Folks are still recovering from the Labor Day weekend festivities taking place throughout the Chicagoland region. For the most part, the weather was a bit moody but the sun shined heavily on 28th African Festival of the Arts for Sunday and Monday’s activities and live performances. Although, Saturday evening’s Reggae concert was interrupted by a brief storm—Wayne Wonder carried over to Sunday night’s line-up, hyping up the park before the headline act.
Founding member of the Grammy-award winning act The Fugees, Wyclef Jean brought out a large audience of hip hop heads and Haitian natives to Washington Park. On Monday, the legendary R&B band Heatwave had everyone from wheelchairs to lawn chairs throwing their hands in the air—wrapping up another successful African Festival of the Arts weekend.
Crazy shout-outs to the board members and committees who help bring this wonderful festival of Black pride and unity together with our cultural heritage and roots. It is a beautiful and family friendly affair welcoming everyone from around the country. A special thank you to talent manager and event producer Allison Jordan for being back onboard and working hard.
There was a continual line-up of labor union parades and picnics celebrating the growth of working class Illinoisans. Several sightings from gubernatorial candidates Chris Kennedy, Daniel Biss and his new running mate, Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, shaking hands. Also walking in the parade was JB Pritzker and his lieutenant governor running mate, Juliana Stratton, walking in the Friends of Labor Fest. Other sightings included Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza.
State of the African-American Male Conference
For the first time since he held the first State of the African American Male Conference in Washington, D.C. in 2004, Congressman Danny Davis will host another conference in Chicago from September 8-9. In partnership with Sankofa Safe Child Initiative, the two-day event will be held at the UIC Forum, located at 725 W. Roosevelt Rd.
The senior ranking congressman felt it was necessary to hold a program on African American males.
“When we look at stats, when we look at the pyschology of being Black, when we look at the indicators of social well-beings, Black boys and men are at the bottom of the top when you measure things. The highest drop outs in schools–Black boys. Earliest deaths—Black men. Highest unemployment—Black young men. Highest incarceration rate—Black men. So, all of anything negative that you can think of relative to social indicators in reference to quality of life–Black men lead the field. We try to figure out what can we do and how can we do it to change the trajectory,” he said.
Currently, nearly 89 percent of African American males are incarcerated at Cook County Jail. Davis, an advocate for ex-offenders making a better way through job training and employment, feels there is a reason why Black males fill the correctional facilities.
He says, “Much of it is determined on how we know what got us here. There is a reason for example that Black boys are out of school more than other boys. I maintain one of the reasons, when Black boys in many communities go to school—they never see a male teacher from K to middle schools. They definitely do not see a Black man reading books or reading a newspaper—doing these things that would develop an interest in education.”
Despite having fourth grade education, Davis says his father was an avid reader. “I come to that conclusion based on my own experiences on how I grew and developed as a person. He read everything he could get his hands on. I developed traits of reading when I was a little boy.”
The State of the African American Male is a free conference which invites both youth and adults to participate. The Resource Fair and reception takes place on Friday, September 8 from 5-6:45 p.m., followed by an opening session.
The following day, several workshops– centered around economic opportunity, family strength, technology access, mental health, financial empowerment, women, nurturing and many other topics– will be led by notable speakers.
“The University of Illinois at Chicago is partnering with us and Dr. Rex Tolliver who is the African American Vice Chandler of Student Affairs. He has been working with us along with Annetta Wilson, Executive Director of Sankofa. Keynote speakers include Dr. David Sanders with Malcolm X College and Thomas N. Todd along with Dr. William Dale with Casey Family programs.”
With the participation of several community organizations, including the Boy Scouts of America, they are expecting nearly 500 youth to participate. There will be a number of public officials from various levels of government including African American mayors from Aurora and Waukegan.
“An idle mind is the devil’s workshop. No matter how you cut it, if you come up with a way to keep young people motivated and involved with leadership and supervision from adults—in all reality and likelihood–those individuals are going to maintain what they learned,” said Davis.
Belated birthday shout-outs to Power 92 radio on-personality Shagg Nice and Pastor Jeanette Jordan,who celebrated on September 5. Many blessings to my Virgo sister Coleen Spapperi; security/bodyguard Moody Andrews; HIV Activist and House music architect DJ Lora Branch; and Beauty Bash Creator Fred Miller, Jr. on September 6. The party continues sending positive vibrations to Artistic Director Vonzell Scott; businessman Paul Dejoie; and publicist, Denise Jordan Walker on September 7. Silver Room manager Ken Pickett; music vet and all-around awesome Tikiya Crawford and S&S Chicago co-founder and DJ/producer Shannon ‘DJ Skip’ Syas on September 9. Holding down several college degrees and still rocking the parties, DJ Malik Shabazz celebrates September 10.
Condolences and Prayers
Our heartfelt condolences and prayers goes out to the family of Simeon Wright, the cousin of Emmett Till. At 74, Wright died due to complications from bone cancer. He was a witness to his cousin being kidnapped and later murdered that night by White men accusing the 14-year-old of whistling at a White woman. Till was visiting and staying with relatives in Mississippi on summer break from Chicago.
Wright published a book recounting that tragic night that changed the face of Civil Rights around the country.
Long-time advocate of justice Pat Hill died at 66 last week. The former executive director of Chicago’s African American Police League lost her battle with cancer at Northwestern Hospital. Hill was outspoken on how African American officers are represented and having a voice among their White fellow officers.
Homegoing and memorial services will be shared online at www.chicagodefender.com