Presenting Gerald Williams
    Turquoise and blue hues of the tranquil East China Sea and coral reefs of Okinawa soon gave way
    to partying in LA, an airline strike forced three day bus trip through placid California valleys, Utah
    canyons, Wyoming rolling hills, Dakota plains, corn fields of Iowa, Illinois, and finally, bam! the stark
    reality of brown brick walls of the downtown high rise of the Board of Education in hot, late Summer
    1966 Chicago, when alewives died enmasse in slate colored Lake Michigan.  Amidst an office filled
    with a bevy of bureaucrats who were escapees from classrooms, waiting to move up to bigger and
    better things in the system, it was a place for me to be, too, to earn a few bucks while attending art
    classes at night and on weekends.  Mind numbing chatter about the Bears,  Adam Clayton Powell's
    situation, the location of the best Wisconsin ski slopes added to the afternoon din and flips of paper
    that stuck in my memory like so many ear worms, that helped to awaken me to the fact of civilian
    life.  After four months of convincing myself that day dreaming was normal, the boss's lieutenant
    held a little debriefing to make sure I wasn't really crazy for leaving them in that nice cozy nook to
    take a lower paying job at a College on the far Northwest side, even if that meant traveling 20 miles
    farther by train,  along with domestic workers who left the inner city each daybreak to work in the
    affluent communities on the North side and suburbs.  It was there at Northeastern Illinois State
    College (Northeastern Illinois University) where I met Jeff Donaldson, who was assistant professor in
    the Art Department.  My title was technical assistant.

    At some point Donaldson and I found we had mutual acquaintances in Robert Paige and Wadsworth
    Jarrell, who along with a few artists,  would meet to talk about forming some kind of Black artists
    union.  Asked  what I thought about the idea of forming such a group,  I told him that I hadn’t given it
    any thought, but would attend.  In fact, I was uncertain, about my own artistic interests at that time,
    for I was still mulling over the offer of a nice job working in the computer center of a bank where I
    could  visualize a future paved with gold, as opposed to the other road most traveled by, that the
    work-a-day world of the “city of broad shoulders” considered a dalliance for all but the most
    privileged.  The vision of being  immersed in the muted world of whirs, blips, beeps, and florescent
    lighting lost its luster in favor of the heavily traveled road where dreams and possibilities play
    acrobatics with one another against the gritty, heavily forested backdrop of doubt, fantasy, and

    At that meeting in Paige’s Kenwood coach house studio in the Spring of 1967 some of the
    conversation centered around frustrations with the lack of opportunities that existed for Black artists
    to get recognized and to show in main street galleries.  There was discussion about a few artists
    who were accepted into the mainstream and the kinds of images projected in their works, which
    seemed to be given the stamp of approval as being non-threatening to establishment sensibilities,
    the people who ultimately had the deep pockets.  The randomness of the discussions allowed a lot
    of views to be aired about Black society and culture in general,  and about the gathering winds of
    change in the emotionally charged atmosphere that inevitably erupted into massive riots after Dr.
    Martin Luther King’s death.  For someone who had recently returned to civilian life, and had finally
    overcome the culture shock of seeing policemen driving around with shotguns and blue riot helmets
    in the windshields of  patrol cars; experiencing Black people referring to each other as brother and
    sister outside of church; witnessing the Boogaloo die; wearing my first dashiki; and being amazed at
    the blazing neighborhood store, owned by Greek immigrants whose hothead son had shot a young
    brother in the back for allegedly stealing some food, going up in flames;  my mind was opened wide
    by the allure of being part of an energized community, albeit the part made up of artists not likely to
    take to the street with rifles.