Fifth and current home of the Chicago Defender since 2009. Former home of the Metropolitan Funeral System Association. Celebrated as a return to the South Side following the Defender's brief stay on the South Loop at 200 South Michigan during the mid-2000s
4445 South King Drive, circa 2012. Photo courtesy of Future Past Chicago blog
Following its short stint uptown at 200 South Michigan Avenue, the Defender's return to the South Side in 2009 marked a move 'back to the future' - in more ways than one. The corner of 45th Street and South Parkway (now Martin Luther King Drive) has long held a rich black business and cultural history.
4445 South King Drive was formerly the home of black owned funeral company Metropolitan Funeral System Association, a subsidiary of the Metropolitan Assurance Company. A collaboration between local black entrepreneurs Otto Stevenson and Daniel McKee Jackson, Metropolitan would become one of the largest funeral parlors on the South Side.
1920s advert for Metropolitan. Image courtesy of Chicago Public Library
Accompanying the Defender's return to the South Side at 4445 South King Drive came a new fine art gallery dedicated to exhibiting African American artists - the Blanc Gallery. Created by Cliff Rome, the proprietor of the adjacent Parkway Ballroom, the gallery's mission statement is to 'engage African Americans and all Chicagoans through the arts and to ignite dialogue on issues of spiritual, political and social significance.' Recent exhibits have included:
RaceSpacePlace - committed to investigating the 'polemics, politics and production of Blackness'
Perception/Reality (in the Age of Deception) - an exhibit by Raymond A. Thomas, designed to probe the 'ever adaptable race message.'
The Neo Negro - an exhibit by visual artist James Britt, which satirises and critiques public figures, pop icons, professional athletes and politicians.
Screenshot from the Gallery Black website, circa 2015