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Chicago Freedom Movement Photographer Comes to Dayton

Dayton REALTORS® co-hosted a fair housing event with the Miami Valley Fair Housing Center this past April featuring Bernard Kleina, who photographed Dr. Martin Luther King in 1966.

By Anthony SanFilippo
Bernard Kleina
Bernard Kleina flanked by Dayton REALTORS® CEO Andrew Sims and a member of the Miami Valley Fair Housing Board.

As a 30-year-old priest in suburban Chicago, Bernard Kleina decided to go to the march in Marquette Park to take pictures. The march, organized by Dr. Martin Luther King, was part of the Chicago Freedom Movement in 1966.

Kleina had a feeling it would be an occasion worth memorializing in photos. Little did he know just how important his decision to bring his Kodak camera to the march with him would be.

His collection of photos turned out to be the defining proof of just how respectful and disciplined King and the rest of the marchers were.

Meanwhile, it also documented the chaos of rocks and cherry bombs being thrown by protesters walking the same route, with only the Chicago police separating them.

Bernard Kleina’s Traveling Photo Exhibit

The photos of the Chicago Freedom Movement are some of the only photos of King that are in color, as color film was still rare at the time. The photos have been on display at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute in Alabama. Some of them have been featured online through the Smithsonian Institution. And Kleina, who left the priesthood in 1968 after getting arrested at a march in Alabama, has been taking his photos around the country speaking to schools and professional organizations to remind them of the significance of the actions and words of Dr. King.

One of those stops was in Dayton, Ohio where the Dayton REALTORS® co-hosted a fair housing luncheon with the Miami Valley Fair Housing Center this past April. The event was a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act. More than 240 people attended the event.

Kleina, now 82, has been a fair housing activist for many years, and was the keynote speaker at the Dayton event.

“The initial showing of the photos was really well-received by those in attendance,” said Dayton REALTORS® President Bob Morrison. “I personally enjoyed it because I lived through those times and I remember those events. [Kleina] was able to give additional information about each of the pictures that really provided great context and made each of them all the more meaningful to those of us in attendance.”

Marie Kindrick Fair Housing Award winner
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Dayton REALTORS® Celebrate Fair Housing Act Anniversary

The day’s activities started with a three-hour continuing education class titled, “Fair Housing Survey 1968-2018.” The centerpiece of the class was Kleina and his photo exhibit.

He riveted the audience with his still very concise and powerful memories of the obstacles and opposition Dr. King and the protesters experienced in Chicago during the marches of 1965-1966.

“I’m trying to keep Dr. King’s dream alive, which, of course, is our dream — that everyone has an equal opportunity for success,” Kleina told the Chicago Sun-Times about his speaking engagements in which he shares his historic photographs.

Morrison said that Dayton REALTORS® didn’t just take this anniversary as the opportunity to talk about fair housing, but that it offers courses and classes throughout the year at the Fair Housing Center that are often well-attended.

The Marie Kindrick Awards

At the event, the Dayton REALTORS® also awarded their Marie Kindrick Awards during the luncheon. The Marie Kindrick Award is given to individuals in recognition of their commitment and passion in upholding the ideals of fair housing.

“Fair housing is important to every community but in Dayton especially we’ve made strides in fair housing and we are continuing to work on those issues,” Morrison said.

The previous night, a special opening of the traveling photo exhibit was held for invited guests. The opening of the exhibit was called, “Open Housing, the Origins of Fair Housing as seen through the Chicago Freedom Movement.” The exhibit opened at exactly 6:01 PM, the exact time marking Dr. King’s death on April 4, 1968.

This exhibit, which was housed at Sinclair Community College in Dayton, then remained open after the Fair Housing Luncheon for the public to view on docent led tours.

This two-day event gave a deeper understanding of fair housing laws and the oft-difficult journey taken by those who were discriminated against and who fought for the right of all to have equal opportunity to the housing of their choice.

“Fair housing makes us stronger by being able to emphasize the importance of fair housing for everyone, not just a few,” Morrison said. “It has to be a paramount issue for every REALTOR® in the business. It should be a tenet of the whole country. It should be ingrained into our livelihood. It needs to be promoted at all levels of real estate at all times. Not one segment of the community should be left out of the ability of obtaining housing that they want. Everyone needs an opportunity to get the housing they desire.

“In my generation, buying a home was general nature. Nowadays, not so much. For the general population, the ability to do that has to be across the board. It’s good that we have programs to assist people into affording housing. Education is an important part of housing for homebuyers, and we need to continue to provide that education as much as we can.”

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