A West Side McDonalds will be transformed into a quilting bee, and the South Side Cultural Center will be transformed into a 1963 civil rights rally, in two cultural events exploring black history this weekend.
The North Lawndale African American Heritage Quilting Project  is holding a “drive-thru quilting day” in the conference room of the McDonalds at Roosevelt and Kedzie on Saturday, February 25 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Customers will be invited to create a patch for the project’s second quilt, depicting anything they find meaningful including poems or Scripture, traditional African patterns, or depictions of family traditions or neighborhood landmarks or heroes. People who bring photos or pictures can have them copied and transferred onto a patch.
The project reflects local activist Valerie Leonard’s passion for involving people in participatory projects and a desire to build community pride.
The group has held quilting sessions at neighborhood churches and senior centers and is working on involving local schools, with students researching and designing patches with historical themes.
At a local church last week, “we had all ages, 3 to 80,” she says. It’s not just women, either. “It’s amazing, some of the young guys that do try it, they really get into it,” Leonard said.
On Sunday at 4 p.m., the South Shore Opera Company  is presenting “The March, ” an opera in development by composer Jonathan Stinson and librettist Alan Marshall exploring events surrounding the 1963 March on Washington.
Artists who’ve performed with the Lyric Opera, CSO, and other top groups will portray characters including Martin Luther King, John F. Kennedy (his aria occurs in a meeting the segregationist senators), Bayard Rustin and Chicago native Diane Nash. A multimedia portion tells the story of Emmet Till, and Till comes back to life with the aria, “Mama, How Was I To Know?”
The music is “contemporary and accessible,” said SSCO publicity chair Gary Ossewaarde.
The performance launches the company’s fourth season. Housed in the historic South Shore Cultural Center and led by artistic director Cornelius Johnson, the company features work by African and African-American composers along with standard repertoire. They’ve had notable performances of scenes from “Carmen” and “Porgy and Bess,” and they hope to mount a production of Scott Joplin’s opera, “Treemonisha,” Ossewaarde said.
The Chicago Park District is co-sponsoring the event, which is free.