Photo caption: Representative Danny K. Davis
It’s been 40 years since a multi-racial group of activists united behind one of the most successful and historic voter registration drives in the history of Chicago, dubbed “Come Alive October 5,” a movement that ushered in Mayor Harold Washington as the city’s first Black mayor.
Representative Danny Davis (D-7th) was one of those who helped register people to vote in that mayoral campaign, and like the others, he too is urging everyone to register now in preparation of perhaps one of the most important elections since 1983.
Reached in Washington, D.C., Davis told the Chicago Crusader, “People are beginning to understand more and more what the Republicans are attempting to do. They are trying to take the country backwards. They’ve been trying to go back as close to slavery as they can. They are serious, and they are not playing.”
“They want to deny people the opportunity to participate. There was so much progress made during that brief period of Reconstruction they decided there was too much progress made by Blacks,” said Davis. “They tried to dismantle” the system that was allowing newly freed slaves equal opportunities.
And that, Davis said, is what the Republicans are trying to do now. “They’ve decided that too much progress is being made during the civil rights’ years. All of these things we have accomplished, affirmative action, a modicum of health care, increased life expectancy, they are trying to take them back.
“That is why we have to register and vote,” Davis said. “That is why we must spend our money wisely, keeping it in our base communities” and with Black-owned businesses. He said if Blacks would patronize Black-owned businesses in mass numbers, “do you know how much money that would create in the heart of the hood?”
“We have to stop thinking that the cavalry is coming to save us,” Davis said. Quoting Reverend Jesse Jackson, Davis said, “Nobody will save us, but us.” He urged everyone to make sure they are registered now and to reach out to others as they did in 1983.
It was Emma Young, who was the executive creative director for Soft Sheen, and founder and president Ed Gardner, who came up with the slogan, “Come Alive October 5.” When contacted, she said it was the late Renault Robinson, who headed the Afro-American Patrolmen’s League, and Howard Saffold, a policeman, who went to Gardner asking for ads to promote Washington’s candidacy.
Young said when Robinson, Saffold and Chuck Colbert, an independent producer, met with Gardner, he gave the Washington campaign $150,000 worth of advertisement.
Young also called for another Come Alive October 5, especially for the young people to register and vote. “It’s important because people are not understanding how these issues can be resolved. We have to make politicians accountable and if they aren’t doing anything, we can vote them out.”
Retired Northeastern Illinois University Professor Robert Starks said the campaign “Come Alive October 5” was a major success. At that time registering to vote was more difficult. Harold didn’t think we could do it. Tim Black was in charge of this campaign.
“We are now in need of another Come Alive October 5 because we want to make sure that the most important Democrats stay in power.” Starks said voters must vote for people who are willing to help with the myriad of crises in the city, state, and county.
Emma Lozano, founder of the Centro Sin Fronteras and wife of Reverend Walter “Slim” Coleman, was also instrumental in registering hundreds of people for the 1983 mayoral campaign.
“The coalitions that had been organized around housing, health care, education and jobs all came together in a massive voter registration drive that energized the city to bring about the historic election of the first Black mayor,” Reverend Coleman told the Chicago Crusader.
“That was the most exciting, meaningful campaign that I ever worked on and the last campaign that I worked on alongside my brother, Rudy (Lozano) who was assassinated in 1983,” Emma Lozano said. “It was a true rainbow coalition and as a Latina I was honored to have worked with my brother and my community for Harold.”
Jane Ramsey, who was coordinator for the 44th Ward in the campaign and who later became Washington’s Director of Community Relations, Office of the Mayor, was also proud to be a part of the movement to elect Washington. She coordinated the Jewish votes for Washington, mobilized community groups and others to register people to vote.
Ramsey went into public aid, and unemployment offices and in neighborhoods in search of unregistered voters. “It was a huge success and a turning point that led to Harold Washington becoming mayor.”
Reverend Marvin Hunter, pastor of the Grace Memorial M.B.C., also helped register people for Washington. As a young minister he was at the Greater Whitestone M.B.C., headed by Reverend B. T. Blumenberg, who refused to allow politicians in his church; that is, until Hunter convinced him to let Washington come and speak.
“We need another Come Alive October 5 campaign. If we don’t engage in ways, as we did during the 1960s and 1970s, we will lose our footing as a protective class of Black people, and America as a whole will become weakened if we don’t engage. Without the Democratic process, there is no America.”
Max Bever, director of public information at the Chicago Board of Elections, told the Chicago Crusader, people can register to vote online through March 3, 2024, or at the Chicago Board of Elections’ offices at 69 W. Washington. They can also use the same day registration during early voting sites and at all precinct polling places on election day.
Bever said the presidential primary election is Tuesday, March 19, 2024, and the presidential election is on Tuesday, November 5, 2024.