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Michael "Rahni" Flowers

Hair stylist and business owner Michael “Rahni” Flowers was born on March 15, 1955 in Chicago, the tenth of thirteen children. His father, Edmond Joseph Flowers, was a factory worker, and his mother, Mae Carrie Byrd, was a housewife. The couple had come to Chicago from Mississippi in the 1940’s as part of the great migration of African Americans seeking more economic opportunities in the North. In 1973, he entered Northern Illinois University as a pre-med/psychology major, where he studied until 1976. He later enrolled at Pivot Point International, where in 1977 he received his degree in cosmetology. After graduating from Pivot Point International, Flowers trained and worked at Vidal Sassoon for several years. In 1981, he opened the original Van Cleef Hair Studio in Chicago. In 1988, Flowers purchased the salon’s present location in what was then the still underdeveloped Chicago River North area.

First Lady Michelle Obama had been a regular client of Flowers from the age of 18, until her move to Washington D.C. He had the honor to style the First Lady, and the ladies of the First Family, for the 2009 Inauguration. Flowers has worked with a number of other celebrities, including Kerry Washington, Marilyn McCoo, Nancy Wilson, Regina Taylor, Sinbad, and Phyllis Hyman. Other notable Chicago clients include Allison Payne, Carol Mosley-Braun, Merri Dee and Muriel Clair.

Flowers, through his studio, has supported a number of organizations, including Cabrini Green Tutoring Program, Children’s Advocacy, Lynk’s Organization, DuSable Museum, WGN-TV’s Wednesday’s Child, Chicago Juvenile Detention Center, Planned Parenthood, the National Organization for the Advancement of Colored People and special interest programs during Women’s Health Month. In 2010, Flowers received a L.E.O. Award from Pivot Point International for success in field of the professional beauty.

Hair stylist and business owner Michael “Rahni” Flowers was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on August 25, 2013.

Accession Number

A2013.226

Sex

Male

Interview Date

8/25/2013

Last Name

Flowers

Maker Category
Marital Status

Domestic Partner

Occupation
Schools

Hearst Elementary School

Garfield Elementary School

Proviso East High School

Northern Illinois University

Pivot Point Beauty School

First Name

Michael

Birth City, State, Country

Chicago

HM ID

FLO03

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Illinois

Favorite Vacation Destination

Costa Rica

Favorite Quote

Your Word Is Your Bond.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

3/15/1955

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Bacon

Short Description

Hairstylist Michael "Rahni" Flowers (1955 - ) opened the Van Cleef Hair Studio in 1981 in Chicago, and purchased the salon’s present location in 1988. First Lady Michelle Obama was a regular customer of Flowers, starting in 1981.

Employment

Van Cleef Hair Studio

Vidal Sassoon

Fotomat

Community Center

National Youth Corps

Favorite Color

Cool Colors

Cheryl Blackwell Bryson

Corporate lawyer Cheryl Blackwell Bryson was born on May 28, 1950 in Baltimore, Maryland to Connie Blackwell and Clarence D. Blackwell. Bryson received her B.S. degree from Morgan State University, graduating magna cum laude in 1972. In 1977, Bryson received her J.D. degree from Ohio State University, College of Law. She was the associate editor of Ohio State University’s Law Journal in 1976.

From 1976 to 1980, Bryson worked as a labor law associate for the law firm Friedman & Koven. She was then an associate at Katten, Muchin & Zavis, in Chicago, Illinois from 1980 through 1989. Bryson also worked as the Deputy Corporation Counsel for the City of Chicago Law Department where she established the Labor Relations Division and directed contract administration and collective bargaining for the city's 35,000 unionized employees. From 1989 to 1992, Bryson was a partner at the law firm of Bell, Boyd & Lloyd, in Chicago. She was a partner at Rivkin, Radler & Kremer from 1992 to 1995 and at Holleb & Coff from 1995 to 1999. Since 1999, Bryson was a partner at Duane Morris LLP where she was head of the Chicago office's Employment Law and Management Labor Relations Practice and a former member of the firm’s board of managers. A frequent author and lecturer on labor and employment law issues, Bryson was a member of the Labor and Employment Law Section of the American Bar Association, the Labor and Employment Law Committee of the Chicago Bar Association and the Cook County Bar Association. She successfully defended both public and private sector employers from unfair labor practice charges and directed employer's strike planning when a union threatened to strike. Bryson also successfully defended a major bank before the Chicago Commission on Human Relations against claims of sexual discrimination. She counseled a client in the securities industry on efforts to coach senior executives on effective management strategies, reductions in force, workforce restructuring and litigation avoidance.

Bryson served on numerous boards as an advisor and trustee including The DuSable Museum of African-American History, The Neighborhood Institute Development Corporation, and the Cook County Economic Development Advisory Committee. In addition, Bryson was part of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich’s transition team. She was the recipient of numerous awards including the Hermann Sweatt Award from the National Bar Association in 2007.

Bryson passed away on January 20, 2012 at age 61.

Accession Number

A2008.138

Sex

Female

Interview Date

11/20/2008

Last Name

Bryson

Maker Category
Occupation
Schools

Elmer A. Henderson Elementary School

Clifton Park Junior High School

Eastern High School

Morgan State University

The Ohio State University

The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law

First Name

Cheryl

Birth City, State, Country

Baltimore

HM ID

BRY02

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Maryland

Favorite Vacation Destination

Jamaica

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

5/28/1950

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Seafood

Death Date

1/20/2012

Short Description

Corporate lawyer Cheryl Blackwell Bryson (1950 - 2012 ) was a partner at the law firm of Duane Morris LLP, and served as the Deputy Corporation Counsel for the City of Chicago Law Department, where she directed contract administration and collective bargaining for the city's 35,000 unionized employees.

Employment

Friedman and Koven

Katten Muchin and Zavis

City of Chicago

Bell Boyd and Lloyd, LLP

Rivkin Radler LLP

Holleb and Coff

Duane Morris

Favorite Color

Yellow

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Cheryl Blackwell Bryson's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Cheryl Blackwell Bryson lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Cheryl Blackwell Bryson describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Cheryl Blackwell Bryson talks about interracial relationships in the 19th century

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Cheryl Blackwell Bryson describes her mother's community in Atmore, Alabama

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Cheryl Blackwell Bryson talks about her mother's early experiences of racial discrimination

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Cheryl Blackwell Bryson talks about her white family members

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Cheryl Blackwell Bryson describes her mother's early education

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Cheryl Blackwell Bryson describes her mother's experiences of color discrimination within the black community

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Cheryl Blackwell Bryson talks about how her parents met

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Cheryl Blackwell Bryson describes her father's family background

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Cheryl Blackwell Bryson talks about her paternal great-grandmother

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Cheryl Blackwell Bryson describes her paternal family's migration to Baltimore, Maryland

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Cheryl Blackwell Bryson remembers her father's stories about the Great Depression

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Cheryl Blackwell Bryson recalls lessons from her father and grandfather about money management

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Cheryl Blackwell Bryson describes her father's career

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Cheryl Blackwell Bryson talks about her parents' marriage

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Cheryl Blackwell Bryson describes her parents' personalities and who she takes after

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Cheryl Blackwell Bryson describes her earliest childhood memories

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Cheryl Blackwell Bryson describes the sights and smells of her childhood

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Cheryl Blackwell Bryson remembers her white neighbors in East Baltimore, Maryland

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Cheryl Blackwell talks about segregation in Baltimore, Maryland

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Cheryl Blackwell Bryson recalls attending an experimental elementary school

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Cheryl Blackwell Bryson remembers Matthew Henson

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Cheryl Blackwell Bryson talks about her early influences

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Cheryl Blackwell Bryson remembers Clifton Park Junior High School in Baltimore, Maryland

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Cheryl Blackwell Bryson talks about her early civil rights activities

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Cheryl Blackwell Bryson recalls her experiences at Eastern High School in Baltimore, Maryland

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Cheryl Blackwell Bryson describes her experience at Eastern High School in Baltimore, Maryland

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Cheryl Blackwell Bryson talks about her early aspirations

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Cheryl Blackwell Bryson recalls her experiences at Morgan State College in Baltimore, Maryland

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Cheryl Blackwell Bryson remembers the March on Washington

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Cheryl Blackwell Bryson describes her family's acquaintance with civil rights leaders

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Cheryl Blackwell Bryson recalls the riots after Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Cheryl Blackwell Bryson talks about her activism at Morgan State College in Baltimore, Maryland

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Cheryl Blackwell Bryson recalls her decision to attend The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Cheryl Blackwell Bryson remembers meeting her husband

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Cheryl Blackwell Bryson describes her professors at The Ohio State University

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Cheryl Blackwell Bryson recalls her decision to study law

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Cheryl Blackwell Bryson describes the racial discrimination at The Ohio State University College of Law

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Cheryl Blackwell Bryson recalls her peers at The Ohio State University

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Cheryl Blackwell Bryson remembers joining the law firm of Friedman and Koven

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Cheryl Blackwell Bryson talks about the field of employment law

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Cheryl Blackwell Bryson talks about discrimination casework in the public and private sectors

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Cheryl Blackwell Bryson recalls her time at Katten Muchin and Zavis

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Cheryl Blackwell Bryson remembers serving as deputy corporation counsel for the City of Chicago

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Cheryl Blackwell Bryson talks about Chicago Mayor Harold Washington and President Barack Obama

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Cheryl Blackwell Bryson recalls joining the law firm of Bell Boyd and Lloyd LLP

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Cheryl Blackwell Bryson describes her challenges at the law firm of Katten Muchin and Zavis

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Cheryl Blackwell Bryson remembers the birth of her children

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Cheryl Blackwell Bryson remembers being passed over for a partnership at Katten Muchin and Zavis

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Cheryl Blackwell Bryson talks about her compensation during her law career

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Cheryl Blackwell Bryson recalls how she came to work for Duane Morris LLP

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Cheryl Blackwell Bryson remembers the deaths of her husband and eldest son

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Cheryl Blackwell Bryson describes her physical health issues

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Cheryl Blackwell Bryson remembers adapting to her physical illness

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Cheryl Blackwell Bryson describes her experiences at Jackies on the Reef in Negril, Jamaica

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Cheryl Blackwell Bryson remembers changing her lifestyle to treat her chronic pain

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Cheryl Blackwell Bryson talks about her book project on back pain

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Cheryl Blackwell Bryson reflects upon her life and her charitable activities

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Cheryl Blackwell Bryson describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Cheryl Blackwell Bryson talks about her family

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Cheryl Blackwell Bryson reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Cheryl Blackwell Bryson describes how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Cheryl Blackwell Bryson narrates her photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$6

DAStory

4$1

DATitle
Cheryl Blackwell Bryson recalls attending an experimental elementary school
Cheryl Blackwell Bryson describes her challenges at the law firm of Katten Muchin and Zavis
Transcript
I remember the, you know, when integration was beginning to happen. And I remember when in 19--after Brown versus Board of Education [Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 1954], my parents [Connie McCreary Blackwell and Clarence Blackwell, Sr.] deciding whether we were going to go to the white school, which was down the street and around the corner, or the black school, which was a mile away. And they decided we would go to the black school, you know. And I remember I was a smart--you know, I was a really smart kid; we all were. Because we played school. We'd come home, in our house we played school. My sister [Camellia Blackwell Taffel] taught me; she was a year ahead of me. And I was really smart, but part of it was because that's what I was training on. She'd come and say, "This is what I learned in school." So, I went to school, I knew what she knew. And in summers, I read a lot. So I had, always had really high test scores. And then for many summers, I was in an experimental school over at Johns Hopkins University [Baltimore, Maryland] where they took the kids in the school with the really high test scores. And one of my earliest memories after first grade when they chose me--and then, you know, all the family came around, because it was a white environment. And they would get--telling me, you know, basically, "You're going to be with all these white people, and you're going to be fine." Basically they were saying that because everybody else I had been with in school had been black. And I remember being in that class in the summer. It was a summer program, they were--in those days, they passed kids (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) This was between first grade and second grade [at Elmer A. Henderson School, Baltimore, Maryland]?$$Between first grade and second grade.$$Okay.$$In those days, they passed kids. So they took the really bright kids and, you know, put them in this program. I don't know, you know, what the theory was. But my mother never let me pass, because my sister was a year older than I. So, she didn't think that socially that was a good thing to do to my sister, to have me in the same grade as she. But I remember, I still remember what the teacher looked like. She was a white woman with big bangs, you know, like one of those Beatles haircuts, but that was before The Beatles. And I remember that she would go around the room and pat everybody on the head, and skip me. She never touched me, and I remember trying to figure out why she wouldn't touch me. Because I knew when she passed the test grades back that I almost always had the highest test score, you know. If we had a spelling test, I had a hundred, and other people would have other scores. And I couldn't figure out--because I had come in--I had gone to the black schools for preschool, for kindergarten, and first grade, where I would go up to the teacher in first grade and she would, you know, hug me and show me the work. And I couldn't figure out why this teacher--you know, it was years later. I thought, why was there only two of us black in the room? And she didn't touch me and she didn't touch Allen [ph.], and I couldn't, I didn't make the connection about race. I knew that there was something going on, that they were preparing me to be with these white people. But I didn't--because I liked to learn, I went there and I did what I always did. And I had to figure it out, it was. You know, there were only two--it must have been. I could have been wrong, but I remember she never touched me. And I remember how bad, you know, how bad I felt that she never--that she wouldn't--that she wouldn't--I was used to the teachers acknowledging how smart I was (laughter). And she didn't acknowledge me, and she never touched me. And I knew that I was making good grades, and I couldn't figure it out. And any way, that's one of my early memories. So the discrimination that I actually experienced, you know, we didn't--I didn't experience the cross burnings. I experienced the stories about how mean black people--white people--had been to other people in the family. And we lived with them in the early days, and we lived well with them, as far as I could see, as they were moving away. But that's one of the pain- early painful memories that as a little kid finishing kinder, first grade, that lady never--would walk and touch that kid, and just go on over my head and touch everybody else.$Let's I guess go back to Katten Muchin and Zavis [Katten Muchin and Zavis; Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP, Chicago, Illinois] (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) What it was like at a law firm?$$Yeah, yeah. What else was significant about Kachen--Katten and Muchin and Davis [sic.]?$$Katten Muchin.$$Katten Muchin and Davis, yeah.$$Well, I think it was--it was the--you know, before I went to the city, I'd had six years--what was it? Seventy-seven [1977], '78 [1978], '79 [1979], '80 [1980]? How many years? I finished law school [The Ohio State University College of Law; Michael E. Moritz College of Law, Columbus, Ohio] in '77 [1977], and I went to the city in '86 [1986], I think. And during that time, I'd spent all my time in a law firm. I was married, had had two kids [Bradley Bryson and Blake Bryson]. And this was a time when blacks were just beginning to join law firms. And when I first started, the pattern was for the firms to hire blacks--some women--but I'm talking about blacks now, African Americans--hire us, not give us work, and fire us at the end of the year, and say they didn't, that our hours were low. And it was not a pretty sight, because many people came and left, in short order. It was not a welcoming environment; the law firm world was not. People say it's still not. The percentages of African Americans in law firms is relatively low. So, it was a, it was a, it was a tough environment where you--you know, for me, I was always the only one, the first and the only. And I--there was no comfort in that. But we had created (background noise) sort of a network throughout the city, so that many of us at the firms knew each other, and we would call each other up. We were still dropping like flies, but it worked for me, because there were things I liked about practicing law--I'm entrepreneurial. And I liked even--I liked working with the partners to develop the work that I did for myself, and I think it was my entrepreneurial skills. Of course, you're a good lawyer. Everybody's a good lawyer, but can you survive if you're, you know, just being a good lawyer? It was my entrepreneurial skills that allowed me to work with other partners and do what they call bring in business. So, and it was a tough time. Women, there were very few women. And a lot of women who--they didn't--there was a belief that women couldn't have kids and practice law. This was in the, in, you know, this was all cutting edge stuff. In my law school graduating class, I think 15 percent of the class may have been females, and the classes ahead of me would have had fewer females. So, the women came behind me. I was on the cutting edge of those people who, when I came along, there were no maternity leave policies. I helped create one. I just took the work, went home, had the baby and kept working from home until they figured out that I needed to get paid in some way that made sense. I suggested that I get paid by the hour. So, I was one of the pioneers for creating a maternity leave policy. And I, they say that I was one of the first lawyers to show that mothers could practice law. I had to figure out how to play the game of, you know, not working like crazy and going home and taking care of your kid. And then I was the first African American woman to rise up through the ranks in a major law firm to make partner, which is a scary experience. Because as an associate, people give you work, so you have--you make your living by how many, how much work you do. And then you make partner, and it's this fear that you're going to run out of work. So, there were--a lot of people had already left the firm by the time I made partner. And that's not to say that they made decisions, they, bad decisions. They chose other career paths, and my choice was to, to, to go the law firm route.