Our “Promised Land” has always had its issues, but black Chicagoans know that our part of the city is as real as it gets. It’s not something you can shake off. Ask Kanye and Common. Chicago is in our DNA and lives in our bones forever, even if some of us no longer reside there. So while the media only paints a “kill or be killed” picture of our city, we know what we’re working with and always, always put on for our city.
Ronda Racha Penrice is a freelance writer living in Atlanta. She is the author of African American History for Dummies.
1. Buttons and posters from Harold Washington’s historic 1983 campaign are treasured family heirlooms.
Harold Washington’s bid to become Chicago’s first black mayor may have been the most unified we have ever been. There was literally not a black neighborhood that wasn’t plastered with all things Washington. And, even after all these years, having a button or poster is still the thing.
Not all Harold’s are the same. Never have been. Which is why Chicagoans have plenty of advice about which ones to give a try and which ones to just let be.
Long before Tom Joyner became a national black treasure, he was our part-time radio king, ruling the afternoons on WGCI with personality and his unique sense of humor. Plus, he put other talent on: Who doesn’t remember “On the Phone with Tyrone”? We like to think we paved the way for him to be great.
For black people, Chicago is pretty much where black people live, and we live on the South Side and the West Side. Check the demographics. Oh, we talk about the Loop and other Chicago attractions, but our Chicago is the South Side and the West Side—period!
Maybe Moo & Oink provided the first glimpse of an Auto-Tune future or even the use of rap-style rhythms to sell everything, even links and ribs. Whichever it is, it’s hard to forget the dancing cow and pig and, of course, the wave. “We got baby, baby spare ribs,” indeed!
House music is more than for all night long. It’s for a lifetime, something your body remembers every time it hears “Move Your Body,” “Jack Your Body” and “Percolator” in particular. The Chosen Few Picnic on the Fourth is a workout that lasts the whole year!
A city can’t get any blacker than having a black man as its founder. And this factoid is far from a secret to any black Chicagoan. Back in the late 1700s, Jean Baptiste Point DuSable, who was of Haitian and French descent, was the first permanent settler of the city now known as Chicago. Fittingly, the DuSable Museum of African American History is named for him.
You are so officially black and from Chicago if you’ve ever taken part in our “ghetto” Valentine’s Day ritual of Happy Sweetest Day by requesting a shoutout to your “sweetest” or being proclaimed the “sweetest” on WGCI or V103.
Long before Wal-Mart or grocery stores started issuing money orders and cashing paychecks, there was the Currency Exchange. Some were even 24-hour, despite the obvious dangers of so much cash all the time, but the solution was simple: Put the workers behind bulletproof glass.
Since 1929, black Chicago has put a positive spin on sending kids back to school. So much so that attending and/or participating in the Bud Billiken Day Parade is a rite of passage. Over the years, it’s even been televised nationally, but one thing never changes: It’s about us and for us.