I am Black Chicago


I am Black Chicago

Born on the southside

Flavored with the west-side

Footprints on the north side

A Provident baby

Delivered by dr steptoe

Went to school in a willis wagon

And 6 or 7 grammer schools

From shoop to burnside to lewis-champlain

Hung out at the YMCA

Learned to shoot pool at the BBF

Got fifty-leven cousins all over Chi-town

Some of them were the true OGB’s

(original gang-bangers, back in the day)

growing up Black in Chicago

I know what it meant

To get out of cicero before dark

To get off the ‘L’ downtown

And have the po-leece jack you up

I remember when we couldn’t go to

Marshall Field’s, Carson Pirie Scott or Sears & Roebuck

I laughed my troubles away at Riverview

(way before Go Cart Land & Fun Town)

listened to the poets and drummers

as they Pointed to the Afro-Arts

before there was Earth, Wind and Fire

there was Artistic Heritage Ensemble

when Amazon and Hiddekel were learning how to braid

when Darlene Blackburn was just starting to dance

when OBASI came on the scene

when the Bud Billiken Parade was Black folks

(and mickey mouse wouldn’t be caught dead in washington park)

and blue lights in the basement quarter parties

is where I first learned how to ‘grind’

and got fonky with James Brown’s ‘cold sweat’

drinking white port and kool-aid

smokin reefer and doo-whoppin under the viaduct

going to Lem’s for some tips at 2AM

and throwing up at 4

being ‘gouster’ or ‘ivy league’

working at 63rd and halsted

sneaking in the show

puttin’ balloons on the spokes of our bikes

and riding up and down the ramps

of the dan ryan before it opened

seeing the 5 Stairsteps beat the Jackson 5

at the Regal Theatre talent shows

ditching classes by hiding out in the oldest parts

of the ‘castle’ of Englewood


I am Black Chicago

Where Soul Train started

Where Chaka Kanye West come from

Where Quincy Jones sat at the feet of the elders

In Bronzeville’s international music colleges

Where you can jet to ebony to defend her

Who walks around all day with nothing on but


the voice of the negro/nation

Gwen Brooks sprang from the breast of us

Harold Washington spoke to the best in us

the policy kings organized the rest of us

and the mobs have truly tested us

tried to turn our heroes into dust to dust

stole our history-left us pixie dust

but they never really busted us

where we used to own the vote

where we used to hold the note

where we used to sail our boat

where we put fur to coat

I am Black Chicago

Africa was my mother

DuSable was my father

I have family all over america

And you may even be kin to me

This is where Charlie chewed

Where Nat Cole kinged

Where Joe Louis scronched

Where Lena horned and Billie holidaid

Where Ernie banked

Where Oscar browned

Where Jerry butlered

Where the Duke was earled

Where Yvonne danieled

And the Chi-Lites seen her

Where engle wooded

Where princeton parked

Where chester fielded

Where rose landed

Where cottage groved

Where altgeld gardened

Where spooks sit by the door

And Pervis don’t want to talk to no mens

I am Black Chicago

From the lakefront all the way to ford city

From heavenston down to cal city

From maywood to blue island

That’s me in gary and over in k-town

This is where freedom rang

When Mahalia sang

Where GoodFellows clubbed

And schoolteachers subbed

Where thousands have passed thru the cook county jail

And the almighty hawk’s told many a tale

Where Dr Margaret told us children we were Black

And carried a whole museum on her back

I’m the projects and the Globetrotters

I’m baptist and catholic and sanctified

And the Nation of Islam

I am the center of Chicago

And the soul of your life

I am Black Chicago


(to be continued)

--The Author--