In two and a half years of doing our weekly broadcast and podcast, the Lumpen Radio studio on South Morgan in the Bridgeport neighborhood of Chicago has never been filled with so much music.
Or a voice like Ms Mary D. Williams’ voice.
Ms Williams sings gospel and freedom songs, although she’s been known to do some Italian opera as well.
She and our second guest, Rev. Timothy Tyson teach a class together back in North Carolina on the freedom struggle. They teach bringing with them their experiences as a Black southern woman and a white southern man.
Our show was like the class they teach. Ms Williams would break into song to illustrate the point she wanted to make and that voice is unworldly.
Tyson is the author of several books about the southern struggle for freedom. His latest is The Blood of Emmett Till.
His book made headlines when the woman who Chicagoan Emmett Till was supposed to have whistled at and then was brutally murdered for it, admitted to Tyson for the first time that she had lied.
The real story isn’t that she lied. Everybody knew she lied.
Although the admission made headlines, Tyson says the real take away from the book. is how organizations and groups and Emmett Tills heroic mother, Elizabeth Till Mobley, took the horror of Emmett Till’s racist murder and sparked a Movement in Chicago and nationally that went on for 60 years.
When I asked Mary D. Williams about her musical influences, it didn’t take a second for her to say Chicago’s Mahalia Jackson.
I was reminded that Jackson’s Chicago-based radio show was produced by the great Studs Terkel.
This was back during the McCarthy era and the anti-Communist Black List.
The story goes that Mahalia Jackson and Studs were great friends as well as professional colleagues and when Jackson was told to fire Studs for being a Red, Mahalia Jackson responded, “If Studs goes, I go.”
Studs remained as Mahalia Jackson’s producer.