Black Mecca

“That period of time—growing up in Gary, Indiana, I would not want to be anywhere else in the world.”

Editing by Welcome Project intern Brandi Casada.

Transcript for Black Mecca

1967 is when Mayor Hatcher won. And I was at Bailey then. That was an exciting time for me because on the weekends, we would go out and go door-to-door. There was a guy named Lou Drinkard, and Lou took the young people, and he would take us in his car over to Operation Push in Chicago, and he would take us going door-to-door for Mayor Hatcher, and I remember my little project that I thought of—there were these little Charms suckers—they’re about this round—and they had little stickers that said ‘Hatcher’ about that big, and I put them on there, and I’d pass them out on the bus, so, and I’d say, ‘Now go home and tell your parents they have to vote for Mayor Hatcher. But I was very excited about my dad and my mom worked very hard—especially my dad worked really hard—in the campaign. And that night was one that I’ll never forget. When he did win, and I remember my mom and I were at home trying to listen to the radio. My dad was down there and he came and got us. 21st and Broadway was closed off completely, and people were just there, just excited, and happy.

But I do remember on that bus that next morning everybody was excited. Even the people whose parents probably weren’t for the mayor—at this point, everybody was for Mayor Hatcher, ok? And we were all excited, and especially to being bussed to Glen Park and Bailey School because there was tension.

I think our energy, our positive and excited energy, was making them uncomfortable, and I don’t think they were—and they showed on their face that they weren’t happy about it. And to be honest, as I think about it now—and today, I would say this would be surprising to me that there weren’t some children whose parents had supported Mayor Hatcher. But then, we’re in Glen Park. And in Miller, there were a lot of whites who supported him and maybe not so much in Glen Park because I can’t remember like, someone coming and saying, ‘Oh, I’m really happy about this,’ or, you know, ‘I’m with you,’ or, ‘My parents voted for him.’ I don’t remember any of that. It was strictly on racial lines with us. But we were obviously very happy on that day when we got back to school.

You know, a lot of people talk a lot about Mayor Hatcher winning for mayor, and of course, that was spectacular, and he was the first elected of a major city, but before him was Mayor Katz, who was Jewish, and they were equally—people in this community were equally not happy about there being a Jewish mayor. So, there was a time, just a feeling going on during that time in ’66, ’67 before the mayor—when he won in ’67, but that whole timeframe right there was not—it was just a time of transition, but not everybody was happy about the transition.

That period of time—growing up in Gary, Indiana, I would not want to be anywhere else in the world. Because as a result of him becoming the mayor, it became like, literally, the black Mecca for this country. And everybody wanted to come to Gary, no matter who they were: if they were an entertainer of some sort, if they were involved in politics—you name it, they came. And so, I was able to, you know, be up and close with these people. I don’t think I would have that opportunity anywhere else.  

I don’t care where I went—if I went somewhere, and they said, ‘Well, where are you from?’ and I said, ‘Gary,’ their eyes lit up, and they were like, ‘You’re from Gary? Do you know—of course—the Jackson Five? Do you know Richard Hatcher?’ And people were just excited. ‘Well, tell me about—you know, growing up in Gary. What was it like? Did you ever see the Jacksons? Was Mayor Hatcher—was he like this or that?’ And so, it was exciting.

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