As the 57th Chicago International Film Festival gets into full swing, I was able to screen a couple of more films virtually. Featured under the City and State, Documentary and Black Perspectives slates, “Punch 9 for Harold Washington” is an exciting documentary that shows the ugly political power grab after the elder Mayor Daley’s death, as well as the equally nasty power grab of the 29 City Council members who tried to sabotage Mayor Harold Washington’s first term.
The film is “Punch 9 for Harold Washington.” Directed by Joe Winston; the country origin is the United States, and the run time is 105 minutes. The film is in the Biopic, Documentary, and Political categories.
In this epic story of American politics, race, and triumph against all odds, director Joe Winston chronicles the captivating rise, surprising reign, and enduring legacy of Chicago’s first African American mayor, Harold Washington. Steeped in archival footage capturing a 1980s Chicago rife with corruption and discrimination, “Punch 9” features and did interviews with Jesse Jackson, Vice Mayor Richard Mell, and others on the frontlines and in the backrooms of power as it follows the charismatic politician’s shrewd maneuverings, stinging betrayals, and unlikely victories. Inspiring and compelling, Washington’s journey continues to resonate for a city and nation confronting the same enduring social issues.
The late Mayor Harold Washingon is in full “Here’s Harold” mode n this documentary that shows the nasty, racist political climate that was in vogue after the first Mayor Daley passed in December 1976. It was a power grab, and Wilson Frost—who was President Pro Tempore—was robbed as the legal successor to Daley at that time—to the tune of being locked out of his office, while white aldermen mapped out plans for their own successor.
After a major snowstorm in 1979, which pitted Jane Byrne against Michael Bilandic, Byrne came out the victor, and eventually, she faced Washington in the primary mayoral election of 1983.
We’re not anti-anybody, but anti-evil, anti-racism, anti-segregation,” Washington said during one of his campaign speeches in 1983. The late Crusader long-time columnist Dr. Conrad Worrill was instrumental in helping to kick off Washington’s campaign. This was a campaign that had Washington going all across the city—making sure that he was inclusive when residents would rather say that he would only serve Blacks.
He was the first Black mayor of the nation’s second-largest city, after beating Bernard Epton and being elected to office on April 12, 1983. However, the negative campaigning gained national attention in the media, and, as well, the results of the election gained press coverage globally. Some of Washington’s activism and campaigning was the benefit of his splendiferous vocabulary.
“You are not going to perpetuate the canard that the highest number of people on welfare are Blacks,” Washington bellowed during an appearance on the Irv Kupcinet Show toward a member of the right political spectrum. Activist Jacky Grimshaw referred to this and other “big word” quotes from Washington, saying that “reporters needed a dictionary to understand what he was saying.” Washington also said without apology that “housing codes were anti-diluvian.”
And with this election, Washington vowed that he would serve all of the city for 20 years or better. But the racism in this polarized city did not stop and neither did Washington’s steadfast commitment to reform and equalityofallChicagoans.
He served the entire city after he got his sea legs while fighting the 29 City Council members who were adamantly against him being in office and bringing in any reforms against a thick political machine that reeked of nepotism and “back-door” deals. This became known as the Council Wars, and Washington headed off any initial opposition when he abruptly closed his first Council meeting in May 1983, by hitting the gavel.
He triumphed in the first term by not allowing street infrastructures, which hurt the white aldermen’s constituents. They finally relented, and Washington was able to go about the business of governing the city.
Among others featured in this documentary are the late Chicago historian Timuel Black, Luis Gutiérrez, Jesús “Chuy ”Garcia, B.Herbert Martin, Laura Washington, the late journalist John Callaway, Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Chance The Rapper and Robert Starks.
Washington won a second term in 1987, serving until his death due to heart failure on November 25, 1987.
Search for www.chicagofilmfestival.com for more information.