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‘The Sorrowing City’

“Urban Delarosa: The Sorrowing City” is a work of sacred music and art that grows out of Urban Delarosa, an ecumenical, citywide anti-violence ministry.  It will be premiered Tuesday night at St. Sabina Church, with performances scheduled at other locations around town every night this week.

It features music by Fr. Vaughn Fayle with libretto by Rev. Susan Johnson, both of Hyde Park United Church, with performances by several youth choirs, spoken word performance by Mama Brenda Matthews, and photos from “Too Young to Die” by Carlos Javier Ortiz.

More details at

Youth in motion – from Hip Hop to soccer

Young people get a lot of bad press, but with the support of community groups, many are seeking out positive paths in an increasingly difficult world.  Tomorrow two events – a hip hop festival and a soccer league gathering – highlight some of the alternatives.

The Pros Arts Studio’s Sixth Annual We R Hip Hop Festival showcases local musicians, artists, breakdancers and poets in Pilsen and Little Village, emphasizing the noncommercial, positive aspects of hip-hop culture.

It takes place at Dvorak Park, 1119 W. Cullerton, from 1 to 5 p.m. on Saturday, August 13.  Read the rest of this entry »

Sneak Preview: ‘The Interrupters’

There’s lots of buzz for “The Interruptors,” which premiered in January at the Sundance Festival and has already won a slew of awards.  It opens nationwide this summer starting in New York on Friday, and the press is invited to cover a private, invitation-only “friends and family” VIP Preview on Wednesday, July 27 at 6 p.m. at ICE Theater Chatham 14, 210 W. 87th.

The film will open at the Siskel Film Center on August 12 and at ICE theaters in Chatham and Lawndale on August 26.  It tells the story of three “violence interrupters” who work for CeaseFire, following them as they defuse tense situations and showing us their own personal stories and the relationships they develop in the course of their work.

Read the rest of this entry »

Auto pound blues

In the spirit of the old-time rent parties, Chicago blues musicians are throwing an Auto Pound Blues Bailout for singer and drummer Larry Hill Taylor – whose van is stuck in a city pound — at a South Side cafe on Thursday.

Barrelhouse Bonni McKeown is on piano, Joe Harrington on bass, Jerry-O on guitar and West Side Wes on drums, and lots of guests can be expected, Thursday, July 21, 6 to 9 p.m., at Favia Cafe, 1701 S. Hale, near the Beverly Hills Metra stop.

Favia’s is donating free sandwiches, coffee and soft drinks will be on sale, you can BYOB, and the donation is $10 (or more).  Taylor’s CD, They Were In This House, and his memoir, Stepson of the Blues, will also be available.

Larry Hill Taylor

Taylor is the son of blues singer Vera Taylor and the stepson of blues great Eddie Taylor. He grew up in North Lawndale surrounded by the many of the greatest blues musicians of all time, and he’s performed with Albert Collins, Otis Clay, Junior Wells, among many others,  and toured Europe with Willie Dixon.

He’s struggling to keep the music going.  “He’s part of a whole generation that isn’t getting the promotion,” said Barrelhouse Bonni.  “And if they don’t get promoted, the younger generation won’t be inspired to take it up.”

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“Devastation and fear”: a film on Postville

A new film brings out the poignant human stories behind the headlines about the May 12, 2008 immigration raid on the Agriprocessors meatpacking plant in Postville, Iowa.  Please watch this trailer:

Filmmaker Luis Argueta will speak at a Chicago screening of “abUSed: The Postville Raid,” joined by local immigration rights activists who traveled to Postville to support victims of the raid and by Rev. Steve Brackett of the St. Paul Lutheran Church of Postville.

The screening takes place Wednesday, July 20, at 5 p.m. at the National Museum of Mexican Art, 1852 W. 19th Street.

Read the rest of this entry »

Chris Drew comes through

The melodramatic lead to Wednesday’s post backfired — most happily — when Chris Drew showed up as usual for the Making Media Connections conference.   (He made a few media connections, too.)  Here he is with his display of art patches:

C. Drew at 2011 MMC conference

Two fighters

Photo by Nancy Bechtol

For the first time since I can remember, Chris Drew won’t be at Community Media Workshop’s annual conference today and tomorrow.  [Update: Chris Drew comes through]

Normally he’d volunteer for a shift at the registration table and spend the rest of the time sitting in a corner, silk-screening and handing out art patches, and talking to anyone who’s interested about free speech and arts policy in Chicago.

This year he’s fighting a felony charge of illegal eavesdropping – he audiotaped his own arrest back in December 2009 as he challenged the city’s peddlar’s ordinance – and in April he announced that he’s fighting lung cancer.  I reached him by phone Tuesday but couldn’t talk much, since he was headed into a chemotherapy session at Cook County Hospital.

Details of his case are here (also see Newstips’ First Amendment two-fer).

An ACLU lawsuit challenging the eavesdropping law under which Drew is charged was dismissed earlier this year; that ruling is being appealed.  “We are concerned about people’s ability to monitor police activity in public,” Ed Yohnka said.  A Chicago Tribune editorial called the law “indefensible.”

Chris’s gentle appearance and manner can be deceiving:  he’s a fighter. “I have a ’60s bent to me,” he explained to Chicago News Coop in January. “I won’t back down. I won’t be intimidated.”

He’s been fighting for free speech in Chicago for years; he’s refused to back down in the face of an outrageous prosecution.  He’s been contacting legislators about fixing the eavesdropping law.  (And maybe a new arts-friendly mayor will take a new look at the peddlars’ ordinance?)

Meanwhile his art patch project is going nationwide, with exhibits scheduled in Seattle and San Francisco.  But under the financial strain, he sent out an e-mail recently saying the Uptown Multi-Cultural Art Center is in danger of closing.  Chris founded the center in 1987; it teaches silk-screening and holds an annual Art of the T-Shirt festival.  Donations are welcome.

Free speech for artists has been the fight of Chris’s life.  It’s expanded dramatically: now he’s defending free speech rights for all of us.  And there’s a new front.  In the midst of all this, he’s fighting for his life.  We’re pulling for you, Chris.

Meanwhile, State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez should drop all charges against Chris Drew.  And the City Council and General Assembly should fix these laws.

Tiawanda Moore is another fighter.  There’s no telling how many young women are sexually harassed by police. Most, understandably, are too scared to complain about it.  Moore wasn’t.

When she went to police headquarters last August to file a complaint and Internal Affairs officers tried to dissuade her, she started recording them on her cell phone.  When they noticed, they arrested her under the same eavesdropping law that Drew is charged with violating.

Moore had a court date scheduled for today, with her attorney, Robert W. Johnson, continuing to press for a trial date.  The state’s attorney has won a series of continuances.

As CNC reported, Johnson argues that the Internal Affairs officers were violating the law, and the eavesdropping statute exempts people who have a reasonable suspicion that a crime is being committed.

The prosecution of Moore is “just appalling,” said Melissa Spatz of the Chicago Task Force on Violence Against Girls and Young Women, which is supporting Moore.  “It’s certain to have a chilling effect on women who are harassed by police.”

It would be cynical to wonder if that was the point.

The task force has collected over 2200 signatures on an on-line petition calling on Alvarez to dismiss the charges against Moore.

Meanwhile, Spatz said there is no indication that any investigation is underway into the complaint Moore filed last summer, when she returned to police headquarters with her lawyer.

‘Youth spectacle’ transforms nature museum

The Redmoon Youth Spectacle, a massive “spectacle art” installation created by hundreds of Chicago students, takes over the south gallery and terrace of the Peggy Notebart Nature Museum for four nights this week.

Some 750 young people, including CPS students and residents of the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center, worked with Redmoon‘s Neighborhood Arts Program to design, create, engineer and perform a series of interpretations of their experience of Chicago’s urban ecology.

Redmoon shared the tools of the spectacle art for which it is known, including puppetry, gadgetry, surreal contraptions, acrobatics, sound installation and shadow animation, said Sean Kaplan.  Kids love it, he said.

Installations that were constructed at community sites are being transported to the museum, and about 60 kids are participating in performances which will transform the installations into a “living exhibition.”   Performances take place hourly between 6 and 9 p.m., Wednesday May 18 through Friday the 20th.  A 6:30 p.m. performance on Tuesday, May 17 is followed by a panel discussion by artists and educators.

Admission is $10, $3 for students, $25 for a family of five.  The Notebart Museum is at 2430 N. Cannon Drive in Lincoln Park.

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