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‘Dangerously informed’ Mayoral Tutorial returns

With a new mayor installed on the fifth floor of City Hall, the incisive analysis and biting satire of the Mayoral Tutorial website is coming back.

A relaunch party featuring spoken word artists, comedy, live music, and “rabble rousing galore” takes place tonight (Tuesday, May 17, 7 p.m. to 12 midnight) at Heartland Cafe, 7000 N. Glenwood.

A new version of the website ( should be up imminently, and organizer Don Washington said he plans to resume monthly forums focused on public policy topics, probably this summer.

During the recent mayoral campaign, MT forums offered an entertaining and participatory approach to allow voters to dig into issues behind candidates’ campaign positions.  One featured a game-show format to elucidate the ins and outs of tax increment financing.

A couple mayoral candidates even participated, though not the eventual winner.

Washington has a basic community organizer’s analysis, which breaks things down to organized money and organized people.  Mayor Emanuel represents organized money, in this analysis, and his task is now to “create a new reality – this is the way things are going to be – which means he remains in campaign mode, and second to control the playing field so there’s more space for organized money and less for  organized people,” Washington said.

He’s “perturbed” that City Council members seem to be “lining up to follow” Emanuel and not countering with alternative policy options.  “If the mayor dominates the process” it’s going to yield “public policy that’s written for the upper class,” Washington said.

Emanuel talks about “shared sacrifice,” but “I don’t know where the shared sacrifice is for the guys at the Board of Trade,” he said.

Washington is focusing right now on budget policy, and worries that indiscriminate cuts in city services risk “turning [the city] into Detroit,” while privatizing services as a way of cutting salaries and health coverage represents a “salary bomb” that will drain the city’s economic vitality.

Joining Washington tonight are educator Amesha Patel of the Grassroots Collaborative, educator Bill Ayres, Harishi Patel of the Progressive Alliance, performance artist Nicole Garneau, Sage X Morgan-Hubbard, and Louder Than A Bomb champ FX SupremeDemocracy Burlesque will offer a Farewell to Mayor Daley.  It’s free.

Gypsy music in Chicago

One of the world’s greatest cimbalom players – who’s also one of Chicago’s hidden musical treasures – is playing this Sunday, and the Gypsy Culture Preservation Project is urging music lovers to attend (7:30 to 11 p.m., Sunday, April 17 at Marie’s Italian Restaurant, 4127 W. Lawrence).

Alex Udvary is one of the world’s top-ranked players of the cimbalom (a European hammer dulcimer) and, with his many musical cousins, a stalwart of Chicago’s Romani music community.  Udvary is who the CSO calls when they need a cimbalom player; Kodaly, Bartok, Stravinsky, Boulez and others have written for the instrument. He’s also been featured in a TV commercial for Wendy’s.  He comes from a long line of Gypsy musicians; his great-aunt, the Countess Verona, is considered one of the great cimbalom players of all time.

Udvary has performed across Europe and in the close-knit Gypsy community here since moving to Chicago in the ’70s; he plays in a duo at Julius Meinl once a month.  Sunday’s gig is a rare opportunity to catch a larger ensemble – he’ll be joined by cousins playing violin, guitar and bass, performing swing, Hungarian folk, Yiddish, and continental repertoire in the highly-ornamented Gypsy cabaret style – and if the turnout is good, Steve Balkin of the GCPP says it could become a weekly engagement.

Balkin is known as a voice for preservation of Maxwell Street (read his open letter to the new mayor at Beachwood Reporter); he’s an economist at Roosevelt University.  He encountered Chicago’s Gypsies at the old Maxwell Street and has studied their culture in line with his interests in outdoor markets and microenterprises.  As his interest grew, he began compiling online resources and maintains a clearinghouse for Romani Culture on the internet.

“You have to go to Budapest or Paris to hear music like this,” Balkin says. “Alex and his cousins are the last generation of American gypsy musicians who play this repertoire.”  He’s asking fans of ethnic and world music to come out and support  “this spirited, thrilling, soulful music.”

Here’s Alex Udvary with violinist Jovan Mihailovic at Julius Meinl’s:

Concert to end polio

Two accomplished polio survivors, violinst Itzhak Perlman and conductor James DePreist, join the Chicago Symphony Orchestra tomorrow evening for a Concert to End Polio benefiting Rotary International’s campaign to eradicate the disease.

The disease, which often strikes in childhood and can kill and paralyze its victims, is on the brink of eradication, but a strong push is needed now to take advantage of “a window of opportunity of historic proportions,” according to Rotary.

The concert takes place Monday, March 7 at 7:30 p.m. at Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan.  At 6 p.m. the building’s exterior will be illuminated by Rotary’s End Polio Now pledge.

Both Perlman and DePreist use electric scooters and crutches to get around.  Perlman, considered one of the greatest violinists of our time, contracted polio when he was 4 years old, growing up in Tel Aviv.

DePreist is director of conducting and orchestral studies at Julliard School of Music and has been music director of orchestras in Quebec, Oregon, Sweden and Monaco. He contracted the disease in Bangkok as a young man at the beginning of his career, during a cultural tour sponsored by the State Department.

(Some of his story – starting with the 1939 Lincoln Memorial performance by his history-making aunt, contralto Marian Anderson – is featured in the opening segment of My Country, a documentary hosted be DePreist in which he profiles three disability rights activists and discusses their work as an extension of the civil rights movment; watch it here.)

“Polio is a profound limiter that requires imagination and energy to deal with,” DePreist tells Rotary. “It helps if one can use the upper body constructively and creatively.”

Eliminating polio is the top priority of Rotary International, headquartered in Evanston.  In 1988 the group joined with the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and the Centers for Disease Control to launch a global polio eradication initiative.

Since then the number of annual cases of polio — once the most feared childhood disease — has been reduced by 99 percent, down from 350,000 a year in 1988 to 1,000 in 2010.  The effort has prevented an estimated quarter-million deaths and five million cases of childhood paralysis.

Polio is now endemic only in India, Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and eradication efforts are focused on providing multiple immunizations for 300 million children in those countries, which are home to a quarter of the world’s population, said Dr. Carol Pantak, polio expert with Rotary.

“We are so close” – but the final push is “the most difficult and expensive” stage, she said.  The musicians are helping Rotary raise $200 million to match a $355 million challenge grant from the Gates Foundation.

Polio could become the second human disease to be completely eradicated, following smallpox, which was eradicated in 1979.

“We are so close to eradicating polio for good,” Perlman tells USA Today. “As far as I’m concerned, there is no excuse for a single case of polio anywhere.

“The vaccines are available. Everything that’s needed to end the disease is available. It all comes down to money and to having some sort of real effect politically.”

DuSable celebrates Burroughs; archives go online

Tomorrow, DuSable Museum features a day-long celebration of the life of Margaret Burroughs, the artist and institution-builder who died November 21. At the same time, the University of Chicago unveils a project to improve access to archives at South Side cultural institutions, including two founded by Burroughs, DuSable Museum and the South Side Community Art Center.

Dr. Margaret Burroughs: In Her Own Words is a day-long celebration of DuSable’s founder featuring storytelling, children’s workshops, musical and spoken word performances, and symposiums on Burroughs as educator, institution builder, social justice activist, and poet and artist.

Tours of the museum’s new exhibit, “Phenomenal Woman,” dedicated to Burroughs’s work, will also be held.

The free event starts at 10 a.m. (Saturday, December 11) at DuSable, 760 E. 56th, and concludes at 4:45 p.m. with a reception featuring Maggie Brown and Kelan Phil Cohran.

Friday night, U. of C.’s Uncovering New Chicago Archives Project unveils a website that will allow researchers to search the contents of collections from DuSable, SSCAC, the Chicago Defender, the Chicago Review, and the Vivian Harsh Research Collection at the Woodson Regional Library.

UNCAP grew out of a project at the university to identify and process archives related to African American history in Chicago, according to the University of Chicago Chronicle.  Graduate library students were trained to sort and inventory a range of archives, creating descriptive “finding aids” to help researchers locate materials on the website.

UNCAP includes collections from musician Sun Ra, poet Paul Carroll, and Defender political cartoonist Chester Commodore, as well as the Chicago Jazz Archive and the contemporary poetry archive at the University of Chicago Library.

Uptown in film

From its glamorous heyday in the early 20th Century, Uptown has been through lots of changes – influxes of Appalachians and Native Americans, urban renewal (and community organizing for and against it), and port of entry for immigrants from every continent.

Those changes are the subject of a new documentary film, The Wilson Corridor: Transitions in Chicago’s Uptown, which will premier at Truman College’s Novar Hall, 1145 W. Wilson, on Monday, December 6 at 7 p.m.

A group of Truman College students with McCormick Foundation Fellowships, guided by Truman political science professor Bettina Maravolo, researched and wrote the film and contacted filmmaker Roxane Assaf to produce the film  A playwright and journalist, Assaf previously worked at Truman as studio classroom director.  Jeff Kelly Lowenstein has more.

Here’s a trailer:

Festival supports Humboldt Park art center

The Festival of the Musai is an all-women arts event Saturday night featuring a variety of music, visual art and dance to raise money for the Rumble Arts Center, a nonprofit community art center in Humboldt Park.

The festival takes place Saturday, August 21 (9 p.m. to 3 a.m.) at Multi Kulti, 1000 N. Milwaukee.  It features music by Ugochi (soul/afrobeat), Natalie Oliveri (soul singer/songwriter), Inaru (bomba/plena) and DJ La Perla Taina; a modern dance performance by the Laboratory Dancers; and a visual art exhibition.  There’s an $8 donation requested at the door, and prizes donated by local cafes, stores, and services will be raffled off.

Funds will go to help the center build silk screen and ceramics studios – and to help the organization continue to offer free and donation-based programs and classes.

Rumble Art Center, 3413 W. North, is women-run, founded two years ago by artist Brook Woolf with a vision of making arts education accessible to low-income residents and building meaningful relationships between local artists, neighbors, and community organizations.  Classes range from African drumming to drawing, hip hop and modern dance, yoga, puppetry, performance art and breakdancing.

‘One Chicago’ video award – and Streets 2010

Winners of the One Chicago-One Nation video contest will be announced Thursday night at Milennium Park during a concert featuring world-renowned Muslim musicians. The concert is part of Streets 2010, an urban international festival sponsored by Inner-city Muslim Action Network.

The concert features the “dessert groove” music of Tinariwen, which combines Moroccan protest music, Algerian pop, and rock and roll, along with virtuoso flautist Omar Faruk Tekbilek from Turkey.

It will open at 6:30 with an award ceremony for creators of short videos showcasing Chicago’s diversity in comedy, drama, documentary, music/spoken-word/animation, and mobile digital media categories.  The video contest is hosted by Link TV and is part of a larger civic engagement initiative also backed by the  Chicago Community Trust and Interfaith Youth Core.

The finalists in the video contest can be viewed here. Prizes range from $5,000 to $20,000.

One Chicago-One Nation continues Saturday, June 19 at 10 a.m. with the induction of 100 newly trained community ambassadors at Streets 2010 in Marquette Park..  Ranging in age from 17 to 80 and representing a variety of ethnic and faith backgrounds, the ambassadors have been trained in facilitating intercultural dialogues and will be organizing community conversations over coming months.

Also part of the initiative, CCT will fund 20 grants of $10,000 each for projects that stimulate cross-community collaboration.

IMAN expects 20,000 people to attend its Takin’ it to the Streets event Saturday in Marquette Park, 6734 S. Kedzie, with four stages (including world music and hip-hop), 100 performers (including Mos Def), and a range of educational and community events and forums.

An annual event since 1997, it’s “a Muslim-led festival where artistic expression, spirituality and urban creativity inspire social change.”  It’s since expanded to a week of activities “that embrace a new Muslim cultural renaissance.”

Elephant sculpture on parade

Nomkhubulwane, a life-size elephant sculpture made of recycled truck tires by a South African artist – with the goal of catalyzing a conversation about  our changing relationship with the natural world – is in Chicago through July 30.

Sculptor Andries Botha will be in Chicago for the coming week and has several educational activities scheduled.

This Saturday, June 12, at 10 a.m., Botha will be joined by singer/songwriter Claudia Schmidt and Chicago artist David Csicsko for an interactive arts program for children at IIT’s Crown Hall, 34th and State, where the elephant has been located for the past two weeks.

On Tuesday, June 15 at 7 p.m., Botha will discuss “public intellectuals and public space” at the University of Chicago, 1100 E. 57th, joined by Theaster Gates, director of arts programming for the university.

Friday, June 18, at 11:30 a.m., Botha will be joined by Vance Martin of the WILD Foundation, a global organization focused on wilderness conservation, for a lecture titled, “Can We Live Without the Elephant?”  That’s at Rice Hall in the Field Museum.  (Pre-registration for the lecture, at, includes free admission to the museum.)

Nomkhubulwane moves to Merchandise Mart Sunday for next week’s Neocon design show, and on to the Field Museum on Thursday.  The sculpture, one of 17 created by Botha, began its journey to North America with a visit to Mexico for the World Wildlife Conference last September.  Its Chicago stay is organized by Imagine Chicago.

As the largest land mammal, the elephant “represents the power and vulnerability of the environment,” Botha has said.  His sculptures “represent the world of nature from which we have removed ourselves and for which we increasingly yearn.”  Kids like them, too.

The goal of Botha’s Human Elephant Foundation is to foster “collaborative conversations that bring about a more supportive relationship with a planet in crisis.”

“As the world becomes increasingly populated and territorial, threats to both elephants and humans increase.”

The world’s elephant population has dropped from between 5- and 10-million a hundred years ago to roughly 500,000 today.  Some African elephant populations are stable but some are threatened by illegal poaching; Chad’s elephant population has dropped from 300,000 to 10,000 since 1970.  Despite a 21-year ban on the ivory trade, there’s been “a dramatic surge in illegal trafficking since 2005,” according to AFP.

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