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posted: 5/26/2016 5:22 AM

Elgin activist says lynching mural could open good dialogue

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  • Ernie Broadnax of Elgin stops outside a home on Hickory Place in Elgin. Broadnax is a lifelong resident of the three-block neighborhood called "the settlement," where most black residents lived throughout the 20th century.

    Ernie Broadnax of Elgin stops outside a home on Hickory Place in Elgin. Broadnax is a lifelong resident of the three-block neighborhood called "the settlement," where most black residents lived throughout the 20th century.
    Daily Herald File Photo

 
 

Lifelong Elgin resident Ernie Broadnax remembers being a small, scared child when the Ku Klux Klan marched up Dundee Avenue past his dad's cobbler shop in the 1940s. He was there when his childhood friends devised a scheme to jump into the city's whites-only swimming pool one hot afternoon, which resulted in it being drained. As Elgin Community College's only black basketball player at the time, Broadnax sometimes had to sleep on buses when the team stayed at hotels that served only whites. Later, he was the first black man to occupy downtown office space when he ran the city's first interracial after-school program. Working to defuse a 1972 race riot, he was stabbed deep in the arm with a hair pick.

Broadnax, 80, told me this week he often reflects on how much life in Elgin has changed since his childhood. It's through that long lens of Elgin's complex and racially diverse history, he says, that residents should view the controversial downtown mural that depicts a crowd at a 1930 Indiana lynching and think about both how far the city has come and has yet to go.

A mural in downtown Elgin was found to be a replica of part of an infamous photograph of the lynching of two black men in Indiana in 1930. The mural depicts the crowd, but not the men who were hanged.
  A mural in downtown Elgin was found to be a replica of part of an infamous photograph of the lynching of two black men in Indiana in 1930. The mural depicts the crowd, but not the men who were hanged. - Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

'Golden opportunity'

Broadnax, who's known "American Nocturne" mural artist David Powers since his school days, says he doesn't view the mural as racist, but as a "depiction of our American history."

As the city prepares to host two meetings next month to gather input on the mural, Broadnax says his phone has been ringing off the hook from friends and neighbors seeking his perspective.

"This is a golden opportunity for us to seize, to turn this (controversy) into a plus for our city," Broadnax says, calling the dialogue a good thing. "If people are going to live and work and pay taxes here in Elgin they should learn a little of its history."

Illinois Rep. Jack Franks of Marengo argues legislation in Springfield.
Illinois Rep. Jack Franks of Marengo argues legislation in Springfield. - Associated Press Photo

The money race

Democratic state Rep. Jack Franks of Marengo has an early fundraising lead over Republican Michael Walkup of Crystal Lake in the race for McHenry County chairman. A look at the opponents' war chests, reported to the state board of elections as of Wednesday, shows Franks reported having $37,681 in cash on hand April 15, but has since raised another $8,500. Walkup, meanwhile, formed a political action committee on May 9 that reported having $1,817 in the bank.

Full circle

Former Blackhawks great Chris Chelios was in the news this week for his visit to Springfield, where he advocated for legislation regulating daily fantasy sports. Which reminded me of a sweet, life-comes-full-circle nugget I recently learned about. Chelios' daughters have been standouts on Northwestern University's lacrosse team, which happens to be coached by Kelly Amonte Hiller, the sister of Chelios' Blackhawks' teammate, Tony Amonte. Caley Chelios graduated last spring, and sister Tara is a sophomore this year.

Besting

Daily Herald film critic Dann Gire tells me ticket pre-sales for the Chicago Film Critics Festival, which wraps up Thursday, are up 20 percent from last year and represent the best ticket pre-sales of the past four years. The festival was the brainchild of Elk Grove Village film critic Erik Childress and is operated by Chicago film critics, who select all the movies shown. Today's films -- billed as "recent festival favorites and as-yet-undistributed works" will be shown at Chicago's Music Box Theatre and include "Beauty and the Beast" at 2 p.m., "American Fable" at 4 p.m., "First Girl I Loved" at 6 p.m. and "Operator" at 8:30 p.m. For more information, see https://chicagocriticsfilmfestival.com/.

PHOTO COURTESY OF RON SANDACK  Today's snap: As the scheduled adjournment of the Illinois General Assembly's spring session approaches, state Rep. Ron Sandack of Downers Grove took a deep breath and decided to physically rise above the budget impasse for a few minutes by climbing to the top of the state Capitol. "Taking a page from my colleague and friend (fellow GOP Rep.) Steven Andersson. A cup of coffee with a beautiful view & nice breeze is a good way to gather your thoughts and relax prior to what will likely be a very busy and challenging day," he said on Facebook.
PHOTO COURTESY OF RON SANDACK Today's snap: As the scheduled adjournment of the Illinois General Assembly's spring session approaches, state Rep. Ron Sandack of Downers Grove took a deep breath and decided to physically rise above the budget impasse for a few minutes by climbing to the top of the state Capitol. "Taking a page from my colleague and friend (fellow GOP Rep.) Steven Andersson. A cup of coffee with a beautiful view & nice breeze is a good way to gather your thoughts and relax prior to what will likely be a very busy and challenging day," he said on Facebook. -

Today's snap: As the scheduled adjournment of the Illinois General Assembly's spring session approaches, state Rep. Ron Sandack of Downers Grove took a deep breath and decided to physically rise above the budget impasse for a few minutes by climbing to the top of the state Capitol. "Taking a page from my colleague and friend (fellow GOP Rep.) Steven Andersson. A cup of coffee with a beautiful view & nice breeze is a good way to gather your thoughts and relax prior to what will likely be a very busy and challenging day," he said on Facebook.

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