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Walter Theodore Hayden

Entrepreneur Walter Theodore Hayden was born June 24, 1926, in Tuskegee, Alabama, where his father, Rev. Charles Hayden of Greenwood, Mississippi, was chaplain of Tuskegee University. Hayden attended Hudson Elementary School in Birmingham, Alabama, and graduated from Birmingham’s Parker High School in 1944; he was a pre-med student at Indiana University from 1944 to 1947.

In the mid-1950s, Hayden was a driver and broker for PR & R Trucking Company in Birmingham. From 1961 to 1964, Hayden was the owner and operator of Birmingham’s Star Bowl bowling lanes. Star Bowl became a meeting place and a secret sheltering place for civil rights workers during the Civil Rights Movement in Birmingham. In 1964, Hayden moved to Fort Wayne, Indiana, where he started Diamond Printing; soon thereafter, he began printing and distributing his own line of African American oriented greeting cards. In 1995, Hayden founded Fort Wayne Black Pages Business Directory.

A lifetime member of the NAACP, Hayden was also a member of the Urban League for twenty years, and for over sixty years was a member of the A.M.E. church. Hayden and his wife, Ernestine, remained in Fort Wayne where they raised nine children.

Accession Number

A2005.122

Sex

Male

Interview Date

5/23/2005

Last Name

Hayden

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

Theodore

Schools

A.H. Parker High School

Hudson Elementary School

Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW)

First Name

Walter

Birth City, State, Country

Tuskegee

HM ID

HAY08

Favorite Season

Winter

Sponsor

Lincoln Financial Group Foundation

State

Alabama

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Indiana

Birth Date

6/24/1926

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Fort Wayne

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Barbecue (Ribs)

Short Description

Leisure entrepreneur and printing entrepreneur Walter Theodore Hayden (1926 - ) was once owner of the Star Bowl, which served as a meeting place in Birmingham, Alabama, for civil rights workers during the Civil Rights Movement. After moving to Fort Wayne, Indiana, Hayden founded Diamond Printing; created his own line of African American greeting cards; and began publishing the Fort Wayne Black Pages Business Directory.

Employment

Fort Wayne Black Pages

U.S. Army

Diamond Printing

Star Bowling Lanes

Main Sponsor
Favorite Color

Red

Timing Pairs
0,0:3100,43:6399,65:34620,456:40333,602:60892,844:62052,863:78660,929:82698,992:85470,1082:90680,1119:91080,1125:93858,1160:99342,1245:100994,1269:115525,1394:116035,1401:125819,1544:129585,1566:135011,1643:147680,1764:156832,1882:158312,1909:162604,2034:182425,2194:182765,2199:187842,2274:188187,2312:230666,2695:231250,2704:234243,2793:234973,2847:237747,2957:270720,3341:271320,3353:280760,3521$0,0:3465,92:5544,132:18156,385:36048,661:37434,875:46135,963:56222,1142:64238,1228:66492,1272:76625,1321:86104,1398:87754,1437:105324,1667:105714,1674:106260,1682:106962,1691:107352,1702:107742,1708:108288,1717:114112,1769:125045,1885:131334,1935:131774,1941:134590,2006:137230,2051:138902,2076:139342,2082:141278,2123:141630,2128:146434,2178:170648,2449:170952,2454:171864,2467:172852,2494:173156,2499:181766,2659:182330,2667:182706,2678:183270,2685:184116,2695:187200,2722:187704,2727:194888,2776:195333,2782:197710,2794:200090,2831:209589,2888:213572,2909:214502,2927:215370,3015:238660,3158:245678,3207:251255,3230:252515,3333:252767,3395:253397,3407:267840,3517:275480,3611:278216,3628:324176,3990:334547,4121:334895,4126:340176,4207:347520,4328:354838,4427:355126,4432:357625,4448:358815,4472:361110,4513:362680,4519
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Walter Theodore Hayden's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Walter Theodore Hayden lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Walter Theodore Hayden describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Walter Theodore Hayden describes his mother's personality

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Walter Theodore Hayden describes his paternal great-grandfather

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Walter Theodore Hayden describes his paternal grandfather

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Walter Theodore Hayden describes his father's career and personality

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Walter Theodore Hayden describes his childhood family life

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Walter Theodore Hayden describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Walter Theodore Hayden describes his early childhood in Tuskegee, Alabama

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Walter Theodore Hayden recalls moving frequently during his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Walter Theodore Hayden describes his father's work as an A.M.E. minister

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Walter Theodore Hayden describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Walter Theodore Hayden describes his childhood activities in Birmingham, Alabama

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Walter Theodore Hayden describes his school experiences in Birmingham, Alabama

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Walter Theodore Hayden describes influential teachers from grade school

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Walter Theodore Hayden recalls his interest in chemistry at A.H. Parker High School

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Walter Theodore Hayden describes playing football at A.H. Parker High School

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Walter Theodore Hayden recalls his ambitions to attend college

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Walter Theodore Hayden explains why he chose not to become a minister

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Walter Theodore Hayden describes serving in the U.S. Army during World War II

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Walter Theodore Hayden recalls his decision to leave the U.S. Army

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Walter Theodore Hayden recalls his travels during his U.S. Army service

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Walter Theodore Hayden describes his early work experiences after college

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Walter Theodore Hayden recalls the Civil Rights Movement in the early 1960s

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Walter Theodore Hayden describes his involvement in civil rights in Birmingham

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Walter Theodore Hayden describes the dangers faced by civil rights activists

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Walter Theodore Hayden recalls the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Walter Theodore Hayden describes the tradition of civil rights protest marches

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Walter Theodore Hayden talks about why he left Birmingham, Alabama in 1964

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Walter Theodore Hayden recalls entering the printing industry in Fort Wayne, Indiana

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Walter Theodore Hayden describes his company, Unique Greeting Cards

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Walter Theodore Hayden recalls working with black-owned businesses in Fort Wayne

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Walter Theodore Hayden recalls publishing the Black Pages in Fort Wayne, Indiana

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Walter Theodore Hayden describes why he doesn't support black chambers of commerce

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Walter Theodore Hayden explains why black businesses have difficulty obtaining loans

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Walter Theodore Hayden offers advice for African American businesses

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Walter Theodore Hayden reflects upon the legacy of Willie Lynch

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Walter Theodore Hayden describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Walter Theodore Hayden reflects upon his life

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Walter Theodore Hayden reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Walter Theodore Hayden talks about volunteering at area schools

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Walter Theodore Hayden reflects upon his relationship with his parents

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Walter Theodore Hayden describes his children

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Walter Theodore Hayden describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Walter Theodore Hayden narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$5

DAStory

4$5

DATitle
Walter Theodore Hayden explains why he chose not to become a minister
Walter Theodore Hayden recalls publishing the Black Pages in Fort Wayne, Indiana
Transcript
When I came home from the prom that night, that night, about one o'clock in the morning, he [Hayden's father, Charles Hayden] was sitting on the porch rocking, you know. And I came home, he says, "I wanna talk to you," I said okay. We sat on the porch, there was two rockers there on the porch him and hers, you know. And he says, "You don't have to go to the [U.S.] Army." He said, "I can get you deferred." And he said, "I could get you enrolled in school, and you don't have to go to the Army," he said, "you can be a minister." Of all the boys my dad had, he didn't have a minister.$$Was it, that had to be troubling for him because his great-grand, his grandfather [Charles Hayden] had been a minister, his father [Charles Hayden] had been a minister, he was a minister, right?$$Yes, it might have been troubling for him.$$And not a single one?$$Not a single boy, and there were eight of us, eight. Now there was one that preached, wasn't a minister, so he picked me. I had good grades and I pleaded with him, I told him, "Dad, I know how you feel but I don't wanna go through what you've gone through. I don't think I can handle it and come out like you."$$Now what did you mean by that, what did you mean by that?$$In all of the years I had watched him operate, that's what I called it, he did things, took care of things, all the time. One thing that always bothered me is on Monday morning he'd come in there early and wake us up, "You, Walter [HistoryMaker Walter Theodore Hayden]," I said oh, no, I knew what was going on, somebody had got into trouble and he bailed 'em out so they could go to work Monday. That means I didn't have carfare to ride the bus to school. I had to hike it over that mountain the rest of the week, you know. But that, we did it. And we knew what was happening, what was going on. And like you said he was a fixer, and there was always some little problem going on at the church or he was gonna move to another church and da, di, da. And I just didn't think I could handle people that well, (laughter) you know. I, he could have been in any other profession, he could have been quite a force, could have made a lot of money because he was well educated. And I thought, oh, you kind of mistreated us I thought over the years, but later he gave me something that you can't equate with money. And I can do whatever I decided to do. And I can. And I've had that now, tried to instill my kids with it. And, of course, you don't always succeed. Now, my grandfather, my father, would have been very proud of some of his grandchildren and I have two ministers (laughter). So it didn't go for naught, I have two.$$So did you, was it just the economic factor or did you feel like you really (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) I thought it was later on, but that soon dispelled because I found out that after I got out on my own, I had no problem making my own way because I had been taught how to do that. That goes back to the time when this guy told me his kid was home from school, from school and he was gonna work, drive a truck all summer, and he would call me in the winter, I said um-hm, forget it. So I haven't worked for anybody else since.$$But you didn't feel, you didn't feel like any calling to be a minister at all, you didn't really feel that was a--$$Although I'm heavily involved in church.$$Okay. I thought it probably would have been since all this tradition, you know, you probably would have (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Yeah, but none, pfft.$I did that, I printed the book for her, she said, "Why don't you start one?" And I thought about it, I started thinking about that here and (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) There's a young lady here in town [Fort Wayne, Indiana] who was--already had a Black Pages [Fort Wayne Black Pages]?$$No, no, no, we didn't have one. But I was dealing with, Rae Pearson. Rae Pearson is, has a personnel company [Alpha Rae Personnel, Inc., Fort Wayne, Indiana]. And we always talked with each other and so we, we were trying to get a meeting where everybody knew everybody. And so people started bringing me copies of Black Books from, Black Pages from all around the country, so I said, okay, I can put one of these together, I got a print shop [Diamond Point Printing; Express Print and Copy, Fort Wayne, Indiana], so I did. It took me two years to get the first one through but after that, I put out five good ones after that. The first one well, it's typical of a first book and then the rest of them look like it was done right.$$Okay. Now is this a, is the Black Pages like a franchise or something--$$No.$$--or anybody can start their own version of it then?$$Yes.$$It's not a copyrighted idea where--$$No.$$--you can get in trouble if I wanted to start one, I just go start one?$$No. It's just a matter of, I've got this here and it can only support one, you can start one in another city but like Chicago [Illinois], Chicago could support two Black Pages, pages, okay. French [Arnette D. French] up there, nobody wants to get in French's way 'cause can't, printing fifty thousand books a year. And the advertising from that is tremendous in Chicago. What he gets a page up there, I can't even think about it here, most I can get for a full color page would be about eight hundred dollars. He can get two, three thousand for a full page because of the coverage and people who keep these books. And I have created mine to the point where it was really something. And the young man that bought it from me is doing the same. In fact, the new edition will be out some times this week, I think. I was up to see him last week in his, this year's book is coming out this, this week.$$Okay.$$So the Black Pages is a way for you to find any service that's in the black community that you wanna spend your money with. That's what it's all about.$$Now it probably has more significance, tell me if I'm right or wrong, I would guess it would have more significance today than it, even in the past because the black--$$That's right.$$--community is scattered around, people don't even know what the other black businesses are.$$That's right. That's right. This is what it's, that's basically what it's supposed to be. It's your avenue to everything that's going on in the black community. Unfortunately, there's a downside to that, okay (laughter). Everything has a downside. Some people want the very first issue right away as soon as they can get it. And they are using it as a hit list.$$A hit list?$$By that, yes, a hit list. Same as telemarketing, they know where the black community, the black businesses are so they can reach them real quick like they know where all of them are, they're in that book. They don't have to go out, government agencies get them, the city gets them, all government agencies have to have them because they're looking for suppliers, you see. They're looking for suppliers and they're used for more than one purpose what I'm showing you. It became quite a book because of that; they're using it for more than one purpose. Some use it as a hit list, some use it for information, and some use it for use, basically. And they are all over the country doing well. And like you said about it, what's the difference then, I can just start, yes, you can. But there's this thing about what you can do and what you shouldn't do. For instance, this city cannot support two Black Pages. It can support two black newspapers because the advertising in newspapers are here today and gone tomorrow, whereas on this book you see it once a year. And the people who are in that book are very stable, the advertising you see in the newspaper is hit and miss because the guy that puts it in there today he puts in two issues that's it. You won't see it again for some time until he gets another budget maybe. But whereas the Black Pages are full of people who are stable, they're not going in that directory for a seasonal thing, they're going in it because on the long run it's there.

Donzell Starks

Chicago businessman and movie theater owner Donzell Starks was born on Chicago's South Side in 1960. His parents divorced when he was an infant. Raised by his grandmother, Starks exhibited a talent for basketball. His skills led to a scholarship at Western Illinois University, where Starks received a dual degree in finance and business administration. He later earned an M.B.A. from the Illinois Institute of Technology. After working in corporate America in banking and finance, Starks and his wife decided to take the entrepreneurial plunge. They formed Inner-City Entertainment in an effort to develop the large, untapped market of African American moviegoers. In 1991, Starks and his wife, Alicia, decided to focus on inner-city Chicago and they began to explore partnerships to build new theater complexes in minority neighborhoods - areas that major movie chains had historically neglected.

In 1997, Starks beat out Magic Johnson to win financial support from the city of Chicago to build three multiplexes on Chicago's South and West sides. The new theaters were hailed for their aesthetic beauty and their ability to bring jobs to otherwise neglected and rundown areas. By 1999, Starks expanded his theater empire, building a new cinema in Charlotte, North Carolina, and setting his sights on other inner-city neighborhoods around the country. The same year, the company partnered to create the Meridian Entertainment Group, which began by opening a chain of Meridian Theaters and then aquired eight existing Chicago movie theaters. In just two years, Starks had gone from just three multiplexes to controlling 20 percent of Chicago's movie screens. A downturn in the market and other problems forced Starks to cut back to their original investments, which he operates with his wife today. They see their movie theaters as community centers.

Donzell Starks married his high school sweetheart, Alisa, in 1988. They were both life and business partners and lived with their son, Ahmad, in Chicago.

Starks passed away on October 2, 2016.

Accession Number

A2003.207

Sex

Male

Interview Date

8/27/2003

Last Name

Starks

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Organizations
Schools

Burnside Elementary Scholastic Academy

John M. Harlan Community Academy High School

Hales Franciscan High School

Mendel Catholic Preparatory High School

Illinois Institute of Technology

Western Illinois University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Alisa

Birth City, State, Country

Chicago

HM ID

STA02

Favorite Season

July

State

Illinois

Favorite Vacation Destination

Hawaii

Favorite Quote

You Didn't Make Me, So You Can't Break Me.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

1/7/1960

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Baked Potatoes and Salad

Death Date

10/2/2016

Short Description

Leisure entrepreneur Donzell Starks (1960 - 2016 ) started Inner-City Entertainment, the country's first African American-owned movie theater chain.

Employment

ICE Theaters

Metropolitan Life Insurance Company

Highland Community Bank

Bank of Montreal

Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co.

Fundamentally Sound Foundation

Favorite Color

Black

Timing Pairs
0,0:4424,90:20010,337:20370,342:21900,385:22890,459:35228,632:37692,671:38924,730:52624,954:78424,1437:83571,1520:91178,1647:95066,1730:97739,1815:104782,1922:106898,1973:109106,2051:115362,2238:129231,2378:137007,2549:152970,2839:160792,2986:162610,3029$0,0:11560,170:11852,199:16451,342:31020,532:41525,741:46838,856:56035,978:58960,1103:72470,1496:75753,1582:93352,1863:104150,2042:121635,2277:135135,2661:140670,2699:146960,2814:148710,2866:163890,3127:164547,3140:170138,3225:178760,3333:186530,3415
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Donzell Starks' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Donzell Starks lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Donzell Starks talks about his maternal grandfather

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Donzell Starks reflects on his relationship with his adoptive mother, birth mother, and stepfather

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Donzell Starks talks about his absent father

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Donzell Starks remembers his first childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Donzell Starks describes the sights, smells, and sounds of his childhood in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Donzell Starks describes his grade school years

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Donzell Starks describes his childhood neighborhood in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Donzell Starks talks about his childhood activities and religious upbringing

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Donzell Starks reflects on his high school basketball career, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Donzell Starks reflects on his high school basketball career, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Donzell Starks talks about meeting his wife and the impact her family had on him

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Donzell Starks recalls his experience at Western Illinois University in Macomb, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Donzell Starks describes his business mentor at Western Illinois University in Macomb, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Donzell Starks talks about his final years at Western Illinois University and his first jobs out of college

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Donzell Starks talks about working for the Bank of Montreal in Los Angeles, California

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Donzell Starks remembers when he and his wife, HistoryMaker Alisa Starks, first began to think about opening a movie theater

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Donzell Starks describes the origin of Inner City Entertainment

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Donzell Starks talks about choosing the location for Inner City Entertainment's first theater

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Donzell Starks describes his battle for real estate against Magic Johnson

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Donzell Starks remembers the support of his community during the development of Inner City Entertainment

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Donzell Starks talks about his foundation, Fundamentally Sound

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Donzell Starks talks about a brief hats-off policy at ICE Theaters

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Donzell Starks details the community impact of Inner City Entertainment

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Donzell Starks talks about his desire to build a sports complex

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Donzell Starks describes his hopes and concerns for the black community, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Donzell Starks describes his hopes and concerns for the black community, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Donzell Starks talks about different theaters he owned with his wife, HistoryMaker Alisa Starks

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Donzell Starks reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Donzell Starks remembers the challenge of securing a loan for Inner City Entertainment as a young, black male

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Donzell Starks shares his thoughts on professional athletes and money

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Donzell Starks describes how he would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$3

DAStory

5$3

DATitle
Donzell Starks describes his business mentor at Western Illinois University in Macomb, Illinois
Donzell Starks describes his battle for real estate against Magic Johnson
Transcript
Now were there, were there any teachers at Western Illinois University [Macomb, Illinois] that you remember now who were particularly helpful to you?$$No, except for one, and he wasn't my teacher, but he was definitely a strong force: Dr. Matavaha [ph.]. (Unclear) Dr. Matavaha, the whole thing, you know. He made you realize where you come from, you know, that whole thing, keep you conscious.$$And David Patterson, he's also known as, right?$$(Laughter). David Patterson [ph.], no question. That's right, I figured you knew when you laughed. Dr. Matavaha, David Patterson. Yes sir, that's him.$$Right, okay.$$Yeah.$$He had a strong business background with IBM--$$Strong business background.$$--at one time.$$People didn't realize that.$$Right.$$Strong, very smart.$$Very interesting man.$$Very interesting man, yeah. Yeah, David Patterson, yep.$$So he helped, he was sort of a mentor to you?$$Yeah, sort of a mentor indirectly. We wasn't close close but we had conversations that made me, obviously stuck in my mind, got me to where I am to this day. Yeah, I mean, but back in--you know, back in those days you really didn't have, like I say, you didn't have a lot of strong--unless it's your parents--you didn't have a lot of strong, at least in my area, you didn't have a lot of strong African-American mentors. You know, who say "I'm a lawyer, how you doing?" You know, "I'm an entrepreneur, how you doing?" The way the system is designed for, is the fact that you just get to go do a nine-to-five, pay taxes, and 65, then die. That's the way the system is designed. But as I got older my thoughts have changed, and I know it's more to it than just that. That's not a bad deal. I'm saying that's, for me it's more to it than that, I understand. And I'm not saying that's a bad deal if someone does that. But I mean for me I understand a different deal.$$Right. And he was one who would say--he was critical of the education--$$Yeah, he was.$$--that most black youth were getting.$$That's what I'm saying, very critical.$$Being trained to do a job--$$Exactly, right.$$--or work for somebody--$$That's right.$$--instead of being trained to start your own business.$$Exactly right.$$Right.$$Exactly right, he was the first one. I remember that clearly. Funny thing, I got a friend named, I guess we're good friends now, Jim Davis. Jim Davis' father, his father was an entrepreneur. He used to sell to different gas stations. He was an entrepreneur, the point being, is that they used to laugh at Jim. Jim might get out of school and Jim would say, "I'm going to be an entrepreneur. Man, I have no thoughts about working for anybody." I'm laughing at him, "Jim, man, come on, man, you know. You're an entrepreneur? What you talking about?" I mean he had gotten it; Jimmy got it. I got it late. He got it. That was the concept of being an entrepreneur. So I'm saying, you know, yeah, so you live and learn. But, yeah.$$Okay.$$But Dr. Matavaha was the first one that put that in my mind, yeah.$$$And now defying the kind of rumors you're going to get--because you're going to deal with the demographics, you see. And [E.] 87th Street was ideal, because of the fact that you had the expressway, several bus lines; you had a so-called middle class concept. You had everything there. And it turned out to be the best situation, so we did that deal. How Magic [Johnson], well, why people think Magic is involved in that is because I competed against Magic. I was on the cover of Crain's [Chicago Business]; I guess they missed that. I was on the cover of Crain's said, "Little Guy Beats Big Guy." Okay, and little guy beats big guy, but Magic tried to get that site. Magic went to the mayor's office. I went to the alderman and the people. And if you know anything about Chicago politics, definitely the mayor rules, but in those pocket areas of Chicago, the way you get back elected, you deal with the aldermen. And that's how I was able to get to that. I was from Chicago, and people--initially people thought, you know, well, again--got to be Magic's guy or got to be a drug dealer. You can't just raise $40 million. But people didn't realize the fact that, I mean, I have my master's degree. I did ten years on Wall Street. My wife [HM Alisa Starks] has her master's degree from Northwestern [University, Evanston, Illinois], and I went to IIT [Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago, Illinois]. So, we had those kind of combinations. I mean, it went so deep as the fact that we had private investigators in Hollywood to follow us. I know, because my bank would call me and say a private investigator called. You can't get $40 million dollars; you're a regular guy. Yeah, it was, I can tell you some stories about, I mean West Side. What, El Rukns and them, it was Disciples and the other gang over there, I forget, over there. They were fighting for territory.$$The Mickey Cobras and--$$Yeah, right--$$I don't know--$$Yeah, it wasn't the Cobras, but it was the other one.$$Oh--$$What's the guys, what's the guy that just got shot?$$The Vice Lords?$$Vice Lords.$$Right.$$Right there. They said "Well, we tired of, you know, guys like you fronting and coming in the community. This is going to be our territory." I met with them. I had to meet with them. "Hey, no, no, no, no, no. This is my territory. I'm buying this. Now, what do you want?" So, I can tell you a bunch of stories about that. It was crazy times. And at the end of the day, you say "Well, what--fool, what are you doing?" And my wife was like, "What are you doing going dealing with that?" I said "At the end of the day, we are businesspeople, but we still are in the jungle." So, I went back into my survival tactics, which was where I grew up. It wasn't, the people get fooled by the suit and tie in that particular area. But it wasn't so far removed that I was just walking down to Tuley Park getting a gun in my head saying, "Join." People didn't understand that; they don't understand that, the fact that I'm a hood guy, from the hood, too. So, that don't bother me. The issue was that I had to do it now. Because if I didn't do anything then, and the theater opens up and there's a shooting, I'm out of business. I got to take care of it right now. To this day, you go to them theaters--no graffiti, no broke windows, no nothing. All the gang guys know me, you know. And they respect that.

Alisa Starks

Advertising executive and entrepreneur Alisa A. Starks helped launch the country's first African American-owned chain of movie theaters. Born in Chicago on September 14, 1960, Starks grew up on Chicago's South Side.

Starks graduated from Aquinas Dominican High School in 1978, enrolling at Northwestern University. She received her B.S. in journalism in 1982 and her M.S. in 1983 from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. From 1984 to 1989, Starks worked in advertising for Burrell Communications Group in Chicago. She and her husband, Donzell, lived in Los Angeles for two years before returning to Chicago. Starks returned to Burrell, where she became a vice president.

Deciding to take the entrepreneurial plunge, the Starkses began to explore partnerships to build new theater complexes in minority neighborhoods-areas that major movie chains had been historically neglected. In 1997, they beat out Magic Johnson to win financial support from the city of Chicago to build three multiplexes on Chicago's South and West sides. The new theaters were hailed for their aesthetic beauty and their ability to bring jobs to otherwise neglected and rundown areas. By 1999, the Starkses expanded their theater empire, building a new cinema in Charlotte, North Carolina, and setting their sights on other inner-city neighborhoods around the country. The same year, their company partnered to create the Meridian Entertainment Group, which began by opening a chain of Meridian Theaters and by acquiring eight existing Chicago movie theaters. In just two years, the Starkses had gone from just three multiplexes to controlling 20 percent of Chicago's movie screens. A downturn in the market and other problems forced the Starks to cut back to their original investments, which they operate today. They see their movie theaters as community centers.

Alisa Starks has been an active leader in several community and civic organizations. She has served on the boards of the Muntu Dance Theatre, the Metropolitan Pier of Exposition Authority, the Ancona School and the Chicago International Film Festival. Starks and her high school sweetheart, Donzell, married in 1988. They have one child, Ahmad, and live on Chicago's South Side.

Alisa Starks was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on August 27, 2003.

Accession Number

A2003.208

Sex

Female

Interview Date

8/27/2003

Last Name

Starks

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Schools

Firman House

St. Philip Neri Catholic School

St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic High School

Northwestern University

Search Occupation Category
Speakers Bureau

Yes

Speakers Bureau Availability

Depends on Schedule

First Name

Alisa

Birth City, State, Country

Chicago

HM ID

STA01

Speakers Bureau Honorarium

No

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Illinois

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

9/14/1960

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Gumbo

Short Description

Leisure entrepreneur Alisa Starks (1960 - ) is co-owner of the country's first African American owned chain of movie theaters, Inner-City Entertainment. She later founded Meridian Entertainment Group, and gained control of twenty percent of Chicago's movie screens.

Employment

Burrell Communications Group

BBS Marketing

Favorite Color

Black

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Alisa Starks' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Alisa Starks lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Alisa Starks talks about her maternal family history

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Alisa Starks talks about her mother's upbringing and career as a school teacher in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Alisa Starks describes her parents' marriage and her home life as a child

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Alisa Starks describes her paternal family history

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Alisa Starks talks about her father's upbringing, career, and personality

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Alisa Starks remembers how her parents fought for her admittance to St. Philip Neri Catholic School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Alisa Starks recalls celebrating black history at age eight

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Alisa Starks talks about her grade school years

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Alisa Starks describes the sights, smells, and sounds of her childhood in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Alisa Starks talks about her militancy as a youth and why she stopped speaking out

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Alisa Starks describes her experience at St. Philip Neri Catholic School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Alisa Starks describes the role of religion in her childhood and her parents' value for education

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Alisa Starks talks about her decision to major in journalism as a senior at Aquinas Dominican High School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Alisa Starks talks about her undergraduate experience at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Alisa Starks talks about the beginning of her career at Burrell Advertising, pt.1

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Alisa Starks talks about the beginning of her career at Burrell Advertising, pt.2

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Alisa Starks talks about dating relationship and marriage to HistoryMaker Donzell Starks

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Alisa Starks reminisces about meeting her husband, HistoryMaker Donzell Starks and their mutual interest in business entrepreneurship

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Alisa Starks describes her experience living in Los Angeles, California

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Alisa Starks explains the beginning of her dream to open a black-owned movie theater

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Alisa Starks talks about an opportunity to open a movie theater in Los Angeles, California

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Alisa Starks describes an opportunity to open a movie theater in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Alisa Starks talks about acquiring the land in Chicago, Illinois to build Inner City Entertainment Theaters

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Alisa Starks recounts an important partnership with Cineplex Odeon

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Alisa Starks talks about the changes in Lawndale and Chatham, neighborhoods on Chicago, Illinois's South and West sides

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Alisa Starks describes her understanding of the influence of community relationships on the longevity of businesses

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Alisa Starks describes catering to her clientele

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Alisa Starks talks about how the theaters engage African American communities

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Alisa Starks describes the "hat controversy" at one of her movie theaters

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Alisa Starks talks about the reception of different films amongst black audiences

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Alisa Starks reflects upon black independent filmmaking

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Alisa Starks describes marketing independent films

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Alisa Starks talks about providing entry-level jobs in the community

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Alisa Starks shares her hopes and concerns for the black community

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Alisa Starks considers her legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Alisa Starks talks about how she would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$3

DAStory

9$8

DATitle
Alisa Starks talks about the beginning of her career at Burrell Advertising, pt.2
Alisa Starks talks about the changes in Lawndale and Chatham, neighborhoods on Chicago, Illinois's South and West sides
Transcript
But I called Shirley [Searcy] and I said, "I need to, you know, to set up an appointment with Tom Burrell [HM Thomas J. Burrell]." "Okay, I've heard your name and I'll see what I can do." And so she calls me back later, and she says, "Well, you know, he doesn't--you know, he thinks there is really nothing we can do right now." I said, "You need to make this happen," you know. And she goes, "Maybe I can get him on the phone." She gets Tom Burrell on the phone and we start talking. I don't know what I said, but I had the next morning I had a breakfast interview with Tom Burrell. And I had already prepared for what I was going to present him with. And what I did, I created--even though I wasn't on the creative side, I was applying for a job on the account management side--I had a book created, like a portfolio, like art directors because I knew that was his background, was in art direction. And so, the book told the story of me and my accomplishments, and why Alisa Starks--I was then Alisa King--and Burrell should work together. And it also included in this book, like, some of the old ads from when the agency first opened--stuff that he hadn't seen in ten years that I had gotten from old issues of Ebony and Jet and stuff like that. And he was like, "Okay, you know, I think you got to meet one more person." I was like, "I thought you were it. Aren't you Tom Burrell?" (Laughter). You know, and he said--and now I know why he wanted me to meet this person; this person was Sarah Burroughs, who would ultimately become president of Burrell Communications Group when he would become chairman. And he had me interview with her, and she just fooled me to death. I knew when Julius liked me, Gene Morris [HM Eugene Morris] liked me, Tom Burrell I could read it. "Okay, I'm in like Flynn, right now." But with Sarah Burroughs, I could not read her at all. And she you know, I said, "Okay, so you'll get back to me?" And she said, "Yes." And the next thing I knew I had the job. But so, there are stories that they can tell you, of who this persistent person is. Gene will even tell you, "Her mother ran into me one day. (Laughter). "I didn't know her mother." And just how I was persistent in getting the job. So, that was kind of the trail through advertising.$Now they've been successful. I mean, the people go to the show there.$$They go to the show. Well, and interestingly enough, the most successful site is the [E.] 87th [Street] and the Dan Ryan [Expressway], our site. And it's the homerun site; it takes care of the other two. We knew when they gave us the other sites that they would trail Chatham [Chicago, Illinois]. Lawndale [Chicago, Illinois] each of the three communities that we went in were very different African American communities. Lawndale was the most challenged of the three communities. The site that we were on was empty and hadn't been developed since the riots in the 1960's. This was bare land. We were really being trailblazers at that site. But that was also the site the mayor was aggressively wanting done by one of these exhibitors. And that's how they got them, because the mayor wanted something to happen in those communities that would bring these kinds of jobs, entry level jobs, into that community. And there was nothing over there. I mean, Dominick's came in after us. All these people that are you know; they benefit from us being trailblazers there. But you go there today and you see an entire shopping center. You know, the Bank of Lawndale was there. Then there's us, then now there's Dominick's, there's Payless, there's Blockbuster, there's all of that. There's only one out-lot that isn't the out-lot that's there. But it's due to a contract that they couldn't bring in the tenant right away. And now that, well, what happened is McDonald's had an exclusive. They're on one side on one out-lot, and this other out-lot is designed for another fast food chain. And McDonald's kind of just prohibited that other chain from coming in until a certain period of time. That time has expired. So, that will be completely--if you look at that now, they've got market rate housing. The community is drastically changing right now. You can't even get into some of the new homes for less than $200,000, $300,000, for some of the new developments that they're building over there. You look at the other site at [W.] 62nd [Street] and [S.] Western [Avenue]. It was kind of like the middle of the road between Chatham and Lawndale, literally and figuratively. Western Avenue, a strip that runs from the furthest point north of the city to the furthest point south. I mean, known for car dealerships, known for business, but nothing really shopping mall kind of deal. We put our theater at 62nd and Western. More development comes in there, Pep Boys, Aldi's. K-Mart was supposed to come right next to us until it went bankrupt. And then you look at Chatham. Chatham, of the three communities, most developed. The household incomes are larger. The, you know, these are more homeownership in that community. All of that, you know, a stable community.$$It's more black home ownership there than any other place in the city.$$Yeah. So, and then you look at the numbers, the dynamics, the whole nine yards. The two malls were almost, they were more than fifty percent vacant when we went in--both sides of the street. After a week, Home Depot comes in. Now, you've got Marshalls' first inner city store. You know, you've got Bally's. You've got all that kind of stuff. Cub Foods came in after us. That mall is like, what, ninety-nine percent full of You know, on one side, one store big store I think that always keeps changing hands is that Ames on the other side. But in every community that we went in, there was development, which was something that we kept preaching to the banks. They knew how important that getting us in was to each of those communities. And all we were doing was using the model that was very similar to the way that governments have developed the suburban communities. You get in your large acre tenants and create a shopping center, and voila! And a lot of times it was a theater. Where are most of the movie theaters? In these shopping centers in suburban communities. They helped build that, because the other people will come if there's a movie theater. So we got, after these theaters were built--oh, every city, every local official was like calling us all over, "Please come." The problem is I can't be everywhere. And if you've got a theater here, I can't have another one two blocks down the road. But we've been interviewed a lot from like when they a lot of people interviewing us about, well, coming to see the theaters, and seeing the change in all three.