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Young, Rising Obama Captured In Heartland Cafe Founder's Personal Photos

By Linze Rice | January 11, 2017 6:21am
 In 2004, Barack Obama held a rally to run for U.S. Senate at the Heartland Cafe in Rogers Park, an even captured on camera by the cafe's co-founder Michael James. 
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ROGERS PARK — In 2004, a 42-year-old Barack Obama rallied at the Heartland Cafe during his campaign for a seat in the U.S. Senate, an event captured on camera by the cafe's co-founder Michael James.

Snapped in black and white, pictures show Obama alongside Ald. Harry Osterman (48th) and Ald. Joe Moore (49th), the late 49th Ward Committeeman David Fagus and Cook County Clerk David Orr speaking with teachers and others who showed up at the 7000 N. Glenwood Ave. diner to lend support. 

The Heartland has long been a Rogers Park institution known as a hub for political and social organizing.

The event was so significant to the cafe and neighbors a mural of Obama's face was painted alongside the "L" tracks across from the Heartland with a caption that the president had kicked off his campaign for the senate. 

Now some of those pictures are to be part of James' latest photo exhibit, "Onward — Movements, Activists, Politics and Politicians," which debuts from 6-10 p.m. Friday at the Uri-Eichen Gallery, 2101 S. Halsted St.

Spanning 53 years, many of the pictures have never been shown publicly before, James said. 

Michael James, a co-founder of the Heartland Cafe, is putting some of the pictures on display as part of a new political photo exhibit, including this one of Barack Obama at a 2004 campaign event. [Provided/Michael James]

In addition to the photos of Obama, the "Onward" show is meant to pay homage to past political figures and organizers who have inspired James and created positive social change with the hope to inspire the next generation. 

From the march on Washington to Black Lives Matter, James' lens has captured it all. 

“I hope these photos and notes encourage people to organize for social, political and economic change, to work for good in the world," James said. "The world needs all the good that each of us does."

After Obama's U.S. senate campaign, James would go on to take more photos of the aspiring president as he continued to climb the ladder — some of which are on display at the Heartland as part of James' "Home in the Heartland" photo exhibit.

That collection features a series of 27 photos shot by James over 54 years, showing a slice of life across the Midwest, country and world.

The show's closing reception at 4 p.m. Sunday will culminate in a birthday celebration for James, who is turning 75.

Barack Obama, then a state senator, speaking with a teacher in Rogers Park. [Provided/Michael James]

The Heartland Cafe has long been a hub for politics and activism. [Provided/Michael James]

Cook County Clerk David Orr speaks to an audience at the Heartland Cafe in 2004. [Provided/Michael James]

Ald. Harry Osterman (48th) rallied alongside Obama and Fagus. [Provided/Michael James]

Obama with the late David Fagus and Ald. Joe Moore (49th). [Provided/Michael James]

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