Tag Archives: Chicago

Archibald Motley – Painter of the Jazz Age

Born in 1891, Archibald Motley would document, through his art – the next 70 years of black experience in Chicago and France.

Portrait of a Sophisticated Lady

Octoroon, 1922

Self Portrait

Archibald Motley, The Painter Who Captured Black America in the Jazz Age and Beyond

The artist Archibald Motley captured both the high times and cultural vibrancy of the Jazz Age, as well as graver themes of racism and injustice.

The sexy sway of a 1920s Paris nightclub, filled with light and dark-skinned people pressed against each other.

The bustling streets of the almost exclusively black “Bronzeville” neighborhood Chicago in the 1930s under a nighttime glow.

A depressing surreal scene of horror following the death of Martin Luther KingJr.and the failings of the 1960s Civil Rights movement.

These are just a handful of the diverse visual expressions of the African American experience that the artist Archibald Motley so adroitly and sumptuously captured throughout his career.

Bronzeville By Night

As versatile in his aesthetic style as he was committed to scrutinizing African American culture, Motley was a uniquely daring and sharp artist who stood out even among the Harlem Renaissance greats.

Yet, Motley’s name does not elicit the same nods of recognition and respect as his peers, like Langston Hughes, Josephine Baker, and Zora Neale Hurston. That could–and certainly should–change after the retrospective Archibald Motley: Jazz Age Modernist opens October 2 at the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Traveling through different chapters of his career, though not boxed into a strict chronology, the exhibition showcases how Motley was a thorough and sensitive observer of the black community, documenting its diversity while bringing his own keen perspective to its traditions and subcultures.

Motley “set his work apart” because he “created a modern, vibrant world which, as seen through a pair of jaded, laserlike ‘Negro’ eyes, revealed the jazz-and-blues-accented absurdities that lay behind life’s facades and public face,” writes Richard J. Powell in “Becoming Motley, Becoming Modern” an essay in the book,Archibald Motley: Jazz Age Modernist.

Mending Socks

Powell, who is an art historian and Dean of Humanities at Duke University, curated the Whitney exhibition.

In other words, Motley wasn’t afraid to capture the good and the bad of black life, as his peers made tremendous gains yet the community in general often struggled in poverty and disenfranchisement in a segregated, very racist America.

At least a significant part of Motley’s distinct perspective on African American life came from his unique upbringing for a black man of his era.

Born in New Orleans in 1891, Motley was raised in Chicago’s then largely white immigrant Engelwood neighborhood and married his white childhood friend, Edith Granzo, in 1924.

Trained at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Motley’s earliest critically-acclaimed paintings were portraits of different figures within the African American community.

His 1924 Mending Socks depicted his grandmother, Emily Motley, a former slave, sitting with a quiet pride and refinement.

Motley was not so forward-looking that he ignored the complicated, painful slaveholding past. Mending Socks features part of a portrait of his grandmother’s mistress in the upper left corner, hanging over her.

As important as it was for Motley to capture history, it was equally, if not more, significant to him depict the spectrum of skin tones considered black. A blend of ethnicities himself, he was dedicated to painting “the whole gamut,” as he said, of African American complexions.

1920’s Mulatress with Figuring and Dutch Seascape and 1925’s The Octoroon Girl speak to his commitment of not only visually presenting multi-racial figures, but doing so in a way that showed them as refined, strong figures.

As the Whitney exhibition notes of Motley’s artistic interest in these portraits: “On the one hand, he believed that seeing themselves in art would help African Americans feel pride in their own racial identities; on the other, he hoped that seeing beautiful contemporary black subjects would dispel stereotypes and undermine racism.”...More…

Street Scene

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Posted by on September 30, 2015 in Black History, Giant Negros


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More Police Violence in Chicago

Chicago cops beating people up is no big surprise,. The department has a long reputation of questionable tactics. Beating up one of their fellow Government employees? No Problem!

Police Investigator: Cops Beat Me Up

The dash-cam went dark as soon as officers saw his ID. Then an officer allegedly taunted him, “What are you going to tell me next? You can’t breathe?”

CHICAGO — A man who investigates the Chicago Police Department for a living was beaten by officers once they discovered what he did, according to a lawsuit filed in federal court.

George Roberts is a supervisor at the Independent Police Review Authority, the agency responsible for investigating claims of police misconduct and officer-involved shootings. On New Year’s Day 2015, Roberts was pulled over after he left a bar. One of six officers who stopped Roberts found his IPRA identification badge.

Immediately afterwards, the police dashcam recording the traffic stop cuts to black; Roberts alleges in his federal lawsuit against the police this is because another officer intentionally turned off the camera. Roberts’s attorney claims police paperwork did not even note any footage existed. In fact, police only admitted to its existence when Roberts’s criminal counsel discovered it during his trial for driving under the influence.

With no footage to contest their account of the incident, police told the media that Roberts was drunk and swerving his vehicle and that he refused to answer questions or to take a field-sobriety test. They arrested him for minor traffic violations and DUI. Police said he fell asleep in the back of the squad car and he soiled himself.

Roberts was acquitted on the DUI charge in a bench trial and he says police are lying about what really happened after the dashcam went dark—that he was thrown to the ground before he was handcuffed and put in the back of a squad car.

At 6-foot-3 and 315 pounds, Roberts’s wrists were too large for the single pair of handcuffs police slapped on him, his lawyer says. When Roberts complained that even the slightest movement caused the cuffs to cut into his wrists Officer “R. Adams” allegedly taunted him with Eric Garner’s last words.

Former IRPA Investigator, Lorenzo Davis

“What are you going to tell me next, you can’t breathe?”

Roberts, who is black, claims he was pulled out of the car and thrown to the ground again—a collision so violent that it made him lose control of his bowels. From there Roberts was taken to the lock-up, where he stayed overnight in his soiled clothes.

The only visit from an officer that night was borne not of concern but jubilation, according to Roberts. A white-shirt officer, which denotes high rank, peered in on Roberts as he sat defeated on the cell floor, then pointed and laughed.

IPRA is used to getting beat up by Chicago’s cops.

Lorenzo Davis, who along with Roberts was one of just two black supervisors at IPRA, is also suing the city. Davis says he was fired after refusing to whitewash investigations of three fatal shootings carried out by Chicago police officers. While Davis remains unsure whether police targeted Roberts, he is sure that telling the truth about cops gets punished.

Detective Dante Servin, Rekia Boyd

“Some people seem to think that someone saw him and recognized him, saw him in a bar and saw him drinking,” Davis says of Roberts. “That was a theory initially—that this would be a way to get back at someone who worked at IPRA.”

The only time IPRA had the balls to suggest terminating a cop was after the state’s attorney already charged him in a homicide, which hadn’t happened to any other cops in IPRA’s lifetime.

In 2012, Detective Dante Servin fired his unregistered handgun from his car, killing Rekia Boyd. (Servin has maintained he saw a man with a gun near Boyd, but investigators revealed the man was holding only a cell phone.) Servin was charged with involuntary manslaughter but was acquitted by a Cook County judge in April on the novel basis that Servin should’ve been charged with first-degree murder…More…

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Posted by on September 23, 2015 in BlackLivesMatter


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Chicago Church Removes BLM Message after Death Threats to Parishoners Children

Yeah…You read that heading right, The Kluxxer conservatives threatened to kill the children in a Church in Chicago – because the Church posted a message about BLM.

Social media pressure forces Beverly church to remove Black Lives Matter message

Members of a church in Chicago’s Beverly community wanted to get folks talking about race relations when they posted a “Black Lives Matter” message on the electronic sign outside the church.

They achieved their goal, and then some.

Because of harsh negative responses — including some threats of physical harm to the church’s children — on its Facebook page, the Beverly Unitarian Church on Wednesday removed the week-old message, replacing it with a more generic one — “Life Matters, Risk Loving Everyone.”

Church Trustee Linda Cooper, a church member since 1977, said the original message “was supposed to start a conversation here, and I guess we succeeded. We were quite surprised. We did receive some positive responses on Facebook as well as some extremely nasty ones as well as some threats.”

She said the positive messages were outnumbered by those that considered “Black Lives Matter” as racist and promoting an anti-police message.

That could not be further from the truth, Cooper said. She said the church’s national association in June voted to use the slogan as a way to affirm the work of the “Black Lives Matter” movement, which draws attention to violence against blacks.

“It didn’t mean that other lives didn’t matter. It means exactly the opposite, that all lives matter,” Cooper said. “Some people framed the message as being anti-white or anti-police. That was not our message at all. So that’s unfortunate.

“It does make you wonder what’s going on, especially in a (community) like ours where people of different races live together and where we have a large number of police officers living. It’s an interesting dynamic.”

Ald. Matt O’Shea, 19th Ward, said he was appalled by the hateful comments that were posted about the church’s sign and believes most of them did not come from Beverly residents. He pointed out that the church, 10244 S. Longwood Drive, has been in Beverly for 75 years.

“They were calling attention to an issue they believe in, and it somehow got turned into a negative,” O’Shea said. “It’s unfortunate. It’s one thing to disagree with something, but when you start making threats, that’s a whole different area. I assure you the 22nd Police District is taking those threats seriously.”

He acknowledged that it may be difficult to identify those who made the threats given the anonymity provided by social media.

“Cowards,” he said, “typically raise their heads in darkness.”

After the message was removed, a posting on the church’s Facebook page reads, “We have made an effort to listen deeply to your responses and we ask all of you to step back and do the same. How would you answer this question: For too long being black has meant being less than; how do we change this in our community? We look forward to the conversation.

“If all life matters, then paying attention to those whose lives are demonstrably less valued by society becomes a necessary response. As Universalists, we believe that all life is equally precious and everyone should have the right to thrive in an environment of peace and freedom,” the posting says.

On Thursday, passers-by had mixed thoughts on the sign controversy.

Helen Pelvic, 38, of Beverly, who is white, thought the original message conveyed the notion that perhaps black lives mattered more than others.

“It shouldn’t be a color. It should be that lives matter,” she said.

Raymond Jackson, 60, is black and was not offended that the original message was removed.

“It’s not black and white. It’s about a relationship with God. God created man. He didn’t’ say anything about black or white,” Jackson said. “All lives matter. All lives.”

Brennan Machined, 29, of Beverly, who is white, said the message “specifying (race) does isolate the community but points out a distinction,” adding that he thinks the “Black Lives Matter” movement draws needed attention to a national problem.

Retired schoolteacher Peggy Salter, 65, who is black, said the message was “not about saying other lives don’t matter but (drew) attention to the fact that so many young black men and women are dying. The church is about peace and bringing the community together.”


Posted by on September 11, 2015 in Domestic terrorism


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The Fix is in! Chicago fires investigator who found cops at fault in shootings

Well…The fix is in in Chicago. Not really surprising considering he city’s history of police brutality and corruption. This isn’t a first, as we all saw this movie in Ferguson and a number of other places. Seems that big city cops are immune to the very laws they are supposed to enforce. A situation which isn’t true everywhere…But in far too many places.


City fires investigator who found cops at fault in shootings

A Chicago investigator who determined that several civilian shootings by police officers were unjustified was fired after resisting orders to reverse those findings, according to internal records of his agency obtained by WBEZ.

Scott M. Ando, chief administrator of the city’s Independent Police Review Authority, informed its staff in a July 9 email that the agency no longer employed supervising investigator Lorenzo Davis, 65, a former Chicago police commander. IPRA investigates police-brutality complaints and recommends any punishment.

Davis’s termination came less than two weeks after top IPRA officials, evaluating Davis’s job performance, accused him of “a clear bias against the police” and called him “the only supervisor at IPRA who resists making requested changes as directed by management in order to reflect the correct finding with respect to OIS,” as officer-involved shootings are known in the agency.

Since its 2007 creation, IPRA has investigated nearly 400 civilian shootings by police and found one to be unjustified.

WBEZ asked to interview Ando, promoted last year by Mayor Rahm Emanuel to head the agency. The station also sent Ando’s spokesman questions about sticking points between IPRA investigators and managers, about the agency’s process for overturning investigative findings, and about the reasons the agency had reversed many of Davis’s findings.

The spokesman said there would be no interview and sent this statement: “This is a personnel matter that would be inappropriate to address through the media, though the allegations are baseless and without merit. IPRA is committed to conducting fair, unbiased, objective, thorough and timely investigations of allegations of police misconduct and officer-involved shootings.”

The performance evaluation covered 19 months and concluded that Davis “displays a complete lack of objectivity combined with a clear bias against the police in spite of his own lengthy police career.”

Davis served in the police department for 23 years. As a commander, he headed detective units, the department’s Austin district and, finally, its public-housing unit. He retired from the department in 2004.

“I did not like the direction the police department had taken,” Davis said. “It appeared that officers were doing whatever they wanted to do. The discipline was no longer there.” …More

This one in Harrisburg,  Pennsylvania –

Cop Arrested After Video Shows Her Shoot Unarmed Man in Back Lying Face Down in the Snow

Harrisburg, PA– Hummelstown police Officer, Lisa J. Mearkle was charged with criminal homicide on Tuesday in the shooting death of 59-year-old David Kassick on February 2.

Mearkle shot Kassick as he laid face down on the ground in the snow, unarmed, during a routine traffic stop gone awry.

Mearkle had attempted to pull Kassick over for an expired inspection sticker, but the situation escalated when Kassick attempted to flee from the officer.

Eventually Mearkle caught up to the motorist close to his sister’s home where he was staying, but Kassick got out of the vehicle and fled on foot.  As he was attempting to run away, he was incapacitated by the officer’s taser which she held in her left hand. With her right hand, she unnecessarily pulled out her service gun and shot the unarmed man twice in the back as he lay face-down on the ground.

The 36-year-old officer claims that she shot the unarmed man because he would not show his hands and she was concerned he may have been reaching in his jacket for a weapon, but the recording from the deployed taser paints a different picture.

District Attorney Ed Marsico has stated that it appeared from the recording that Kassick was simply trying to remove the stun gun probes from his back before his life was taken.

“At the time Officer Mearkle fires both rounds from her pistol, the video clearly depicts Kassick lying on the snow covered lawn with his face toward the ground, furthermore, at the time the rounds are fired nothing can be seen in either of Kassick’s hands, nor does he point or direct anything toward Officer Mearkle,” the arrest affidavit reads….More



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The Black “Dirty Harry”

Those of you old enough may remember movie characters  “Coffin” Ed Johnson and “Gravedigger” Jones in the Blaxploitation flick “Cotton Comes to Harlem” based on a series of books by Chester Himes

Fans of the genre also remember Clint Eastwood as “Dirty Harry”.

Turns out both of those films and roles were likely  based after a black cop in Chicago, nicknamed “Two Gun Pete”, AKA Sylvester Washington.

Chicago cop struck fear into South Side from 1934-51

The legend of “Two-Gun Pete,” the cold-blooded cop who shot at least nine men dead on the South Side, began with a gun battle eight decades ago.

Just six months into his rookie year in April 1934, he caught 27-year-old Ben Harold red-handed during an armed robbery near 51st and State streets. What followed was a shootout that brought several bullets dangerously close to the young stockyard-worker-turned-policeman.

When the smoke cleared, four of the cop’s five shots had hit their mark, tearing through Harold’s torso. He staggered several steps before falling dead in a doorway.

After nearly emptying his six-shooter, Pete started carrying a second handgun for backup. He eventually swapped his .38-caliber revolvers for more powerful .357 Magnums, and his reputation grew.

Though he was one of the deadliest police officers in Chicago history, few people without a longtime South Side connection have ever heard of Two-Gun Pete, or the enigmatic man behind the nickname, Sylvester Washington.

The Tribune set out to bring his story to a wider audience, separating facts from myth. The newspaper examined official records, talked to police veterans who knew him, and interviewed his third wife, who was a DuSable High School student when they secretly wed in the 1960s. The Tribune also found a woman who says she owns one of Washington’s guns.

Two-Gun started as an anonymous bluecoat walking a beat, but he ended up as a ghetto superstar — a flamboyant, crooked, braggadocious, womanizing, hard-drinking, foul-mouthed police detective.

He was tasked with clearing out bad elements from every nightclub, flophouse and pool hall in what was then called Black Metropolis, a South Side community mired in poverty and violence, yet bouncing to a jazzy beat.

Washington spent most of his career working out of the old Wabash Avenue police station at 48th Street and Wabash Avenue. By the mid-1940s, his 5th District, with a population of 200,000, led the city in slayings, robberies and rapes, and was nicknamed the “Bucket of Blood.”

But the mention of Two-Gun Pete’s name could clear a street corner in seconds.

“Everybody knew Sylvester Washington,” said Rudy Nimocks, a former deputy police superintendent. “They knew his car. And the prostitutes would go hide someplace when they saw him. He was something else.”

Facing criticism that police were failing to protect black residents, Chicago’s top brass looked to Washington and other tough black cops to get ahold of crime. But the bosses may have made a pact with the devil, entrusting citizens’ safety to a profoundly violent man.

“He was the meanest, cruelest person that I have ever seen in my entire life,” said his third wife, Roslyn Washington Banks.

Pete augmented his fierce reputation with the tools of his trade: a nightstick and meaty hands that he used to slap grown men to the ground like small children.

And there were his sidearms — pearl-handled .357 Magnum revolvers. One had a long barrel, the other a short barrel. Each pistol was holstered in its own belt around his hips, both pearl handles pointing right for the right-handed gunslinger.

“I seldom miss the mark with them,” Washington bragged to Ebony magazine. “I can put 14 bullseyes into a target out of 15 shots, and have made a marksmanship record of 147 out of a possible 150.”

Police officials told the newspapers that Pete had gunned down nine men by 1945. He later claimed the career total was 11. And even later, he added one more body to the pile, telling a young reporter named Mike Royko: “I kept my own count and I counted 12.”

Depending on which number is accurate, Pete was either the deadliest police officer in Chicago history or tied with Frank Pape, a North Side cop who started on the force three months before Pete and killed nine men… more

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Posted by on July 20, 2013 in Black History, Domestic terrorism


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Black Chicago Policeman, Shot 21 Times in the Back – Charged With Attempted Murder

On the surface at least – something appears to be very wrong here. How exactly dies a police officer getting stopped for a simple traffic violation devolve into a full out gunbattle?

And how exactly do you charge the only guy in said gunbattle who never discharged his weapon, and was shot 21 times in the back, with “attempted murder”?

Howard Morgan, Black Off-Duty Cop Shot 28 Times By White Chicago Officers, Faces Sentencing

As much of the country follows the Trayvon Martin case, activists in Chicago are hoping to bring some of that attention to Howard Morgan, a former Chicago police officer who was shot 28 times by white officers — and lived to tell his side of the story.

Morgan was off-duty as a detective for the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad when he was pulled over for driving the wrong way on a one-way street on Feb 21, 2005, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. While both police and Morgan agree on that much, what happened next is a mystery.

According to police, Morgan opened fire with his service weapon when officers tried to arrest him, which caused them to shoot him 28 times. His family, however, very much doubts those claims.

“Four white officers and one black Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad police man with his weapon on him — around the corner from our home — and he just decided to go crazy? No. That’s ludicrous,” Morgan’s wife, Rosalind Morgan, told the Sun-Times.

She was not the only person to doubt CPD’s side of the story. A petitionsigned by more than 2,600 people called for all charges against Morgan to be dropped, and now Occupy Chicago is getting involved.

“After being left for dead, he survived and was then charged with attempted murder of the four white officers who brutalized him,” Occupy wrote on their website, adding that Morgan was found not guilty on three counts, including discharging his weapon. The same jury that cleared him of opening fire on the officers, however, deadlocked on a charge of attempted murder — and another jury found him guilty in January.

That jury was not allowed to hear that Morgan had been acquitted of the other charges.

Protesters and Morgan’s family say the second trial amounted to double jeopardy, and claim officers have gone to great lengths to obstruct justice in the case:

  • Howard Morgan’s van was crushed and destroyed without notice or cause before any forensic investigation could be done.
  • Howard Morgan was never tested for gun residue to confirm if he even fired a weapon on the morning in question.
  • The State never produced the actual bullet proof vest worn by one of the officers who claimed to have allegedly taken a shot directly into the vest on the morning in question. The State only produced a replica.

“If they can do this and eliminate double jeopardy and your constitutional rights, then my God, I fear for every Afro-American — whether they be male or female — in this corrupt unjust system,” Morgan’s wife told the Sun-Times.

Howard Morgan will be sentenced Thursday. He faces 80 years in prison.

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Posted by on April 4, 2012 in Domestic terrorism


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Gospel Legend – Jessey Dixon

Jessey Dixon, most noted as a Gospel legend, but influential in popular music, has passed away. The star, best known outside of Gospel circles for performing with Paul Simon, wrote songs for a number of pop music greats, including Cher, Diana Ross, and Randy Crawford – and performed with Earth Wind and Fire as a keyboardist.

Jessy Dixon Dead: Gospel Legend Dies In Chicago At 73

 Jessy Dixon, a singer and songwriter who introduced his energetic style of gospel music to wider audiences by serving as pop singer Paul Simon’s opening act, died Monday. He was 73…

During a more than 50-year career, Dixon wrote songs for several popular singers, including jazz and rhythm and blues singer Randy Crawford. He later wrote songs performed by Cher, Diana Ross, Natalie Cole and Amy Grant.

But it was for his gospel singing – religious music that combined the rhythmic beat of blues, jazz and soul – that Dixon first gained attention. It was during an appearance at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1972 with his Jessy Dixon Singers that Dixon first came to Simon’s attention. For the next eight years, Dixon toured with the pop icon, collaborating on Simon’s `Live Rhymin’ Simon’ and `Still Crazy’ albums.

Dixon also played keyboard with Earth Wind and Fire and guitarist Phillip Upchurch…

Born March 12, 1938, in San Antonio, Dixon’s professional compass was set by gospel music legend James Cleveland, who heard Dixon’s teen group perform at a theatre in the south Texas city. Dixon said Cleveland liked the group, but he liked Dixon more and persuaded him to move to Chicago to join his group, the Gospel Chimes, as both a singer and pianist.

Chicago’s South Side was the place to be for a gospel musician, especially in the early 1960s.

“Going to church was like going to school,” Dixon said. At church, he heard the likes of Mahalia Jackson and blues pioneer Thomas A. Dorsey, who is credited with creating modern gospel singing.

“Reading his (Dorsey’s) music and studying it, he was the one who wrote for Tennessee Ernie Ford, Elvis Presley and Pat Boone,” Dixon said. “All these people were singing his music and were making it commercial.”

Dixon credited the creativity of artists like percussionist Maurice White and blues singer Willie Dixon, no relation, inspired him to compose. He started with choral music for Chicago’s Thompson Community Singers, for which he sat at the keyboards. Several of his early songs have become classics, sung in churches across America, including: “Sit At His Feet and be Blessed,” “These Old Heavy Burdens” and “I Love to Praise His Name.”…


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Posted by on September 27, 2011 in Music, From Way Back When to Now


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