Civil rights activist for 44 years
By Chinta Strausberg
Funeral services are pending for 58-year-old activist Mark Allen who made his transition at 9:37 a.m. Saturday, September 12, 2020, at the University of Chicago Hospital with his family and friends by his bedside and just minutes after Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. prayed for him over the phone.
The Allen family had also called Saint Sabina’s Father Michael L. Pfleger who gave a prayer of thanksgiving “for his life” and strength for his brother, J. Minor Allen and sister, Michelle Allen-Marsh. His sister said her brother died of a heart attack.
His brother said while Mark, who is a father of two, died while in an induced coma Saturday morning. At his brother’s bedside besides himself, he was surrounded by his family and friends including his sister, his son, Marcus Allen, his aunt, Patricia Barnette and her daughter Erin Dawn Barnette, cousins Floanda Allen, Derrick Allen and Richard Allen Jr. and his long-time friend, Rev. James Anyike.
Later, speaking to dozens of Rainbow PUSH Coalition volunteers, Rev. Jackson said a prayer for Mark Allen thanking him for once being his national field director.
Thanking Rev. Jackson and Father Pfleger for their prayers, J. Minor Allen said, “Mark was in an induced coma so they could work on him. He had a pulse and a heart beat,” his brother told this reporter. “The doctors stabilized his heart. That is when I thought my brother would make it. He didn’t.
“The problem is nobody knows how long Mark was unconscious…one or two hours,” his brother recounted. “My brother was without oxygen for a long time,” he said referring to Friday, September 11, 2020, when he kept calling Mark and finally asked a friend who lived close by his office to make a security check.
“I knew something was wrong because Mark didn’t do his show (“Can You Hear Me” that aired on the late Rev. Leon Finney’s Urban Broadcast Media (UBM) Network).”
The last time he spoke to Mark was about 11:30 a.m. Friday morning He was going to pick up his brother and take him to Gatling’s Chapel for the funeral of Ramon Senior Wade, the father of radio personality Ramonski Luv, that was held from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Having a key to Mark’s office, when his brother’s friend entered Suite 203, Mark Allen, chairman, president and CEO of National Black Wall Street Chicago he launched 13 years ago was found slumped over his desk unresponsive.
That is the time, the moment that changed the Allen family forever. Mark Allen was rushed to the University of Chicago Hospital where he was born on March 18, 1962 and died on September 12, 2020.
“The doctors tried everything to keep him alive,” his brother said. “He was a fighter.” Referring to his father, the late Minor Allen, Sr. who died in June of 2018 following the death of his wife Ollie, who passed in 2014 of breast cancer, Mark’s brother recalled how his brother attended Operation Breadbasket when he was just 6-years-old.
“Our father used to take Mark to Operation Breadbasket when it was held at the Capitol Theater located at 79th and Halsted,” he recalled. “He’s been an activist for along time. Mark even ran for mayor of Chicago in 1976 against attorney Ellis Reid and Harold Washington as a write-in candidate. He was just 13 years old.”
“Mark eventually gave Ellis Reid his support,” he said referring to the 1976 mayoral election where Reid, Harold Washington, black undertaker A.A. “Sammy” Rayner and others lost to Michael Bilandic.
Years later, in 1982, Mark, who graduated from the Western University and attended Columbia College majoring in broadcast communications, and his friend, James Anyike, who is now a minister and author in Indianapolis, were once ‘Students for Harold.’
“Mark, who was a Kappa Alpha Phi, and James got all the students registered all throughout Illinois including the colleges,” his brother proudly recalled.
Born and raised in Hyde Park and a member of Salem Baptist Church, his brother said Mark was always involved in social service jobs including working at the Chicago Urban League, DCFS, Illinois Department of Human Services, Midwest Academy, Citizen Action and Rainbow PUSH Coalition as field director. Mark was also a delegate for Rev. Jackson’s 1984 and 1988 presidential campaigns.
“For the past 15 years, Mark has been doing his own thing as chairman, president and CEO of the National Black Wall Street Chicago, and he was a talk show host on the Urban Broadcast Media Network but he got his start on WVON,” recalled his brother. He said Mark worked under the late Richard McGee, Richard Steele and produced the Wesley South program.
“My brother left here and gave me the words ‘no matter what happened, stay structured, focused and positioned.’ His favorite quote was, ‘I didn’t come to preach, but I can.’”
One of his greatest supporters was Florence Cox, former president of the Chicago Board of Education. “I am shocked and sadden to hear that Mark has passed because he was a person who worked tiredless on behalf of the community.
“He was a very giving person, a jovial person and someone who was supportive of me when I was president of the Chicago Board of Education. He always did of research. He always had good information. He was a very energetic kind of person always looking to get a way to help the people. I know that a lot of us will miss him,” said Cox.
“Everybody leaves a void when they make a transition but Mark was a fighter and a community activist,” she said. Sending her condolences to the Allen family, Cox added, “I am sorry that he has left us. Sometimes when people are in pain, it is better to have shared a portion of a person’s life than none at all. We were blessed to have shared a portion of his life.”
Mark Allen leaves to mourn his children, son, Marcus Allen, daughter, DaNia, sister, Michelle Allen-Marsh, brother, J. Minor Allen and a host of friends and relatives.
Mark Allen was found unresponsive Friday afternoon at his National Black Wall Street Chicago Office 4655 S. King Drive, where he was president and CEO—an organization he began 13 years ago, according to his brother.