Saturday, October 25, 2014

Evening to Remember

“No one can save us but ourselves.  We ourselves must walk the path.” Siddhartha Gautama, founder of Buddhism
Karen Freeman-Wilson with Jesse Jackson and Richard Hatcher; Times photo by John J. Watkins

At the Genesis Center Friday Richard Hatcher hosted a celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of Freedom Summer and passage of the Civil Rights Act.  Proceeds will benefit the National Civil Rights Hall of Fame, for decades the dream of the former Gary mayor, whose favorite quote is “No one can save us but us.”   Keynote speaker Reverend Jesse Jackson, whose Presidential campaign Hatcher directed 30 years ago, stressed the need to redress economic inequality, noting that a Poor People’s Campaign was Martin Luther King’s final crusade.  Also delivering remarks was Andrea Lyon, recently appointed dean of Valparaiso Law School and author of “Angel of Death: My Life as a Death Penalty Defense Lawyer.”  Formerly a professor at DePaul Law School, Lyon (below, with Casey Anthony) founded the Center for Justice in Capital Cases; in 19 instances where clients had been found guilty of first-degree murder, she argued successfully against imposition of the death penalty.

In attendance was Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, who told the Post-Trib’s Lisa DeNeal: “We are all here because of the Civil Rights Act and leaders like Hatcher and Reverend Jackson.  They were contributors to what happened in the last 50 years and the inspiration for our future fight.”  Several of Gary’s previous mayors were not particularly supportive of a National Civil Rights Hall of Fame in Gary, but Freeman-Wilson seems to welcome such an attraction.

The banquet was reminiscent of 1970s “Evening to Remember” fundraisers on behalf of Richard Hatcher.  They were social as well as political occasions, featuring such celebrities as Bill Cosby, Nancy Wilson, Lou Rawls, Muhammad Ali, the Jackson 5, and many more, as well as civil rights activists such as Jesse Jackson and Julian Bond.  Earlier this year, Bond, once a SNCC firebrand and now a U. of Virginia History professor, agreed to serve on the Civil Rights Hall of Fame advisory board.  In 2007 in a Martin Luther King Day speech, Bond supported same-sex marriage, saying, “If you don’t like gay marriage, don’t get gay married.”

In my oral history of the Hatcher administration I used this remembrance from Hatcher campaign strategist Nathaniel Coleman:
“I planned the first ‘Evening to Remember’ at West Side.  We made it look like a ballroom.  We rented chairs from over in Chicago.  We had a fountain in the surge area.  We had round silver balls on the ceiling that we got from Roosevelt.  It was a beautiful setting and delicious meal, featuring filet mignon.  I was the head of Men Who Care, and we were all dressed in burgundy that night.”
 Heath Carter with Christina Crawley and Jesse Jackson; photos by Thais Carter
Earlier in the week, when VU History professor Heath Carter invited Hatcher to dinner along with his students and me, the former mayor begged off because he was working on the Genesis Center affair but offered him and guests free admission to the $100-a-ticket event.  Taking him up on the invitation were Heath, his wife Thais, and student Christina Crawley, a Gary resident from the Tarrytown neighborhood.  Christina spent Thursday at the Archives researching the history of Gary Roosevelt, ably aided by volunteer Maurice Yancy, a ’Velt grad.  When she lamented that she’d have to go back to VU for something to wear, I told her about buying a suit for ten dollars at Goodwill prior to speaking at a 2008 banquet honoring Hatcher 40 years after he first took office.

I’ve been experiencing vivid dreams, often struggling to get dressed or having to traverse rough terrain in order to reach a vague destination.  Last night I imagined coming across water on a stairway landing.  Usually a half hour after I awaken, I can’t recall my dreams, but this one stayed with me.

A lifelong Gary resident asked me for directions to the IUN Credit Union.  I was going that way and took her to its office in Moraine.  She had never been on campus before and was amazed at the number of buildings and the beautiful landscaping.  Were Garret Cope alive, I’d have invited her to Glen Park Conversation.

Local authorities are still combing through abandoned properties in a grisly search for more victims of serial killer Darren Vann.  Ray Smock composed this reply to my rant about how Daily Beast writer Justin Glawe disparaged Gary residents:
When I think of how much so many cities and towns in America have decayed in the last half century, it is appalling. Gary and my hometown of Harvey are in this category. Harvey often gets the title of murder capital in Illinois. As you wisely point out, there are a lot of reasons for this decline and the formula varies from place to place but always include industrial decline, race, class, unemployment, poverty, corporate and political decisions, rivalries between political forces in the state over priorities, and the one thing that so many Americans have used forever to solve problems by moving away from them because they could and still can. Alexis d' Tocqueville noted this phenomenon in the 1830s. We are always on the move, fleeing from something or looking for opportunities elsewhere. We leave ghost towns in our rush to get away.  We don't need simplistic journalism to blame this whole mess on the current inhabitants of Gary as you said in your excellent blog.”
Fred McColly and granddaughter Liliya

Fred McColly visited the Archives Friday on his 61st birthday.  Commenting about ebola and fantasy fiction, my former student and longtime friend Fred McColly wrote cryptically: “The ‘Invisible Man’ knew addiction  . . . which may be why he saw viruses and ghostliness everywhere he looked.” Son Seamus McColly, a cartoonist and ceramist, is in line to graduate next year and hopes to obtain a masters degree in Fine Arts.

At the Fifth Annual Disability Employment Awareness Symposium I ran into Rudy Velasco in the IUN Conference Center lobby and gave him my latest Shavings, which includes a photo of Renae Jackson ands him protesting at a NIRCP meeting.  Velasco remembered my collaboration with “Valor” author Roy Dominguez, a board member of the disability rights group Everybody Counts.  Renae, Gary MOD (Mayor’s Organization on Disabilities) board of directors vice chairperson, is on a panel, so I left a copy for her as well. 

While chatting with representatives from Gary Human Relations Commission, Cassandra Carey, a work-studies student with the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Multicultural Affairs, sponsor of the event, snapped our picture.  The commission is 50 years old, having been established as a result of a 1964 omnibus civil rights ordinance.  Richard Hatcher, on the city council then, led the fight for its passage.
 Cheryl Hale, "Picnic at Paradise Pond" with Anne Balay, Riva, dad and daughters

After returning from a speaking engagement at Haverford, Anne Balay, motored to a book show in Indianapolis.  “I’m wiped out,” she admitted, adding:  “Scrape me off the floor so I can drive to Indy and do one more event.  Maybe prop me up and fluff me out a bit?  I’m not even a teacher anymore, and my students are such amazing support.  One told me about the event and is meeting me there; one has fostered both my cats for this entire past month; and all of them say encouraging things constantly.  I am the luckiest former prof ever, and you are a GREAT BUNCH OF FOLKS.”

I’ll always remember evenings at Balay’s house celebrating Tanice Foltz’s promotion to full professor and publication of Anne’s “Steel Closets,” with numerous LGBT steelworkers present.  Daughter Emma, “hostess with the mostest” at both events, drove from St. Louis to Indy too be with Anne at the book event.

High school Phil Arnold commented on entering the Graceland Elvis Pumpkin Decorating Contest: “It helps to have your own personal granite Elvis bust.” I compliment his entry and brought him up to speed on classmates Virginia Lange, Chris Koch, and Gaard Murphy.
 Post-Tribune photo by Kyle Telechan

Last fall Hobart football player Joey Sparks was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.  While he was fighting for his life, teammates visited him and wore “JS-37” stickers - his jersey number – on their uniforms.  According to Post-Trib writer Jerry Davich, Joey also heard from Gary West Side Cougars players, whom he had competed against two weeks before he fell ill.  Now fully recovered, Sparks was the recipient of a thousand-dollar Paul Heuring Ford “Go Further” grant and decided to donate it to the underfunded West Side football program.  In addition, Heuring Ford, a Hobart auto dealership, paid for 70 new sets of helmets and shoulder pads.  When Joey told the West Side players about the gifts, Davich wrote, “[They] looked at each other and burst into applause, then cheers, then hugs for Joey, one after another.”

A large crowd was at Showplace Theater in Portage for opening day of “St. Vincent,” starring Bill Murray and Melissa McCarthy.  Despite employing almost every cliché imaginable – hooker (actress Naomi Watts) with a heart of gold, kid (Jaeden Lieberher) standing up to bully (Dario Barosso) who then befriends him, lovable priest (Chris O’Dowd) who bonds with kids, and Bill Murray as the penultimate grumpy old geezer (like Billy Bob Thornton in “Bad Santa” but believable), I loved it.  Murray’s character, a seriously disturbed Vietnam veteran, alcoholic, and compulsive gambler, doesn’t change but touches the lives of others in a positive way.  Just to see Murray dance and sing is worth the price of admission.  While credits rolled, he was on his back, earphones in, smoking a cigarette, watering the backyard, and singing along to Bob Dylan’s “Shelter from the Storm.” Not a single theater patron left.
Becca as Huntress; James as Scout

James bowled a 157, his best ever.  He should have had four straight strikes except for a ten-pin that wobbled but stayed up.  When I arrived at Camelot Lanes, he had a large bandage on his left hand; it turned out to be part of a Halloween costume he’d worn as Scout from Team Fortress Two.  Phew!  Dave had announced West Side’s football Sectional match last night, a double overtime loss to West Side, 18-12.  Neither side had a reliable kicker nor made an extra point conversion.

Saturday evening was one to remember.  Even though Toni threw her back out gardening, she helped prepare a steak fondue meal to celebrate Angie’s birthday, including pan-fried noodles.  Dave bought the meat plus an onion, salsa, chips, and guacamole, while the portabella mushrooms I had purchased after bowling also came in handy.  Dave thought he’d bought too much meat, but none was left.  Afterwards, we had Tom Wade over for gaming, and I turned on the World Series just in time to see Carlos Santana and son Salvador do a classic instrumental version of the “National Anthem.”

T. Wade swept all three board games.  He looked out of Acquire when I merged Imperial into Tower, hoping to be first in what would be the largest company.  Trading Imperial shares 2 for 1 did Dave no good but he did it anyway, enabling Tom to have more than I.  I had anticipated that Dave would trade just enough for Tom and I to tie, but he thought I was in the lead.  That much was true, but he was close behind and could have eliminated Tom.  Instead, Tom gained $5,000 as a result of the disastrous maneuver and finished with $1,400 more than I and $1,800 more than Dave, who predicted that I’d write about what he did on my blog.

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