Ed Gardner to mayor: “No meeting, we will march on City Hall”

Tillman: ‘We ought to treat Gardner as our Rosa Parks’


By Chinta Strausberg

To a standing-room-only crowd at BJ’s Market & Bakery Restaurant on 87th and Stony Island, business giant Ed Gardner Saturday said if Mayor Rahm Emanuel has not met with him by this Wednesday, then his supporters, 10,000 strong, will march on City Hall.

Making it extremely clear, Gardner said, “The mayor has been asked on several times to meet with me.  He had some how found other more important things to do. Not only mayor of this city know but also mayors of other cities around the country know.

“The BBC out of England is aware of it. The talk show in New York is aware of it. They all interviewed me since the same thing is happening in our communities. The Latinos are getting the jobs and we are standing around watching. Let Chicago be an example of how we can change this situation around,” said Gardner.

“This is a change period of time. I will be meeting with the mayor I’m sure…but I’m putting it on your lap right now,” said Gardner referring to the Coalition of African American Leaders (C.O.A.L.) headed by Clarence Wood former chair of the Chicago’s Human Relation. “I expect you to take the leadership. I’ve going to commit to move forward, and I’ve already thought about our next move as far as I’m concern.

“Our next move unless I hear a positive fashion from the mayor will be down at City Hall with 10,000 people,” Gardner said. “A lot of white folks what we are doing and they are very happy and pleased that we’re finally doing it, but the charge of C.O.A.L. must mean what you are talking about and the results will be what counts.

“When I meet with the mayor and get the results, if it’s negative, the next following day of work that is available, we will have the same number of thousands to come out” as he did two-weeks ago at the Evergreen Park construction site.

Gardner asked the group to remain united “no splinters” and not complain about an individual not getting a job. “Our biggest job is much bigger than that.” Saying he wants Chicago to lead the nation in construction reform, Gardner said the problem of few blacks on construction sites is a national problem.

And former Ald. Dorothy Tillman (3rd) suggested supporters should treat Gardner “as our Rosa Parks.” She, like the host organization, the Coalition of African American Leaders (C.O.A.L.) headed by Clarence Wood, supports Mr. Gardner’s challenge to march on City Hall Wednesday if the mayor has not met with Mr. Gardner.

“Growing up in he Civil Rights movement since 9-year-old, I remember when Mrs. Parks refused to give up he seat to the white man…and when she did that the community came together and put a structure around Mrs. Parks to make sure what ever we were going to do would happen,” said Tillman. “I see Mr. Gardner as that Rosa Parks who refused to give up her seat. We have to put something around him. This is no game. I personally feel when the mayor said, ‘Who is Mr. Gardner’ and would not meet with him and went on WVON that is disrespectful…. Folks are working and you don’t see no black folks. We have to come and shut down these sites….”

“Rahm Emanuel has totally disrespected our elder. He doesn’t have to wait to see if he’s going to get a meeting. Who is Ed Gardner? If he doesn’t know who Ed Gardner is, he doesn’t need to be mayor,” Tillman said. “Mr. Gardner, you are our Rosa Parks.” She called for unity and told the audience “everybody has a role to play. Just find your space and get there….”

Last week, Mayor Emanuel did call Mr. Gardner and they talked for about ten-minutes; however, Gardner said he wanted a face-to-face meeting with Emanuel.

Saturday, Gardner was joined by a number of black officials including his son, Guy Gardner, former U.S. Senator Roland W. Burris, former School Supt. Dr. Manford Byrd, attorney Ernesto Borges, Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th), John Rogers, president/CEO Ariel Investments, activist Zakiyyah S. Muhammad; and others.

Referring to the C.O.A.L., a five-year-old organization that addresses the impact on the well being of the African American community, Gardner said, “I want no excuses. I want changes to take place.”

Saying he is just one person, Gardner added, “I want you to organize in such fashion that anything that has to be done to change the attitude of the union, change the attitude of the mayor, change the attitude of the governor of this state, change the attitude of the folks over there just West of us…” become a reality.

Gardner said he is expecting C.O.A.L. “to take the leadership and make things happen and make things change.” Gardner said C.O.A.L. is the biggest, largest, most successful organization off black men and women in this city.

“I’m not asking you to do anything but assume your responsibility,” Gardner said. “Don’t disappoint them…,” he told the crowd. “

“I want no excuses. I want changes to take place,” said the 87-year-old Gardner who two-weeks ago stuck his cane in freshly poured concrete at the 92nd and western construction site to protest the lack of blacks on that worksite.

Gardner emphasized he is just one person. Referring to a possible march on City Hall, Gardner said, “I want you to organize in such fashion that even if it has to be done to change the attitude of union, change the attitude of the mayor, change the attitude of the governor of this state, change the attitude of folks over there just west of us.”

Saying they do not have to find him to talk to him, Gardner said C.O.A.L. is the organization with whom they should work. He said it is C.O.A.L. that will take the leadership “and make things happen and make things change.”

But change and inclusion didn’t come for many in that meeting like Gardner’s own son, Guy, who failed to get a contract and Helen Crawley, president/CEO of the C&L Petroleum and Unicorn Oil Corporation, who is accusing the CTA of allegedly denying her a $2 million contract that was bid in March of 2012.

 Having signed an agreement allegedly saying she would get the bid, Crawley said she received an e-mail saying the bid was going to be rebidded. “They took out the 2 percent DBE out of the bid.” She, along with a representative from Rep. Bobby L. Rush’s office, talked to the CTA. “They put the 2 percent DBE portion back in.”

Crawley said the CTA “awarded the bid to a white female broker. She is not certified for oil. She’s certified for medical supplies, trucking, construction stuff, from toothpaste to dead bodies.” Crawley said she protested but was denied the bid and was told there was no 2 percent DBE portion in the bid. She continues to fight for the bid.

Making it clear, Clarence Wood said because Mayor Emanuel is in New York they are assuming he will return to Chicago before Mr. Gardner’s Wednesday deadline and that they would meet. Gardner said earlier if a meeting occurs he will report back to his supporters.

“At that time, this body will meet again to determine the next steps as it relates to the issue of African Americans being employed on construction jobs and getting other kinds of jobs throughout the city,” said Wood.  “We did not affirm a march. We did say if the mayor does not meet with him and if the consequences of the meeting is not satisfactory to Mr. Gardner, a march on City Hall will be considered.”

“We heard a message from Mr. Gardner and a challenge from Mr. Gardner…. The challenge will be accepted,” said Wood. “Our goal is to identify the problem, gather the information, analyze it and then do something about it to change it.”

Saying C.O.A.L. has a process, Wood said, “We were on the road. Mr. Gardner hastened our process. He did not identify a problem that we did not already know existed.” Wood added, “One of the most difficult things to do in the African American community is to bring us together on one or two issues at one time without someone becoming the dissident or the one who keeps us from achieving our goal.

“The critical challenge for us this morning is to work together,” Wood said referring to some who are “in different places” while others have “immediate needs…a job today. Some of us are able to make it tomorrow, but the critical piece is that we will come together, hear each other, talk about it, work on it, march about it and demand a change.”

Wood said the first they are challenged to do, as suggested by Tillman and others present, is to “acknowledge the fact together Mr. Gardner has not been respected the way we believe he ought to be respected by the leadership of our city,” he said getting a round of applause.

Wood and Tillman were referring to the late Rosa Parks who in 1955 refused to give up her bus seat to a white man and as a result she was arrested. Her refusal to give up her seat sparked a Montgomery bus boycott that ultimately led to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling against separate but equal practice giving blacks a victory after a 381-day boycott. 

Like Rosa Parks, Tillman said Mr. Gardner has taken a stand against the locking out of African Americans on construction sites across the city and the state.

Agreeing with Tillman, Wood said, “Mr. Gardner has told us what he wants us to do about that. He has said he will wait for a call and meet with the mayor, and he will report back the consequences of that meeting and determine whether we need to do something beyond that in two-days. We will take action with Mr. Gardner related to that meeting.”

Taking a quote from the late Dorothy Height, who headed the National Council of Negro Women, Wood said, “The power of the black community is in its feet and in its pocket book; so the time has some for us to use our feet and our pocketbooks.”

Attorney Borges, who is a member of C.O.A.L., was happy with the meeting and an issue “we can wrap our arms around and start a movement.” Borges said Gardner “is the spark” and likes the idea of making him the Rosa Parks in this construction movement. “When you realize what they did in Montgomery, Alabama under a lot more severe conditions back in 1955, it is inspiring. I hope the movement keeps moving forward…. We are beginning to come together and doing something.”

“Mr. Gardner has also asked us to establish a process by which we can identify those who are ready to bid or perform” on contracts.” Wood reached out to Ms. Taylor to help C.O.A.L. in developing proper data on how to bid on contracts.

“We do not have time to wait for the first Friday of November.” Wood said the next meeting for C.O.A.L. would be next Saturday, October 13, 2012. The location has yet to be determined.

Althea Taylor, president of the Taylor Made Industries, said many people wanting to bid on jobs don’t know the numbers or how to do the proper paperwork. She said her organization could help blacks set up businesses and assist them to get contracts with all levels of government.

Taylor told the group that the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) “has a contract that is about $4 million that has been given out to help minority women funds. There are management support services to help them set up their businesses…and technical support services that could help them to bid on a contract….”

Taylor said, “You can’t go and put a white firm inside of a company that is supposed to be helping minority firms. The minority firms are not getting the education and direction they need.” Taylor said on the technical side, blacks are not getting the technical support they need. She can help African Americans on the education and technical aspects of getting contracts.

Youth leader, Tamiko Holt, a journeyman carpenter who also heads a CHA’s council, urged the coalition to include the youth in heir meetings. Referring to older blacks, Holt said, “Our problem is the older generation who has been in the room, been in play for 40-years. They have been speaking for us, acting on our behalf without us being in the room. They think because they’ve been in play for so long, that we don’t know nothing.”  Holt wants C.O.A.L. to include youth in their meetings.

Craig Wimberly, chairman of COAL’s Public Policy Committee, said, “The challenge for us, the real challenge, is for us to work together on something that we agree on whether we like each other or not. The goal is about black folks. I don’t have to eat with you, sleep with you, but I want to do something about helping black folks and that is the maturity and that is what we have to get to,” he said.

In support of Mr. Gardner, the C.O.A.L. organization issued a statement of support for Mr. Gardner saying he has “taken a giant step in stopping worksites where the representation from the African-American community is minimal, if existent at all.

“He has called on all of us to stand with him and for the thousands of African Americans who need work and whose  we should, as the member club organizations of C.O.A.L., stand with him not just on 95th Street but also at worksites throughout the city of Chicago.
The time is now to make the movement needed to offer opportunity, inclusion and justice come alive. Let’s join Ed in this effort and pledge our commitment in the other struggles that will be required of us as we continue our move toward full equality and justice,” stated the C.O.A.L. organization in a statement.

Chinta Strausberg is a Journalist of more than 33-years, a former political reporter and a current PCC Network talk show host. You can e-mail Strausberg at: Chintabernie@aol.com.