Friday, July 22, 2016

Tainted Justice

“William Worthy isn’t worthy to enter our door
Went down to Cuba, he’s not American anymore
But somehow it is strange to hear the State Department say
You are living in the free world, in the free world you must stay”
                  “The Ballad of William Worthy,” Phil Ochs
 Bill Worthy and attorney William Kuntsler

The latest Journal of American History contains an article by H. Timothy Lovelace, Jr., a professor at IU’s Maurer Law School, about Baltimore Afro-American reporter William Worthy, convicted of entering the United States without a passport after spending 11 weeks in Cuba in 1961.  Like James Baldwin, Norman Mailer, Truman Capote, and others, he had joined the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, which advocated objective press coverage of the Cuban Revolution.  A frequent critic of U.S. imperialist policies in Iran and Latin America, he had been refused a new passport in 1957 after visiting communist China.  While hundreds of Americans visited Cuba despite a State department travel ban, Worthy was singled out for prosecution under the 1952 Immigration and Nationality Act.  Attorney William Kunstler of the ACLU represented Worthy and successfully got the conviction overturned on appeal. A Circuit Court ruled that the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution guaranteed the right of citizens to return to U.S. without criminal penalty.

The Journal of American History contains positive movie reviews of Trumbo and Spotlight.  Michael Socolow’s only quibble with the latter is the omission of contributions of reporters at the Boston Phoenix, the city’s alternative newspaper, in investigating the Catholic Church sexual abuse scandal prior to the Globe’s inquiry.  Regarding Trumbo Jennifer Frost mentions this invented scene:
  Former HUAC chairman J. Parnell Jones, convicted of payroll fraud, turns up at the same federal penitentiary as [Dalton] Trumbo.  This encounter provides an opportunity for a Trumbo witticism about the irony of being put behind bars with the man responsible for putting him there.  It did not happen.  Thomas served his sentence in another federal penitentiary – yet still ironic – with two other members of the Hollywood Ten, Lester Cole and Ring Lardner, Jr.
 George Van Til in 2012

Former Lake County surveyor George Van Til is finally back home after spending more than a year in federal prison for actions that are commonplace among officeholders.  Post-Tribune columnist Jerry Davich is researching a book about corruption in Lake County, and I challenge him to look into the actual reasons behind federal investigations that in most cases have resulted in plea bargain offers that those prosecuted (persecuted) couldn’t turn down.  Two Gary mayors, R.O. Johnson and George Chacharis, served prison time, Johnson (for violating the unpopular Volstead Act) because U.S. Steel officials in the 1920s deemed him too independent (they preferred a segregationist) and Chacharis because he had alienated not only Steel officials but the Gary Hobart Water Company and Post-Tribune publisher H.B. Snyder.  Mayor Richard Hatcher was one of the most investigated mayors in American history; and while U.S. attorneys could never get sufficient dirt on him, some of his supporters, such as Katie Hall, Mary Elgin, and George Van Til were not so fortunate.  Like R.O. Johnson and George Chacharis, Van Til also paid dearly for not being compliant to the wishes of big industry.
 Keith Cooper and attorney Eliot Slosar

Chicago Tribune correspondent wrote about Keith Cooper, wrongly convicted of armed robbery 20 years ago and received a sentence of 40 years.  In 2005 the conviction of his co-defendant was overturned.  Given the choice of a new trial or immediate release from person, Cooper, whose family had frequently been homeless, chose the latter.  Since then, DNA evidence has exonerated him, a jailhouse snitch has recanted, witnesses have withdrawn their accusations, and since 2014 Cooper has been seeking a pardon from Governor Mike Pence to clear his name.  The Indiana parole board has recommended a pardon, but odds are that Pence will refuse to act on the matter, at least until after the November election.

I’ve added these paragraphs to a sketch I wrote about Gary Freedom Fighter L.K. Jackson, “The Old Prophet”:
  The post-World War II period was a time of anxiety, as America entered the atomic age with an untried leader, President Harry S Truman.  The nation did not sink back into another depression, as many feared, but experienced economic uncertainty, especially for African Americans, and frequent steel strikes. In the fall of 1945 white students boycotted classes at Froebel, known as Gary’s immigrant school, demanding that blacks, whose numbers had increased dramatically during the war, be transferred elsewhere.  The Froebel school strike received national headlines and led to singer Frank Sinatra making an appearance at a Tolerance Concert urging an end to the walkout.  At a school board meeting Reverend L.K. Jackson made an impassioned appeal to keep Froebel integrated, declaring, “We don’t want any fascism in Gary.” 

While the recalcitrant Froebel students eventually gave in, segregated housing patterns remained, with almost all blacks residing in the overcrowded Central District; thus the new neighborhood school policy had scant impact.  De Facto segregation remained the norm.  During the 1940s African-American physicians gained the right to practice at Methodist Hospital, but the wards remained segregated.  After an appearance by heavyweight champ Joe Louis at a Parmakers golf tournament, African Americans could finally play North Gleason Park’s 18-hole course but were physically assaulted when they attempted to use Marquette Park beach facilities. Steel mill employment opportunities were plentiful, but blacks were relegated to the dirtiest coke plant assignments with little opportunity for promotion
About the only things worth listening to at the Republican convention were selections by G.E. Smith’s house band, including (ironically?) the Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t get What You Want,” David Bowie’s “Station to Station” (about “the return of the Thin White Duke” - cocaine), and “Rock the Casbah” by the Clash.  Ray Smock wrote:
The Paranoid Style of American Politics, explained so well many years ago by Richard Hofstadter, is amply on display at the GOP convention where real and imagined errors or acts of incompetence become magnified from human frailty into a giant conspiracy and acts of treason punishable by death. This paranoia has been inflamed beyond anything reasonable in American political discourse. Trump has been a champion of conspiracies, preferring them to history that can be documented. The GOP convention is full of this paranoia and irrational, frightening talk about trying Hillary Clinton for treason and murder and then calling for macabre and public acts of capital punishment. This is the single worst, and most dangerous thing about Trumpism and its enablers.
Lisa Rangel, drawing "You Are My Prison"  in "River's Edge" (2000)
William Buckley has donated a 2000 issue of the literary journal “River’s Edge” to the Archives.  It contains two of his poems, both about the Region, “On Kennedy Ave” ("cold winds bring arctic signals through girders”) and “We’ve Always Seen the Moon” (“a whole world on heavy canvas where relatives look cut from stone”).  Two prose pieces caught my eye, Andrea White’s “No Ordinary Sin” (about a friend’s son involved in a hit-and-run incident) and “The Murderers” by Brigette James.  In the latter the protagonist has a sister LeeLee in prison for stabbing to death her abusive boyfriend.  After four years, the narrator declares, “we are no longer getting harassing phone calls, hate mail, or offensive stares when we are out in public, and for that I’m truly grateful.”


Judy and Gene Ayres visited IUN to view the display of Gary church cookbooks Judy donated and check out the Calumet Regional Archives, where a run of Ayres Realty newsletter are housed.  Steve McShane gave them a tour and showed them several collections.  The day before, Judy took a friend of her late mother to the Lake Station Dairy Queen for her 99th birthday, repeating a practice her mother and the lady used to do.  The person who served her refused to take any money.  That happens to me a lot, she told Judy.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Hoosier Prairie

“[In Indiana] long before there were people there was land, including wetlands and prairies covered with grasses and wildflowers, especially in the northwest corner.”  James Madison, “Hoosiers”
Driving through Griffith, Paul and Julie Kern recently came upon Hoosier Prairie Nature Preserve, a 1547-acre parcel established in 1976 and now a unit of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.  Of the 350 native plants found there, about 50 are rare to Indiana.  In Paul and my history of IUN, “Educating the Region,” is an excerpt from an interview with Herman Feldman, Dean for Administration in the 1970s.  Feldman recalled:
  Irene Herlacher had discovered the Hoosier Prairie.  It was her secret place.  Development started creeping toward it, so she enlisted people to help save it.  Convinced, I told her to talk to F.C. Richardson, who was a botanist [at IUN].  On a hot July day, dressed in a double-breasted suit, F.C. met her in the Hoosier Prairie.  Police saw this white woman with a black man and decided they had to save her.
  We got former IU president Herman Wells involved.  The owner of the prairie, Edward Gaylord, was a right-winger who believed that universities manufactured radicals.  Wells and I walked into his office, and the door clicked shut.  He was sure we were con men but didn’t know why we wanted his worthless land.  After many months we got him to go there.  We were walking along, and a garter snake appeared on the shoulder of the road.  Gaylord got all excited and picked it up.  Suddenly he was all for saving it.
  Wells invited Gaylord’s mother to lunch at the University Club in Chicago.  He tried to flatter her, but she was unmeltable.  That’s when we went to State Senator Adam Benjamin got the state to come up with three million dollars.  We got the Department of natural Resources involved.  The family finally accepted the three million for the original 300 acres of prairie.
Spencer Cortwright reported:
            Northwest Indiana once had ample habitat known as wet prairie.  There once may have been nearly 1 million acres of wet prairie in Indiana, but sadly over 99.9% of it is destroyed or badly degraded by Eurasian weeds.  The array of flowers in wet prairie was astonishing; one of the royal species was “Queen of the Prairie.”  It takes a long time to restore damp habitats that can once again harbor Queen of the Prairie, but our preserve north of IUN campus finally harbors a few of these plants.  If conditions don't deteriorate, the plant will clone itself and spread!
Nyberg above and with Dean Zimmerman (right) of Enviro Watts
At Holley Savannah, an 11-acre restored prairie near North Newton, Post-Trib columnist Jeff Manes interviewed biologist Gus Nyberg, director of NICHES (Northern Indiana Citizens Helping Ecosystems Survive).  Jeff’s two children are named Savannah and Forest.  At Holley Savannah Nyberg has spotted legless lizards, hog-nosed snakes, rufous-sided towhees, and dickcissels.
 male dickcissel


In the IUN library courtyard for Thrill of the Grill I sat next to an incoming freshman from Valparaiso High School who plans to become an IUN Communication major.  I told him about IUN’s radio station and later ran into him when a volunteer was taking a group through the library.

I gave volume 45 to Marianne Brush (above), and she said we needed to get together more often so she’d be in the next issue prominently.  Her Facebook post reads, “Sushi, sashimi, sake, and Steel Shavings.  Say that fast five times.”


At Gelsosomo’s Pizza prior to a condo owners meeting I learned that Jen Sebring’s son wants to go into an aviation program at Purdue or Western Michigan.  Sandy Carlson went to the beach last weekend for the first time all year, she said ruefully. Tom Coulter complained of breaking out in hives after swimming in a cloudy swimming pool.  Kevin Cessna abstained from having a slice of pizza, being allergic to tomatoes.  That’s tough, being Italian, Sandy noted.  A large number of owners arrived and heard an impressive presentation from 1st American Management Company president John R. Marshall.  John Mario and I exchanged news about our sons, who played soccer and tennis together in high school, and our grandkids.

I have avoided watching the Republican convention but have kept up with the flap over Melania Trump using quotes from Michelle Obama’s 2008 speech.  At first Trump loyalists claimed it was just a coincidence until finally a speechwriter took the blame for it. Last night convention delegates evidently booed Ted Cruz off the stage for not endorsing Trump and instead urging Republicans to let their conscience be their guide.
above, Rev. L.K. Jackson observing St. Paul Baptist Church burning, May 2, 1963
 below, Rev. L.K. Jackson (right) with J.J. Overstreet and John Hunter (September 5, 1959)


I’ve been working on an article about Reverend L.K. Jackson, a civil rights pioneer in Gary known at “The Old Prophet,” in connection with the hundredth anniversary of St. Paul Baptist Church.  With Steve McShane’s help I was able to find a couple photos of him in the Calumet regional Archives’ collection of Post-Tribune negatives.
photo and painting by Jesse C. Johnson; below "Ferguson the New Selma"
IUN grad Jesse C. Johnson is both a painter and photographer who had a recent show called “Do You See What I See.” His paintings remind me of murals found on the walls of buildings.  In an artist statement he wrote:
            Issues of race, discrimination, prejudice and freedom of expression inspire me to paint [and] are the departure points for my paintings. Through my experiences as a child growing up in Chicago I feel very passionately about these issues and by creating specific imagery I aim to make the viewer question them.

My identity is woven into these paintings. By using visual elements such as the colorful forms and abstract structures I aim to make my work engaging for the viewer. In a recent body of work I used female mannequins to talk about the objectification of women in the American society.