Tag Archives: Black Expo

Portraits of Black Chicago: The Beat Goes On

black_bongo_playerBlack bongo player performs at the International Amphitheater in Chicago as part of the annual PUSH [People United to Save Humanity] ‘Black Expo’ in the fall of 1973. October 1973

Chicago’s PUSH Black Expo was a powerful tour de force for Black Businesses nationwide at the time this photo was shot.  Time magazine stated in a 1971 article: When the five-day trade fair opened in Chicago last week, there were representatives of nearly 400 black firms on hand to prove the premise. But before the week was out, Black Expo proved to be more than a display of the products of America’s fledgling black capitalism. It turned out to be an unofficial convention of entrepreneurs and politicians in search of power at the polls as well as in the marketplace. Wow.   There was even a major motion picture shot to document one year’s occurrence, entitled “Save the Children” (after that year’s theme).  So what happened?

Almost exactly twenty years after the above photo was shot, the following was published in the Chicago Reporter:

Black Expo: Taking Care of Business?

(originally published in the Chicago Reporter in September 1993)

When about 250,000 people, most of them African Americans, turned out for this year’s Chicago Black Expo, many were offered fried chicken and menthol cigarettes…

(click the link below for original footage of Marvin Gaye at the PUSH Expo)

marvin gaye live at the expo after the jump

Perfect Angel: minnie riperton stayed in love.

Minnie Riperton, native Chicagoan and Hyde Park High School alum, started her singing career as a receptionist for Chess Records (at 2120 South Michigan Avenue).  There, Riperton recorded in a girl group called the Gems, and a Rock/Soul outfit called Rotary Connection (for the story of how, while in Rotary Connection, Minnie came to accept her unique voice in the era of Aretha Franklin, click here).  She also recorded her solo debut, 1970’s Come to My Garden, co-produced by labelmate Ramsey Lewis and her husband, Dick Rudolph at Chess.  She eventually became one of the best loved sopranos of her age.

In 1976, Minnie Riperton was diagnosed with  breast cancer, but she continued recording and touring; but on Thursday, July 12, 1979 at 10:00 a.m., while lying in her husband’s arms, Riperton lost her three year struggle with cancer as she listened to a recording Stevie Wonder had made just for her.  According to legend, Stevie met Minnie in Chicago, at 1971’s Black Expo.

“Riperton had released a debut album that won critical praise but, frustrated with her record company’s listless promotion effort, was preparing, at age 22, for semi-retirement Florida. “I saw Stevie backstage,” she recalls, “so I went over and whispered in his ear for him to keep up the good work. He asked me what my name was, and I said ‘Minnie.’ Well he started jumping up and down, saying ‘not Minnie Riperton — it’s been my dream to work with you, You sing like an angel’.”
— Margo Jefferson, “Stevie’s Angel”, Newsweek, July 28, 1975.

Riperton touched many people’s hearts in her life.  So many hearts, in fact, that an entire star-studded episode of Soul Train was dedicated to her in the wake of her tragic death, with very special performances from a number of artists, among them was her oft collaborator, Stevie Wonder (a clip of which is posted above).