God's Party Town
November 3rd, 2008: We live in the epicenter of Last Best Hope Land. Just over one mile from the Obamas’ Boulevard home, two blocks from the University of Chicago Law School, where #44 (yes, let’s go ahead and call him that now) taught; across the Midway, and just beyond the sight line of the Apostolic Church, where Candidate Barack delivered his tortured rail on black fathers after Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s funky shimmy-shake on a Motown stage.
So this morning, the day before Election Day, I drove two-thirds of our neighborhood’s stretch to drop some correspondence into our most dependable USPS box and found myself caught amidst gridlock born of what seemed a political rally at Bishop Brazier’s church, my auto idling behind folks lined up halfway down 63rd Street—painted worshipers adorned in their Sabbath best at 8:30 a.m. on the Monday after All Hallows Day, 2008.
Television cameras and microphones were perched all about Apostolic’s parking lot, gleaning and beaming insights from the waiting revelers to the universe of elsewhere. Helicopters whirred overhead: networks, secret service, military? I wasn't sure. Nor did I know whether Obama had promised the believers a pre–Election Day visit, or whether this gathering was merely the latest congregational prostration in an effort to recruit the soon-to-be #44’s Trinity Baptist farther south. The anti-shake: plenty funky, less shimmy to it.
What surely would never make it into the network video chronicle was a scene just to the west at 63rd and Woodlawn, a mere three blocks from the apostles’ wireless congregation. There I drove by twice, as I could not quite believe my eyes on first pass: at what less than forty years before had been the center of the Black South Side, where Jeff Fort and the pre-Temple Blackstone Rangers had held court, protested a group of seven alien souls—five women and two bald, bearded soldiers among them—marching in semicircle formation atop a weed-strewn lot while toting signs exclaiming the following in bold-colored fonts:
God Hates Obama! (red)
God Hates You! (blue)
God Killed Your Children! (both)
America IS Doomed! (green)
—and another that I could not quite make out as the traffic zipped on toward the west.
Those flaxen evangelicals, imbued with their holy ghost or some such helter-skelter mania, were surely not from Chicago, not of Sweet Home—bused in from Kansas, perchance? So the venerable Chicago Police Department posted officers across 63rd to protect the protesters’ blood-won constitutional rights in another lot that not so long before had hosted a currency exchange.
Before noon, my mother called to tell me that the crowd at Apostolic was not gathered on behalf of #44's coming victory. Not at all; no, that morning the church had served as site of the funeral services for members of Dreamgirls actress Jennifer Hudson’s family, slaughtered just the week prior over to the south and west of 63rd Street.
“Jesus Christ,” I said to my mother, a daughter of the very same Englewood neighborhood, “and welcome to Chi-town.”