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stephanie_small1Stephanie S. Green, NBC Chicago Street Team

 

 

 

It was only because of the invitation from my best friend who was visiting from out-of-town that I went to Road to Freedom: Photographs of the Civil Rights Movement 1956-1968 at the Field Museum.  It just kinda seemed old hat – I’ve studied civil rights and didn’t think I had anything to gain from the exhibit, so it wasn’t really on my radar.  But, as I viewed the exhibit and rounded the corner from the first wall, I found myself frozen in place and time, and in tears.

The Road to Freedom is the largest exhibit of civil rights photos and memorabilia that has been assembled in twenty years.  As soon as I entered the space, I was struck by the solemn and reverent air, an ambiance created by low lights, deep blue paint, the continual looping narrative of a video tape about the civil rights area and, of course, the photographs. The solemnity was so profound that people spoke in hushed tones and there was the occasional “shhhhhhhhh” directed toward children.

Alone . . .

Alone . . .

While the civil rights era is not a new subject for me,  nor for most of us, the images were compelling.  I was struck by the youth of the people photographed, unknowns as well as Jesse Jackson, Julian Bond, John Lewis and, of course, Dr. King.  But, my breakdown occurred when I reached the photos of the desegregation of Little Rock Central High. Young Elizabeth Eckford did not get the message that the date for the African American students to start school had been pushed back by one day. So, this fifteen-year-old girl arrived alone and was the target of unimaginable venom. Even as I look at the picture today, I get chills as I think of the strength it must have taken for her to keep moving.

The exhibit gave a clear sense of the commitment people had to this movement that lasted not days, weeks or months, but years. Years to attain basic civil rights. Years.  Commitment.  Personal danger.

As I moved further through the exhibit, I was captivated by photos of people on the sidelines. African-Americans cheering on the protesters – both Black and White.  Whites glaring as protesters passed in front of their homes.

I remember after Roots aired, a popular Black male comedian joked with great braggadocio about what he would have done to massa if he were Kunta Kinte.  The Road to Freedom made me wonder: what would I have done if I were alive then? Would I have been on the front line or would I have been on the sidelines cheering the protestors on or would I have been too scared to participate in any way whatsoever.  I then asked myself – is what I’m doing now reflective of what I would have done then? What about you? Are you a participant or a spectator? Are you committed to a cause? Passionate about it?

I urge you to visit the Road to Freedom: Photographs of the Civil Rights Movement 1956-1968, and take your children or a child in your life and ponder these questions.  It is a powerful reminder of changes that can be made with sacrifice and commitment.  The exhibit ends on September 7th.

Stephanie!
Looking for more To-Do?  Visit www.so-LAZE.com!

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Dave Leonard, NBC5 Street Team, (Video)
If you’re looking for great music and networking in a “chill-axed” atmosphere, you have to swing by “Groove Sessions” tonight at The Joynt (located at 640 N. Dearborn) in Downtown Chicago. This weekly event is hosted by Jessica Williams and Miisha McCullar of IGM Entertainment and features some of the hottest and most eclectic bands that range from Neo-Soul to Latin Jazz. This is definitely a sophisticated and sexy crowd, so make sure you bring your “swag” intact. Tonight’s guests will be treated to the soulful, Latin sounds of the Noguera Evolution Quartet. Doors open at 8pm and admission is complimentary until 10pm. There is a $10 cover after 10pm and the event goes until 2am. To get on the mailing list, make sure you hit up IGM at igmentertainment@yahoo.com.

Since the weather will be much warmer, there’s plenty to get into this weekend…On Friday, Chicago Bulls Superstar, Ben Gordon, will be hosting this month’s “First Fridays Chicago” for the “All Black Attire Affair” kindred2at Alahambra Palace (located at 1240 W. Randolph). This upscale event will also feature a special guest appearance by husband and wife R&B/Soul duo, Kindred. Meanwhile, the sounds will be pumped throughout the night on two luxurious levels by DJs: Timbuk 2, Mark Fullaflava, Maurice “Ice” Culpepper, and 33 1/3. The event runs from 9pm-2am.

CHICAGO HIP-HOP CLASSIC
In a city where many claim “doesn’t support it’s hometown artists”, the Chicago music community will unite on Saturday, March 7th at the Harold Washington Cultural Center (located at 4701 S. King Drive) for the Chicago Hip-Hop Classic. This celebration of Chicago’s local hip-hop scene will be comprised of a concert and music symposium where artists, music executives, and music lovers can come together for positive inspiration. Artists such as Pheave, Que B.I.L.L.A.H., Gemstones, Polie Da Great, Twone Gabz, Jak Frost and dance troupe Final Phaze will all be performing. Doors open at 6pm and the show starts at 7pm. Tickets for this all ages show can be purchased in advance for $10 at www.amusicexperience.com, or $15 at the door. The Chicago Hip-Hop Classic is presented by GO Sity Entertainment and Bo Beniz.

CHICAGO TAKES OFF

If you’re looking for something a little different and want to support a great cause, check out Chicago Takes Off, an annual burlesque revue-style show where Chicago’s Dance community struts their stuff in support of the TPAN (Test Positive Aware Network), a support group that empowers individuals living with HIV and AIDS and educates the community as a whole about HIV and HIV prevention. These colorful and flamboyant shows will take place this Saturday at the Park West (322 W. Armitage) at 7:30p and 10pm. Seats are limited and can be reserved at http://www.chicagotakesoff.org.

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stephanie_small1Stephanie S. Green, NBC Chicago Street Team

As part of my effort to compile a calendar of culturally diverse Chicago events, I routinely scour the internet looking for interesting events that tend to otherwise elude my subscribers. But, every once in a while, something even gets by me. In this case, while I picked up the Performing “Other”: Constructing Race and Gender Onstage and Off discussion, the related performance got past me – and has caused a bit of an uproar.

Kate Valk as Emperor JonesYesterday marked the Chicago premiere of the Wooster Group’s take on The Emperor Jones at the Goodman Theatre, performed in “blackface” by Kate Valk. Yes, blackface. Provocative? You bet.

First released in the early 1930s, The Emperor Jones, starring Paul Robeson, tells the story of a Pullman porter who loses his temper and his job; lands not only in jail, but on a chain gang; kills a white guard, but manages to escape to Haiti where he crowns himself emperor. In this production, The Wooster Group, apparently notorious for their radical productions, clearly has a message that they find well-worth the risk of offending cultural sensibilities

Barack Obama’s historic “post-racial” bid for presidency may, for some, signify the end of racism in America. But, we’ve got a mighty long way to go before the revival of a seemingly minstrel-like performance can escape the ire of people who routinely feel the effect of racism in this country. That being said, Goodman Theatre has an undisputed record of including culturally diverse productions – and not just during the month of February! Giving Goodman the benefit of the doubt, I would be disappointed if the use of “black face” were purely gratuitous.

I sure am curious to see what the deeper meaning of this provocative production could possibly be, so I intend to see it and judge for myself. If you’d like To-Do the same, don’t miss this short window of opportunity. The Emperor Jones continues through Sunday, January 11th.  A post-performance discussion is scheduled for Saturday, January 10th and is free to the public with reservations.

Stephanie!

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Dave Leonard, NBC5 Street Team, (Video)
If you haven’t made it over to the 14th Annual Black Harvest International Festival of Film and Video, what are you waiting for?

The Gene Siskel Film Center located at 164 N. State Street is hosting the 14th edition of the festival until the 28th of August and is showcasing some great short and feature length feature films about the Black experience from talented filmmakers from around the world with special emphasis on Chicago’s very own talents.

In addition to the various screenings, there are great workshops for aspiring filmmakers that take place and plenty of guest speakers who provide the audience a chance to have a Q&A session after viewing their projects.

There are several features in this year’s festival including a return visit from Deri Tyton’s hook-up comedy “The Party Line” and new entries, “Caught In The Game” and “T.A.C.T.I.C.A.L.” Two powerful documentaries also make their debut at this year’s festival, “The Black List Vol. 1” and the post-Katrina film, “Trouble In The Water”.

If you’re in the downtown area around Randolph and State this evening, you should stop on by the Gene Siskel Film Center and catch two great films screening tonight. The first is the explosive family drama, “The Opposite Of Life” directed by David Muhammad which plays at 6:15pm. Immediately following that at 8:30p, Christopher Nolen’s (No, not that Christopher Nolen) sexy thriller “Subtle Seduction” makes a repeat screening with the director and star Jaci Williamson in attendance. Yours truly also makes a hilarious cameo in the film.

Most of the screenings cost about the regular price of any movie theater ticket…about $9. An extra added feature to the Black Harvest Film Festival is a free vendor’s market in the gallery/cafe area of the upstairs part of the film center where free demonstrations of production equipment and information are provided.

Support independent filmmaking in Chicago and make sure you catch a couple of great films at the Black Harvest Film Festival before it closes up. For screening info and times, go to www.siskelfilmcenter.org

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