In our first local Town Hall of the NBC Learn "Finishing the Dream" series, movement veterans, community activists, religious leaders and educators talk to students from Chicago about the civil rights movement and what young people can do to keep the lessons of that movement alive.
FINISHING THE DREAM: LEARNING FROM THE CIVIL RIGHTS ERA
MARION BROOKS: Hello I’m Marion Brooks from NBC 5 here in Chicago.
LESTER HOLT: And I’m Lester Holt from NBC’s Nightly News and Today. Thank you for joining us, and welcome to our special town hall: “Finishing the Dream: Learning From the Civil Rights Era,” sponsored by NBC Learn and W.K. Kellogg Foundation. We’re inside Chicago’s famous DuSable Museum, the oldest African American museum in the country. The newest exhibit is about the Black Panther Party.
BROOKS: We’re standing in front of the actual apartment door of Fred Hampton. He’s the leader of the Illinois Black Panther Party who was gunned down back in 1969 by the State’s Attorney’s Police. And as you can see, this door is riddled with bullet holes.
HOLT: Coming up: from the Black Panthers, to the Rainbow-PUSH coalition and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
BROOKS: Community leaders and students have joined together to examine the civil rights movement and the lessons learned.
BROOKS: Welcome to “Finishing the Dream: Learning from the Civil Rights Movement.”
HOLT: We’re featuring six topics tonight each kicked off with a brief historical clip leading into panel discussions and then some questions from our audience. The first clip is a brief history of the Civil Rights movement, showcasing some of the more memorable moments. Let’s watch.
ANCHORMAN: [IN CLIP] Emmett Till is buried near Chicago, his hometown. While Emmett was visiting a great uncle in the Mississippi Delta in August 1955, he whistled at a white woman. That whistle cost him his life.
MAMIE MOBLEY, EMMETT TILL’S MOTHER: [IN CLIP] I hope that his death will certainly start a movement in the United States.
CHET HUNTLEY, NBC NEWS: [IN CLIP] Most Negroes in Montgomery, Alabama, are boycotting the city buses because a woman who refused to take a segregated seat was fined and police probed.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: [IN CLIP] I said, “I’m sorry, our management does not allow us to serve niggers in here.”
FRANK MCGEE, NBC NEWS: [IN CLIP] A multitude of Negroes and whites moved on Washington today in what is easily the most massive demonstration ever seen in the capital or in the nation.
FRED HAMPTON: [IN CLIP] If you dare to struggle, you dare to win, if you dare not to struggle, then you don’t deserve to win…you don’t deserve to win. We’re saying that you’ve got to get out here and got to involve yourself in the struggle.
MALCOLM X: [IN CLIP] Be a man. Earn what you need for your own family. Then your family respects you. They’re proud to say “that’s my father.”
MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.: [IN CLIP] I have no moral conflict. I want to live in my own as anybody in this building, and sometimes I begin to doubt that I’m going to make it through. ‘Cause I don’t march because I like it. I march because I must, and because I’m a man, and because I’m a child of God.
JESSE JACKSON: [IN CLIP] I said, “Doctor King,” and just as he straightened up. I said, “Doctor King,” and the bullet just exploded in his face.
BROOKS: Doctor Finney I’d like to start with you. Your initial reaction to seeing that and where we might have come from it this far.
DR. LEON FINNEY, METROPOLITAN APOSTOLIC COMMUNITY CHURCH: Clearly that was a time of extreme racism that we were dealing with, but also there was a diversity of approaches. We were, I think, together but there were different voices and different approaches to being together. The one genius, I believe, of Doctor King was to set forth a framework out of which we could all work together to alleviate the serious challenge of racism in this country.
CLIFF KELLEY, TALK SHOW HOST, WVON RADIO: I think that thing too and I agree with what Leon is saying. But I think what I remember the most and what really started the movement was seeing the body of Emmett Till. I was there. My dad made sure that I went. And when you see it, that’s something that you would never forget and that really started people saying, “Listen, we got to do something about this.”
DR. CAROL ADAMS, C.E.O., DUSABLE MUSEUM: I think what resonates with me about it was that we believed at that time that we could make change happen. So that no matter what was going on you had the urge and the compulsion to act. And I think that’s what important for students to understand and to be inspired by, the fact that you can make a situation change by your organization, by your action, by your made-up mind.
DOROTHY TILLMAN, ALDERMAN AND ACTIVIST: I had another kind of feel about this, especially looking at the children because I was their age when I was involved in this movement. And change happened not because of our parents but because of the children. Our parents supported us, but we were willing to die, willing to go to jail because we didn’t have the hang-ups that our parents had. We could do that. So when I saw that I thought about where are we today and what do we need to do to get our children engaged so that we can continue the dream.
HOLT: Well, talk about that, because you’ve got young people here who may look at these clips and say to themselves, “This is not reflective of the world I live in. We have come so far. In fact, we’ve come so far we’ve arrived.” How do you tell young people that we haven’t necessarily arrived and that there’s more to do?
KELLY: Lester, I think they should see that. We have as much racism going on in the day that we always have. It’s just not as overt. We are in bad shape. In fact, we’re going backward. And unless the young people come up – because there are those leaders – quote-unquote – that are not really taking care of the business.
ADAMS: I feel there’s another message for young people though. And that is that sometimes they have to wrest the leadership away from the usual suspects. There are folks in leadership who’ve been in it a very long time. And when we were young people coming up, we made moves on our own. I mean, Stokely Carmichael didn’t ask Roy Wilkins was it okay if he organized. You know, Huey Newton and Bobby Seale didn’t ask Whitney Young was it okay for them to organize. They saw a situation, and they organized, and they moved. And I think that young people today are capable of doing that. They have an example. We will certainly support them in doing it. You know, rise up.
HOLT: Let’s go to the audience. We have a question?
JEREMIAH TILLMAN: My name is Jeremiah Tillman. And I’m a senior at Northwestern University. What can the youth and the current leaders of Chicago and all communities today take away from your advice as to how they should go about caring for the lesser, or the ones that don’t have as much?
KELLEY: I think it’s obvious unfortunately that people have gotten to the point, Mister Tillman, that people don’t care about those who don’t have. One percent of the people in this country make thirty percent of the money. And those who have that don’t care about anybody else. So your question is, we’ve got to turn this thing around before it’s too late. I’ll tell you if it continues –
ADAMS: I want respond a little bit to the question that he raised about what we do about the current gap in terms of the services that are provided. Because one of the things we’ve been doing on this panel is sort of reminiscing about “back in the day.” And what was good about back in the day was extended family and was the sense of taking care of each other and the sense of connectedness. So at the same time as we have to fight for our fair share of services we also have to reach out to each other and to the very members of our family who may need our services.
HOLT: Let’s get another question from the audience if we can. Young man?
RYAN JOHNSON: Total different question. I’m sorry I don’t mean to change the mood, but I got a little emotional when I saw the video. Okay, my name is Ryan Johnson. I’m a student and a singer at Percy L. Julian. And, like, I take a whole total different view. And I want to – to just answer your question. I don’t believe our bus have arrived yet. And reason why I say this is, right now I am at a point till I’m dodging strays from frustrated youth, right? I am at a point right now where I’m hearing on the NBC and Channel 7 and all these other broadcasting stations and they ask them about the National Guards to come in, right and to come into our city and turn it around and put it back to its original state, right? I want to know, individually, what is your outlook on that? What is your intake on it and what can we do as you to make sure that our neighborhoods and communities be better?
TILLMAN: To you, young man, I don’t think that the National Guard should come in our community and turn our community into a police state. But what you need to understand that in the city of Chicago, the police department is under the direction of the mayor. And under the direction of the mayor they have five white males – that’s really irresponsible – running the police department. And then when you look at, on the police department, thirteen hundred sergeants, maybe two hundred blacks, two hundred lieutenants, less than twenty blacks. Well, you don’t have representation. Those are the stats and the data we need to give our children. Homelessness among our people, unemployment among our people, all of the things you do have a right to fight for. I just want you to know that.
FINNEY: Hold on. Hold on. You cannot do that. Here’s the deal. Nobody gave Doctor King, not those of you that were in Selma, Alabama, anything. As a matter of fact, most often you didn’t have anything.
TILLMAN: But we fought for the resources
FINNEY: But wait a minute, wait a minute. But you used yourselves in order to start a movement. The whole idea that we have to wait on somebody – Mister Charlie, whomever – to give us something when we have ourselves and each other to make it happen is where I have to go. Because I believe that at the end of the day that no matter who is in the White House, or who is in the black house, it depends upon us and the African-American community to take over our communities and make life better there ourselves for ourselves.
BROOKS: And on that note, we’re going to take it to the next segment. Coming up, we’re going to take a look at the Reverend Jesse Jackson, Sr. and what he has meant to the Civil Rights Movement, both in the past and in the present.
LESTER HOLT: Welcome back. The Reverend Jesse Jackson is at the forefront of the struggle to reduce violence in Chicago schools and on the streets, but he has always been known as a leader, especially in this community. As the founder and head of Rainbow PUSH Coalition, he worked with other ministers and city leaders to empower communities. It’s works he’s used to doing, it's work he started more than forty years ago.
JESSE JACKSON: [IN CLIP] I am …
CROWD: [IN CLIP] … I am …
JACKSON: [IN CLIP] …Somebody…
CROWD: [IN CLIP] …Somebody….
JACKSON: [IN CLIP] …Respect me…
CROWD: [IN CLIP] … Respect me….
JACKSON: [IN CLIP] … Protect me …
CROWD: [IN CLIP] … Protect me …
JACKSON: [IN CLIP] We don’t know how powerful we really are. We don’t know how beautiful we really are.
REPORTER: [IN CLIP] “He’s Back,” say the headlines, and the Reverend Jesse Jackson returned to warm welcomes as he took back the helm of the organization he founded 24 years ago.
JACKSON: [IN CLIP] PUSH is going to demand economic justice as we always have. The Rainbow is going to defeat Newt Gingrich in 1996.
JACKSON: [IN CLIP] If you run, you might lose. If you don’t run, you’re guaranteed to lose. When you’re behind you gotta run, you really got to run.
CROWD” [IN CLIP] Run, Jesse, run! Run, Jesse, run!
JACKSON: [IN CLIP] It’s about dignity. It’s about determining our choice of leadership.
JACKSON: [IN CLIP] Wherever crime exists, those who know must expose it, and the law must work for the common people.
MARION BROOKS: I want to start with you, Reverend Janette Wilson, who’s a special advisor to Reverend Jackson. What do you think, in totality, has he meant to not just the city of Chicago, obviously, he’s done a lot here, but for the nation and for the movement?
REVEREND JANETTE WILSON, SPECIAL ADVISOR TO REV. JESSE JACKSON, SR.: I think he took the Doctor King movement to the next level. He fought for economic justice and empowerment. And so, while the early the Civil Rights Movement fought for just the legal right to go in places, we fought to own the places, build the buildings.
BROOKS: You two young reverends, let me ask you: what does Reverend Jackson mean to you? You are both pastors, so you may relate to him in a way as a pastor as well.
PASTOR PATRICK D. SHAEFFER, CITY OF FAITH CHRISTIAN CHURCH:
I think one of the things in that footage that was alluded to that some of the young people don’t understand or may not know is Reverend Jackson ran for President. And it was that speech he gave in 1988, I don’t think we had seen African-American have that kind of political engagement.
BROOKS: At the Democratic National Convention--
JACKSON: [IN CLIP] When my name goes into nomination, your name goes in nomination. I was born in the slum, but the slum was not born in me. And it wasn’t born in you! And you can make it.
SHAEFFER: And he does it within the sacred rhetorical framework, as a pastor, that I can appreciate. The idea of rhetoric and how rhetoric from Doctor King, going back to Frederick Douglas to Marcus Garvey – there is a thread, and he continued that thread. Then we see Barack Obama, who is a wonderful rhetorician. And so, he still is using that bully pulpit that he established years ago to speak forth the change that needs to be in our society.
HOLT: And, no pun intended, but he is capable, we’ve seen so many times, of “pushing.” And I’m going to bring you this, Ms. Hartman, because we know that businesses sometimes will do the right thing, but a lot of times they’ll do the right thing, especially if it's good to them. How is he able to spread this notion of economic empowerment by getting to businesses and helping them understand that it’s not only the right thing to do, but good business to spread the wealth?
HERMENE HARTMAN, PUBLISHER, N’DIGO MAGAZINE: Let me say this, Lester. A lot happened post-Doctor King and a lot happened pre-Barack Obama and that was Reverend Jesse Jackson, in between, that bridge, that transition, if you will. In Chicago, what Reverend Jackson did is, when he first came here, is he pulled together the black business community and organized it and structured it and took us beyond Ma and Pa, took us beyond our neighborhood and said, let’s go broader, let’s go wider, let’s build our communities. He did that, and I think the economic development, and as you may know, Chicago is mecca for black business community. And that’s because of him.
HOLT: But he got white businesses to meet those black businesses. How did he do that?
HARTMAN: To do business, to say we spend, McDonalds, a lion’s share of your dollars come from our community. You should do business with us, we should be able to work in your stores, and you should contribute to our community in ways. He made that model. He really kind of made that model.
WILSON: And I think he did from the spiritual side, he was the one person that gave the church a very public platform, and he said to the church, follow in the King model. We have an obligation, a moral obligation, to do what Jesus says, in Luke 3:18. So he began to organize what would be like a church on Saturday, except every Saturday, we were demonstrating.
BROOKS: Let’s hear from a student now.
ASHLEY MOORE: Hello, my name is Ashley Moore and I attend Providence St. Mel High School. Going back to what you guys said, I’m aware that Jesse Jackson ran for President, and I just want to know what specific role that he play in Obama’s election?
HARTMAN: Historically, the role he played is he opened the door. Historically, that’s the role that he played. I don’t know if you’re talking about a specific something that he did for Barack Obama as Barack Obama ran. But historically, he laid the groundwork and he knocked down the door.
LESTER HOLT: But let me drill down a little bit here and, Reverend, maybe you can answer this. In pure mechanical sense, correct me if I’m wrong, Reverend Jackson did not play a very large role in the campaign for Obama and many thought that was for good reason. Was there a method to that?
HARTMAN: Yeah. Let me tell you that.
WILSON: Well, well I think he did.
HARTMAN: Janette, the method was they kept him out. Now, let’s tell the truth. Let’s not be –
HOLT: Who’s “they”? [applause]
HARTMAN: The Obama administration. No, this is important.
WILSON: Well, let me say that.
HARTMAN: No, no, Janette, be quiet. [laughter] Here’s an important point. This is this generational mess that we got going on, is that if you marched and with you was with Doctor King and you been out here getting head whipped, you are of one generation. So now the new generation, and they don’t want to relate. That’s the disconnect that we keep talking about in these relationships. Okay? The reason Reverend Jackson wasn’t more active in the Obama administration is because they didn’t want him.
HOLT: In the campaign?
HARTMAN: Yes. However – go ahead.
WILSON: Reverend Jackson did work for the election for Barack Obama. He spoke about it –
HARTMAN: Voter Registration …
WILSON: -- every place he went, he did voter registration.
HARTMAN: But they locked him out, Janette.
WILSON: He campaigned at his own expense, at the expense of the organization –
HARTMAN: And they locked him out, Janette.
WILSON: -- to support Barack Obama.
BROOKS: We do have another student that would like to ask a question of our panel.
EMANUEL MORRIS: Hi. My name is Emmanuel Morris. I’m a junior at Hales Franciscan High School. Actually, I’m an intern at Operation PUSH. [applause] And the question I have today is, what is Rainbow PUSH Coalition doing to engage and bring awareness to young people regarding the 21st century civil rights issues, such as the matter in Arizona?
PASTOR CHARLES JENKINS, FELLOWSHIP MISSIONARY BAPTIST CHURCH: Yeah, I think that Operation PUSH is speaking, I don’t know if our generation is listening. I think that Reverend Jackson continues to be on the cusp of the cutting edge. The organization continues to be at the forefront of issues that affect all generations.
WILSON: And I think Reverend Jackson is open and willing. I think your generation has to make yourself more available, and you will see a beginning, a shift in the broadcast where you see more young people participating and speaking. We’re going to have to have more dialogues like this. But I think we have to look at how we do it so that you’re prepared to just take charge and move. But, you also got to start moving. Because nobody forces you to move.
HARTMAN: Please know Reverend Jackson's on Facebook and has – tweets. Check him out.
MARION BROOKS: In the mid 1960s, the Civil Rights Movement took a turn with the rise of Fred Hampton and the Black Panther Party. Preaching self-defense, Hampton's movement clashed with authorities. His 1969 killing by police raised questions about police motives and tactics. Officers said they heard gunshots inside Hampton's West Side home – a claim that Black Panther members refuted. The evidence later showed most of those bullets fired by police were aimed at Hampton's bedroom, where he was asleep.
FRED HAMPTON: [IN CLIP] You can shoot a liberator but you can't shoot liberation. If you do, you come up with answers that don’t accept, explanations that don’t explain, solutions that don’t solve, and conclusions that don’t conclude.
JORIE LUELOFF, WMAQ-TV CHICAGO: [IN CLIP] Good afternoon. The twenty-year-old chairman of the Illinois Black Panther Party, Fred Hampton, was shot and killed in a pre-dawn shootout with states attorney's police on-- in his West Side apartment. Another party member, twenty-two-year-old Mark Clark of Peoria, also died in the shootout, which left four Panthers and two police officers wounded. States attorney’s police say they were fired upon when they tried to enter the apartment at 2337 West Monroe on a search warrant, issued for possession of illegal weapons. Three more Panther Party members are in police custody in connection with the shooting.
KEITH KLEIN: [IN CLIP] Officer Carmody, when you knocked on the door, what happened?
EDWARD CARMODY: [IN CLIP] Well, I didn’t actually knock. I heard our officers at the front announce their office, and shots fired. So I kicked in the back door. And as soon as the door opened, I could see shots being fired at us at the back door.
BOBBY RUSH, BLACK PANTHER DEFENSE MINISTER: [IN CLIP] Fred Hampton was murdered. There were no gunshot wounds, there was-- was not gunshot bullet holes outside of the apartment. If there was a gunfire the pigs had to fire in the apartment so there are no woun-- holes outside the doors. They said they kicked down the doors. The locks are still in-- intact on the doors. We’ll prove it-- the cameras were over there today they-- take-- took-- they took pictures of it. We’ll prove that these pigs murdered Fred Hampton while he was asleep. They attempted to wipe out the Black Panther Party. And after they-- if they succeed in this, black people allowed them to succeed in this, then they’ll move all black people in general just like Hitler did in Germany.
LESTER HOLT: And we're going to start this part of our discussion with Dr. Conrad Worrill. And reflecting forty years later and we talked earlier in-- in our program about the-- the different approaches to Civil Rights. When you look at what the Black Panthers did, how-- how do they stand, what do they accomplish, and is it relevant to anything we see today?
DR. CONRAD WORRILL, EDUCATOR AND ACTIVIST: The Panther, the Black Panther, was the symbol of the Lowndes County Freedom Organization. They picked it up at Oakland, California, in 1966. We all know they went to the state house armed, because they began talking about self-defense. This impacted a generation of young people across the United States. And Panther's chapters just sprout up all over the United States. Fred Hampton, locally, became the chairman of Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party. He was one of the potential great leaders who was a great articulator, a great organizer, and had a brilliant mind. Fred Hampton was inspired by a transition in the movement around a slogan called “Black Power.” So a new slogan captured young people, and we were moving away from being the Negro people, moving into being the black people, and moving into being the people of African descent.
CLIFF KELLEY, TALK SHOW HOST, WVON RADIO: The other thing – and Conrad, of course, was there and he knows all of the facts obviously, Lester. But the other thing, the Panthers are always looked at as somewhat out there, revolutionaries with weapons. They had breakfast programs. They educated children. They did things that the public schools wouldn’t do, but that’s not what people thought the Panthers were about. J. Edgar Hoover said that the Panthers were the worst threat to the United States. You’re talking about racism? This is an extreme situation. This was a murder. That’s all it was.
DR. CAROL ADAMS, C.E.O., DUSABLE MUSEUM: It was indeed. And really when we talk about the influence, you see now government social policy that really stemmed from things that were done by the Black Panther party. It sort of harks back to the discussion we have earlier about, if you’re going to go ahead and do the things you need, if you’re going to do the things your community needs yourself instead of waiting for somebody else to do them. They saw a need for breakfast programs, so they provided breakfast. They saw a need for free medical clinics, so they provided that. It spoke to the young people. And I would see in succeeding generations youth who had been a part of those programs, and I saw how they impacted their thinking and made them activist and made them conscious of what they should do and what they could do in their communities. So I think it was a powerful example. And –
KELLEY: I just think it was unfair to them.
ADAMS: -- we have that very door here in the DuSable Museum.
BROOKS: This is an amazing exhibit. We encourage everybody to head out to DuSable to check it out. Doctor Adams, it’s beautiful. Let’s hear from one of the students right now.
ALEXANDER SEWELL: My name is Alexander Sewell. I’m a junior at Roosevelt University. My question is, what specifically can future young leaders take from the Black Panther Movement in order to implement change and eradicate some of the social injustices that we see today?
KELLEY: What you can learn from what the Panthers did? First, everybody, as the director said, need to see this exhibit. It is great. But to let people know, young people such as your age, that you can do the same thing. African Americans came out politically and did something we never thought they would do. They got rid of Hanrahan, the one who put this together, the murder, and elected a white person – a white Republican – Republican, that’s the big part, in Cook County as the State’s Attorney. That sent a message to a lot of the politicians. That’s what you young folks can do now. But if you do the same thing that they were doing, reaching out to people in the community as was mentioned, not only educational things that they did, but the breakfast. The government wasn’t doing those things then. The government wasn’t doing what the Black Panthers were doing for the community.
HOLT: We’ve got to take a break. We’ve unfortunately-- we’ve unfortunately got to take brief pause right now. We’ve got a lot more ground to cover here. In fact, coming up next where we’re going to talk about Dr. King’s efforts in Chicago and the push to establish equal housing. We’ll be right back.
MARION BROOKS: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. visited Chicago many times during the 1960s to support the black freedom struggle. But in 1966, he captured national headlines when he moved into a dingy West Side apartment to protest housing discrimination and to shine a spotlight on poor living conditions of the poor. He participated in two dramatic marches through all-white neighborhoods, appealing to Mayor Daley to reform the discriminatory housing practices all across Chicago.
MARTIN LUTHER KING: [IN CLIP] If that is any doubt in anybody’s mind concerning whether we have a movement here in Chicago, you ought to be in this church tonight.
NARRATOR: [IN CLIP]
The civil rights struggle hit close to home in 1966 when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. staged a series of marches and demonstrations in Chicago.
MAYOR RICHARD J. DALEY: [IN CLIP] Well, I asked for their answer to the solution of many of these questions, and they had no solution. They had the recitation of the problem, but I said, “Well, how do you eliminate the slum and blight overnight? What would you men do that we haven’t done in Chicago?”
MARTIN LUTHER KING: [IN CLIP] We aren’t going to m arch with any Molotov cocktails – that isn’t our movement. We aren’t going to march with any weapons – that isn’t our movement.
POLICE OFFICER: Get outta here!
WHITE PROTESTOR: I live here!
REPORTER: [IN CLIP] How do you feel about this reception?
MARTIN LUTHER KING: [IN CLIP] This is a terrible thing. I’ve been in many demonstrations all across the south, but I can say that I have never seen – even in Mississippi and Alabama – mobs as hostile and as hate-filled as I’ve seen here in Chicago.
LESTER HOLT: A lot of people remember when he said that and it certainly sent shockwaves throughout this city on certain levels. Let me bring in Father Michael Pflagler. You were a kid, saw Reverend King march through Marquette Park. How did that inspire your own personal struggle on behalf of social justice? And did you realize what was talking place then?
FATHER MICHAEL L. PFLAGLER, SAINT SABINA CHURCH:
I really didn’t. I went to Marquette Park with two of my friends, riding our bikes, out of curiosity. Because I had heard for weeks about this man, Martin Luther King, and heard about what he was coming to Chicago to do. We rode over there out of curiosity and saw two things I never forget in my life. One was the hate. I never saw such hate in my life, and saw it from people that lived in my neighborhood, went to the church that I went to, were parents of children that I went to school with, and I never saw that side of them. These are the people I see at church on Sunday, and now here they are with all this hate and this anger. The second thing, though, was Dr. King, who has walking through all this and never responded, not one time, with anger, not one time with raising his voice. It was always “we’re brothers, we’re sisters, we must learn to live together.” And I said to that day when I left, “Either this man is crazy or he has some kind of power I want to know about.” Chicago was looked as being the Promised Land, everything was fine, and he came in and exposed all the racism, the poverty, the injustices and the segregation that existed here.
LESTER HOLT: But was anybody talking about it before?
HERMENE HARTMAN, PUBLISHER, N’DIGO MAGAZINE: One of the most important things to remember about King in Chicago – they decided, Dr. King, that it was time for the movement to come to Chicago to look at racism in the north. King did not come to Chicago with a Welcome Wagon. He was resisted. We had six older men at that time and they all resisted, the “Silent Six” they called them. The ministers locked Dr. King out. There were two ministers that welcomed him. One was Clay Evans and the other was Bishop Arthur Brazier. But they organized to lock him out because he was – according to Mayor Daley – he was a “disruptive force.”
LESTER HOLT: Dorothy’s shaking her hand here.
DOROTHY TILLMAN, ALDERMAN AND ACTIVIST: I want to inject because I kind of disagree with you. I want to make sure that this is correct. I advanced Dr. King to Chicago. Now, we had more than two ministers that supported Dr. King. We had A. P. Jackson from Liberty Baptist Church. We had Reverend Freeman. We had Reverend Lambert. We had a handful of black ministers that would do it. And we always did our movement out of a church, but no minister would allow us other than Clay Evans. Reverend Clay Evans was one that stood with us, very strongly. And Daley stopped his church from being built because he supported us.
But, so we could not find a church to work out of. That’s why we ended up in the white church on the West Side of Chicago.
REVEREND DR. LEON FINNEY, METROPOLITAN APOSTOLIC COMMUNITY CHURCH: The key thing, I think, is to remember something that is very fundamental about this. These kids can read about the recitation. The real issue, I think, was the hatred that was here in Chicago which is where Father Pflagler had the conversation. And the real question is whether or not the hatred and the hostility between races still persists. Because at this moment these kids are going to have deal with Chicago as it is. And, it is still alive and well.
REV. FINNEY: Wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute! If you think about what is going on in the neighborhoods of the city of Chicago – when you think about all the vacant lots in the city of Chicago – when you think about all the poverty in the city of Chicago – when you think about what’s happening with the displacement of public housing and what is the consequence of the transformation of public housing – you think about all the disbursement of crime and violence throughout the city of Chicago. These kids have got to think and think through at this particular point, not yesterday, but what are we going to do about our neighborhoods right today? That’s what’s got to happen!
MARION BROOKS: Let’s take it right now to a student…
Well, good evening. My name is Jacara Jackson. I’m a senior at National Louis University. Unfortunately, subprime and predatory lending are two huge major factors behind the housing crisis for African-Americans. And as a senior in college and starting law school soon, I would like to be, you know, a homeowner eventually. My question to you all is, what is your advice for our generation so that we don’t have to go through this mess?
REV. FINNEY: Yeah, well, I think that’s a community development question. Let’s take a look at it. You raised an earlier issue and that was the predatory lending. Before Dr. King got here, there was something called a Contract Buyers League. And the Contract Buyers League was formed because black folk in the city of Chicago could not get a mortgage without going under contract. Well, you take another look at that and say, well, what has happened different at this particular point? It’s still difficult for black folk to get a mortgage. We're still living in too many slums. We still have too many vacant lots. So the real question is, what do you do for self, and where do you start building? We’ve lost in a generation we’ve lost five black banks that once were here, able to break the cycle of poverty as it related to acquiring equity. My sense is that at some moment we have to stop and say, wait a minute, what are we doing with our money, do we continue to bank outside? Or do we demand the right to organize our own financial institution and organize our own devices for investment?
LESTER HOLT: Let’s get across the room here we have another student who has a question.
Hi, my name is Tateanna Foster and I attend Rich East High School. My question to all the panelists is in light of the high crime rate in the South Side and the West Side communities, what are the things that the citizens of these communities can do to reiterate Dr. Martin Luther King’s six principles of peace, to redirect where we’re going right now?
MARION BROOKS: Father Pflagler, why don’t you grab –I know you all have been very –
REV. FINNEY: I think he and I are on the same page. Well, go ahead, Father.
FATHER PFLAGLER: Just to answer that. First of all, I think Dr. King made it very clear that violence never ends violence. You can’t gun your way out of anything. And, the truth of the matter is that right now what Dr. King did was mobilize communities, mobilize houses, mobilized houses, mobilize parents, mobilize neighborhoods to set the agenda, not wait for somebody in to come and be the agenda. My big problem is today I don’t think Dr. King would be saying, let’s put blue lights in. Dr. King would be saying be a blue light in your neighborhood. We wouldn't be calling 311 to get well-being checks for people across the street, we would be doing the well-being check for the people across the street. Dr. King would be mobilizing blocks and neighborhoods and homes to take charge and take control of their community and set the agenda for the city.
LESTER HOLT: We’ve got to take a break. But straight ahead we’re going to talk about Brown versus Board of Education. A landmark decision was supposed to end segregation, so what happened in Chicago? We’ll be back.
LESTER HOLT: In 1954, the Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling that changed the face of education across this country, or did it? Brown versus Board of Education simply put, made school segregation illegal. But, for many cities, especially in Chicago, segregation continued decades after that historic decision.
NORMA QUARLES, NBC NEWS: [IN CLIP] Chicago, like many other northern cities, has resisted integration despite the Brown decision. Today, the federal government calls Chicago schools the most segregated in the country. Two thirds of all elementary school children attend all black, all white, or all Hispanic schools. As black and Hispanic populations increased over the years, many whites fled their ethnic neighborhoods, leaving too few whites to integrate the schools easily. The few attempts to integrate schools even partially resulted in white protests. Fifteen years ago, the school board commissioned an integration plan, but it ignored the recommendations. The plan’s chief author was sociologist Dr. Philip Hauser.
DR. PHILIP HAUSER, UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO: The school board was part of the white resistance, just as City Hall has been part of the white resistance. The impact of the Brown decision has been about zero. Chicago might just as well have been on another planet.
MARION BROOKS: Doctor Adams, peoples still make a claim like that sometimes in this city and in many others in the country; what are your thoughts?
DR. CAROL ADAMS, C.E.O. DUSABLE MUSEUM: Well, I’m from Louisville, Kentucky, and I was living there when this thing happened, Brown versus Topeka, Kansas Board of Education. Here, the neighborhoods were extremely segregated. You weren’t gonna get school desegregation by moving a few black kids that you carefully creamed off the top to a few schools and move the resources disproportionately to a few schools – which still occurs today – and not invest in the appropriate education of the kids in schools throughout all the communities.
MARION BROOKS: Doctor Worrill, what do you think?
DR. CONRAD WORRILL, EDUCATOR AND ACTIVIST: Well, I think it’s important for the young people to understand where Brown versus Board of Education came from historically: 1896 was Plessy versus Ferguson, and that was a law created to bring into existence legal segregation under the law. So, from 1896 to 1954 there were people working to change this law. And one of the leaders of this movement was Thurgood Marshall.
THURGOOD MARSHALL, NAACP LEGAL DEFENSE AND EDUCATION FUND: [IN CLIP] We are committed to removing all state barriers to laws that would prevent integration …
WORRILL: And many, many lawsuits were filed in 1940, and early 1950, to get to the Supreme Court in 1954. So, the lesson of this is the role that black lawyers played to challenge this evil segregation under the law that existed in the United States.
LESTER HOLT: Doctor Gill, are we still feeling a legacy of those days?
DR. CHANDRA GILL: You know what's striking to me is the fact that Doctor King suggested you can legislate policy but you can’t legislate attitudes. And what’s very relevant about this for me empirically is why was Brown v. Board even necessary? The fact that there were individuals who continued to see African-American, black folks, as inferior. You have white people thinking that they are superior just because they are white and you have black people think they are inferior just because they are black – that makes both people sick.
LESTER HOLT: We want to get a question from the audience, young man standing here.
DINJONTE TILLMAN: Hello, my name is Dinjonte Tillman. I’m a freshman at DePaul University. And I was wondering, how do we respectfully hold our teachers and councilors accountable for preparing us for college socially as well as educationally?
LESTER HOLT: Do you want to try that?
DR.ADAMS: Well, sure, I would love to try that, because it’s accountability has to happen across the board. Not just with your teachers, with your families, right in your homes. There was a desire on the part of black people to educate and to make certain that people had this. We longed for it because there was a day when it was forbidden for us. And people have forgotten that. And so we have to return to that desire, to that ethic. we’ve got a crisis in our schools right here in Chicago; that’s a top-down crisis. And unless we change that top, nothing is going to happen to change what’s going on in our schools.
MARION BROOKS: Let’s get another question from our audience member.
BRIA GRIFFITH: Hi, my name is Bria Griffith and I’m a junior at Morgan Park Academy. And I just wanted to know, do you think much progress has been since the Brown versus Board of Education decision?
FINNEY: No, no.
REVEREND JANETTE WILSON: Well, I think a lot of progress has been made, but I think a lot needs to be made. And I think that Brown was not just about desegregating public education. It was about a demand for equal resources for our schools. Today, in the twenty-first century, you do not have the technology in all of our schools, you do not have the supports in all of our schools that you see in suburban school district around the country that are public schools. You don’t have the kind of resources that some of the charter schools are getting. And so you don’t have the economic resources assigned to certain schools where the majority of our children go. You cannot desegregate schools when you don’t desegregate neighborhoods.
DR. GILL: I want to say this because it is very--
FINNEY: Let me just kind of interject something. It seems to me that we got a couple of things. One is the whole idea about public schools. The schools that the black kids were going to were unequal with resources. But then you got the other issue over here, which is the violence that we have in the community. Because the schools and the communities in which the schools are in are so violent that it is very difficult for any education to take place anyway. And then at least ten to fifteen percent of the kids that are in school have no help when they get home because there’s no family there, there’s no family structure there, there’s no support there. Somebody said a long time ago that it takes a whole village to raise a child. It takes a whole village to educate a child. And if the village is not prepared to go the next step and that is to make sure that that home environment in which that kid is in is supportive of the school, once the kid gets out, I don’t care what the teacher does. If the kids are not going to learn at the level they need to learn.
MARION BROOKS: Coming up: voter turnout was amazing for our current President Barack Obama. But how do we keep the momentum? More on that when we come back.
MARION BROOKS: According to the U.S. Census Bureau, sixty-one percent of all African-Americans of voting age voted during the 2008 election, and they helped elect the very first black President of this county, Barack Obama. It’s a dramatic change from the time when blacks faced intimidation like poll taxes, literacy tests to keep them from the most basic democratic right. Civil rights leaders fought hard for that change; and in 1965, they got it when President Lyndon Johnson signed in the Voting Rights Act.
CONGRESSMAN JOHN LEWIS: [IN CLIP] They came toward us, beating us with night sticks, bullwhips, trampling us with horses, releasing the tear gas.
PRESIDENT LYNDON JOHNSON: [IN CLIP] Millions of Americans are denied the right to vote because of their color. This law will ensure them the right to vote.
CONGRESSMAN JOHN LEWIS: [IN CLIP] I came to Washington in 1961, the year that Barack Obama was born, to go on something called the Freedom Rides. And to see this unbelievable period that we are now witnessing – it’s like a nonviolent revolution.
BARACK OBAMA ON ELECTION DAY: [IN CLIP] I voted.
AFRICAN AMERICAN BOY: [IN CLIP] He was the first African American president, so if he can do it then I think that I can do it.
AFRICAN AMERICAN GIRL: [IN CLIP] He’s opening doors for me so I can challenge myself more.
OBAMA ON ELECTION NIGHT: [IN CLIP] If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible – tonight is your answer.
LESTER HOLT: And we’ll begin our final segment with Reverend Shaffer. Let me put a question to that: when you look at the blood that was shed and then you look at the power of the black vote, certainly in its last presidential election, has that right been exercised to its full potential?
PASTOR PATRICK D. SHAFFER, CITY OF FAITH CHRISTIAN CHURCH: I would dare say no, it hasn’t, because there's still much more work to be done. That the power that John Lewis and all of the rest of the freedom fighters fought for to be able to be a part of the process in America, to be heard, did not end when we cast a vote for President Barack Obama. Our world is changing, and they were fighting to be a part of a changing world and have a voice. And what our generation needs right now is to still fight to be a part of the process. And if we are satisfied by just saying, you know, we have a black president, then we abandon everything that they fought for and we’re still not free.
CLIFF KELLEY, TALK SHOW HOST, WVON-RADIO: I think one thing in answer to your question, Lester, absolutely, we are not doing what we ought to be doing. There’s no doubt about it. In fact, Americans, in general, are doing what they ought to be doing. If you look at European countries, our voting is so below. Their participation is unbelievable. But there’s a reason for that: most countries have elections on weekends. You know, why have it on a day where people go to work? You know, another thing we should have multi-party. We should have a multi-party system. If you’re not a Democrat or a Republican – and in many instances neither of them do us well – then you have a major problem trying to run as an Independent. You got to jump over all kinds of hoops and so forth to do that.
MARION BROOKS: Let’s hear from somebody in our audience, first off.
ARMONTE SMITH: Hello, my name is Armonte Smith. I’m new to voting as a black man. No candidate, even black ones, seems to speak to what important to me. How do I get them to listen? As a young black man I count too.
HERMENE HARTMAN, PUBLISHER, N’DIGO MAGAZINE: You participate. Young people are not voting. They’re not participating in the political process. In the last election here in Chicago, State of Illinois, only twenty-five percent of the populace voted. There’s a real apathy. You’ve got to participate in the process as a voter but also as running for office. And you’ve got to make demands on these politicians and you got to step forward politically. One of the greatest things I think Barack said, as he ran for office, is that “You are the one we’ve been waiting for.”
MARION BROOKS: Another question from audience?
STEVEN MITCHELL: Hello, my name is Steven Mitchell, a junior at Hales Franciscan High School. And my question is, as African-Americans we have voted in large numbers for Barack Obama to become the President of the United States of America. But as young African-Americans, we do not take the time out to vote for our local politicians. What recommendations does the panel have to engage young African-Americans to vote for elected officials on the local and state levels especially since those positions affect them the most?
LESTER HOLT: You’re saying people come out for the big game but not the smaller games.
HARTMAN: And how do you engage the young folks?
KELLEY: What you have to do is what I was mentioning earlier, and I’m so glad you brought that up. You need to get involved. You can go – Reverend Finney ran a great organization. You can go into social organizations. You can get involved in certain churches that are very progressive. Saint Sabina, with Father Pfleger. I was involved in a campaign when I was fourteen years old. But you got to do that. And please do so. All of you, get involved. And even if you find out you're with the wrong person, at least you’ll find that out. And the next time you’d be with the right one.
HARTMAN: And if you don’t like what’s out here to be involved in, create your own!
FATHER MICHAEL L. PFLAGLER, SAINT SABINA CHURCH: I think there was an illusion that electing Barack Obama was “The Change.” That’s not the change. That’s one man who happens to be African-American, walking into the White House. The change now has to happen. And so I think people put all the eggs in that basket, and that was a foolish thing to do, but there was so much energy and attention put towards that. I also think the administration and I think President Obama made a mistake when he came in and had all of this energy of young people. You didn’t keep them involved. You didn’t keep them engaged. And activism has died because the prophetic voice of the church has been brought out. And there’re no longer is a prophetic voice, because now everybody is either, “Barack is the enemy” or “leave him alone.” And there’s no one in between saying, he’s the President of the United States, and we have a right to demand of this government everything for what is deserved, for all of its people. And those in most pain deserve most energy.
MARION BROOKS: I have to say, I have to say –
REV. SHAFFER: Ma'am, can I? Please, please.
MARION BROOKS: Quickly, please.
REV. SHAFFER: I agree. And here’s the issue, is that electing President Barack Obama was a vote for a person. We were so caught up in the narrative and everything that went with it that we did not engage the policy. Now, here we are on the other side. We have a Tea Party Movement, who, they were a part of the electorate. These white people are a part of the electorate for years. It’s not about the person, it’s about the policy. When black young people aren’t engaged by policy, we finished with it. And we're just waiting for the next campaign for a new narrative and a new personality. My thing – it could've been Lil’ Wayne. It could've been Puffy or somebody. We vote for a person, not engage with the policy. And if we don’t get engaged with the policy, you have no reason to vote on a local level.
MARION BROOKS: Well, we want to thank all of you, all of you for taking part in this fantastic discussion. This has been an incredible evening. Obviously, this is an important discussion and it needs to continue happening and please take these conversations back to your classrooms, back to your parents and keep it going. Let this continue to be part of finishing the dream. We also want to thank the WK Kellogg Foundation and NBC Local for their support and for bringing all of you and all of us here together tonight.
Students all over the nation started streaming out of their schools Friday, April 20, in the latest round of gun-control activism following the February shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida.
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