Op-Ed: Three Brothers, Two ‘Zines, One Legacy

“… Someone can be famous because THING thinks they’re famous.”

In 1987, three Black men from the South Side of Chicago created the first of two self-published ‘zines documenting Black underground art, history, and life. Think Ink, the brainchild of Robert T. Ford, Trenton Adkins, and Lawrence (Larry) Warren, was a large 10.5’’ by 16’’ magazine similar in format to Andy Warhol’s Interview magazine.

According to a September 1993 Owen Keehnen interview published in Outlines newspaper, Ford, the publisher, and editor stated that Think Ink was: “… very Black and not very gay …” A bold three-thousand copies of Volume One, Issue “O” was printed, initiating its Nov. 14, 1987, release. And a celebration was held at Wholesome Roc Gallery & Cafe to a full house.

Frankie Knuckles and guests at Think Ink magazine’s reception
Wholesome Roc Gallery & Cafe, 1987

I appeared on the cover in a satirical homage to Roots, the Alex Haley miniseries depicting the brutality of slavery, starring Levar Burton as Kunta Kinte, that captivated the nation in 1977. Adkins did the styling, and Paul Mainor of Mainor-Martin photography captured the now-iconic image.

The second issue, published in the spring of 1988, Volume One, Issue “1,” featured local model Aisha Mays on the cover shot by the late fashion photographer Ernest Collins. Adkins did the makeup, and I did sleek hair in a nod to Harlem’s 1920s Jazz Age, which was hot back then. Writing for Artforum in 2018, art historian Solveig Nelson declared it “evokes both the Jazz Age and voguing scene of the ’80s, characteristically bringing together different instances of cutting-edge glamor in African American culture.”

Think Ink magazine cover Roots, Volume One, Issue “0” (1987) photographed by Paul Mainor
Spring Issue “1” (1988) photographed by the late Ernest Collins

Although it was the trio’s first experiment in publishing, with Adkins and Warren serving as co-editors, Think Ink ceased publishing after two issues due to a lack of funding. Nevertheless, its impact was far-reaching, featuring interviews with Dr. Margaret Burroughs, founder of the DuSable Museum of African American History; DJ and music producer Frankie Knuckles; fashion designer Isiah and more. All fused together with art, poetry, fashion, music reviews, and Adkins’ “TEE” gossip column in a way never before seen in the Black community.

Nelson says Think Ink’s voice was “… loud & varied embracing cultures and countercultures of thinkers male/female/black/white/straight/gay/etc.” And independent culture and fashion magazine Document Journal writer DeForrest Brown Jr. refers to it as a “post-soul aesthetic” stemming from the Black Power and Black Arts Movements. 

Solveig Nelson, Visiting Curator, Art Institute of Chicago
(Illustration by Michael Asendio, NYC ©2022)

Short-lived, yet ahead of its time, the experience yielded “good information,” as Warren would put it years later. The lessons learned were priceless and prepared them for their subsequent publication focusing exclusively on the underground Black gay community, thus catapulting their names into the annals of history.

THING Mega ’Zine

Unlike its predecessor, Think InkTHING magazine was much smaller (8.5’’ by 5.5’’). But what it lacked in size, it made up for it with provocative editorial content. THING was bold, trend-setting, and unapologetically Black, yet it was never meant to be subversive. “We wanted to make a magazine that would be a way of documenting our existence and contribution to society. Our idea was not so much to radicalize or subvert the idea of magazines as to make one from our point of view. It wasn’t about deconstructing what a magazine is, it was playing within its perimeters.” Ford shared with Keehnen.

The fact that all three men were openly gay is coincidental, but it served its purpose by heightening THING’S editorial content appealing to the sensibilities of both the Black and white gay communities in Chicago. This time around, distribution for the first two issues was targeted and much smaller than Think Ink. “It was cautious optimism,” Warren characterized it, “from previous experiences.” 

On the cover of issue No. 1 – published November 1989 – an oil pastel painting of me by fine arts artist Simone Bouyer was chosen. The Living Flame and King of Rock and Roll, Little Richard, appears on issue No. 2. Only a couple hundred of each issue were published, but what happened next surprised everyone. THING caught on like wildfire, and by issue No. 3, distribution was expanded nationwide from New York to San Francisco. Chicago native Anthony Jackson was stationed at Alameda, CA, and remembers walking into a Black gay bar in Oakland, CA. “I went in there, and they had all these different magazines. (There’s) THING and all these other magazines like from Europe,” he stated.

Little Richard and Ken Hare for THING magazine, Issues 1 & 2

Subscriptions increased as word spread of THING’S racy interviews with rising stars like NY drag queens RuPaul, Lypsinka, and Lady Bunny (THING magazine Issue No. 6). And there was Chicago’s very own drag star Joan Jett Blakk who ran for mayor and eventually for U.S. president. Interviews with artists like early AIDS activist Essex Hemphill, music producer Bill Coleman, and film producer Marlon Riggs testify to THING’S penchant for spotting emerging Black talent and providing a platform to be seen, heard, and taken seriously.

With a stroke of luck – the right mix of editorial interviews, commentary, Adkins’ gossip column, music playlists, opinion pieces, film reviews, short stories, and timing – the trio had finally achieved the success they envisioned. And THING magazine began to fulfill a deep void in the Black gay community and beyond. 

RuPaul for THING magazine, Issue No. 6

As popularity spread, the ‘zine increased content, with each succeeding issue attracting a wider pool of contributors, writers, and volunteers. Editorial content became slicker as THING carved out its niche, becoming the premier go-to source for information within the Black gay community. After four years, THING surged from twenty-six pages to forty-six pages. But success came with a price.

According to Ford, THING had reached “an odd scale” and was “too small to generate lots of funding and too large to run without a staff,” he shared with Keehnen. 

Meanwhile, by issue four, Adkins noticed editorial content starting to veer off-point. He sent a letter to staffers expressing concerns about their well-being, acknowledging that everyone was under some “stress” due to HIV/AIDS directly or indirectly. Adkins admonished everyone to “… be kind and understanding to each other.” 

Success and circulation continued to accrue, but Ford was ready to call it quits after four years for several reasons; chief among them was his health. Ford was battling opportunistic infections because of AIDS and was hanging in there on a “day-to-day level,” he told Keehnen. “Thing had reached a point where it was creating more stress in my life.”

The final THING magazine No. 10 was published in the summer of 1993 with Jazzmun, the living Black Barbie, on the cover. More than a year later, Robert T. Ford passed away on October 2, 1994, surrounded by family and a few friends. Adkins passed away in 2007 due to similar health reasons. And Larry Warren passed away in December 2016 from diabetic-related complications.

Trent Adkin’s TEE Glossary for THING magazine – I thought you knew!

Despite the trio’s early demise, they continued to “work it” from the ancestral realm setting the stage for a fait accompli yet to come. The seeds had been planted, setting in motion a chain reaction. It might have taken 35 years, but things were just getting started.

The Legacy Continues

By the time the University of Chicago Ph.D. Candidate Solveig Nelson contacted me on Facebook in December 2017, she was already several years deep into researching the history of Think Ink and THING magazines. Four years later, on December 11, 2021 – during the height of the Omicron variant – Subscribe: Artists and Alternative Magazines photo exhibition opened to the general public with proof of vaccination requirements and without much fanfare.

But no one could’ve predicted what happened next: “It’s the most popular photo show in the museum’s history,” says the art historian candidly. Nearly a decade of relentless pursuit had finally paid off!

The exhibition took an unfiltered look at various underground magazines that circulated from 1970-1995, influencing pop culture on both sides of the Atlantic. Artistic publications from Chicago, LA, London, and New York gave platforms to a host of underground contemporaries that spoke to the issues of their day while giving you a glimpse of things to come. 

Art Institute photo exhibit, Subscribe: Artist and Alternative Magazines, 1970-1995

Drawn to the complex subtleties, the overtness, and sometimes quirky irreverence, Nelson states, “I was surprised in this [Think Ink] article how bravely she talked about capitalism,” referring to Dr. Margaret Burroughs, founder of the DuSable Museum of African American History, “… it’s a really radical interview. And then, in the same pages, you talk to Frankie Knuckles. And that combination of cultural figures, I just don’t see it anywhere else in any publication.” 

Drawing on their multi-disciplined backgrounds, the founders tapped into the power of storytelling, building on the legacy of the Black Arts Movement while crafting a new voice for Black gay men in print before the rise of the internet.

Nelson recalls meeting Adkins through Michael Thompson, Robert Ford’s former lover, in 1998. “Michael had the habit of inviting people over without saying who else he had invited over. Trent, Michael, Sadie Benning, and I all intersected at Michael’s North avenue apartment one afternoon. It was special,” she shared in an email. “We watched a video together and talked for hours … I know that we talked about experimental art and how it was too often gendered as male. Trent was brilliant as a conversationalist and as a thinker. He had such a range of expertise. He proudly told me about Thing magazine. He had so much love when he discussed this project.”

The chance encounter with the ever charismatic Adkins left an indelible impression influencing her decades later as a Visiting Curator at the Art Institute of Chicago and co-curator of the Subscribe photo exhibition. “I think the reason this acquisition means so much to me… things are valued after people die, and you know then people are like, this is valuable … this actually changed culture. This had a big effect,” she commented during the exhibit.

Ultimately, THING served as a beacon of hope for the underground arts community and beyond, establishing a new narrative for how Black artists perceived themselves and the world around them. Black gay women and men were coming of age in Chicago and celebrating their accomplishments, whether it was education, working a job to provide for their family, pursuing careers, starting a business, or being married to the Music Box or Warehouse dance floors on the weekends. They had something to offer; they knew it and were unapologetic about it.  

Wardell Ford (left), Trent Adkins, and Simone Bouyer at Wholesome Roc Gallery & Cafe, 1987
Lawrence Larry Warren (left) and Robert T. Ford at Wholesome Roc Gallery & Cafe, 1987

The timing of the renewed interest in Think Ink and THING is almost prophetic against the backdrop of current events. Today’s headlines could easily be interchanged with those from 35 years ago as monkeypox, reproductive and transgender rights take center stage. Back then, it was HIV/AIDS and Black, Hispanic, Asian, and Jewish civil rights activists fighting against police brutality – Rodney King, the Republican Christian Right, and the Moral Majority. And true to form, as George Bernard Shaw mentions in the “Revolutionist’s Handbook,” the more things change, the more they stay the same.

By its tenth issue, THING reached a circulation of roughly 3K subscribers worldwide – a “gigantic” feat, according to Keehnen. And that is a huge accomplishment for an underground ‘zine.

THING welcomed intersectional collaborators of all sorts with open arms who believed they had something to contribute to society. All the while establishing a template for future generations of content creators to control their stories, fashion their brands, and build on the rich legacies that preceded them. 

The interest in our work as part of the collective team is an honor and humbling as the House of Thing (Simone Bouyer, Stephanie Coleman, and I) seek to share our stories and lessons learned with today’s pioneering artists while connecting with the legacy builders before us.

Together, we aim to continue the uncompromising and powerful tradition of African storytelling, building on the vision begun by Robert T. Ford, Trent Adkins, and Lawrence (Larry) Warren. And who knows what might happen next? Anyone or anything can become the next hot thing. As Ford once said, “… Someone can be famous because THING thinks they’re famous.”  

THING: She knows who she is


Analysis: Do ProPublica and ProPublica Illinois Have a Black Face Problem?

“The best way to judge us on hiring, in the end, is to look at our numbers,” they say.

On Jan. 1, 2019, I published an op-ed calling out ProPublica and ProPublica Illinois for what I believe to be their blatant hypocrisy. The opinion piece highlighted and called into question their advertising and hiring of Black reporters.

In summary, in 2017, Pro Publica Inc. – their legal name, according to the Delaware Secretary of State website – which is operating as ProPublica newsroom out of Manhattan, New York, decided to expand and open a Midwest regional newsroom. First stop: Chicago.

Louise Kiernan, an associate professor from Northwestern University, was tapped to head the news outlet. ProPublica advertised requirements that appeared to be welcoming and liberal, particularly to people of color. Click here for the details.

Louise Kiernan with ProPublica Chicago employees in elevator
Photo of newly hired reporters posted on ProPublica Illinois Editor-in-Chief Louise Kiernan’s Twitter account

Soon thereafter, Ms. Kiernan posted a photo of the new hires in Chicago on her Twitter account. And guess what? There wasn’t one Black reporter to be found.

I took issue with the photo, especially after meeting Ms. Kiernan in person at the Lookingglass Theater in 2017. Please read about my revealing encounter with her here.

Within weeks of publishing my opinion, on Jan. 24, 2019, ProPublica published a report titled: “What ProPublica is Doing About Diversity in 2019.

Three things stood out about their efforts:

  1. The report states that their “Diversity Committee” was just formally started – despite them taking on these issues as far back as 2015. Shouldn’t the diversity committee have been formed officially in 2015?
  2. According to the report, black employees make up 7 percent of their employees. They couched their achievements in percentages and not whole numbers. Why not share real numbers with your readers and followers instead of percentages? And tell a more compelling narrative as you often do with your other data-driven reporting? Unless you’re trying to hide something?
  3. The diversity committee is headed and co-chaired by Lena Groeger and Liz Sharp, two nonBlack staffers.

Who’s Going to Take the Responsibility?

When ProPublica hired its first Black male reporter – Christopher Sanders – in 2015, it appeared to be aiming toward genuine reform and inclusiveness in its NYC newsroom.

However, nothing could be further from the truth. They haven’t hired another Black male reporter since, and they have 42 nonBlack male reporters in their Manhattan bureau and not a single Black male reporter on the ground in Chicago.

That’s a 42:1 ratio for nonBlack to Black male reporters in NYC.

But it would take ProPublica almost two more years before it hired another Black reporter, this time a female – Talia Buford, in 2017. A remarkable feat, bringing their Black female reporters to two. Thus increasing their Black female reporters by 100 percent in a single stroke.

Ginger Thompson – senior reporter – is the first Black female hired in 2014.

ProPublica has 43 nonBlack female reporters. That’s a 43:2 ratio for nonBlack to Black female reporters in NYC.

In Chicago, there are no Black part- or full-time staff reporters whatsoever.

The 7 percent of Blacks mentioned in their diversity report includes all the Blacks ProPublica employs, including on the business side, Black fellows, and maybe a custodian person or two.

Hone in on the reporters only, and Blacks involved in writing and reporting the news drops to a paltry 3 out of nearly 90 reporters, or 3 percent.

Updated ProPublica graphic

Obfuscating the truth and misleading their followers, content partners, and maybe even their board members appears to be their preferred method of running their newsrooms.

“Board members.”

Yes, the nonprofit has a 15-member board of directors, and two happen to be Black: Danielle S. Allen and Henry Louis Gates Jr., according to their website.

Henry Louis Gates Jr. made national news when a white female neighbor called 911 and reported him as a burglar attempting to break into his own home – in Cambridge, Massachusetts – after returning from China in July 2009.

Harvard professor and ProPublica board member Henry Louis Gates Jr.

The prominent professor and director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University was arrested for disorderly conduct by Sgt. James Crowley and the incident sparked international outrage opening the door to the ongoing, contentious debate about race, racial profiling, and white privilege.

Charges were eventually dropped, and both men were invited to the White House for a “Beer Summit” with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. Gates was the only Black board member since their founding in 2007 until recently. See the entire board membership here.

Also, ProPublica appears to have only one Black on its 15-member Journalism Advisory Board, Cynthia A. Tucker, which also includes current members such as:

Jill Abramson, former executive editor of The New York Times, and L Gordon Crovitz, former publisher of The Wall Street Journal.

Topping off their governance boards, there doesn’t appear to be any Black faces among its 18-member Business Advisors, which include current members:

Ann Blinkhorn, founder of Blinkhorn LLC, a reported leader in digital media, and Maria Gotsch, president and CEO of Investment Fund, which funds rising entrepreneurs in both the for-profit and nonprofit sectors across various sectors.

Click here and scroll towards the bottom to view the entire membership of journalism and business advisors.

The Numbers Don’t Lie

This is what ProPublica said in its very first diversity report in 2015.

“The best way to judge us on hiring, in the end, is to look at our numbers.”

Black female reporters in New York – 2
Black male reporters in New York – 1
Black female reporters in Chicago – 0
Black male reporters in Chicago – 0

And the count for executive managers, board members, and advisors:

Black Board of Directors – 2
Black Journalism Advisory Board – 1
Black Business Advisors – 0
Black executive managers – 0

Let that sink in for a moment before we get to the heart of the matter.

After 5 years of committees, meetings, and vainglorious rhetoric: Why do ProPublica and now ProPublica Illinois have a problem hiring reporters with Black faces?

On Feb. 1, 2019, attorney Jill M. Willis filed a federal lawsuit alleging race, age, and color discrimination.

Stay tuned for more on this developing story . . .


This story has been updated as of July 18, 2019.


This is a personal blog for the above named writer. The views, information and/or opinions expressed are solely those of the individual writer and do not necessarily represent the views of any entity, organization or company that I may have been affiliated with in the past, present or future.

This blog is for education, information and entertainment purposes. All information is provided on an as-is basis. It is the reader’s responsibility to verify their own facts. Assumptions made in the analysis are not reflective of any entity other than the author(s) and due to critical thinking these views are subject to change and revision.


Op-Ed: Dear ProPublica Board Members, Business Advisors, Journalism Advisory Board, Content Partners, Editors, Reporters and Supporters: What’s wrong with this picture?

ProPublica says they’re committed to diversity. Their hiring record raises some serious questions

Louise Kiernan with ProPublica Chicago employees in elevator

Hint No 1: On May 19, 2017 ProPublica posted the following advertisement:

capture propublica

Hint No 2: They were very specific in whom they were targeting using the following language:

“We are dedicated to improving our newsroom, in part by better reflecting the people we cover. We’re committed to diversity and especially encourage members of underrepresented communities to apply, including women, people of color, LGBTQ people and people with disabilities.”

Hint No 3: However, as the above photo depicts, there were no Black reporters hired. Yet, the ensuing headlines occurred:

nina martin

Written by Nina Martin and published on December 7, 2017: https://www.propublica.org/article/nothing-protects-black-women-from-dying-in-pregnancy-and-childbirth

ProPublica Adrianna Gallards

Written by Adriana Gallardo and published on Dec 8, 2017: https://www.propublica.org/article/black-women-disproportionately-suffer-complications-of-pregnancy-and-childbirth-lets-talk-about-it

Annie Waldman

And: https://www.propublica.org/article/how-hospitals-are-failing-black-mothers, written by Annie Waldman

published on December 27, 2017.

Now I may not be a Pulitzer Prize-winner or a Harvard graduate, but it shouldn’t take that to see that your blatant exploitation of Black women’s pain and suffering is not only wrong, but also morally and ethically reprehensible.

No disrespect to the three smart reporters who did what they were told to do. But, this pattern and practice of exploitation flies in the face of your published advertisement “improving our newsroom.”

Those three stories were specifically written about what some Black women might encounter when it comes to health care. So for the sake of clarity: Could you please explain how assigning three non-Black reporters to write their stories somehow better reflects the people that you cover?

If you really meant what you said then the photos above would look entirely different. Who do you think you’re fooling? 

Stay tuned for this developing story. There’s much more to come!

Analysis: Are Cartoons Now Predicting The Future?

A 2016 Comedy Central cartoon depicts Kobe Bryant in a fiery helicopter crash.

The 20-series cartoon “Legends of Chamberlain Heights” premiered on Comedy Central on September 14, 2016, and lasted for two seasons, according to news sources.

Artwork from Comedy Central’s Legends of Chamberlain Heights

Episode 8, titled “End of Days,” written by Grant DeKernion and directed by L. Todd Myers, appears to eerily foreshadow Kobe Bryant’s death with a scene ripped straight from today’s headlines.

In the 2016 episode, Kobe appeals to three main characters – Grover, Jamal, and Milk – for help while still clutching two NBA trophies after his helicopter crashes. In crass Comedy Central fashion, Jamal – voiced by Quinn Hawking, one of the show’s creators – says to Kobe: “Just pass me the trophies, and we’ll pull you out.”

Appalled by Jamal’s response, Kobe disappointingly says, “Pass?” to the characters, upon which his helicopter blows up, and he’s engulfed in a ball of fire that ejects five championship rings that roll over to their feet.

kb helicopter
Screenshot from 2016 Comedy Central cartoon “End of Days”

According to a media report, Comedy Central and Legends of Chamberlain Heights have removed most references to this event from their social media plaforms. You can view multiple clips here on other websites.

Predictive Programming

Alternative media researcher Alan Watt who runs the Coincidence Theorist blog defines “predictive programming” as a “theorized method of mass mind control,” whereby people are being conditioned “through works of fiction, to accept planned future scenarios.”

Watt’s blog highlights many examples of “predictive programming” where celebrities and tragic events were referenced in art and pop culture before the actual events occurred in real life.

For example, Seth McFarland’s award-winning comedy Family Guy referenced the death of actor Robin Williams in an episode that featured a suicide plot line that aired on May 20, 2012.

Williams, years later, reportedly took his own life on August 11, 2014, by suicide, according to media reports.

People are being conditioned “through works of fiction, to accept planned future scenarios.”

In yet another episode of Family Guy, which aired during Season 4 in 2005, baby Stewie is running through a shopping mall naked. Apparently terrified, he yells at the top of his lungs: “Help! I’ve just escaped from Kevin Spacey’s basement. Help me!”

In 2017, the actor Anthony Rapp publicly accused Spacey of sexual advances when he was 14 years old. Subsequently, numerous other alleged victims of Kevin Spacey decided to come forward with their stories of sexual abuse.

Spacey has denied all the allegations through his publicist and on his Twitter account and has not been prosecuted to date for any of the alleged abuses.

Watts refers to these unique circumstances as “the power of suggestion” whereby “using the media of fiction to create a desired outcome.” That desire he submits is to have a population conditioned to accept this reality and not to ask too many questions about the pre-planned outcomes.

Predictive programming is therefore thought to be a means of propaganda or mass psychological conditioning that operates on a subliminal or implicit level, according to alternative media personalities like David Icke and the controversial Alex Jones. They both have been accused of peddling and profiting off of conspiracy theories.

Nonetheless, as information spreads about these seemingly odd coincidences that dominate our news feeds and social media platforms, the questions and curiosity will only increase as people seek the truth and want answers.

Answers that don’t fit comfortably within the MSM’s narrative and oftentimes fall outside their scope of reporting.

Op-Ed: ProPublica & ProPublica Illinois Hit With Discrimination Suit!

“The goal was to encourage Black reporters to come forward . . . “

The award-winning newsroom ProPublica NY and its satellite ProPublica Illinois have both been named as defendants in a federal discrimination lawsuit.

The lawsuit accuses the newsrooms of age, race, and color discrimination in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, as amended by the Civil Rights Act of 1991; violation of the Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution; violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended; and violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 as amended.

On April 12, 2019, I appeared as a guest commentator on WVON AM 1690, where I shared what I experienced with the newsrooms with the WVON listening audience. The goal was to encourage Black reporters to come forward with their stories if they may have encountered similar circumstances.

I want to hear your story – if you or someone you know applied to ProPublica Illinois in 2017 or any other time – please message me at: www.facebook.com/ProPublicawherearetheblackreporters?

Here is the commentary that aired on WVON:




This is a personal blog for the above named writer. The views, information and/or opinions expressed are solely those of the individual writer and do not necessarily represent the views of any entity, organization or company that I may have been affiliated with in the past, present or future.

This blog is for education, information and entertainment purposes. All information is provided on an as-is basis. It is the reader’s responsibility to verify their own facts. Assumptions made in the analysis are not reflective of any entity other than the author(s) and due to critical thinking these views are subject to change and revision.

Commentary: This is What Happened the First Day I Met ProPublica’s Illinois Editor-in-Chief Louise Kiernan

“Little did I know that our brief encounter was going to transform my life forever.”

     On May 3, 2017, I met ProPublica’s Illinois editor-in-chief Louise Kiernan at the Lookingglass Theater, where she was a guest panelist discussing the ethics of investigative journalism.

     Initially, I was excited to meet her. We both were attending one of the final performances of “Beyond Caring,” a play about the abuses of Black and Hispanic workers at the hands of the temporary staffing industry.

     The play, the brainchild of British playwright Alexander Zeldin, was inspired in part by ProPublica’s 2013 “Temp Land” series, written by their staff reporter Michael Grabell. Grabell and I had met the week before. He encouraged me to apply for a reporter’s position even though I initially missed the deadline of March 24, 2017.

     I sent an email to Mr. Grabell asking if he would forward samples of my work to Ms. Kiernan. Included was a letter of introduction, several links to stories, witness slips, guest audio commentary from WVON radio regarding the destruction of the Chicago police misconduct records, and a JPEG of a front-page story I wrote that was soon copied by all the major dailies including: the Sun Times, Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Reader to name a few.

     This was a soft inquiry and I wanted to know if there was any possibility of applying post-deadline.

Edwin Gibson, Caren Blackmore and Wendy Mateo in Beyond Caring.  Photo courtesy of Lookingglass Theater

    Immediately following the play was a panel discussion about ethics moderated by WBEZ. Ms. Kiernan and two other female reporters discussed ethics and discriminatory practices raised in the play. They also fielded questions from the audience about maintaining professionalism when dealing with sensitive matters, and where to draw the line when conducting interviews in intimate settings.

     Post-discussion, I approached Ms. Kiernan and introduced myself to put a face with the name. Little did I know that our brief encounter was going to transform my life forever.

ProPublica Illinois editor-in-chief Louise Kiernan

After shaking my hand, Ms. Kiernan’s body appeared to recoil. As she struggled with her coat while holding some items in her hand, I stepped forward towards her as any gentleman would do and offered assistance.

She said “No” and turned her back on me.

I was completely stunned and taken by surprise that the Pulitzer Prize-winner and co-director of Northwestern University’s social justice initiative could be so cold and callous.

I graciously thanked her, turned and walked away to meet my guest, who witnessed everything from across the room. My guest asked me: “How did it go?” I responded, “I don’t think it went so well.”

     There was absolutely no reason for a new editor-in-chief and ambassador for the ProPublica news organization to react in such a negative, condescending and dismissive manner. Inside, I felt deeply humiliated and violated in a profound way, but I was determined not to be discouraged.  

     After all, this was my first time meeting her, and all I wanted to do was introduce myself and work for the celebrated newsroom.

     In an interview with Broadway World News Desk, playwright Zeldin summed up his work: ” . . . I’ve found that looking at the lives of those working in the conditions of the temporary economy, the margins of society, says so much about the moral, spiritual, and emotional place that the country is in, much like it did the UK.

      It tells us about how the sentiment that lives are to be lived with dignity, respect and a sense of value is only a hollow set of words. But it says something else, too — here in the U.S., it tells us about race in this country . . .”

ProPublica and ProPublica Illinois: I deserved much better!

Stay tuned for this developing story . . .



This is a personal blog for the above named writer. The views, information and/or opinions expressed are solely those of the individual writer and do not necessarily represent the views of any entity, organization or company that I may have been affiliated with in the past, present or future.

This blog is for education, information and entertainment purposes. All information is provided on an as-is basis. It is the reader’s responsibility to verify their own facts. Assumptions made in the analysis are not reflective of any entity other than the author(s) and due to critical thinking these views are subject to change and revision.



Can Receivership Have an Impact on the Black Community?

Court receivership training program aims to increase minority participation

dearborn realtist
Dearborn Realtist Board 2018 Receivership Specialist and board members (seated front row)

Three thousand housing court cases are filed per year, according to county court records. Many of which are vacant, abandoned and distressed properties that may be eligible for some level of court-ordered receivership. These properties are throughout the city particularly in neighborhoods like Austin, Englewood, Garfield, N. & S. Lawndale and  Woodlawn.

With prime areas of the city experiencing various degrees of gentrification, receivership is now being viewed by city officials as a possible tool to help stabilize the Black community. Could this be an answer to prayers?

DRB president Courtney Jones engage trainees

Just last week, over 70 real estate professionals, investors and concerned residents from Chicago convened at East-West University in the South Loop. For the second time, the Dearborn Realtist Board (DRB) and its president, Courtney Jones, hosted the Receivership Training Program sponsored in conjunction with the City of Chicago Department of Planning & Development at the university.

DRB – the oldest Black real estate trade association, established in 1941 – hosted the five day, 30-hour course designed to introduce the public to the basic tenets of what it takes to become a court-appointed receiver.

Stemming from the English Chancery Courts, the concept of receivership as it relates to housing is simple: the court appoints someone to be responsible for the property of others to maintain, service, manage and/or repair the property.

Receivership – An Overview

According to attorney of counsel M. Faisal Elkhatib, who represents private receivers, there are several ways a property can end up in receivership. In the majority of instances receivership arises “. . .from a city lawsuit about several major municipal building violations on a property and the owner is: no where to be found, deceased, or failing to show up in court and failing to correct the violations.”

The process typically starts with a call to the city’s 311 center and falls under one of three categories: heat call, vacant building call, or a conservation call. Last year, over 50,000 such calls were placed to 311.

Once a call is logged, a building inspector is sent out to the site to investigate the complaint(s). If the violations are substantiated, the building owners, responsible parties including the mortgage company – if there is a mortgage – will be hauled into the Department of Administrative Hearings or the Cook County Circuit Court to address the municipal violations.

Illinois Compiled Statues 65 ILCS 5/11-13-15 and 5/11-31-1 & 2 grants police power to Chicago to determine if a building or structure “. . fails to conform to the minimum standards of health and safety” and “the owner or owners of such building or structure fails, after due notice, to cause such property to conform, the municipality may make application to the circuit court for an injunction requiring compliance,” according to the statue.

Sanina Ellison
Sanina Ellison Jones, Chicago Homes Realty Group

Sanina Ellison Jones, managing broker for Chicago Homes Realty Group, and one of the trainers presented that once all interested parties are notified and given the opportunity to respond, but fail to reply, at this stage the process to appoint a receiver may commence.

According to other presenters, anyone can become a receiver provided they meet the court’s exacting requirements. During the week-long course attendees learned the fine points of receivership including: the difference between a limited versus general receiver, how to read a court order, conducting a feasibility study to determine if a property is worth taking on and the potential risks involved, etc.

The overall goal is to move qualified parties towards receivership as soon as possible.

As attorney Elkhatib goes over the requirements, it becomes readily apparent that this process isn’t for everyone. An interested party must have knowledge of: general contracting, financial wherewithal to pay for the process, administrative training to manage the heavy documentation and legal requirements to obtain a receivers’ certificate. And most importantly, the ability to weather long-term risky cash outlays, he shares.

Investor Lonnie
Investor Alonzo Anderson preps for a quiz

Undaunted, real estate investor Alonzo Anderson – who heard about the class from the Bronzeville Chamber of Commerce president – recognizes the connection between being a receiver and taking control of his community.

It’s an opportunity to “convert the dangerous and hazardous properties to something more appealing,” he states. And “not only can we influence the evolution of our neighborhoods,” but also “increase its value.”

Social media producer Bertina M. Power, of the Power Hour undeniably agreed: “We have to work together. Collaborating our knowledge, resources, experiences and funds – house by house, block by block – we can do it,” she said with the realization the receiver may end up owning the property.

In some cases, for little or nothing, in others, for the initial investment and time spent on the case which could tarry from several months to 2 years in more challenging cases.

bertina powers
Media producer Bertina M. Power chats with Chetzi M. Canada, Broker Coldwell Banker

At times, for some attendees, the information appeared to be overwhelming but foreclosure specialist/activist            Jah Ranu Menab said: “I’ve been to many classes and this one was by far the best,” as he praised DBR for the well-organized  handouts, presentations and speakers,  including attorneys from Corporation Counsel and Honorable Leonard Murray, supervising judge over Housing.

During any given year the city of Chicago appoints up to 250 receivers; currently, there are 172 receivers appointed and only five of them are Black, according to sources close to the court. The training program is held only once per year.

Next up – a detailed analysis of Chicago’s receivership program. Meet some of the movers behind the scenes including an active receiver. See how the courts operate up close. What’s required? What are some of the challenges? What happened in the past? And, how this opportunity could potentially benefit you, your block and the community at large.

You don’t want to miss this intriguing development.

Stay tuned . . .


This is a personal blog for the above named writer. The views, information and/or opinions expressed are solely those of the individual writer and do not necessarily represent the views of any entity, organization or company that I may have been affiliated with in the past, present or future.

This blog is for education, information and entertainment purposes. All information is provided on an as-is basis. It is the reader’s responsibility to verify their own facts. Assumptions made in the analysis are not reflective of any entity other than the author(s) and due to critical thinking these views are subject to change and revision.



Op-Ed: Three Unusual Observations about Ken’neka L. Jenkin’s Death

The 9/11 symbolism surfaces again during Ken’neka’s mother’s call to the Rosemont Public Safety Department.

Ken’neka L. Jenkins, 19, was found dead inside a walk-in double freezer at the Crown Plaza Hotel in Rosemont, IL, a suburb northwest of Chicago, at 12:25 a.m. on September 10, 2017, by a hotel security guard. She had been recently hired at a nursing home and was looking forward to a promising future while hanging out with a group of friends for the evening.

Exactly forty days later, on October 20, the Rosemont Public Safety Department closed the case referring to Ken’neka’s death as an “accident” while releasing photos of the death scene that showed her semi-dressed body, which appeared bruised in areas.

Though the details surrounding her death only raise more questions, some undeniable circumstances have emerged that may illuminate events that led to the untimely death of yet another one of Chicago’s youth.

The Crown Plaza Hotel

 In August 2017, the Crown Plaza Hotel hosted Flashback Weekend Chicago Horror Con. The event, which ran from August 4-6, was marketed as “Chicago’s largest and longest running Horror Convention known for our major celebrity guests, innovative programming, and spectacular evening events. We are a horror convention with a deeper initiative – our philanthropic efforts are dedicated to the preservation of the American Drive-In and 35mm film preservation,” according to their website. See here.

Horror Con

Screenshot of Flashback Weekend Chicago Horror Con’s website. The website boasts the attendance of some of the genre’s most famous actors, celebrities, and producers, including Robert Englund (Nightmare on Elm Street), Sean Patrick Flannery (Saw 3D), Ken Foree (Dawn of the Dead), and Katherine Isabelle (Freddie v. Jason), to name a few.

Attendees looked forward to watching digitally remastered horror classics and participating in costume contests and escape-the-room activities.

1970’s horror classic Suspiria digitally remastered

What are escape rooms, you might ask? Sinister Visions Inc., one of the conference’s sponsors, markets its escape-the-room game on its website as an immersive experience. “Strangers are locked in a room and given 60 minutes to solve a series of puzzles, unravel riddles, find a key and escape, all before time runs out.” According to Escape Room producers, the end goal is to: “offer story-driven puzzles that teach you about the world, the people in the room with you, and yourself.”

More details can be found here.

Escape Room
Screenshot of Sinister Vision’s website

As reactions to Ken’neka Jenkins’ death surfaced on social media, video after video was posted, and people around the country poured over and commented on what might have occurred, turning Jenkins’s death into something akin to an escape-the-room experience. The only difference between the fantasy adventure the month before and what unfolded at the Crown Plaza Hotel is the reality of the situation: Kenneka Jenkins would end up paying with her life.

2015 svengolie

2016 svengolie

The 9/11 Connection

            On Saturday, September 9, at 1:30 a.m. Ken’neka sent her sister the last text message before her disappearance. By 4 a.m., her best friend phoned Ken’neka’s mother to report that she was missing. At 5 a.m., her family was at the hotel questioning the staff, according to local news reports. The family alleges that the hotel staff initially wasn’t helpful because they didn’t have a missing person’s report, and this caused a delay in conducting a search, according to her mother, Teresa Martin.

A search that began on Saturday afternoon yielded the discovery of Ken’neka’s body around 12:25 a.m. Sunday morning, by hotel security, in a walk-in double freezer in an area allegedly under construction. According to the Chicago Tribune, her mother was not allowed to see the body until nearly four hours later, around 5 a.m. Sunday morning. All of this culminated on the eve of the sixteenth anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks in New York City, another grim event that some 9/11 Truthers have been referring to for years as a “human sacrifice”.

Ken’neka Jenkins & 9/11 symbolism

One thing that stands out about the odd timing of Ken’neka Jenkins’ death is the eerie foreshadowing that appears in a photo posted all over social media. The picture depicts Ken’neka posing with a friend in front of a doorway. At the top of the doorway, the address reads 351-353, or put another way, the doorway reads 9/11 when translated into English Numerology.

Some people known as 9/11 Truthers believe that the Twin Tower attacks had been foreshadowed in lots of major Hollywood movies, commercials, videos, and even on the back of the U.S. currency for years prior to the actual event. This theory suggests the use of a process called “predictive programming,” whereby the mind is prepped to accept something it normally wouldn’t by repeated exposure prior to the event. There are many YouTube videos that address this issue; one can be seen here.

US $20 dollar
9/11 symbolism on the back of the US $20 bill

The 9/11 symbolism surfaces again during Ken’neka’s mother’s call to the Rosemont Public Safety Department. In YouTuber HMi Radio’s video, which replays the 911 call, at 4:03 minutes into the video, her mother states that she ran into a young woman in the lobby of the hotel who asked if she wanted to go upstairs. The young woman took Ms. Martin to the 11th floor and led her into a room where her daughter had been seen earlier. This confirms that the two floors on which there were reported activities related to Jenkins’ death were the 9th and 11th floors.

Room 926

room 926
Room 926 @ Crown Plaza Hotel, courtesy of the Rosemont (IL) Public Safety Department

If the aforementioned doesn’t cause you to further question the events that took place at the Crown Plaza Hotel, then perhaps the mystery surrounding Room 926 will. During a Facebook live streaming video posted on the night Ken’neka went missing, a young lady can be heard telling someone on the phone to park the car in the hotel’s parking lot and come up to Room 926. When reduced by numerological principles, 926 equals the prime number 17. The number 17  is one of the most feared numbers in Italian culture, dating back to ancient Rome. And the fear of the number 17 is referred to as Heptadecaphobia.

In fact, when I lived and traveled throughout the Italian countryside, no one wanted to talk about the number 17 due to its association with bad luck and, oftentimes, death. As ridingthebeast.com explains, 17 is an: “Ominous number for Italians, as the number 13 in Occident. Thus, in Italy, there is no bedroom 17, no 17th floor, etc., this because of the number 17 that in Roman number, is written XVII, considered as the anagram and the numerical value of the Latin expression VIXI that means “I lived” therefore by extension “I am dead.” Click here.

This number might not appear to be all that significant in Ken’neka’s story at first glance; however, when observing the bigger picture, Ken’neka Jenkins is not alone. Jenkins sits in the company of Trayvon Martin, Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland, and even Laquan McDonald, who all died with this number appearing in their narratives, just to name a few.

See the appearance of this particular number in the tragic stories of Martin, Gray, Bland, and McDonald in the following quotes, followed by links to the full stories:

Trayvon Martin, New York Times 4/1/2012: “Once again, thousands chanted the name of Trayvon Martin 17, the youth killed with one bullet while returning to a home in a gated community where he was a guest.” Read the full story here.

Freddie Gray, CNN 4/23/2015: “An officer says we’ve got one and confirms the address of 1700 Presbury, where Gray gave up without the use of force, according to Rodriguez. One officer took out his stun gun but did not deploy it, he said.” Read the full story here.

Sandra Bland, NBC News 7/23/2015: “At about 4:30 p.m. on July 10 (7+10 emphasis mine), Bland was driving a silver Hyundai Azera south through Waller County on FM 1098, near Prairie View A&M, when a state trooper, Brian Encinia, pulled her over for [sic] said was for failing to signal a lane change.” Read the full story here.

Laquan McDonald, Fox News 6/28/2017: “Jason Van Dyke answered questions about the night of Oct. 20, 2014, when he fired 16 shots at the 17-year-old boy, The Chicago Sun-Times reported. The officer claimed McDonald, who had a small knife with its blade folded, posed as a threat to his life, prompting the shooting.” Read the full story here.

Stay tuned and have an observant day.

Feel free to post comments here, and on Facebook @ https://www.facebook.com/ken.hare


This is a personal blog for the above named writer. The views, information and/or opinions expressed are solely those of the individual writer and do not necessarily represent the views of any entity, organization or company that I may have been affiliated with in the past, present or future.

This blog is for education, information and entertainment purposes. All information is provided on an as-is basis. It is the reader’s responsibility to verify their own facts. Assumptions made in the analysis are not reflective of any entity other than the author(s) and due to critical thinking these views are subject to change and revision.