, a Moraine Valley Community College professor and Rasaan’s mother.

“[White kids] cuss in front of my grandma, but they don’t get gunned down,” she said. “Why does the brunt of being always above fall on blacks? In 2017? That is ridiculous.” VFP

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A Community Divided Against Itself Cannot Stand

imageSunday, October 25, 2015 || By Rev. Regi Ratliff

Abraham Lincoln was elected to congress in 1847. The Mexican War was going on and Lincoln opposed the war. His anti-war speeches displeased his political supporters and he knew they wouldn’t re-elect him.
So at the end of his term in 1849, he returned to Illinois to practice law. Then in 1858, he was nominated by the Republican Party to run for Illinois state senator. Addressing the state convention at Springfield, he gave the first of his memorable speeches. As his hands tensely gripped the speaker’s stand, he declared slowly and firmly: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

Although Lincoln was talking about the country being divided on the issue of slavery, this nation is still divided in many areas. Issues such as the division of race, socioeconomic class, political parties, and religious beliefs have brought our nation to its knees.

Nationally, the presidential election is around the corner and voters will need to decide if they want to elect quirky candidate Donald Trump, liberal Hillary Clinton, retired medical doctor Ben Carson, Jeb Bush, or a relatively unknown candidate in Bernie Sanders.

When watching presidential debates, each candidate attempts to separate themselves from their competitor by making divisive comments to get their point across. Apparently, in recent years, divisive barbs in debates have caused more division among voters than unity.

There could be various reasons why this is the case, but nobody knows. It could be because of a lack of trust towards the nation’s first African American president. It could be due to the nation’s economy still negatively impacting many families. A new Rasmussen study finds that 67 percent of likely U.S. voters say America is a more divided nation than it was four years ago. In addition, just seven percent think the country is less divided now; while 21 percent rate the level of division as about the same.

In Illinois, division has reared its ugly head to the point where very few politicians appear trustworthy. I don’t believe the voters paid any attention to businessman and gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner, when he proclaimed during his campaign, “Now let’s work together and Bring Back Illinois!!!”

Who did you think he would work with to make this happen if he became governor? Did you believe he was referring to the blue collar workers of Illinois? To the employees who provide social services to youth, senior citizens, the mentally challenged, the homeless, military veterans or citizens who are trying to overcome drug and alcohol addictions?

Rauner openly stated before becoming the 42nd Governor of Illinois that he was against raising minimum wage and he was still elected by the people of Illinois. So, why are we complaining about him now? Rauner is not a politician, he is a businessman.

What did we think would happen after defeating incumbent Pat Quinn? That he would change his mind and care about the less fortunate? Educational funding is still in limbo.
Schools, police departments and child care services across the state are impacted. Springfield is so divided that Democratic legislatures are unable to work together with Rauner to resolve the budgetary crisis. Moody’s Investor Services has cut the state’s financial position to three steps above junk as its budget stalemate drags into a fourth month.

Recently, I attended a Village of Maywood Legal, License and Ordinance Committee (LLOC) meeting. Talk about divisiveness! In the meeting, trustees were berating fellow colleagues publicly on various issues.
One trustee read a letter, publicly admonishing two of her colleagues for rejecting a proposal by a local school to utilize space at the Maywood multipurpose building on Fifth Avenue. Since the school did not follow proper procedures to obtain space in the building, which includes making a presentation to the Village board, questions arose about how they were able to obtain space. There were several additional arguments which took place, but they really aren’t worth mentioning. The point is we have a village of municipal leaders who spend more time plotting than planning.

Overall, the Village of Maywood is a community with great potential, but leadership leaves much to be desired. The unemployment rate currently stands at 11.8 percent, which is above the state average of 6.6 percent.

In addition, the average family income is just above $59,866, which is below the state average of $71,980. Only 33 percent of the population has at least a high school diploma, seven percent of the population has a bachelor’s degree, 3 percent has a master’s degree and .5 percent has a doctorate degree.
So what is causing such divisiveness in the Village of Maywood? How can a board — the members of which have lived in the village for decades, whose children and grandchildren attended the same schools as they have — lack the ability to work together?

Where are the families with a decent income spending their money? With a lack of industry, money does not circulate within the village and is quickly leaving the community. Families are shopping, entertaining and participating in recreational activities in neighboring communities. A weak economy results in a high crime rate, below average schools, and a village board who bickers over usage of the only real recreational building in town.

In order to restore a sense of unity from the state to the local level, several steps must be taken.
One, citizens must vote. If you don’t vote, you don’t care about your community.

Secondly, citizens must work together. This means spending time to volunteer at a local organization or church. Leaders in neighboring villages may not get along, but they have built a strong foundation of bringing in businesses, as well as providing services for their youth.

This brings me to my last point. If we expect our youth to stay out of trouble, it is incumbent upon us to provide year-round employment opportunities for our young adult population (18-25) and not just provide summer jobs.

As adults, we need to teach our youth about money management like leaders do for their youth in other communities. We need to teach our youth that it is more important to be student-athletes than mere athletes. There are many philanthropic and corporate foundations that provide funding to nonprofit organizations and local municipalities who service youth.

Do I expect everyone to get on the unity train and immediately take action to empower their community? Absolutely not! However, as a citizen, I expect more individuals to work together and make a pledge to improve their homes, their blocks and their communities.

We should elect leaders who really care about their constituents and who will make rational decisions that are in our best interests instead of their own.

In the end, I believe that once unity takes place at the local level, our communities will improve and that benchmark of success will rise all the way to Springfield. VFP

Reverend Regi Ratliff is the Founder and Executive Director of Eternal Light Community Services, located at 200 S. Fifth Avenue in Maywood. Eternal Light provides the following programs:public speaking, financial literacy, health and wellness, and entrepreneurship classes to youth, ages 5-18.

Contact Rev. Ratliff at (708) 813-4722 to register your child for one of our programs today.

The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of The Village Free Press.