This past week, the Chicago Defender celebrated our 10th Annual Men of Excellence Awards Dinner, recognizing 50 Chicago African-American men showcasing significant contributions to their community. This was a beautiful sight to see folks come out and show out in their best suits and dresses.
The sold-out room at the Hyatt Regency symbolized why there is a need for programs like our annual MOE to take place, also why more Chicago Black community stakeholders in business, education, faith and the arts must come together without egos.
Wrapping up the short month of the year, Black History Month ends, but the awareness and knowledge sharing must be a daily commitment of learning, earning and growing.
Over the weekend, a bronze plaque commemorating the 100 Year Anniversary of The Great Migration to Chicago was unveiled at the new 35th Street Bridge. We’re proud to be a part of this important part of history and 500,000 Black southerners who came up North to find a better way.
A belated happy birthday to Producing Director for the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic, Mark Ingram on Feb. 28. Chicago club promoter, Anthony Lindsey; Diane Womack-Foreman; author and choreographer Wink Atme; and Leon Albritton celebrate March 1. A loud Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc. shout-out to WCIU’s Sean Long on March 3 and street baller legend Carl Harris celebrates March 5 along with Chicago’s Uptown music influencer, Mista Bee on March 6.
Congratulations to DJ Slugo and the Blok Club DJs on producing the 7th Annual Blok Club DJs Meet & Greet at Tailgators Sports Bar & Grill in Bolingbrook. A 20+ year music vet and one of the trailblazers in Ghetto House music, DJ Slugo is the co-founder and head of a group of leading DJs throughout the Midwest. The group presented a Women in Music & Media panel discussion that featured Power 92 on-air personality/hip hop artist, Teefa, radio on-air personality and DJ, Khris ‘First Lady’ Hutchinson, Chicago Defender’s Senior Writer, Mary L. Datcher, along with Lesley Taylor (Blok Club DJs) as the moderator. Throughout the afternoon, several indie artists performed, networked and exchanged valuable information to help strengthen relationships in the music community.
Hats off to City of Chicago Treasurer Kurt Summers for his office recognizing a winning essay from student entrees during the Black History Month Scholarship program. Wendell Phillips Academy senior Malcom Fox is this year’s scholarship winner and ranked third in his senior class. He will he attending the prestigious Wesleyan University in the fall, where he will play football for the Wesleyan Cardinals and major in economics with a minor in data analysis.
The treasurer was on hand earlier this week to present the check for $2,500 to Fox.
Recognizing Prominent Black Business Leaders
Over a week ago, Mrs. Jolyn Robichaux made her transition on Feb. 20 at 88. In 1956, she became the Liaison Officer for the U.S. State Department, sent on a goodwill tour of Africa with USA track and field athletes. Mrs. Robichaux held a leadership role in the Catholic Interracial Council of Chicago, and in 1960, she joined General Mills as Betty Crocker’s first Black baking consultant.
As the wife of Committeeman Joseph Robichaux, she was considered the “first lady” of the 21st Ward. In 1971, Mrs. Robichaux became the President and CEO of the first Black-owned ice cream company in the world — serving the company in this role for over 20 years.
As an advocate of women leadership in business, she also served as a Jury Commissioner for the city of Chicago. In 1993, Mrs. Robichaux moved to Paris, France, promoting Gospel concerns throughout Europe. Her story can be found in the HistoryMakers 2003 archives.
She leaves remembering the wonderful times shared with her many friends and with her daughter and her husband, Sheila Glaze and Dr. William H. Glaze Sr.; her son, Joseph Howard Robichaux, Ph.D.; her granddaughter, lawyer Veronica Wren Glaze.
Williams James Barney
We reported last week the passing of West Side businessman Willie James Barney on Feb. 20. The Parkdale, Arkansas, native was born on Oct. 10, 1927. Like so many African-American southerners, he relocated to Chicago in the early 1950s. With a vision and an entrepreneurial spirit, he began selling R&B records from the trunk of his car, eventually growing Barney’s Swing Shop into Barney’s Records.
As Barney’s One-Stop became one of the country’s leading distribution hubs to many mom and pop retailer stores, indie labels and DJs broke into the mixtape business.
He created 4Brothers Records that introduced acts such as R&B icon Tyrone Davis and G.L. Crockett.
Mr. Barney took hold of his personal health through the transformation of vegetarianism where he created New Life Health Foods and Restaurant in the early 1980s in the Lawndale community. The business is still flourishing as his son Raymond continues to oversee the store’s operation.
When asked about his contribution to the Civil Rights movement, Mr. Barney bluntly says, “I was giving people jobs.” His direct and honest approach with people secured him the loyalty and respect of his employees, neighbors, and friends. As a prominent member of the Chicago Black business and Hebrew Israelite community, he was a proud patriarch who aimed to instill the values of tenacity and family togetherness in his children.
Mr. Barney is survived by sons, Reginald and Raymond; daughter, Anayah and 16 grandchildren, along with many great- and great-great grandchildren.