November 25th, marks the 25th anniversary of the loss of Chicago's first African American mayor, Harold Washington, here's my recollection as a kid on the southeast side.
I remember his election and never had the city been that electric.
I remember his hearty laugh, his formal and boisterous voice.
I remember the excitement he brought to the south side and the changes he took to city hall.
I remember the “council wars” and the struggles he went through with “Fast Eddie” Vrodylak & Ed Burke.
I remember my grandfather who couldn’t believe we had a black mayor, it was something he never thought he would see.
I remember (though I was in grade school), wearing Harold’s campaign buttons with my classmates and the pride we felt.
I remember his weekly radio conferences on Saturday mornings, listening to them with my mother and learning something every week.
I remember people feeling like “they knew” Harold because he came to our churches and “spoke to us” and people taking ownership as this was “our mayor”.
I remember him bringing credibility back to the fifth floor of city hall, with grace, professionalism yet still keeping it light.
I remember him being a reader; he always had a book and loved libraries and my teachers making sure we knew that about him.
I remember that he lived in Hyde Park, on the south side, where my family often hung out, so he had to be cool.
I remember his re-election in early 1987 and it seemed like things would really change.
I remember him setting an example for us young people, he told us to get our education, stay out of trouble and it sounded so more eloquent coming from him than our parents & teachers.
I remember Harold liked to eat, he liked the soul foods restaurants on the south side, particularly the old Army & Lou’s and also Izola’s on 75th.
I remember the day he died, Thanksgiving Eve 1987, the confusion, sorrow and feeling like “our guy” was gone too soon.
I remember the funeral at Christ Universal Temple, it rained that day, never had I seen the city so sad.
I remember later visiting his grave at Oakwood cemetery early the next year and still felt profound lost, of what could have been.
I remember 21 years later seeing President Barack Obama being elected to the highest office in the land and feeling that pride and excitement all over again.