Interview with Slim Coleman

OK, tell me your story of the dinner.


Let me start it this way. For really almost 20 years, ah, Chicago was unique in the sense that in poor White neighborhoods, in Puerto Rican neighborhoods, in Mexican neighborhoods, in Black neighborhoods, both on the South and the West Side, grassroots community organizations had found ways to work together on different issues. It was a unity that I think that the machine and the power structure in general didn't understand. It wasn't based on cutting up the piece of the pie. It was based on, we had something in common and we worked together on those particular issues that we had in common. We had come to, ah, a pretty good common analysis of what was going on in the city, that the city was not being planned, we were not in the future plans of the planners of the city of Chicago, The, ah, a lot of those different issue coalitions were brought together in a, what we call, an All Chicago City News Dinner in 1982 where Harold Washington was the keynote speaker. Ah, and it, ah, you could that in every, in the room there were about 150 tables and at each table were, you'd have the, the 27th ward group against higher utility rates. And at this table you'd have the, ah, third ward group for better education, ah, in other words all these different grassroots organizations, we had found enough in every ward in the city, that we could cover, ah, 42 wards. We had organizations to go out there and do the work in 42 wards. This was before the voter registration drive. In face one of the goals that we set at that dinner was, we're going to register like crazy this summer. The, ah, I think Harold's, ah, Harold was kind of surprised, ah, he came, he was a congressman then, ah, somebody that we really thought a lot about anyway and had worked with on other issues. He came to the dinner and he listened to the speeches and, ah, he listened to, ah, the, ah, different people that was in the crowd, ah, enthusiasm that he talked about, he saw in the crowd. And he, he, you know, Harold was a politician and he looked at all the sides, saying, third ward, fourth ward, fifth ward, 32nd ward, 46th ward, we, we really got this, we kind of got the cover here, we got the wards covered and there was a lot of people, lot of enthusiasm, ah, so we were, I was introducing him, ah, and, ah, and I said, ah, I want you all just to think about this. Suppose that you had a problem where the police had busted into your office and, ah, you got so mad you couldn't get any, any, any, ah, redress for it. So you went down to the fifth floor and you walked up, you know that little guard that sits there, the sergeant and you say, "Sergeant, I want to see the mayor." And the sergeant went back and, ah.