By Juanita Bratcher
On Saturday, November 1, Probation Challenge and the PCC Network – both under the direction of Rev. Harold E. Bailey – held a Chicago Mayoral Candidates Debate at St. Paul Community Development Ministries, 4526 S. Wabash, in Chicago.
The mayoral debate was interesting, enlightening, impressive, informative and, yes, refreshing, an excellent show of attendanceâ€¦and a shot-in-the-arm for many of those who attended. They quickly filled the seating capacity of the room and many were standing, lined up around the walls to hear what the fiveÂ candidates had to say about issues they were concerned about â€“ the escalating crime rate in Chicago (specifically gun violence), the city of Chicago set-aside program in regards to minorities getting their fair share of contract letting, jobs, minimum raise increase, the TIF (Tax Increment Financing) program, the closing of 54 public schools in mostly black neighborhoods, whether it would be better to move away from an appointed school board to an elected school board, the high cost of feeding parking meters and if at all possible can the city get out of the parking meter contract; red light cameras and speed traps, abandoned vacant homes and buildings, low-income housing, education and anything else that came up on the agenda. It was obvious that people were hungry for knowledge and that they cared about the happenings in this city that needed to be addressed. They appreciated Rev. Bailey for his efforts, and they said as much, Â for bringing the forum to them, giving them a platform so their voices could be heard in an organized mannerâ€¦structureâ€¦and in a sophisticated setting.
It was an event that was certainly needed, and one (whatever subject matter to unite the community) should have occurred a long time ago. And who better to do it than Rev. Bailey, some attendees said after the event; to be able to bring such a gathering together after a long dry-period devoid of any serious interaction to bring the community together in such astounding dialogue.
A panel of respected Journalists â€“ Chinta Strausberg, PCC Talk Show Host and Editor-In-Chief of 3:16 Magazine; Art Norman, NBC; and Author Juanita Bratcher, Publisher & CEO of CopyLine Magazine – polled questions of the candidates. Facilitator was Elder Kevin Ford, St. Paul Community Development, and Bailey served as Commentator. Others participating in the event were Judge Mary Maxwell Thomas, Judge William Cousins and Pastor Mitty Collier, More Like Christ Ministries.
All invited candidates appeared at the debate with the exception of incumbent Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Candidates Appearing at the Debate:
Dr. Amara Enyia
Robert â€˜Bobâ€™ Shaw
William â€˜Dockâ€™ Walls
For some time now, I, as well as others, have been involved in debatable conversations at small private home gatherings as to what happened to black activism in Chicago. Why had everything gotten so quiet on the political front when back in the 1980s Black activists were out and about taking care of business in seeing that our voices are heard? Some of the void was pointed to the deaths of several activists and some to oldsters that are now immobile.
Iâ€™ve been a Journalist now for two months short of 39 years. I remember entering the newspaper industry as a cub news reporter in 1976, two weeks before I hustled down the aisle at graduation to pick up my Bachelorâ€™s Degree in Journalism. Today, I consider myself a veteran journalist and I revel in the fact that Iâ€™m pretty much up on knowing the tricks and trade of politics and many of the players.
I got a good baptism into politics in 1983 when I was assigned to the campaign trail of Congressman Harold Washington who was then running for mayor of the city of Chicago. I had just returned back to the country after a fact-finding mission assignment in Israel on the war in Beirut.
There were so many meetings going on back then in the black community that dealt with education, housing, set-aside program, healthcare, politics and a myriad of other issues. There was an over-plus of city activists that knew how to get things done, politically, strategically and otherwise.
In 1983, many of those activists who usually worked together in some regard started looking at the idea of pushing for a black mayor of Chicago, after becoming angry and frustrated with Mayor Jane Byrne Administration. Meetings, strategizing and planning were on target in every sense of the word.
The late popular and renowned Journalist Lu Palmer and his organization, CBUC, held a Plebiscite at Bethel A.M.E. Church, 4444 S. Michigan Ave., one of the largest black churches on the south side of Chicago to select a black candidate to run for mayor in 1983.
And at that Plebiscite, a group of grassroots organizations selected Washington as the Number One choice from a list of 10 blacks to run for mayor. The initial list had included some 21 names. Not that he was interested in running for mayor â€“ and he said as much â€“ but community activists were well abreast of the political arena and politics as a whole, and refused to let him off the hook. Washington had served as an assistant Corporation Counsel, a state representative, state senator and was a sitting Congressman. And he had many legislative achievements under his belt.
They knew that he was well-qualified to take on the task, and they were ready to work and get others involved to make that happen. They finally got him to say â€˜yesâ€™. Harold would carry the banner but there were strings attached. Harold requested that they:
* Add 50,000 new voters to the voter registration roll (they doubled that amount and more)
* Put in place adequate campaign funding to launch such an endeavor.
A Black mayor for Chicago? There were naysayers outside and inside the Black community that felt it couldnâ€™t happen. But that mindset didnâ€™t stop those who felt that it could happen. And the rest is history. Harold won the mayoralty over his two opponents â€“ the incumbent Mayor Jane Byrne and then Stateâ€™s Attorney Richard M. Daley. After the death of Harold Washington in 1987, Alderman Eugene Sawyer was selected by the Chicago City Council to serve as interim mayor, and in a special election in 1989, Daley was elected to the post.
In addition to Rev. Bailey being the Founder & President of Probation Challenge & the PCC Network, he is a former Cook County Adult Probation Officer, served in the courtroom of the late Judge R. Eugene Pincham. He was also Chairman of the Cook County Board of Corrections, and started his Probation Challenge program in 1979.
Probation Challenge is the first program of its kind in the country, and has helped thousands and thousands of youth, sending them back into society as meaningful and productive citizens. Many of his clients have gone on to various collegesÂ and universities.
After Saturdayâ€™s Mayoral Candidates Debate, many were looking forward to Baileyâ€™s continued leadership in bringing the community back together for informational dialogue, suggesting that Bailey had done an excellent job of bringing black Chicagoans back together again in serious dialogue, something that was clearly needed â€“ and that strong activism that was once alive and well in the trenches of the neighborhoods in years past will now go on to greater heights.
Will Rev. Bailey step up to the plate? More likely than not…he will.
Sponsors and supporters of the event were: South Shore Gardens Betterment Association, Demetrius Evans, Jason Cotton, Sheila Cummings & Food Company, More Like Christ Ministries, Feed A Neighbor Program, Probation Challenge, Food Assistance Program, Chicago Street Journal, CopyLine Magazine, PCC Network, 3:16 Magazine
Probation Challenge Board of Directors/Advisors are: Geri Patterson, Claudette Henderson, Hurbert C. Jackson, Queen Mother Helen Sinclair, Howard Saffold, and Clarence McMillan.
Juanita Bratcher is an Award-Winning Journalist, the Publisher of www.copylinemagazine.com and the author of several books, songwriter and poet. She has been a Journalist for more than 38 years covering politics, education and a wide-range of other topics.