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.
"Isn't Hip Hop a musical style?"
It is. I used to think that's ALL it was. A style of music.
Through producing the Winter Block Party and working closely with Kevin Coval, Daniel Ash, Jesse Menendez, Alice Kim, and a host of collaborators over the past five years, I have witnessed that Hip Hop is far more than "just" a style of music. It is a political posture, it's an artistic medium, it's a perspective of the world, it's an attitude. It is also a style of dress, of dancing, of celebrating life, of communicating.
You don't need to produce a Block Party for Hip Hop to experience what I have - you can just come to the Metro this Saturday and soak it in. Ask questions. Listen and let it seep into your skin.
If you've never witnessed B-Boys and B-Girls (the shorthand comes from either "Breakdancing" or "Beat" depending on who you ask), then you haven't seen one of the most amazing displays of physical prowess, grace and absolute "in yer face" athletic dancing anywhere by anyone.
The Winter Block Party for Chicago's Hip Hop Arts strives to present a sampling of the many artistic media that have been and continue to be influenced by Hip Hop in Chicago. Hip Hop is more than music and the Block Party is your chance to see exactly how far reaching it is as a cultural stamp.
Six years ago, Daniel Ash decided he wanted to have a party. He decided he wanted to have a party that brought people together to swim a little bit in the Culture of Hip Hop. He recognized that Hip Hop, like Jazz and Rock and Roll before it, was a dominant cultural influencer - and that it was fun. And vibrant. And political.
This January 26th, WBEZ and Vocalo present the 5th Annual Winter Block Party for Chicago's Hip Hop Arts. Every year, we have upped the ante - from a first class graffiti art gallery that encompassed all of the Biograph Theater (2009) to a panel discussion between the originators of both Hip Hop and House music in Chicago (2011) to a blow-out B-Boy/B-Girl Dance Battle complete with a living documentary of the art form (2012). This year, we up the ante once again.
As always, the daytime events are completely free of any admission price. From the return of the B-Boy/B-Girl Dance Battles (run and judged by Waka of the Legendary Brickheadz Crew) to The Public Square's presentation of Hip Hop-infused theater, we are also screening "Benji"
Over here at WBEZ Events Central, the team is gearing up for our first Off Air event of the year as well as juggling the plethora of day-to-day gatherings and live programs including our recent Chicago Ideas Week offering "Be More Interesting" and our upcoming Election Night at Schubas. On deck is the Front and Center "Game of Life" as well as our Annual Evening at the Broadcast Studio.
Who is this prolific Events Team? We have code names now: Pink Fox (Vanessa Harris), Silverback (me), Condor (Chris Davila), The Weasel (Tyler James Greene) and Kodiak (Ray Teresi). We're like a Tarantino film or a Saturday Cartoon Super Team. No capes, though.
And our first Off Air event of the season? The Chicago Chef Battle Royale!
Here's the wind up: five chefs prepare ten dishes using five Goose Island Beers and fresh Whole Foods Market produce and protein; two Goose Island bars, complimentary shots of Cutty Sark Scotch and Root Beer Floats by Black Dog Gelato; foodie stories from Shantelle Jaimison and the Vocalo Music and Stories crew; and both World Music and interviews by Tony Sarabia and the WBEZ Morning Shift gang.