Our annual general meeting was held October 18, 2017 at Forest Park Village Hall. President Jerry Lordan discussed the past year for the society. Executive Director, Alexis Ellers spoke about the programming. Jerry welcomed our new President, Terry Stienbach as he steps down to secretary. Long time board member and Vice President Augie Aleksy left the board after serving the maximum six years on the board.
Intern Shannan Evanson was awarded the Dr. Orland Volunteer Award for her work with the collection and exhibitions for the past year.
Following the meeting members and guest viewed the new exhibit in the Village Hall display cases. This exhibit is on cemetery symbolism, view a portion of the exhibit online
Congratulations to Shannan Evanson the winner of our annual Dr. Orland Award. Shannan began volunteering in September 2016. In 2017 she transitioned into our new Exhibition Internship, researching and creating the spring 2017 exhibition on the Forest Park Amusement Park. Shannan researched and illustrated the upcoming fall exhibit on cemetery symbolism. When she isn't working on an exhibit Shannan has taken on the task of digitizing our hand written accession records as well as accessioning new donations.
Shannan has a Anthropology degree with honors from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She is currently working at the Indian Trails Public Library as a Check-out Assistant, as well as the Elmhurst Public Library as a Phone Console Page. Additionally she volunteers at the Mayslake Peabody Estate when she is not interning at the Historical Society of Forest Park.
We deeply appreciate all of Shannan's hard work and commitment to the Forest Park Historical Society.
“Ezra and Mike” is a short (22 minute) and honest film about the racial hostility experienced by the first black family to move to Forest Park, and the one neighbor—Mike Chiapetta- who came to their aid. While the film is short, it took a concerted, even heroic effort by John Rice to get it made—and six years of his life to research the story, film the interviews and get them edited. The film previewed at Slainte on Saturday July 29. While it would be unfair to fully review a work-in-progress, it is more than fair to congratulate John on documenting a hidden chapter in Forest Park history, and to urge Forest Parkers to see the film the next time it is shown. It is eye-opening.
We have a hard time talking about race in Forest Park. Opine that racism is still a problem and some white Forest Parkers are liable to squint, scowl and call you the worst name they can think of: Oak Parker! Some others deny there was ever a race problem in Forest Park. Others simply say these issues are best worked out quietly, neighbor to neighbor.
But in 1975—seven years after President Johnson signed the Open Housing Act—Ezra Buckner and his family received mostly hostility from neighbors and constant harassment from thugs who threw bricks through their window, graffiti-ed their property, threatened them by phone and sent them ugly hate mail.
The police refused to intervene.
Mike Chiapetta was a neighbor who simply saw a family with young kids in a dangerous position, and—with experience as a security guard–offered to guard their property overnight. For his trouble, he got arrested for impersonating a police officer, and was released only because the local media got wind of the story.
It was because the Buckners had influential friends like comedian/activist Dick Gregory and Jesse Jackson that the police were finally persuaded to intervene and protect the Buckners. Unfortunately, Mr. Gregory declined to be interviewed for the film, and John was reluctant to interview Jesse Jackson while his son was experiencing hard times.
Sadly—aside from the Buckners and Mike, no other Forest Parkers agreed to be interviewed for the film either. No neighbors. No village officials. No long-time residents. And no police. Nobody.
This is not a film with a Hollywood ending. The Buckners moved away, and did not stay in touch with Mike. A planned reunion of Mike and Ezra never happened, because Ezra died suddenly. In the film’s most poignant scene, Mike is reunited with the remaining members of the still grateful Buckner family.
There are a lot more families like the Buckners living in town these days, peacefully and happily. There are also a lot more good neighbors like Mike. This is a measure of how far Forest Park has come. But 1975 was not that long ago—and the continued silence of so many Forest Parkers who passively watched these events unfold is mute witness to how far we still have to go.
By Brian Kuhr, Forest Park Historical Society Board Member
Originally published on The Forest Park Advocate Community
Photographs by Alexa Rogals, Forest Park Review Staff Photographer
Big thanks to the Forest Park Library for hosting our first digital donation day. We're exciting to share with the public the items that we gathered.
Editor of "Day the Will Come" Mark Rogovin and HSFP board member Amy Binns-Calvey at July's Haymarket & Radical Row Tour. Tours run the first Saturday of the month at 11am May-October meeting at the Haymarket Monument in Forest Home Cemetery.