DuSable to Obama: Chicago’s Black Metropolis


April 26th, 2011

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Omaha, NE – DuSable to Obama: Chicago’s Black Metropolis tells the story of 18th century native Haitian, Jean Baptiste Point DuSable. Many consider DuSable to be the founder of modern day Chicago. He was a black, French entrepreneur who spoke six different languages. Barbara E. Allen is with Chicago Public Television and is one of the producers of the documentary, which was written by University of Nebraska Omaha Professor Gail Baker, the Dean of the College of Communication, Fine Arts and Media.

For this historical film, Allen said she wanted to appeal to both younger, as well as older, generations. By making DuSable the central character in the film narrative, Allen said the film illuminates the early days of the modern Midwestern metropolis of Chicago from a unique perspective.

On the set of DuSable to Obama: Chicago's Black Metropolis, producers Dan Andries and Barbara E. Allen with Chicago Public Television (Photo courtesy Barbara Allen)

“Throughout … history, he kept coming up… people would bring him back,” she said. “DuSable High School was named after him, DuSable Harbor … I felt that the spirit of DuSable represents Chicago, so throughout the film, you’ll see DuSable in different eras… the spirit of him there.”

Allen said there is a clear connection between DuSable and President Barack Obama. With narration by Kellita Smith from The Bernie Mac Show, the story is told through the voices of historians, politicians, scholars, artists, and many ordinary citizens of Chicago. Allen said she wants to make the point that this country wasn’t founded by just white European immigrants, but included significant contributions by blacks, Latinos, Asians, and Native Americans. To paint the most accurate picture of Chicago’s founding, Allen said it is important to let people tell their own story.

DuSable to Obama: Chicago's Black Metropolis narrator Kellita Smith, on set. Smith is from The Bernie Mac Show (Photo Courtesy Barbara Allen)

“Everyone thinks I’m going to be objective,” she said, “but you’re subjective because of where you come from.”

“Whites will hear one thing, and blacks will hear something else,” she said. “And, for me, that is the art of telling the story, because you have to really pay attention to how you say things.”

Allen said she hopes to do a series on other black metropolises throughout America, one that might even include Omaha. A private viewing of DuSable to Obama: Chicago’s Black Metropolis takes place Tuesday night in Omaha at the Aksarben Cinema in midtown.

*Disclaimer: KVNO is a service of UNO’s College of Communication, Fine Arts and Media.

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