[Event 1/31] “Lawndale Conversations Series: The Contract Buyers League”

January 23, 2013

by Max Harkavy
Communications Intern, JCUA

On January 31st at 6pm, the Hull House on UIC’s campus will be hosting an event titled “Lawndale Conversations Series: The Contract Buyers League.”  The Hull House is convening in partnership with the North Lawndale branch of Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago (NHS), and the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs (JCUA) in order to raise awareness about the Contract Buyers League and the history of its neighborhoods, specifically North Lawndale.  North Lawndale has a rich narrative and many feel that in order to bring about change in the community this narrative has to be brought to light.

Contract Buyers League Protesters

Contract Buyers League Protesters

The Contract Buyers League was a union of African Americans during the 1960s that fought the exploitative sale of homes to blacks through the selling of contracts.

“I think it’s really important to tell this story to make all the people that lived through it proud of their accomplishment, and to raise awareness among the younger population,” said John Wolf, an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer for the NHS North Lawndale office.

Neighborhood Housing Services seeks to promote positive change from within the community.  Director Charles Leeks believes that, “In order to turn a neighborhood around, you have to recognize what the community has been.”  Leeks explained that sometimes people choose to ignore the community’s past, “if it is not convenient for them at any given moment.”  The goal of this event is to raise awareness of North Lawndale’s rich past and to foster pride from within.

Rutgers University Professor, Beryl Satter

Beryl Satter

There will be three guest speakers at the event.  The first is Beryl Satter, author of the book, “Family Properties: Race, Real Estate, and the Exploitation of Black Urban America” which tells the tale of the Contract Buyers League and the struggle against unfair housing practices that occurred throughout the 40s to the 70s.  Satter’s father was an attorney who fought for equal rights for African Americans during the time of the Contract Buyers League.

Co-Chairman of the Contract Buyers Leage, Clyde Ross

Clyde Ross

The second speaker will be Clyde Ross, who was at one time the co-chairman of the Contract Buyers League, and was recently named the recipient of the Neighborhood Heroes Award given to him by the NHS.  Ross still lives in the house he bought under contract.

Jack Macnamara

Jack Macnamara

The final speaker is Jack Macnamara, a Jesuit seminary during the time of the Contract Buyers League.  He also worked as a community organizer that brought people together on issues concerning the Contract Buyers League in the 1960s.

“The image of community and the way north Lawndale is projected in the press is often negative but this event is a way of talking about positives from the community and one the biggest positives of North Lawndale is its history,” said Wolf.


Rabbi Capers Funnye Talks About Blacks, Jews and Chicago

March 1, 2011

In this video Rabbi Capers Funnye, leader of Beth Shalom B’nai Zaken Ethiopian Hebrew Congregation, reflects on the words of Dr. King and how blacks and Jews fit into the “garment of destiny” King described in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”


“May We Learn to Endure Freedom and Love”

March 1, 2011

Speech delivered by Rabbi Robert Marx with Dr. King at Soldier Field in 1966

History remembers its villains; it forgets its victims. Tyrants and despots, monarchs and dictators–their names are preserved in the annals of mankind. Who, however, recalls the names of the men and women and little children, who, through no fault of their own, have seen their own lives ruined and who rest in nameless graves.

No rabbi can participate in an occasion such as this without recalling what happens when such a demonstration on behalf of freedom is made impossible by government or military tyrannies. We who have seen the slaughter of six million of our brothers can only shudder in cognizant agony at the thought that our Negro brothers are still dying to purchase the same freedom for which we too have bled and died.

Audience at Soldier Field, 1966

Unfortunately the fall-out of prejudice and discrimination maims and wounds, not only its present victims, but leaves its scars upon unborn generations as well. The legacy being unwanted is a miserable inheritance.

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Rev. Calvin Morris Reflects on His Work with the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs

February 28, 2011

Rev. Calvin S. Morris, Community Renewal Society

Rev. Calvin S. Morris, Ph.D. serves as Executive Director of the Community Renewal Society, a faith-based social justice advocacy organization in Chicago focusing on race and poverty. A civil rights and human rights activist, he worked with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., serving as Associate Director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s Operation BreadBasket (now Operation PUSH) in Chicago from 1967-71. He was Executive Director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, from 1973-76. He was also a university professor and theological dean from 1976-1998. Morris is frequently invited to preach, speak and lecture.


When I returned to Chicago, after an absence of 27 years, to become the executive director of Community Renewal Society, one of the first sister organizations to whom I was introduced was the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs. I had been aware of the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs during my first stint in Chicago as associate director of SCLC’s Operation BreadBasket, now Rainbow PUSH, which was at the time under the direction of the direction of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Rev. Jesse Louis Jackson, who Dr. King named national director of BreadBasket in 1968. At that same time I was appointed associate director.

I had known Rabbi Marx during my earlier years in Chicago and was keenly aware of the work of JCUA. Soon after my return, the city of Chicago experienced the death of two African-Americans, both in their twenties, a male and female, who were killed by Chicago Police under rather unsettling circumstances.

Members of the Chicago advocacy communities rallied in light of both of those events, and the Rev. Donald Benedict, retired executive director of the Community Renewal Society and founder of Protestants for the Common Good, urged the formation of a coalition of organizations to work for the reformation of the Chicago Police department and its relationship with the black community. Jane Ramsey, the executive director of JCUA, and I were chosen to be co-conveners of that coalition of groups, soon to be called the Justice Coalition of Greater Chicago.

For more than a decade, JCGC worked to bring former Chicago Police Cmdr. John Burge to justice and demanded that a special prosecutor be named to look into the allegations of torture under Burge’s watch, advocated for the videotaping of confessions, urged the creation of an independent police review board, and called for the expungement of records of non-violent offenders who had served their time.

Rev. Morris, Carol Steele and Jane Ramsey at a Coalition to Protect Public Housing rally

During that time and since, Community Renewal Society has worked with the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs to assure that the residents of public housing would benefit from new housing to be constructed on the land where the high-rise gallery apartments were to be demolished. Along with other partners within the Coalition to Protect Public Housing, both organizations stood with and in support of the residents of the Chicago Housing Authority, always cajoling, demanding, and making our presence felt at the CHA commissioners’ hearings.

We warned them, from the very beginning, that the rush to demolish that housing had the potential of scattering gangs located within those complexes to other adjoining neighborhoods, and voiced our fear that turf battles for dominance in the South Side drug trade would emerge.

JCUA and CRS have worked closely around issues affecting the voiceless and the disempowered and have stood together in the empowerment of us all.


Rev. Calvin Morris Reflects on the Civil Rights Movement

February 24, 2011

Rev. Calvin S. Morris, Community Renewal Society

Rev. Calvin S. Morris, Ph.D. serves as Executive Director of the Community Renewal Society, a faith-based social justice advocacy organization in Chicago focusing on race and poverty. A civil rights and human rights activist, he worked with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., serving as Associate Director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s Operation BreadBasket (now Operation PUSH) in Chicago from 1967-71. He was Executive Director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, from 1973-76. He was also a university professor and theological dean from 1976-1998. Morris is frequently invited to preach, speak and lecture.


When I came to Chicago in 1967, ostensibly to work on a PhD at the University of Chicago, where I had been admitted hoping to study under the famed African-American historian John Hope Franklin, those intentions were derailed by my college friend, Jesse Louis Jackson, and his challenge to me that it was time to make more concrete my commitment to the Civil Rights Movement of that day. It was an offer I could not refuse, and sometime thereafter I met Rabbi Robert Marx, founder of the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs.

A 1968 Operation BreadBasket rally in Illinois (photo from LIFE.com)

Accepting Jesse’s invitation, I moved to join the staff of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s Operation BreadBasket in Chicago. Dr. King was the leader of SCLC and we all served at his pleasure. Rabbi Marx, Rev. Clay Evans, the late Al Raby and Rev. Arthur Griffin, along with the Rev. Donald Benedict, Executive Director of Community Renewal Society, were individuals among many who had invited Dr. King to Chicago the year before.

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Jewish History is a Part of My Black History

February 21, 2011
 

Verna Jaunes, Jewish Council on Urban Affairs

Working at the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs for 12 years, Verna Jaunes is a seasoned JCUA veteran. As office administrator she plays a key role at JCUA providing support to staff and ensuring that all office equipment is functioning.


In March 1998 I was working for the OfficeTeam Agency as a temp when I received a call for a new assignment at the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs.

At the time I had no idea what JCUA did or what I would be doing there. It was a temporary assignment to help with data entry and other administrative duties. The office administrator gave me a key and said the staff worked on flex time, so I would have to let myself in each morning.

“Okay, how long am I going to be here?” I wondered.

I spent my time in the office dealing with donors and events.  In the beginning I didn’t think much about the fact that JCUA is a Jewish organization.  They were always discussing public housing, CHA transformation plans, policy issues or plans of the community partners at the staff meetings.

The Associate Division and its quarterly gathering, plans for the Annual Meeting and the summer concert at Ravinia, and the Annual Dinner were also discussed.

Getting days off the first year was great! Everyone kept asking me where I worked.  “A Jewish social justice organization,” I’d reply.

“Why are you off so much?”

“It’s a Jewish holiday!”

After a year of that I decided it would be best if I at least learned the names of the holidays and what they represented.

Meeting Rabbi Marx was a great experience. He’d come to the office for meetings with the program staff and speak about why he felt the need to start this organization. The fact that he was willing to go against the majority view and stand for the rights of black individuals to have better homes at fair prices was inspiring.

His decision to march with Dr. King in Marquette Park–knowing that he could be physically hurt and his career goals possibly hindered– gave me a clearer idea of his character. In spite of personal repercussions, Rabbi Marx was willing to speak out for social change in Chicago. I also understood how he could motivate Jane Ramsey to continue the fight against injustice.

Soon I found myself opened to diverse beliefs, which increased my belief in what the organization stood for.

I also had the opportunity to have great interactions with Lew Kreinberg, JCUA’s first staff member. He was the type of outspoken person that always got to the heart of the matter with me. He loved the West Side and was constantly saying the West Side was the best side. He always thought I should get out of the office and work in the community, as he was always working in the community with groups like the Coalition to Protect Public Housing and the Westside Federation.

The office atmosphere encouraged my interest in learning about the people I worked with– their values, their ideas.

I always thought Jewish meant religious. I found out that it was a way of life with a specific set of values and prophetic requirements and that all Jews are not the same–that there are a variety of beliefs.

I’ve had the opportunity to meet young men and women from all around the country who shared a common driving interest in social justice. I’ve listened to their goals and plans for the future. I’ve also spent time with great German interns, who were dedicated, focused and contributed something lasting to the organization.

The passion of Kat Haines for the Ida B. Wells housing residents and Imagine Englewood If…; Stacey Flint keeping us informed on legal changes; Java (Ilanit) Goldberg, and Jessica Aranda for their work with the Latino Union. The time they willingly dedicated to their cause renewed my love for people.

The need to learn and respect others was enforced through interactions with Rabbi Jill Jacobs, Guy Austrian, Annie Grossman, Maria Cruz, Raj Nayak and Patricia Smith. They inspired me to express and explore information for personal reflection.

I learned about team building and working with others from Gretchen Solomon, Brian Gladstein, Josh Prudowsky, Gabriel Machanbanski and Sari Rubin, who wanted cross-training for everyone in order to foster understanding of the different roles each held in making sure JCUA’s mission was met.

The peace and spiritual lifts came from Ari Hart and Asaf Bar-Tura. They made me explore myself and opened my heart to the religious beliefs of others as a way to clarify my contact and willingness to be open-minded and seek the opinions of others. This is good because it helps eliminate the myths and misinformation received through a third party.

The history of Jewish involvement in the Civil Rights Movement assisted in my understanding of the reasons the organization I worked for was constantly speaking out against injustice.

The oppression, segregation, hatred that African-American and Jewish people have suffered through the centuries helps to retain the focus of a coalitional relationship of communities on social justice and other issues.

Working at JCUA has confirmed my belief that the future of the African-American and Jewish community is with the children and the values they hold.


Rev. Calvin Morris Reflects on a Lifelong Friend

February 9, 2011

Rev. Calvin S. Morris, Community Renewal Society

Rev. Calvin S. Morris, Ph.D. serves as Executive Director of the Community Renewal Society, a faith-based social justice advocacy organization in Chicago focusing on race and poverty. A civil rights and human rights activist, he worked with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., serving as Associate Director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s Operation BreadBasket (now Operation PUSH) in Chicago from 1967-71. He was Executive Director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, from 1973-76. He was also a university professor and theological dean from 1976-1998. Morris is frequently invited to preach, speak and lecture.


In 1954 I met an individual who would be my most enduring and beloved friend. We were both 12 years old.

Paul Ira Keyser and I met at Friends Select School, a Quaker secondary institution, located in center city Philadelphia, just a block or two from city hall and its iconic statue of William Penn, the founder of the city. Paul was a Jew and I an African-American. His family members were Conservative Jews and mine Christian.

We would spend more than half a century learning about each other, our familial backgrounds, our likes and dislikes, our political differences, and a relationship that superseded all of the aforementioned. We became friends for life.

Paul Ira Keyser and Rev. Calvin Morris

We did not always agree. I remember, on one occasion, mentioning to Paul that the American Medical Association did not allow black physicians into its membership. Paul insisted that just could not be, so I suggested that he ask his physician father whether it was. Paul returned to school the next day and admitted that his father affirmed what I had said.

When we met, the second World War was not yet a decade removed, and we talked about the war, the Holocaust, racism and anti-Semitism, and we learned about the troubles of our “tribes”, as Paul referred to them. Montgomery, Alabama and the rise of the Civil Rights Movement was a year away when we met.

I learned from Paul about the American Jewish Appeal and the Anti-Defamation League. He garnered from me an understanding of the NAACP and the Urban League. We talked about everything: our crushes on girls, the varsity sports we played together, and the familial challenges that were ours. Paul introduced me to chamber music and I exposed him to the Negro spirituals, jazz, the blues, and gospel music.

After high school we kept in touch with each other when we went away to different colleges. When I married, Paul was the best man at our wedding, and when he married I officiated at the wedding, since his first wife was not Jewish. As friends we shared our innermost feelings, fears and hopes with each other. We knew each other’s parents and siblings, and when my mother died (I was 26 years old) Paul was there.

There was no event, no aspect of our lives that did not include the other. He became a PhD in micro-biology and I a PhD in American and African-American history. But most of all, we were the best friend that the other ever had. I was an African-American and he was a Jew and since his passing there is, in my heart, an empty space that will never be filled.

Has this anything to do with race relations and relations among Blacks and Jews in the macro? I fear not. But, in the micro world of true individual souls, one a Jew and one an African-American, our friendship endured and, in memory, still does.


Timuel Black Talks About Blacks, Jews and Chicago

February 8, 2011


Longtime Chicago activist, historian and professor Timuel Black talks about his childhood, military experiences and more in the context of how blacks and Jews fit into the “Garment of Destiny” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. described in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail.

Part 1

Part 2


“Blacks and Jews”: A Look at the Ups and Downs of a Relationship

February 4, 2011

Garment of Destiny (http://bit.ly/frFZ1a) takes a look at a documentary called “Blacks and Jews.”

Here is part 1 of 4 excerpts from the film.

Part 2 of 4

Part 3 of 4

Part 4 of 4


“Tied in a Single Garment of Destiny”: Chicagoans Give Their Take on Dr. King’s Powerful Words

February 1, 2011

Watch as these Chicagoans share their interpretation of some powerful lines in Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” on which JCUA’s Black History Month project, “Garment of Destiny,” is based.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” wrote Dr. King. “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”


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