Two cool books on race relations from a University of Chicago Graduate

I get about a dozen magazines a week, and many of them are collecting on a pile in the corner of my bedroom, and most of them I skim quickly. But the one magazine that always has interesting content and that I read thoroughly is the University of Chicago Magazine. (NOTE – I am a U of Chicago Booth School of Business MBA ’79 – read my 2-part blog about recently returning for my 40-year class reunion.)

The Spring 2019 edition had several interesting articles that coincided well with my diversity and inclusion consulting business. These included:
• Toward a more diverse and inclusive Uchicago (page 9)
• Lieber Erich about a play inspired by the author finding a box of old letters written by his grandmother for Nazi Germany before losing her life in the Holocaust. (page 48)
• One Person’s Power about a 1968 African-American graduate, Sybil Jordan Hampton, who attended Little Rock Central High School two years after the famed “Little Rock 9” enrolled following the Supreme Court Ruling Brown vs. Board of Education (page 52)
• And the article this blog is about, “History Matters” featuring Claire Hartfield’s (JD ’82) two books for young readers (but excellent for old readers too!) (page 14)

Ms. Hartfield’s “day job” was overseeing the development of school desegregation plans for the cities of Chicago and Rockfield, Illinois, and in her own words was inspired to write books to tell “some stories that were not being told, important stories.”

The first book is a children’s book entitled “Me and Uncle Romie.” It’s the story of young African – American boy who is sent by train up from rural North Carolina to Harlem in New York City (for his first time) to stay with his Uncle Romie and Aunt Nanette while his mother was toward the end of a difficult pregnancy. In addition to experiencing the fascinating sights and sounds of New York City, he started to learn more about his mysterious Uncle Romie who seemed to spend hours holed up in his art studio.

Jammin’ at the Savoy by Romare Bearden

Though initially a little frightened and unsure about his uncle, the boy grows to appreciate his uncle and his art, and eventually decides to try his own hand at being creative. NOTE: Uncle Romie is an actual person, Romare Bearden – link (1911 – 1988) who became a well-known collage-style painter residing in Harlem.

The book has an appendix at the back with instructions on how to create collage art.

The second book is geared toward teen and young adult readers, though perfect for all adults, “A Few Red Drops – The Chicago Race Riot of 1919.” On July 27, 1919, a white man threw a rock at hit and killed a teenage black boy at the beach, which exploded into several days of intense rioting that engulfed Chicago’s South Side. What is excellent about this book, is that after shortly recounting the murder, Ms. Hartfield goes through all the dynamics from the past several decades that created the environment that provided the impetus for this explosion.

Some of these factors included several societal issues that are still present in America today:
• Overcrowded and poor living conditions
• The struggles between immigrants from Europe and blacks (freed slaves and their children) moving to Chicago to seek a better life
• Business owners who were exploiting workers with long hours and low wages, and pitting the groups against each other
• Lawless gangs protecting their turf and terrorizing citizens with little intervention from law enforcement.

This thoughtful exploration of the second half of the 19th century and the early 20th of south side Chicago faithfully documents a part of history that needs to be remembered and learned from.

I thank the University of Chicago Magazine for bringing this author and her books to light, and I thank Claire Hartfield (link to Claire’s website) for gifting us with these two important literary contributions.

Five Lessons for our Country from the World Champion Soccer Team and Megan Rapinoe

The US Women’s Soccer Team Celebrates at New York’s City Hall (photo courtesy of The Nation)

Brittney Spears sang “Whoops, I did it again.” And now the US Women’s Soccer Team has done it again – coming home in 2019 with their 4th world cup championship. In her short remarks in New York City, team co-captain Megan Rapinoe challenges all of us to take some lessons out of the women’s soccer team playbook to build a better country and better society. (link to CNN video).

Here are five of those lessons:

1. Diversity wins! Megan highlighted that a diverse set of women came together to create this winning team; white girls, black girls and those in between …. Straight girls and gay girls … girls with pink hair, purple hair, tattoos and deadlocks. Her point being that the team did not dwell on these differences and allow the differences to divide them, but instead came together as a cohesive team, celebrating their uniqueness and bringing it all together to win. As one of the most diverse countries in the world, we can come together with all the unique gifts that everyone brings to create a special and strong union instead of it creating division.

Megan Rapinoe with world cup trophy (Image courtesy of Esquire)

2. Everyone matters! Megan went through a long litany of all the support people who assisted the team in winning their championship; it was just not those women seated on the podium. Megan thanked everyone who contributed to their success: coaches, medical staff, videographers, security team and even the team chefs. And she thanked the US Soccer Federation President Carlos Cordeiro, with whom they have been some issues. She used this particular public forum to thank and honor him even though there have been some serious issues behind the scenes.

3. Be better and be positive! Megan issued a charge to every person listening at the event … to love more and hate less, to listen more and talk less. It is everybody’s responsibility to contribute their best in making the world a better place.

Megan Rapinoe (left) with girlfriend WNBA player Sue Bird (Image courtesy of yahoo)

4. Use your platform to impact the world for good. Megan made the point that now that the eyes of the world and the country are upon them as the world cup winners, that they have a responsibility to use their power and their platform to impact the world for good.

5. Collaboration instead of contention. Megan closed with the point that sadly, there is so much contention within our nation. Instead we need to work together and collaborate.

In the past, I have blogged often about the connection between sports and diversity and leadership. And I am pleased that our nation’s women’s soccer team and co-captain Megan Rappinoe has again highlighted how we as individuals and a society can learn from athletics and athletes.

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Blog author Stan Kimer, Founder and President of Total Engagement Consulting by Kimer, is a diversity and career development consultant and trainer.

Here are some of my earlier blogs featuring athletics along with diversity and leadership:

Five Key Messages on The Importance of Out Gay Olympic Athletes

Three Wonderful Recent Examples of Diversity in Sports

US Figure Skating’s Fantastic New Campaign: “Get Up!” Yes, in all aspects of our lives, we may fall, but the more times we get up and persevere, the stronger we become. In addition, I wrote a year-long series of “get up” blogs.

Lessons in Character from a Young Teen, about a young man who bounced back from disastrous defeat to become a champion.