Tuesday, February 6, 2018

FUN to come

Dear friends, neighbors and strangers,

This year is going to be #FUN,
if I have anything to say about it.

I'm planning some unique events and opportunities:
Performances, book readings, photo shoots,
workshops, dinners and then some.

Some will be of interest to my media, journalism,
photography and creative colleagues,
but most will be geared toward
folks who may or may not do any of that stuff.

If you want to hear more via email, sign up here.

Keep warm,

Karen Kring

Friday, February 2, 2018

Joys of Canvassing

This New York Times Magazine piece I just came across is such a lovely read, you’ll consider canvassing to see if you too can blow someone's mind.

“…After a long day of canvassing on that Saturday, tired but exuberant volunteers returned for a debriefing. One canvasser stood up and spoke of moving a man to a seven from a three. Another — a tattooed student who identifies as gender-nonconforming — proudly recalled persuading a voter “who clearly had no experience with anyone who identified as being outside the gender binary. He said I blew his mind, and that he would never forget the conversation we had!”…” Read more here.

Originally posted January 19, 2012

by Anne Crowe 

Saturday morning, 10 a.m.  It’s sunny and crisp as I pull up to my local Democratic office. Gear check: comfortable shoes, hat, gloves and chapstuff. There’s a spring in my step and a smile on my face. Canvassing today!

Inside, there’s coffee and donuts and collecting packets for the canvass. The packets include your walk map, lists of names and addresses of Democratic voters and a script. I could go alone, but I prefer a walk partner. Both to commiserate and cheer with. More importantly, for me, a walk partner shares tasks and its easier for both of us. Sometimes, we do odds and evens, making our way on blocks that maybe we’ve never seen before and talking to people who have never heard of our candidate.

So off we go, into the neighborhood. We check where we are, house numbers and names. The first door knock and the next. This is where the real work starts and the reward.

This is a chance to interact with my neighbors on a meaningful level about a candidate I know and believe in. Some people aren’t home, aren’t answering or aren’t interested. When someone comes to the door, we are elated. We establish rapport by introducing ourselves and our candidate. We offer information, answer questions and discuss the ideals and values of the candidate. 

Even when the weather is awful, the idea that I can be an instrument of political change is enough to keep me going. The people we meet make it worthwhile and perhaps, in part because of us, our candidate will garner another vote.

The camaraderie in a Democratic campaign office after a successful canvass is energizing.  Our packets are complete and given to the campaign manager.  Stories of friendly supportive neighbors are exchanged over the last cups of coffee. 

Community building is a civic privilege. Canvassing allows citizens a unique means of connecting with each other, the ability to educate neighbors and effect real change.

That said, walking around talking to people is a great way to lift body and spirit. And at the end of the day, to feel the sense of accomplishment that comes from doing the good work.

Anne Crowe lives in Chicago, near the shores of Lake Michigan. Anne enjoys all aspects of campaigning and volunteers for local, state and presidential campaigns. When not involved with politics, Anne is a licensed clinical professional counselor and works at NORC at the University of Chicago.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

New Years Eve Lite: Hacks for First Night Evanston 2018

by Victoria Reeves

What are your plans for New Year’s Eve?  Many folks want to stay home where it is warm and safe. What if there was a low stress way to celebrate New Years without dressing up?

Come check out First Night Evanston, a community event located in 3 venues surrounding Raymond Park at Chicago Avenue and Lake Street. First Night is a family-friendly celebration of music, comedy, poetry, storytelling, puppetry and circus arts.

First Night began in Boston in 1975, when a group of artists and musicians wanted to celebrate New Year’s Eve by sharing their creativity in an indoor/outdoor, all-ages format. From Burlington, VT to Monterey, CA, cities across America host these unique cultural celebrations. Why not join the movement and take back New Year’s?

I am all about convenience and comfort. After attending First Night for over 10 years, I’ve come up with some First Night hacks to help you end the year on a fun note:
  •         Buy your First Night Evanston button(s) at either Whole Foods Evanston location (service desk) before the night of the event. It’s $30 for adults and $10 for teens/children.  Pin the button to your backpack for easy entrance to all events.
  •         Take the Purple Line to Dempster Station and walk a few blocks. If you are driving, you can park for free at the Evanston parking garage adjacent to the Holiday Inn at 1501 Sherman.  This parking garage is a central location that will get you to most venues within a few blocks. Check the website for other free parking alternatives.
  •         Dress in wool layers and bring a large backpack to carry your clothes. If possible, avoid wearing a large coat that you will have to carry around. The venues get crowded and hot, so stripping down to a base layer of a t-shirt and jeans will keep you comfortable.  There is also folk dancing, so bringing a water bottle is a great idea. In the performances, you can put your backpack under your feet or your chair to allow others to sit near you.
  •         Bring snacks. Once you find a seat at that performance you were dying to see, you won’t want to leave it to forage for open restaurants in sub-zero weather!
  •         Plan out which performances you want to attend in advance.  Plan to arrive 15 minutes early to line up for seating. That may mean leaving 15 minutes early from a previous performance.  It will be worth it in order to get a good seat.  I always try to sit at the end of a row, near the door, so I can leave early without disrupting others.
  •         Go alone! Many people attend by themselves as this is a great way to fight cabin fever, hear some quality music, watch some storytelling and poetry performances or even hang with the families during the children’s programming from 2-4pm.  The energy at this event is very welcoming, so feel free to join in with or without a plus one.

For information on the 3 venues, artists and times, go to the First Night Evanston  site. There is a day time schedule focused on family and kids fun and an evening schedule especially for adults. A sincere thanks to all the former and current organizers and sponsors of the celebration of creativity.

There's a nice write up about about this year's December 31 fun by Peter Winslow on the Evanston RoundTable news site.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

Victoria Reeves is a writer and career coach based in Evanston, though her focus is worldwide. For more than 15 years, she has worked with thousands of college students and professionals in the U.S. and abroad on all aspects of their written and spoken communication skills. "I'm fascinated with the process of clarifying, quantifying and actualizing one's true voice," she says. Through this experience of unearthing "right livelihood", Victoria helps her clients open doors to personal, academic and professional success. She is passionate about empowering others to clarify their values, discover their true paths and map out steps towards integrating their intentions with concrete actions.

Along this line, Victoria is also an artist who makes textile art iterations called Empowerment Dolls: Art Dolls for Grown Folks and writes essays about Explorations on Internal and External Journeys on her blog, Victoria Reeves: Cool Girl Writer.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

When Ta-Nehisi Coates came to Evanston

...and we talked about race.

Last month Ta-Nehisi Coates came to Evanston Township High School. He was interviewed by Assistant Superintendent-Principal Marcus Campbell and queried by students. Approximately 2,000 people came to the school for this Family Action Network event. Close to 300 watched via live stream.

I appreciate the Q & A part of the program, which went about 32 minutes, as well as the "talk back", which went for another 32 minutes.

Why can't everyone use THAT WORD?: Many of us know the answer to that question too, but few of us have expressed it as eloquently as Mr. Coates does at the start of the Q & A.

The commenters of all ages during the "talk back" really give you a feeling about what some of our neighbors are concerned about and where they come from.

Mr. Coates is a journalist and author. He is a national correspondent for The Atlantic. His book Between the World and Me won the National Book Award for Non-Fiction in 2015. Coates is a MacArthur Fellowship recipient. Since 2016, Coates has written Marvel’s The Black Panther comic book.

To see the full talk October 18, 2017 talk at ETHS, check out the Family Action Network (FAN) website.

Krista Tippet talked to him this month at the Chicago Humanities Festival.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Getting out of the bubble: What are your limiting beliefs?

Evanston community leader Joi-Anissa Russell and I have been having a continuous conversation for more than two months now about “limiting beliefs”. She has some. I have some. Most of us do. They can affect us in very personal ways and as a society.

One glorious day I realized I'd busted one of my myths that had been rattling around in my head. My little story goes like this:
When I was in high school, I'd take the el to the Art Institute of Chicago to see the art. I'd be told not to go any further south than that. I'd gone to the AIC many times, so I was told this many times.
I don't remember the day it happened, but I went further south. It was no big deal. There was no physical line. It just happened...or rather nothing happened. Nothing at all.

It had been built up in my mind that the south side of Chicago, being the baddest part of town (tip of the hat to Jim Croce), was gray and dismal. Instead what I noticed was that the sun shines there too, and nothing was black and white.
Joi and I are planning on including more folks in our conversation. We'll let you know more as soon as we know more.

In the meantime, start your own conversation.

For a chuckle and some insight, check out what Theo E.J. Wilson had to say during his recent TED Talk.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Evanston, My Launching Pad

by Margaretta Swigert-Gacheru

EVANSTON--August 15, 2017 :: I’m an ETHS graduate, but one who spent half my high school years hanging out with a New Trier boy from Kenilworth who was a huge distraction.

Somehow I made it to DePauw University where I got seriously radicalized. 

ETHS had primed me for ‘enlightenment’. ETHS’ multi-racial, multi-cultural, multi-class community provided me with more than adequate preparation for my making a graceful move eventually into the global community.

After winning a Rotary Foundation Ambassadorial Fellowship to study in at the University of Nairobi, in Kenya, I stuck around and got another degree. (I’d already gotten one at DePauw and another at National Louis University.)

That third degree would cost more money, so when the fellowship funds finally ran out, I got a great job as a journalist writing locally about the Kenyan (read African) arts scene. Of course, that would include my writing stories about former colonials and other Europeans as well as about Asians, and other visiting tourists (like Mike Jagger, Jesse Jackson and even British royalty like Sarah Ferguson, former wife of Prince Andrew, the Queen’s youngest son, to name-drop just a few of the ‘celebs’ that came to Kenya who I interviewed). My focus was and continues to be on writing about Kenyan Africans, both visual artists and performers, particularly theater people.

Early on I fell for an African classmate of mine at Nairobi University who I thought would be my Samora Machel--the handsome freedom-fighter from Mozambique who was assassinated by South African pro-Apartheid forces a while back--but not quite. In any case, Gacheru is a great man and he gave me (or I gave him) a beautiful son who is now a Major in the US Army based in Vicenza Italy.

This ETHS grad might look like a globe trotter since she flies back and forth from Nairobi to Chicago twice a year, but really I’m slightly schizophrenic since I seriously have two homes.

Evanston will always be the ‘home in my heart’ and the one that I may return to eventually. The town has gotten so very cool, I must say! Some will contend it always was super cool, but I was always keen to escape…which I clearly did.

I am here now for only a few more days and I have fallen ‘head over heels’ for Evanston. I have a wonderful brother Tom who’s here and I also have many incredible friends in the neighborhood. Evanston may have to welcome me back home sometime soon. That’d mean I’d finally get to attend one of those crazy high school reunions. ;-)

Until then, I’ll simply say ‘bon voyage’ while I get set to fly back to a country that unfortunately is in a bit of turmoil, having just had a contentious national election in which the loser refuses to concede defeat. People have died as a consequence. Hopefully we will see peace happening there soon. We pray there will be forgiveness on all sides and concern to see that beautiful country move forward.

For those of you who may have had plans to one day realize your planned safari to Africa: Do not fear coming to Kenya. Irrespective of momentary turbulence, it is a breathtaking country that you can easily fall in love with…possibly just as I did several decades ago.

Margaretta Swigert-Gacheru eventually got a fourth degree, her Ph.D in Sociology from Loyola University Chicago. Her dissertation Globalizing Kenyan Culture: Jua Kali & theTransformation of Contemporary Kenyan Art:1960-2010 is up on Loyola’s eCommons. Known in Kenya as Margaretta wa Gacheru, and as mentioned she has been writing about the visual and performing arts in Kenya for decades. Currently, she works as an Arts Correspondent for The Nation Media Group (Kenya). MSG contributes to This is Africa. She blogs at Margaretta's Jua Kali Diary and at Kenyan Arts Review. She also lectures at Kenya Methodist University. Margaretta is the author of Creating Contemporary African Art Art Networks in Urban Kenya. She's listed in Feminists Who Changed America 1963-1975.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Confounding Fear

by Marta Lettofsky

Recently I was with a friend when a red-winged blackbird swooped down and started attacking her head. A bird is attacking my friend! Flapping and scratching and screeching, in the middle of a highly populated park with kids running around.

The same thing happened to me several years ago while jogging. Twice. In the same location. After the second time I gave wide berth to that area to avoid the mad bird. I no longer live in the area, so that’s another way to avoid that mad bird.

Logically I knew I was safe. Nothing bad happened in the ‘attacks’, but still it freaked me out. I felt slightly nervous, jumpy, watchful every time I jogged by that same bush.

Our brains and bodies are hardwired for safety.
A small bird is no real threat to my survival, and yet, those moments of red-winged blackbird close encounters left a little mark.

It’s all about survival.

The primitive parts of our brains are not great differentiating between real life threats and just mini-threats to our egos. That part of brain’s entire job is to be on constant lookout for danger. So if you have a negative experience around your creative or performing endeavors, that too might leave a mark.

As a professional pianist, people tell me all the time about a desire to learn play the piano. Or sing. Or learn another instrument. Often people I meet will remember fondly when they could do those things and wishing they could do it again, but...

Sometimes that thing getting in the way is fear or the effects of old creativity and performing wounds.

If this is you, be kind to yourself. Your brain and body are doing their jobs of looking for danger, remembering potential threats and doing their best to keep you safe.

It is challenging to tolerate these unpleasant emotions and to remember that they are normal, part of being human. Remembering this is normal makes healing possible. By tending to those hurt and sticky places, relief happens. New courage is found. Compassion is uncovered. Creativity becomes unfettered.

If you’d like more information about relating to fear, consider signing up for my newsletter. You’ll receive a link for two videos on Dealing With Fear, and a page of Quick Hits for Fear. They can be used for anything in life that triggers fear, not just performance. My clients and I have used these tools to quit jobs, deal with conflict, create better boundaries for time and family, not to mention for performing music on stage in front of hundreds or thousands of people.

Marta Lettofsky wears many hats in life: pianist, performer, collaborator, vocal coach, teacher, inner artist coach, wife, mother, yogi, avid cook, lover of beauty, striver-to-do-all-things-well.

She’s made music with Chicago’s finest arts organizations, including Lyric Opera, Grant Park Festival Chorus, Music of the Baroque and Light Opera Works (now called Music Theater Works). Marta performs as a soloist and regularly with some of Chicago’s most talented singers. She teaches through Chicago Opera Theatre for Teens and in private vocal studio.

Blindsided by a serious bout of performance anxiety several years ago, Marta nearly quit being a musician. Instead she sought ways to tackle this problem. She studied with Dr. Noa Kageyama and enrolled in improv acting classes at IO Chicago. She dug into the underlying causes of her performance anxiety, acquired new tools and coping strategies, and experimented through the improv classes (which caused absolute terror on a weekly basis). She overcame her performance anxiety and gained greater life skills by connecting to the inner work of being an artist.

Photo credits: Red-winged blackbird by Alan Murphy. Marta Lettofsky by Tina Smothers.