National Black Wall Street Leader Speaks On The Life and Legacy of Don Cornelius
By Mark S. Allen
As Chairman of Black Wall Street Chicago and Chief of Staff of National Chairman of National Black Wall Street USA, the organizational members locally and nationally join in expressing our sincere sympathies in mourning the tragic death of Black cultural and entertainment icon Don Cornelius, who in the spirit of Black Wall Street used his own talents and vision to be transformed from a Chicago policemen, to news reporter at the legendary Chicago radio station WVON, to the creator of SOUL TRAIN, locally and then nationally. The vision and founding of SOUL TRAIN created the historic vehicle for the exposure of Black musicians, dancers and recording artists who until then had no real major market venues for local artists to be break and introduce new music and be exposed and grow into major national and international acts as well as exposing the soul music arts and culture to the world.
Black artists were only rarely seen periodically on Pop shows like American Bandstand. SOUL TRAIN provided the intimate setting to expose the Black talent on major television, years and years before we would come to know outlets like BET and other multiple outlets of today. Don Cornelius' vision clearly made him a pioneer. After 40 years, SOUL TRAIN grew as much more than just a Black base, but grew as other ethnic groups ventured into the culture of Rhythm and Blues. Personally, I thank God for the life and legacy of Don Cornelius.
I will absolutely treasure the surprise phone call I got from him and almost hour long conversation we had regarding the 40th Year Anniversary of SOUL TRAIN. What a sad way to start Black History Month with the loss of another Black History legend, but treasure the positive impact that he and SOUL TRAIN will forever be in our history. Thank you Don. There are a lot of people like me who absolutely love and thank you for what you meant to us personally and as a people. He was going through a lot of pain from multiple serious health issues. Don Cornelius was found dead this morning allegedly from a self inflicted gunshot wound. May God show him grace and mercy and welcome him with love, peace, and soul. And his hometown Chicago will never forget the memories left from his last appearance here for the 40th Year Anniversary of Soul Train concert and events.
We talked about how I reintroduced Don the local Chicago recording artist Bobby Hutton (latest hit song "20 Years Later") who had been received so well from the local SOUL TRAIN shows that he allowed Hutton to receive national fame as a part of his first national SOUL TRAIN TV Pilot in 1971 where Hutton was the new artist who got a chance to be on the pilot show with the established artists The Honey Comb, Eddie Kendricks and Gladys Knight, and that started the nationally syndicated SOUL TRAIN series. For decades SOUL TRAIN was a built in part of the Black communities family life on Saturdays.
The spirit of Black Wall Street was shown in the foundation of our ancestors of Tulsa Oklahoma using their own consumer spending power and talents to create a self contained successful Black community with hundreds of Black owned and operated businesses within 35 city blocks. In that historic spirit, Don Cornelius used his own talents and resources to create SOUL TRAIN from his base in the Black community and on this first day of Black History Month we salute the life and legacy of Don Cornelius and the history that Don Cornelius and SOUL TRAIN will always mean not just in Black History and music and cultural history in general.
Don Cornelius was going through a lot of pain from multiple serious health issues but he fought like a champion and the reported circumstances of his death will never compare to the overwhelming way he lived and left a this historic legacy that the Black Wall Street organization is proud to celebrate and help that legacy live on for more generations to come. Finally, I thank God that I had a chance to have a relationship with Don Cornelius and had a chance to tell him personally how proud I was to be a part of his legacy in part because his career just as my public service career was also rooted in my being a staff member and talk show host of the legendary WVON Radio station.
BLACK WALL STREET CHICAGO 4655 South King Drive, Suite 203 Chicago, Illinois 60653 773-392-0165 www.blackwallstreet.org The Rev. Al Sharpton calls Mark Allen "one of Chicago's legendary Black political activists"