" The Importance of Learning From the Past."
Emmett Till Bridge
Art Critic and WHPK radio interviewer, Nathaniel McLin,
Mama Di, an Emmet Till creator-activist for the Bridge
and Emmett Till supporters at the bridge dedication.
Emmett Till family members, community leaders and
supporters of the bridge gathered for this historic event.
The artist, Kimberly Yancy speaks on the creation
of the art installation. She explains the meanings of the African Andinkra symbols which are located on the commemorative art plaque and also permanently inscribed on the bridge sidewalks.
A long time coming!!
A celebration of the strength of Mamie Till.
Arts critic, Nathaniel McLin celebrates the dedication.
Aki Antonia and Nathaniel McLin reflect upon the historic dedication.
Emmett Till and Mamie Till, we honor you! AA
All photos by Aki Antonia c2008 All rights reserved.
(To enlarge photo - Click on photo)
(BAB) Chicago-On a brisk rainy morning in September, 2008 I was given a call by Nate McLin that went, "Aki, are you going to the Emmett Till bridge dedication this morning? You need to put it on your blog. It's completed and it needs to celebrated, honored and written about. Meet me at Emmett Till Road ( 71st street and the Dan Ryan Expressway) and don't be late!
Get up and I'll meet you there! Ta! "
That was so Nate. No warning, no preamble, just let's go and celebrate who we are as art-makers and history-makers and risk takers! So I got up and hurried out. In fact I was so early that I was one of the first ones there. As the news stations began to arrive to mark this historic event, I felt proud. Proud to be on time. Proud to be called to duty, to service, to celebrate Emmett Till, a man who death impacted us all.
The year I was born was the year Emmett Till died.
The murder of this young man stayed etched in the consciousness of my father's memories and conversations as if it had happened yesterday.
He used his death as a reminder for us to never forget the past and encouraged us to strive in our generation to rise above the norm to achieve. My father had talked about Emmett Till for all his life as a turning point for the consciousness of all people, black and white.
As I began to read about Till's death and I realized that the date of his death was the same date as my father's birthday.
The same date of Till's lynching, August 28, was also the same date of the historic 1963 March on Washington during which Dr. King gave his "I Have A Dream" speech.
Later August 28th became the date of the historical nomination speech of the first African-American president, Barack Obama in 2008.
Emmett Till inspires me today because as I grew up in Chicago, I watched as the nation began to change as a result of his death. As a third grader, I had the opportunity to meet Dr. King at my school on the southside. I remember the prejudice I encountered going to my high school which was near Marquette Park. At that time a hate group in the area had posted signs on trees that depicted African Americans with tails. Many students were beaten for being in the neighborhood after dark as they were trying to catch the bus home after a game.
My sibling attended a high school in Chicago where they were greeted daily with 2,4,6,8. We don't want to integrate!
So. I am happy to see change in my lifetime and know that one of the sparks of change was the remembrance of Emmett Till.
So this dedication that I hadn't known about or planned to go to wound up sparking my own moment of Sankofa.... a memory of Rosa Parks, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the many people who had been lynched and assassinated in the course of our struggles as a nation to rise against racial hatred and prejudice in America.
As Malcolm X once said, "Those who forget their history are doomed to repeat it."
So I thank you ancestors, Emmett Till, Mamie Till, my dad and Nate McLin for the journey.