FEARURE image: Rev. C.T. Vivian 1024px-C.T._Vivian CC BY-SA 4.0
Rev. C.T. Vivian died on July 17, 2020 at 95 years old. Rev. Vivian was born in Boonville, Missouri, and migrated as a child with his mother to Macomb, Illinois. Rev. Vivian grew up to attend Western Illinois University (WIU) in Macomb, Illinois, where he worked as the sports editor for the student newspaper. In 1987, decades after attending the university, Rev. Vivian received an honorary doctorate from WIU.
Rev. Vivian’s career as an activist began in Peoria, Illinois, where, in 1947, he participated in sit-in demonstrations to successfully integrate Barton’s Cafeteria. Soon after, he served with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther KIng, Jr. and joined Dr. King’s executive staff. In that capacity, Rev. VIvian served as the national director of affiliates for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).
In the mid1960’s Rev. Vivian organized and directed efforts to re-evaluate activist networks and goals and the ideology and practice of Black Power, as well as the role of Christian faith among its participants.
In 1965, Rev. C.T. Vivian became Director of Fellowships and Internships of the Urban Training Center (UTC) for Christian Mission in Chicago. Founded with a grant from the Ford Foundation in 1963 to train African American Christian pastors and organizers—Rev. Jesse Jackson was among the first 19 men trained under Rev. Vivian’s program at the UTC in its first year—the organization considered new dimensions to protest movements in Chicago concerned with Black power, Black identity and Black unity.
By means of lectures, readings, discussions and nonviolent training exercises such as “the Plunge” where participants had to survive on their own for seven days without access to housing, food, or other resources, the organization existed to help its participants to seek ways to take power from structures which affect their lives particularly on the West and South Sides of Chicago.
In 1970, following the assassination of Dr. King in 1968, Rev. Vivian became the first of Dr. King’s staff to write a book based on his experiences in the civil rights movement. Rev. Vivian’s book was entitled Black Power and the American Myth.
Rev. Vivian eventually became director of the Urban Theological Institute at Atlanta’s Interdenominational Theological Center, a consortium of African-American seminaries. He was also board chair of Capitol City Bank, a minority-owned bank founded in 1995 that focused on loans for underserved areas. With eight branches in metro Atlanta, Capitol City Bank closed in 2015.
Through the C.T. Vivian Leadership Institute founded in 2008, Rev. Vivian continued to do the kind of work he did in Chicago in the 1960’s which was facilitating mainly youth who were seeking discerned strategies for their material and spiritual goals. On behalf of at-risk youth and college graduates, Rev. Vivian fostered innovative leadership for their career development in the 21st century. In 2012, Rev. Vivian returned to serve as interim President of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and, in 2013, President Obama awarded Rev. Vivian the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
FEATURE image: Muddy Waters, King of the Chicago Blues, by Brazilian artist Eduardo Kobra in a photograph taken in May 2021. The 10-story mural tribute was painted in 2017 and is located on State Street in Downtown Chicago.
This 100-foot-tall (10 stories) mural of legendary Chicago blues musician Muddy Waters (1913-1983) was dedicated in June 2017 on the north wall of the 19-story Stevens Building at 17 N. State Street in Downtown Chicago.
Painted by Brazilian street artist Eduardo Kobra (b. 1975), it took over two weeks to paint it. The new mural covered over a big, yellow “Go Do Good” painting. The Stevens Building itself is a notable early skyscraper on the east side of State Street near its intersection with Washington Street. When it was built in 1912 by Daniel H. Burnham (1846-1912), it was one of the most modern business structures In Chicago and filled with retail shops. The Charles A. Stevens & Bros. building is nineteen stories above ground and three below,
The colorful portrait mural of Muddy Waters is part of a campaign to beautify the walls of some tall buildings in Chicago as well as to mark the significance of Black music in Chicago. Specifically, Eduardo Kobra’s mural is a tribute to the legacy of Muddy Waters in the Chicago blues music scene. Among Muddy Waters’ many titles and accolades, he may be perhaps best known as the “King of Chicago Blues.”
Growing up in Mississippi, Muddy Waters was first exposed to music at the local Baptist church. During World War II, when Muddy Waters was still in his 20’s, he moved from Mississippi to Chicago. He came to Chicago because he wanted to be a professional musician and Chicago since the 1920’s had been a center for jazz and blues music production.
In 1951 when Muddy Waters recorded his song “Still A Fool” at newly-founded Chess Records on the southside of Chicago, he started the next decade making several blues classics. In 1951, the Chess brothers, Leonard and Phil, both around Waters’ age, wanted the new blues musician to record using the new label’s professional musicians instead of Waters’ own band.
By September 1953 Waters was recording with his own band which became one of the most acclaimed blues bands in history. It included Little Walter Jacobs (1930-1968), a Blues Hall of Fame and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame harmonica virtuoso; Jimmy Rogers (1924-1997), a Blues Hall of Fame musician on guitar who, with Little Walter and Muddy Waters, helped define the Chicago Blues sound; rural blues legend Elga Speed Edmonds (1909-1966) on drums; distinctive keyboard stylist and Blues Hall of Fame inductee Otis Spann (1930-1970) on piano—and, at times on bass, Willie Dixon (1915-1992), Grammy Award winner, and inductee in the Blues, Rock and Roll, and Songwriters Halls of Fame. The clarity of the clip of Muddy Waters’ electric guitar and his gravelly voice, deep and wide, were also distinctive features in a career that spanned 50 years and included 11 Grammy Award nominations with 6 wins.
In June 2017 at the dedication of the mural at the busy intersection of State and Washington Streets in the heart of downtown Chicago’s business/shopping districts, Muddy Waters’ family was in attendance. Of Muddy Waters’ legacy, born in Mississippi and living and working in Chicagoland since the 1940’s, Rolling Stone wrote: “With him the blues came up from the Delta and went electric.”