Last week - from Wednesday to Saturday - hundreds of WBEZ and Vocalo listeners banded together with our partners at Chicago Cares and 18 other Champions to participate in our very first Day of Service. Volunteers paved new areas for beautification, painted school murals and displays, planted gardens in needed areas, cleaned community homes and had a party for a group of assisted living seniors. It was astounding.
We live in a world of technology where a click on a thumbs up icon is a signifier of activity. A retweeting tells the world that we support specific communities or ideas. Commenting on a blog post or an online article counts, on some level, as joining the discussion.
While there is nothing wrong (and everything right) about digital activism, nothing can replace actually showing up and digging in. A FaceBook share will not paint a mural; an Instagram photo of a garden cannot replace planting the seeds.
With that in mind, WBEZ and Chicago Cares is hosting our first ever Day of Service event. Yes - it takes place on multiple days and the culminating performance party takes place in the evening but "WBEZ's A Coupla Day's of Service with a Performance in the Evening" just didn't have the same ring, right?
Unlike the Chef Battle, the Winter Block Party or the Global Activism Expo, this particular event cannot happen without YOU.
The recent White House Correspondence Dinner was referred to as a "nerd prom" which, from my vantage point, is a bit of an insult to both nerds AND proms. No Daliks, no lightsabers, no taped glasses or dweebs sitting in the corner sniffing Sharpies. Not in Washington.
In Chicago, however, there are events that fit far more comfortably in the "nerd prom" category and I'm here to clue you in on a few.
Chicago poets, Robbie Q. Telfer and Shanny Jean Maney, founded The Encyclopedia Show in 2008. In five short years, these two co-hosts (along with a plethora of collaborators) have peeled back the veneer of polite research and exposed their audience to detailed (and often funny) live encyclopedia entries about Fungi, Cheerleading, Skyscrapers, Puberty and Punctuation among many, many other topics you were dying to know about without ever asking the question.
Tomorrow night (Thursday, May 2) The Encylopedia Show (with the help of Nina Coombs, George Decelles, and others) presents everything you could possibly want to know about The Origins of Life. Cheap tickets, a great time and you might be a tad smarter when you leave.
Tonight we celebrate a year of MOTH StorySlams in Chicago at the Park West for The Chicago MOTH Grandslam. For the Live Lit scene, the Grandslam is sort of like the SuperBowl of Stories and the ten storytellers (all past StorySlam winners this year) are gunning for a win.
If you are unfamiliar with the Live Lit scene, I'd suggest you crawl out of your bomb shelter and get a little sunlight on those Morlockesque retinas and get involved. In the past few years, this scene has exploded all over Chicago and represents a genuine rallying cry for face-to-face communication between audiences all over and ordinary people telling their very personal stories.
The Grandslam is sold out, so you're out of luck there but you can catch either the ridiculously funny Brian Babylon on the last Tuesday of every month for The Moth at Martyr's and myself at Haymarket Pub and Brewery every second Monday. The two of us host the slam which encourages you - yes, YOU - to sign up and tell the audience a story. A true story. Based on a pre-selected theme.
In addition to The Moth Storyslams, there are a multitude of storytelling nights all over the city and, believe me, once you get a taste for these events, you get hooked pretty fast.
Spring is trying - hard - to break free this April. It is likely that one morning, we'll all wake up and it'll be 98% overnight and Spring will have to wait to come to the party next year. While we have the time, however, one must embrace the sporadically chilly but not-so-much so weather and venture from our domestic cave dwellings and see people and things.
This past Saturday, WBEZ, Vocalo and the UIC Social Justice Initiative co-presented the Sixth Annual Global Activism Expo. While the day was slightly overcast, inside the Main Hall of the UIC Forum, the sun was shining brightly.
"...an uncommonly spectacular day... an amazing thing you and your colleagues have assembled." - Joan Rothenberg
"Thank you, thank you, a million times over to you and all the staff for the great job pulling of yesterday's Expo!
Too many guns with too many bullets.
A nearly permanent underclass of black and brown people struggling just to eat and educate their children on wages that make everyone uncomfortable on some level.
Woman marginalized across the globe.
Rape culture being redefined.
The War on...
The destruction of the planet and lack of drinkable water (unless you buy it in a bottle).
Too many black men incarcerated.
Too many immigrants undocumented.
As the planet gets smaller - at least in terms of the non-stop flow of information about the seven billion or so inhabitants - our anxiety grows. As the world feels smaller, so do we. It is more difficult to see how individual contributions help those in need. It feels like the work of one person simply cannot make a substantive difference
It's easy to become disheartened. It's easy to focus on something else.
And then there is Jerome McDonnell and Worldview.
The Worldview team has been featuring ordinary people who refuse to be stymied and have stepped up in small but significant ways to help those who need it.