Black Heroes Matter movement snags milestone victory

Jamaican national Ephraim Martin.
Ephraim Martin & BHM

Jamaican national Ephraim Martin is over the moon.

Elated that Chicago City Council’s Transportation and Public Way Committee unanimously approved his petition to rename Lake Shore Drive in honor of Haitian Jean Baptiste Pointe DuSable, the president of the Black Heroes Matter coalition is optimistic the full council will act accordingly.

“This Black man must be recognized for what he did. He established this the third largest city in America.”

“It is a victory long overdue,” the Chicago resident said. “It’s only a first step and a partial victory but we know it’s the leap of faith that we know will ensure total victory for the city of Chicago.”

Buoyed by last week’s decision, Martin said he is “confident” that when the full council membership of 50 vote on May 26 the quest for victory will be complete.

“We will only need 26 approvals to be victorious,” Martin said.

Acclaimed for being the founder of the Chicago Music Awards, the International Reggae & World Music Awards, Martin is president and CEO of Martin’s International the organization boasting the first and oldest award ceremonies to honor creative talents in Illinois as well as producers and recording artist from global music genres.

Along with hosting July 4 and Labor Day cultural festivals Martin is renowned for championing an end to South Africa’s apartheid, spotlighting the legacies of Marcus Mosiah Garvey and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and also distinguished himself for aligning with activists who sought freedom for Nelson Mandela.

Notably documented also was his campaign to elect President Barack Obama, the first Black to lead the country.

Martin believes that too much time has elapsed since activists first began 100 years ago to promote honoring the Haitian who settled in the Midwestern landmark before it became a city, “enough is enough.”

History records that 240 years ago, DuSable, a multi-lingual, fur trader flourished in the grain industry.

He settled on 800 acres of land near the Chicago River.

How the French and Spanish-speaking immigrant emerged to become Chicago’s founding father remains an elusive fact not taught in schools.

This is an excerpt from the presentation to the council:

“They will know that over 240 years ago in 1779, this land we enjoy as Chicago was started by a Black man from the Caribbean country of Haiti, by the name of DuSable but because of the color of his skin he was denied his respect and credit, such as a street, a monument, and a city holiday.

…that DuSable made his transition in 1818, and in 1830, when Chicago’s first boundaries were set, the first streets, were property.

…tomorrow’s children will know, that in about 1919, activists were calling for full recognition for DuSable.

… that in 1927, 94 years ago, there was another chance to give DuSable the street then known as Field Blvd., but the practice of racism stood its ground, and the boulevard was all named after White men: Washington, Jefferson, and John Kinzie, who purchased DuSable’s properties, and the boulevard was named in the honor of Leif Ericson, an explorer.

In 1946, Leif Ericson Drive was renamed Lake Shore Drive, now 74 years later a small minority are making the excuse to say LSD is too iconic to be renamed in Chicago’s rightful founder DuSable’s name. Of all the things we are requesting for DuSable; the primary one that will bring real change to Chicago, is the renaming of Lake Shore Drive as DuSable Drive, right now with a yes vote,” Martin said.

Instead of hosting his Independence Day weekend festival which was cancelled due to the pandemic, following the murder of George Floyd, Martin revived the call to honor DuSable. He led a group through the downtown area of Chicago to demand change.

The Michigan Ave. rally received mass grass roots support and widespread media coverage.

As the coronavirus ravaged Chicago and the rest of the nation Martin and the group of like-minded residents rallied for installations of monuments and public acknowledgement of DuSable and Black heroes.

The coalition comprised of more than 80 organizations and individuals were relentless in their pursuit to correct misrepresented history.

They established the web portal www.blackheroesmatter.org and a fundraising mechanism to advance the campaign.

Following the rally, they met with city officials to implore the mayor to commit to dedicating a holiday to DuSable, erecting a monument and renaming the drive.

It is significant that they chose the 17-mile stretch along the swank lake-front thoroughfare to honor a Black man.

“We demand a main street not a by-way, so that when tourists and others drive along this main street they will know the name DuSable and the role he played in making this city what it is.”

“We are committed to making this a reality,” Martin said. “We are not going to stop.”

“People must know the history of Chicago; people should know the true history, people should know that Black Heroes Matter.”

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