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Chicagoetry: Treadwell At The DuSable Museum

Treadwell at the DuSable Museum

In the early '90s
We got stoned
Out of our living gourds -

Me, G.F. Fox and Seamus
(Representing West Town,
Ravenswood & De Paul) -

And made a drive south to
The DuSable Museum
Of African American History.

We weren't quite sure
What to expect.
Until Ruth & Marianne

Introduced me to Yoko & Sean
In the Peace Museum elevator,
I didn't know from

"Small," dedicated museums.
Growing up in Naperville,
We took yearly school field trips

To the Field Museum of Natural History
And the Museum of Science & Industry.
I'd bring a peanut butter sandwich

And a banana.

We expected room upon room
Of dioramas, artefacts, costumes,
Armor, giant hearts, submarines, dinosaurs . . .

The DuSable seemed rather
Small in that respect,
Though the setting did

Have the gravitas of
An old, Beaux-Arts bank.
In the main room

Was a single wood-carving
That took up an entire wall.
We didn't quite get it.

Until Treadwell stepped up!
Treadwell was what I now know
As a docent, because

I'm an architecture docent now.
Treadwell said to call him "Tread,"
And then the man, by God,

Got to work.
He began to tell a story,
An epic poem, really,

Animating the wall carving
Which depicted

The African American journey
From Africa, to the American South,
Then the Great Migration North

To the present day.
We started to get it,
I mean, to really, really get it.

Treadwell was a Master Teacher.
He made that wall-sized carving
Come to vivid, visceral, furious life.

Then he led us to
A small room adjacent,

Which turned out to display
The most virulent, vulgar and vile
Depictions of African Americans

In popular graphic culture
Until, regrettably, fairly recently.
We learned it was critical

Not to look away but to
"Face that music."
We were inspired, confused

And, ultimately, we agreed
On the drive home, utterly mortified.
Mission Accomplished!

I think of Tread affectionately
And with deep gratitude
Whenever I see Buck O'Neil

In my bi-monthly screenings of
Ken Burns' "Baseball," John Hope Franklin,
Timuel Black. True story.

Happy February.

-

J.J. Tindall is the Beachwood's poet-in-residence. He welcomes your comments. Chicagoetry is an exclusive Beachwood collection-in-progress.

-

More Tindall:

* Chicagoetry: The Book

* Ready To Rock: The Music

* The Viral Video: The Match Game Dance



Permalink

Posted on February 4, 2019


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PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - County To Historic Wash Park Bank: Drop Dead.


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