The following is a poem excerpted from Chicago poet and activist Kevin Coval’s forthcoming book A People’s History of Chicago. The book will be published on March 4 by Haymarket Books and will include a foreword by Chance the Rapper. The book, says Coval, “flips to the b-side of history in the tradition of Howard Zinn, Ida B. Wells, and the counter-narrators to American terror and mainstream whitewashing.” He wants to “set the record straight and remix it and dig in the crates to rescue and retell some of the best and most radical and real and celebratory and difficult parts of our Chicago story.” The book begins before the arrival of Europeans in North America and ends with the Chicago Cubs’s World Series victory late last year.
Look for a full review of A People’s History in the coming weeks, plus further coverage of Coval’s planned “year-long journey” around Chicago—he plans to give readings and talks in each of the city’s seventy-seven community areas by the end of 2017.
The Father Is a Black Man
There is not a single street in the city of Chicago named in honor of the Black man who founded this city, not an alley…but John Kinzie, a white man, who came after DuSable, when DuSable was forced out or pushed out or whatever, he ended up with DuSable’s property, & Kinzie has a bridge, Kinzie has a street, Kinzie has a building, & all he did was buy DuSable’s house.
Lerone Bennett, Jr.
the father is mixed. the father is Black.
his mother a slave. his father a french
mariner. the first non-Native
to settle in Chicago
Jean Baptiste Point duSable
was a hustler.
he worked the trap.
traded pelts at the frontier.
a Potawatomi woman
he saw sailing the Mississippi.
the traditional ceremony
officiated by a Chief.
the father was cool
with the Indigenous.
they settled at the mouth
of the river, where the tribune sits
spewing untruths in english.
DuSable spoke spanish, french, english
& several Native dialects.
the father a genius.
he made okra & oxtails
with sos pwa noir, a black bean
sauce, & joumou,
a pumpkin stew
harvested from the acres he farmed.
his house had a large stone fireplace
a piano, a garden & orchard.
he collected paintings, mirrors
& walnut furniture.
the father had style
and maybe some gators.
he finessed pesos, pounds & francs
from folks traveling thru town, down
the river, out west or back east. he stayed
serving. awash in wampums. the father was ballin.
his granddaughter, the first non-Native born
in Chicago, was mixed. the first child was mixed.
the father, a product
of terror & rape.
the father, the city
forgets, is mixed
the mix made the British
nervous. a body protestants
couldn’t wrap their heads around.
the father is a Black man
pushed out by a white man
rich & thirsty.
DuSable left to die
far from the city
built with his hands.
his mixed hands.
his Black hands.
the father is a Black man.
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