February 24, 2014
Let’s cut right to the chase, the title says it all. Mike Cummings, the owner of McNally’s (11136 S Western Ave, Chicago, IL) and a Chicago Police Officer, in a drunken rant had the audacity to openly state, “there are too many black people in here” referring to Sunday (Feb. 23, 2014) morning at approximately 12:03am.
Have you ever walked into a room and knew that all eyes were on you? Well, I have experienced that many times in my life. As a young black well-educated, professional male, I have seen my share of uncomfortable situations; however, Saturday, February 22, 2014 is definitely one that will be remembered. I have been in Catholic school most of my life and an active participant in the performing arts. As a result, I have experienced being one of few blacks in a group. This is why I was comfortable agreeing to be the only black member of a band of great musicians. It was the music that drew us together and therefore we all agreed that race would not be an issue. This changed dramatically for all parties involved when we booked a gig at McNally’s.
“Reprieve Blues Band” is a new and exciting Chicago Blues Band. The McNally’s booking marked only my second engagement with the band. Understandably, I invited family, friends and members of various organizations with which I am affiliated to come support me, hear some great music, and have a good time. The other members of the band did the same. We were scheduled for a 10pm-1am block. The place was already full by 9:15pm. By 10:30, the place was packed. People of all social, economic and racial classes were shoulder-to-shoulder enjoying a cold cocktail and live music. Just after midnight we finished our second of three sets. It was during this break that I was informed that we would be packing up and going home. The owner, who was visibly inebriated at the bar, explained that he was shutting down our performance because there were “too many black people” in the bar. He handed over our compensation and made it clear that he was shutting it down.
There are so many things inherently wrong in this story. First, a member of the Chicago Police Department (Michael Cummings, McNally’s owner) spread this hatred. It is offensive that this type of blatant bigotry is still on display in 2014. It is offensive that a business owner would be visibly inebriated and insulting paying customers while the doors of his business are still open. It is offensive that such disrespect would be shown to the band that filled the establishment with paying customers on a Saturday night, this further demonstrates Michael Cummings’ hubris. Notwithstanding these offenses, it is most offensive that some people would pretend that this is an isolated issue that does not demand attention. This owner thought there were too many black people in his bar. This same owner has been charged with the duty to serve and protect ALL people. It is clear that these type of people do not deserve the honor to serve this city or this country. Where does this bigotry end if we do not stand up and demand what is right for ALL people? How can we sit back or do nothing? What happened to me Saturday night could happen to you or someone you love. Telling black people not to support this establishment is exactly what he wants so we have to do one better. We have to spread the word and pass this message along to everyone we know. We have to expose Mike Cummings for the racist he is and let everyone know what McNally’s is really about. Will you be part of the problem or the solution?