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Bronzeville, Near South Side

‘Bronzeville’ Podcast Back For Season 2 As It Transports Listeners To A Time When Lottery ‘Kings’ Ruled Black Chicago

The podcast, now in its second season, explores Black life in Chicago in the '40s.

Larenz Tate (left) and Lawrence Fishburne (right) at the premiere party for "Bronzeville" in 2017.
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BRONZEVILLE — A podcast drama that depicts Black life in the ’40s and how the lottery was born in Bronzeville is back for its second season.

“Bronzeville” is an audio series that explores the lives of Chicago “Policy kings” of the 1940s. Policy, an underground version of the lottery that generated millions, was huge in Bronzeville before the game was picked up and legalized by state governments.

The show recently kicked off its second season with new characters and challenges for the Copelands — the family at the center of the drama — as they push forward after experiencing a tragedy.

The drama is written by Oscar-nominated screenwriter Josh Olsen and produced by actor and Chicago native Larenz Tate and Laurence Fishburne. “Bronzeville” has enjoyed a huge following since premiering in 2017 — and drawn a considerable amount of star power, with everyone from Tracee Ellis Ross to Levar Burton signing on.

The series offers a glimpse into the lives of the Copelands and the denizens of their South Side community in a way that isn’t mired in struggle or tragedy, focusing instead on the “slice of life” moments that happen in between.

“We were self-sufficient in a lot of ways in the community, and the economic infrastructure at the time was Policy,” said Larron Tate, a producer who’s been with the show from its inception. “Policy was basically the lottery, and eventually would become the Illinois Lottery. While what they were doing was illegal, they were literally investing in the community.”

In the show, the Copelands are considered Bronzeville royalty, with brothers Everett and Jesse running numbers for Curtis “Eyeball” Randolph while little sister Lisa wants to change the world. Other players include Jimmy Tillman (played by Larron’s brother, Larenz Tate) an Arkansas transplant with feelings for Lisa (played by Tika Sumpter); Cory Hardrict as Jimmy’s friend Casper; and Zeke, a third Copeland brother played by another Tate brother, Lahmard.

With more than 50 actors voicing 100 roles, recording can be tricky, but Larron Tate credits the cast and crew with keeping everyone on target.

“A lot of this was just picking up the phone. I didn’t want to go through an agent … this was a labor of love,” Tate said. “We want people to take a journey to understand our contributions as African Americans to this great country.”

People who wish to listen can tune in on “Bronzeville’s” website or on iTunes or Spotify.

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