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letters to my city

Halfstack Magazine | September 2017


IN EVERY ISSUE Editors Letter 4

Meet the Team 6

LOCAL OPTIONS Behind the Lens 12

MUSIC MUSTS Bonnaroo Adventures


Summerfest Recap

Stylewise - Featuring Tobi

LA’s FYF FEST 2017

Indie Maker Spotlight

Make the Pilgrimage

WTF Star’s Modas



60 62

St. Louis’ Lou Fest 66

THE SPOTLIGHT Meet the PE Alumni 68

Adventures in the DR 78


90 92 93

Meet EntreDonovan 96

HERE/NOW Eunice Kim 100



Beauty Must Haves for Her 114



N’Sights for the Soul

FEATURES Dear Chicago

Closing Thoughts

Interview with TRUHAIR


Chicago Non-Profits




Halfstack Magazine | September 2017


Dear Chicago,

This issue especially, is dedicated to you. Despite the obstacles you face, the people of Chicago are strong, raw, gritty and believe in one another. Although the media hasn’t been kind to our city, many of us in the different neighborhoods throughout the Chicago are working together to create change. Small steps lead to great distances. Bit by bit families and community organizers are working together to find solutions. It hasn’t been easy and often those in power make overcoming obstacles a difficult task, but still we persist.


This issue is dedicated to the people working to solve the hard problems in Chicago; to the people who believe in the opportunity for our great city to thrive, to the community organizers working to create change for young people in the city and the leaders who give a damn. This issue is for parents who have lost loved ones to gun violence, the friends who have lost their way and most importantly to the youth whose future is in our hands. We believe in your ability and in your future. Even if it seems that the odds are stacked against you, you are capable, you are able and you will persevere.

Although this issue is heavy, we still have included features meant to inspire all of you. Jennie carries the music section this year and highlights festival coverage that took her from Los Angeles to Nashville and in between. She interviews musicians and artists who toe the line between activism and art. The Beauty and Fashion team share some great columns that will remind you to take the time to pamper yourself. We even teamed up the Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism to coordinate a giveaway for two (flight and hotel) to find respite in the DR. I personally share some additional Project Entrepreneur Alumni stories highlighting female founders who are working hard to make an impact on their industry. They’re the kind of women


our young girls can look up to and be inspired by. Laura opens up this issue with a feature showcasing: Marisa Ramirez, a photographer and model living with Alopecia. Laura was drawn to her message of embracing beauty outside of society’s standards.


This issue is a personal one for all of us who worked

tinue to work towards change. His sweet nature, curious mind

on the cover story for Fall 2017. Laura brought up the

and kindness moved my soul when I met him and Rochetta for

idea of working on a gun violence piece, but I’ve put

this project. He’s only a couple of years older than my youngest

it off for a year because of how close to home this

and a couple of years younger than my oldest daughter. I won’t

hits. Yet, Laura brought up a beautiful concept and

forget the day I met him. He and my daughters are a constant

together we connected with individuals who have

reminder of why I do what I do. Their stories don’t deserve to

been impacted by gun violence. We offered them a

be cut short. His future is in our hands.

chance to share their stories; we gave them a moment to grab ahold of their voice once again. Rather than

Jennifer M. Lezan-Veguilla | Editor-in-Chief

focus on the gun issues, gang issues and corrupt political issues, we wanted to share stories of the people impacted by what is going on in our city. In our cover story: Dear Chicago: Letters to my City – mothers, creatives, leaders, individuals and other Chicago community members share their stories about how gun violence has impacted them. In addition to the visuals and written pieces, I worked on 3 special mini documentaries. The first is the story of my older brother: Robert AKA Tuto, who was gunned down 14 years ago and has been wheelchair bound since. The second is the visual feature that showcases the individuals we interviewed for our written feature in the issue. Mothers: Rochetta and Beth share their letters to Chicago in hopes their children weren’t lost in vain along with local Chicagoans who have been impacted by gun violence. The third video installment features mothers from the Humboldt Park based organization: Parents for Peace and justice. You can view the videos here: - We close this issue with Nisha’s N’spired thoughts column. She shares her take on finding strength in loss.

Antonio graces our cover. He is Rochetta’s grandson and the son of her daughter who was gunned down, he gives us reason to keep pushing forward and con-

Halfstack Magazine | September 2017





jennifer lezan creative director @halfstackmag

LAURA LOPEZ lead photographer


melinda myers

staff photographer @ melindajanemyersphoto

perry fish

staff photographer @alluringchicago

SHIRIN KORIL lead photographer @pickaposephotograpy

pearl shin staff photographer @bigdipper4


meet the

teresa cutrera fashion editor

team 6

& blogger

yaritza ramocki set stylist

carolyn portner west coast correspondant

jennie velasco set stylist/editor

thom olson blogger & online digital editor



Creative & Graphics Designer


Creative & Graphics Designer



Creative & Graphics Designer

Creative & Graphics Designer


Creative & Graphics Designer



Creative & Graphics Intern

STELLA QUIMBY Sr. Fashion Editor


DENISE GUEVARA Staff Blogger/Youtuber


OLIVIA LEMLEY Staff Writer/Blogger


TRACI CICARELLI Staff Blogger/Youtuber




Digital Blogger

Digital Blogger

Staff Writer/Blogger

Celia A. Pena Staff Writer/Blogger

JENNIFER OQUENDO Staff Writer/Blogger


Halfstack Magazine | September 2017

Andre Thompson Staff Blogger

KARLI BUTLER Staff Writer/Blogger

JENNIFER GORDON Staff Writer/Blogger

Louis Vasseur Staff Blogger

DWIGHT BEJEC Social Media Director

MICHELLE LANDRIAULT Staff Blogger/Youtuber

DREW POWERS Staff Blogger


EMILY EHARDT Staff Blogger

OLGA IVANIDI Staff Blogger/Youtuber








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Halfstack Magazine | September 2017





a look through the lens I started following Marisa Instagram quite a while ago. I had seen some of her modeling photographs and immediately I was drawn to her message of embracing beauty outside of society’s standards. “Self-love is hard. It’s necessary and we can’t stop fighting for ourselves” she writes underneath a photograph of herself reaching her hands out to her own reflection. Marisa lives with Alopecia, a condition that leaves her with no hair. She shares, very openly and honestly, about her own journey with self-acceptance and the freedom that comes with learning to love your self. When she switched roles and took a step behind the camera her images were equally as stunning. Her images make you feel like she has approached her subject with such ease and such peace, but there is depth and something beneath the surface. In a society where we are bombarded with images of “perfection”, Marisa is continuing to create stories of self-love. She has proven that there is freedom in acceptance and celebration in our differences.


1. What do you love most about photography? I love that we have the ability to capture a persons beauty, that they might not see everyday. 2. How does being the model and being the photographer differ? And do you feel like your experience in front of the camera gives you an advantage when it comes to being behind it? As the model, I am being vulnerable by showing who I am. As the photographer, I only hope to capture what that model is feeling inside. I would like to think, because of my experience on both sides of the camera, I am able to help people feel free. I hope they feel like everything that they are, just the way they are, is enough, especially when they are in front of my camera. 3. Has there ever been a time in your work (in front of or behind it) when you have been afraid to push limits and how do you overcome that fear?

Absolutely. Social media creates this need to put pressure on ourselves to look and be a certain way. When I start to feel myself giving in to that feeling, I take a break from social media all together. I know who I am and I know that the only person I have to be better than, is who I was yesterday and taking that break always brings me back to myself. Though, I can’t stay away from creating for long, because that fulfills me. And we should never not be doing anything that makes us feel whole. 4. How does your own experience with body love and self acceptance play a role in the photographs that you take? For me, when I first started modeling, I modeled for myself; to create a self confidence that was non existent. The thought of me being able to inspire others to love themselves didn’t cross my mind for years later. Honestly, I never would have thought that anyone would look at a person that had so many years of struggles with loving herself for any type of confidence.




Halfstack Magazine | September 2017



Now being on both sides of the camera, I create images that I think that we, as a society need more of. Those different, unique, real, beautiful human being images. We all need to remind each other that who we are, is beautiful. 5. In the message you share and the portraits that you take, both in front of and behind the camera, how important is the relationship between the subject and the photographer? You should always feel comfortable with the person that is taking your photo. That connection, I think, you can feel when the photo is seen. 6. How does Chicago influence your work? Chicago is filled with diversity and diversity is exactly what I am drawn to. 7. What other artists do you follow and why? I find myself following those that are true to themselves. Those that want to make a difference with either their art, themselves, or both. I want to be inspired and be challenged creatively. 8. If people could learn one thing about you based on your photography, what would you want them to know? I hope that they see my heart in both my modeling and my photography.



Halfstack Magazine | September 2017




I find myself following those that are true to themselves. Those that want to make a difference with either their art, themselves, or both.

Halfstack Magazine | September 2017





Halfstack Magazine | September 2017



Halfstack Magazine | September 2017





Halfstack Magazine | September 2017


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HAP P Y ROO !!! Fest Diary: Bonnaroo 2017





HE SUNSETS, THE high fives, the neon lights of Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival 2017 were nothing compared to the tunes, the crowds and the happy vibes. Headliners like Chance the Rapper, Lorde, The Weeknd and U2 dominated The What stage. Other amazing performances such as the Superjam were acts not to miss including a variety of other bands such as the Silent Disco and the Oasis.

Halfstack Magazine | September 2017

Day 1:

It was a late start to our day traveling with my photographer, Alex. Our adventure began with a long drive, a few stops (including lunch in downtown Nashville at a local BBQ spot), checking into our AirBnB, picking up our media passes and figuring out our way around the festival grounds. The grounds are about an hour away from downtown in the town of Manchester; nestled in a rural area. Its size is surely expansive and for this first time Bonnaroovian, it felt daunting. With tired eyes, we arrived a little late to check out some of the stages. The neons were stunning in the setting sun and there were plenty of echoes in the air of Goldfish on The Other stage and Mondo Cozmo at This Tent.


MUSIC MUSTS The legendary arch greeted us and as the crowds made their way in, every single person high fived each other on the way in supported with cheers and “Happy Roo!” We made a stop at the Silent Disco that played some incredible mixes of hip-hop and EDM. Although this may seem like an unlikely blend, the crowds were hyped and didn’t stop dancing until the early AM. This evidently was a grand time for a surprise when we overheard some familiar songs nearby. We were graced with a sound check at the heavily guarded The What Stage from living legends, U2.

Day 2:

An early rise to what would be our official day in the press tent where we experienced our first press conference with Ben Jaffe of Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Angelique Kidjo, band members of Cold War Kids and Glass Animals, Walker Lukens and Michael Braunstein, executive director of the Les Paul Foundation. The daytime festivities really offered some extra goodies that we weren’t able to enjoy the night before. Like the Bacardi Oasis, that offered specialty cocktails and a happy patch of sand and neon cacti; matching the heat with beach vibes. We were also treated with a lecture at the Solar Stage from

actor Adrian Grenier (Entourage, Drive Me Crazy) about conservation. A gem in the center of the festival grounds was the Christmas Club Barn where people came to cool off, drink and dance their faces off. (Yes, day drinking is a thing in festival life), BUT we were also greeted by a Smirnoff ambassador who blessed us with freaking VIP passes to see U2 later that evening!!! (Cue Freak Out)

U2 did not fall short of glorious expectation. This was only my second time witnessing the band live and both times were equally inspirational and moving. Even if you THINK you aren’t a fan of U2, once you witness a live performance, you won’t even realize how many songs you know and will certainly walk out of there wondering how you’ve missed out on so much glory. I, for one, could not handle my crazy

THE LEGENDARY ARCH GREETED US AND AS THE CROWDS MADE THEIR WAY IN, EVERY SINGLE PERSON HIGH FIVED EACH OTHER ON THE WAY IN. While we missed performances from Kaleo, Cold War Kids, and Tove Lo (due to a private Les Paul event honoring The Edge-see follow up article) we made it just in time to party with Anjelique Kidjo at That Tent to see her dancing with us in the crowd, and for Chance the Rapper to crash The What stage during the Francis and the Lights set. Chance is known to fly around the grounds and has been honorably dubbed the Mayor of Bonnaroo.

realizing we were so damn close while watching them perform. Following the U2 performance was an agonizing walk back to the press tent where we accidentally ran into Chicago native and comedian, Hannibal Burress. Now, even though he didn’t let me take a photo, I allowed him to crack some jokes about George Clooney and my dad (after realizing how similar they are) before running off to see Major Lazer’s set.




Day 3:

We started this day with another conference supported by an acoustic set performance from the female trio: Joseph. Other artists that participated in our conference included Chef Hugh Acheson, Nicole Atkins, comedian Sabrina Jalees, Joseph, artist Terra Lopez, and Lukas Nelson. This was probably our most exciting day due to a lot of hometown natives making their debuts at Bonnaroo. We interviewed local poet, activist, hip hop artist Malcolm London, who had an amazing energy prior to his set; infectious enough to attract future mayor of Chicago, Chance the Rapper to join us in watching his set. More excitement was drawn at The Which stage, where Two Dope Queens joined Tegan & Sara on stage to dance to their final song. We took a tour of all the activism tents that highlighted topics that ranged from: Ocean preservation, body positivity to antifa, and an audio art exhibit from Terra Lopez combating catcalling that she called, “This Is What It Feels Like.� I was first drawn to this presentation from a feature I read on Huffington Post, which highlighted the artist, Terra, and why she thought it was important to put men on the receiving end of catcalling. I read about male testimonies and my male photographer went in not knowing what to expect, only to come

out slightly more fearful for female friends and family members. I will say that although it’s all words I’ve been heard, it still is very jarring and painful to listen to. We thought it was just as important to have this exhibit in a festival setting and Terra explained in the press conference that she would like to take this presentation to college campuses across the nation. We made our way to Jon Bellion who drew quite a energetic crowd at The What Stage, but the anticipation was

definitely for Chance who delivered a vibrant and energetic set with pyro and fireworks as well as one of the largest crowds I saw all weekend. Legends Red Hot Chili Peppers followed Chance with their notably bass-heavy tunes rocking out all of their best-known songs. This was one of those moments where you don’t realize how many songs of a band you actually know and you leave a bigger fan than when you came in.



Luke Combs

Hippo Campus July Talk Mondo Cozmo Eden Kevin Abstract Welles Twiddle The Orwells The Lemon Twigs Turkuaz Kaiydo Goldfish



Francis and the Lights Kaleo The XX U2 Klangstof The Strumbellas Cold War Kids Tove Lo Glass Animals Major Lazer Twin Limb Khruangbin Car Seat Headrest James Vincent MccMorrow Gallant

Halfstack Magazine | September 2017


The Front Bottoms

Coin Rainbow Kitten Surprise Big Jesus Lukas Nelson and the Promise of Real Lucy Dacus Deap Vally DJ Mel 2 Dope Queens Alekesam Reuben Bidez Unbreakable Bloodline Creature Comfort Ruen Brothers Hannibal Buress Waker


Unlike Pluto

Snails Marshmello Joseph Bad Suns Tory Lanez Shpongle Warpaint Michael Kiwanuka Belly Tegan & Sara The Head and the Heart Cage the Elephant Flume Future Islands Jon Bellion Chance the Rapper


MUSIC MUSTS This night, was in all honesty (no matter how much I love seeing U2 live) was the most anticipated night of the whole weekend. This was in part due all to the Soul Shakedown Superjam that was curated by Ben Jaffe of Preservation Hall Jazz Band. The lineup was released earlier that morning, however even after my initial excitement that some of the best voices I’ve heard would be performing, I had no idea what they would be performing. The Soul Shakedown consisted of some the most notable old school hip hop, r&b, and pop songs. The artist lineup consisted of Jon Batiste (The Late Show with Stephen Colbert), Sam Cohen, George Porter Jr., Margo Price, Joseph, Rayland Baxter, Jason Huber of Cherub, Tank and the Bangas, Lukas Nelson, Nicole Atkins, Boyfriend, Flint Eastwood, Lecrae, and hometown hero Chance the Rapper. The songs I heard included: TLC, Prince, “24K Magic,” “Can I Kick It”-Tribe, and Chance himself closing out the entire show with a half serenade/half bumpin’ party cover “Heya” by Outkast. I’ve never felt the earth shake like that; an incredible moment of screaming out lyrics without any pause of movement. I thought the place was about to explode. This was a decent last day for me to say the least.

Day 4:

I rode the struggle bus Sunday from the prior evening’s Superjam. I’m talking hot Cheetos and coffee struggle. It was not a pretty sight. Even harder to comprehend was the fact that this was our last day in this little happy haven of music and hugs. Tucker Beathard, Ethan Gruska, Margo Price, Milky Chance, Aaron Lee Tasjan and comedian Ed Helms who would be the curator for tonight’s Bluegrass Superjam attended the press conference this morning. Since this was a day of struggle, we definitely took advantage of some shade and found a spot under a tree to take a nap during the Umphrey’s McGee set. I highly recommend their tunes for some hammock-style shut eye. We took our time to wrap up some of our final interviews, picked away at some vendors, definitely ate some real food at some point and made our way to see Lorde.

Mandolin Orange, River Whyless, Gaby Moreno, Baskery, Lillie Mae and Bobby Osborne of The Osborne Brothers who made a surprise appearance. After some happy country tunes, The Weeknd was wrapping up the entire weekend with all of his hits and his falsetto voice along with a barrage of fireworks. The goodbyes were sweet and everyone was desperate for a shower. It felt a lot like leaving Hogwarts; where I’ll leave my friends to go about real life hiding my magic only to return again soon to repeat the magic all over again. Thank you Bonnaroo for some incredibly magical memories for this first-time Bonnaroovian!

After some technical malfunctions, Lorde’s set started 45 minutes late and the anxious crowd really wanted to have time for Travis Scott. Some of them were certainly able to, while others just stayed to watch Lorde complete her set effortlessly. Ed Helms (he’s a DOPE banjo player) & Friends, his bluegrass band, hosted the Bluegrass Superjam! This group consisted of Brian Sutton Band, Martina McBride, Aaron Lee Tasjan, Greensky Bluegrass,






Halfstack Magazine | September 2017




A RT & A C TIVISM An Interview with: Malcolm London @ the Bonnaroo Who Stage. WRITTEN BY: JENNIE VELASCO | PHOTOS: ALEX OCHOA




ALCOLM LONDON DELIVERED an energetic and powerful performance at Bonnaroo’s Who Stage. It was tucked away between vendors and food tents, and appropriately placed in front of a duallevel mini bar. After a little opening jam from Frank Ocean, he basically exploded onto the stage. This energy drew in a larger crowd as his set continued. It also caught the eye of another Chicago native, and future mayor: Chance the Rapper who hung out and jammed to Malcom’s set. A mix of classic hip hop funk, vintage sounds, and his poetic lyrics of his city and activism, he delivered impact with a groovy sound.


Halfstack Magazine | September 2017

Prior to his performance we chatted about his influences and how it deeply motivates his music. Malcolm London started off as a poet and noted how he has previously performed at a much larger festival in Dublin, but in the realm of poetry. A veteran of Young Chicago Authors (where he met Chance, Vic Mensa and others) his influence was utilized in education. “When I’m held accountable for people, I have a responsibility on educating young people; it’s amazing. Now the only difference is the medium has changed to music.” The transitions from art to education to music seem obvious, and his description on its movement in his life is also similar. “With poetry you can do or say whatever you want. With poetry you can develop your own rhythm. Music taught me more about musicality; it comes with so many other things. And the collaboration of it all makes it kind of beautiful.” Equal to education, activism in art is valuable to him. “All you have to do is



turn on the news. I think my perspective on activism is different whereas if you care about somebody and you want to see them live, you’re an activist. We are all fighting for something and people need to realize this. And hopefully this is where music is headed.” His lyrics can reflect memories of parties on the west side of Chicago, but he does not shy away from police interactions and discrimination. He validates how this transition is seamless, “Art is not a big jump to social justice. It’s about explaining truth, your heart, your soul, and if you’re living in 2017 and not feeling a certain type of way, then you aren’t paying attention.” Indeed, Malcolm’s album Opia is a reflection of all of these things: experimenting with sound, poetry, hip-hop, and social topics. This is not without a healthy selection of some radio-friendly tunes that you can easily bump to on your night’s out. I pointed out to Malcom how his songs blend so well with current radio play that he commented how collaborations have been invaluable to the overall sound of his album. He continues to familiarize with his sound, according to him he continues to find a comfortable spot. However, the audience that gathered for Malcom validated my words and created a true connection. He won’t need to search far for it. Malcolm London appreciates conversation and welcomes you to chat via Instagram or Twitter at @MalcolmLondon… Check out Opia and send him a chat! Tell him Jennie said hi!▣






His lyrics can reflect memories of parties on the west side of Chicago, but he does not shy away from police interactions and discrimination. Halfstack Magazine | September 2017





HE BUSTLE THAT was Bonnaroo 2017 did not overwhelm the sweet sounds of LA artist: Ethan Gruska. In his debut album “Slowmotionary,” he explained his focus was “how economical I can make it” with pure piano and just his voice. This singer, songwriter, composer, arranger, (etc.) went into the studio with enough to start an album and came out with a beautifully composed set of moving songs. He wholeheartedly approached this project with his all, in his most comfortable environment, the studio.

THIS PROJECT WAS all about how economical I could be with the songs; how short I can make it, how intricate I can make it without it seeming complicated, how little instruments I could produce it with. It was sort of an exercise.”


The last thing he expected was to land a record deal and a supporting tour to promote the album. “It was really because I had a bunch of songs and I wanted to make a piano record.” He was successful and he had a busy crowd to show off his tunes where the commotion was non-stop and always moving. This was not his first time in a festival environment; he shared his experiences as a supporting musician with other artists at festivals, “its different playing solo.” “If I don’t overcompensate it tends to draw an audience.” He goes on to explain how he actually appreciates the reactions and non-reactions of the crowds, “At every show that I go to as a spectator, I’m sort of looking around and its not really what it used to be and I think its pretty cool; people tune in. tune out.” Ethan’s performance had a unique way of drawing in an audience and kept them fully engaged. Even with the frequent vibration of sound in the air of multiple stages and happy Bonnaroovians, the tenderness that Ethan brought was a muchneeded pillow to rest on. As for what awaits Ethan’s many talents, he wrapped up producing an album for another artist named Phoebe Bridges, and is looking to make another album with “more symphonic elements. More strings, more horns, and make it a little more lush.” For more on Ethan Gruska visit: ▣


RIGHT Ethan Gruska performing. ALL PHOTOS BY ALEX OCHOA


Halfstack Magazine | September 2017



R E UBEN B IDEZ @ bonnaroo’s who stage Reuben Bidez recently released his single “Too Many Alarms” which he described as an alt-country in sheep’s clothing with some Americana vibes.

Wr itten By : Je nni e Vela s c o


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Halfstack Magazine | September 2017


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d r aw an audi e nce i n s u c h a n

pa y i n g atte n tion . I’ v e b e e n

e n ce . C au se I’ m d r a w n t o girl s

ex panse of fe st i v a l gro u n ds ?

a s ked by p e op l e h ostin g a

an d g u y s th a t ca n h ol d your at t en -

T he Co i n guy s fro m Na s h vi lle

di n n er p a r ty l ook in g to h av e m e

tion with th e ir v oice , s o t h at ’s

were pl ay i ng duri n g m y s et ,

pla y a m in i- se t, a n d if th e y ’ re

wh a t I wa n t to d o wit h my mus ic.

they so unde d goo d! ( la u g h -

a ll s i t t in g in th e l iv in g room l is-

ing) I t ’s a l i t t l e n erve- w ra c k-

t en i n g to m e , I l ov e th a t. If

ing w he n y o u don ’t h a ve a n

i t ’s a ba n q u e t situ ation an d I’ m

aud ie nc e w i t h fu ll a t t en t i o n ,

a s ked t o p l a y som e th in g in th e

but I t ry t o foc us o n m y a u di -

b a c kg rou n d , I te l l th e m to p l u g

ence t hat ’s ri ght i n fro n t o f m e

i n a CD . I l ov e th e in te r a ction

and pe rfo rm fo r t h em . I t en d

fro m t h e au d ie n ce an d th a t is

to grav i t at e d t ow a rds pla y i n g

t h e b i g re ason wh y I d o wh at I

Te ll m e a bout y our w ritin g sty l e . I th in k it sta r ts with a s park an d it can b e a l y r ic id e a or a mel od y. I’ v e wr itte n m e l od y f irs t , l yrics f ir st, ch or u s f ir st, r iff firs t , I’v e k in d of d on e it a l l . I’m al w ays ju s t k in d of g a th e r in g l itt l e s parks and col l e ctin g th e m . An d t h en I s et asid e tim e an d sit d ow n an d l is t en b ack th rou g h th ose or read w h at I wrote an d acce p t the h it s an d wor k th rou g h it. It’s 50/ 50 col l ab or ativ e , I’ l l sa y mos t of w h at I’ v e re cor d e d ; I’ l l b r in g t he origin al id e a, b u t I e ith e r finis h ed it m y se l f or ask e d someon e t o h el p f in ish it with m e . I t hin k it ’s g ood to h av e a se cond s et of ears so th a t y ou d on ’t f e el l ike you’re g oin g cr a z y or se e how s ometh in g tr a n sl ate s. T h at ’s a big Reuben Bidez playing @ the who stage at Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival 2017. His Alt-Country Americana vibes kept the audience connected.

th in g th a t p rod u ce r s t oy w it h , t h e tr a n sl ation .


I think it starts with a spark and it can be a lyric idea or a melody. I’ve written melody first, lyrics first..I’ve kind of done it all. D o you h ave another to u r o r a l b um coming ou t? I h a ve a n e w s ingl e I re l e ase d c a lled

t h e s o n g . I t’s a cool son g ,

th e g re at ar tists th at h av e had l ong

“ To o M any Al arms” and I

a feel go o d son g , b u t it’s

care e r s h av e b e e n a b l e to n av igat e

rec or d ed i t w i t h my ba s s

a ls o pret t y c u l tu r a l an d cr iti-

g e n re a n d sou n d an d th e y ’ ve h ad

p l a yer : W yat t Thunde rb u rke.

c a l o f o u r o v e r stim u l a tion a s

d e ca d e s u n d e r th e ir b e l t. T hey’v e

We wrote t hi s so ng t og et h er

a s o c i et y. T he iron y is th a t

b e e n a b l e to ch am e l e on th e ir w ay

a n d thought , “we sho u ld

w e n eed t o u se m e d ia to tr y

th rou g h th e ir m u sic. It h as a l it t l e

rec or d this!” He pro du c es

t o get peo ple to l iste n to th e

b it m ore of a n Am e r ica n a f l air t o it .

mu sic as w e l l and i t wa s o u r

s o n g. E ven t h e r a p ists h av e to

T h e re ’s som e sl id e g u ita r that has

f i rs t time do i ng t hi s t o get h er.

a dvert i s e.

a v e r y G e or g e Har r ison v ib e , s ome

We used m y pi ano pl a y er a n d

th re e - p ar t h ar m on ie s. It’s a h appy Do yo u c o n s i d e r y our a p p roa c h

g u i t ar is t and a cl o se f ri en d ( a ll

son g in k in d of an a l t- cou n t ry in t o t hi s s o n g d i ff e re nt f rom

in house) Chri st i an Pa s c a ll t h a t

sh e e p ’s cl oth in g k in d of way. y o u r o t her s ong s? Ye a h , I’ m

p l a ys d r u ms fo r Marre n M o rri s . n o t m a rri ed to a n y p a r ticu l ar

You m e nti one d a p p re c i a ti ng c re -

s o u n d; I ki n d of l e t th e son g

a ti ve f re e d om , i s th e re a ny thin g

di c t a t e t h e sou n d . An d a l so I

y ou would n’t try ? I’ l l tr y a nyt h ing

do n ’t w a n t t o g e t tie d d own to

on ce ; it m ig h t n e v e r se e th e l igh t of

a n y pa rt i c u la r g e n re . S om e of

d a y. Wh e n I l iv e d in Atl a n ta I s an g

H e’s a fr ie nd from At l a n t a a n d w e moved t o N ashv i l l e a ro u n d th e same t i me and had a c c es s to a s tud i o t o cut drum s fo r

Halfstack Magazine | September 2017


on a coupl e of r a p t ra c ks a n d

t h i nk a n d f e e l th in g s a n d l e t

d ire ct re f l e ctio n of our ad d ic-

that w as fun fo r m e. I t ’s j u s t

t h e ir e m otion s com e ou t r a th e r

tion to te ch n ol ogy. I’m guil t y

my pe rso nal i t y; I do n ’t t ry t o

t h an se l f - m e d icatin g . I f e e l

of it as we l l , I’m n ot point -

hang out w i t h t h e s a m e ki n d

li ke , as a socie ty, we ’ v e g otte n

in g an y f in g e r s. I jus t know

of pe o pl e , I don ’t ea t t h e s a m e

rea l l y n u m b an d I th in k th at’s

th at if y ou d o need a break

typ e o f foo d and I a pprec i a t e

ki n d of m y m ission to g e t

g oin g an d e x p erien cing a l iv e

var ie t y. I t ’s j us t a c o n t i n u a -

peop l e to f e e l ag ain a n d f e e l

sh ow is a g re a t w ay t o t ake a

tion of my pe rson a li t y. T h ere

h u m a n an d h av e th e h u m a n

b re a k f rom y ou r ph one for 2

are prob ab l y so m e t h i n gs I

ex p e r ie n ce . I wan t to con -

h ou r s or e v e n a 30 min ut e s et

coul dn’t do v e ry w ell, b u t I

t i n ue d own th a t p ath an d wr ite

to b e cap tiv a ted ot h er t h an

woul d at l e ast a t t em pt i t , a n d

m ore stu ff th a t m ak e s p e op l e

wh at’s in y ou r pocket . That ’s

you’ l l prob ab l y n ever h ea r i t

h a p p y. M y f ir st E P wa s p re tty

wh y I l ov e p l a yin g s ol o in a


da r k a n d was a re f l e ction of

q u ie t room it f orces peopl e t o

t h at stag e in l if e , b u t a s I g e t

stop a n d tak e i t in . As a per-

o ld e r, th e con ce p t of m ak in g

f or m e r th ose are s ome of my

peop l e f e e l g ood an d e x p e r i-

f a v or ite tim e s, t hat experi-

en c e joy k in d of ap p e al s to m e

e n ce is so g re at . I d on ’t know

a s we l l . I’ m al wa y s g oin g to

if it’s a g e n e r at ion al t h ing, I

h a v e th at “ l e t’s g e t p a st th e

f e e l if y ou n g peopl e gav e it a

s u r f ace ” m otto.

tr y, th e y ’ d re a ll y l ike it . In t h e

W h e re d o y o u wa nt t o t a k e you r mu s ic ? I ’m h o pi n g t o cont i nue t o t ak e m y m u s i c to a pl ace whe re peo ple c a n conne c t wi t h i t em o t i o n a lly. T here are gre at a rt i s t s o u t there t hat mak e g rea t m u s i c

1970’s wh e n ou r parent s w ere that fe e l s go o d a n d y o u w a n t

Sin c e y ou m e nti one d soc i -

to dance and j u s t pu t s y o u i n

et y ’s d e p e nd e nc e on th i ng s

a gre at v i b e ; and I a pprec i -

l ike te c h nolog y, d o y ou th i nk

ate t hat . To t he ex t en t I w a n t

t ha t’s wh y th e se li ve sh ows

to do t hat , b ut a ls o c o n n ec t

are k i nd of on th e d e c li ne ? A

on a de e pe r l e vel. Pa rt o f

lo t of th a t is a sy m p tom of ou r

the re aso n I do t h i s i s c a u s e I

s h or te r an d sh or te r a tte n tion

wan t t o mak e peo ple s t o p a n d

s pa n s. It’s p re tty ob v iou s it’s a

ou r ag e , th e y were experiencin g th is a n d l oving it an d t hey l iv e d f or l iv e p erformances . M a y b e th e m u sic is more a cce ssib l e n ow an d you can watch it on y our phon e t h an se e it l iv e . B U T G ET OUT THERE AN D G O S E E IT … an yone t hat


d oes , c o me s out o f i t feeli n g like it w as way b e t t er t h a n they tho ught i t wa s . Reube n Bi de z has b i g pla n s t o make hi s w ay t o C h i c a go a n d hopef ul l y mak e a deb u t t h i s way. Thi s al so com es w i t h a hope t o cont i nue t o pla y m o re festiv al s i n t he fu t u re.

I don’t try to hang out with the same kind of people. I don’t eat the same type of food and I appreciate variety. Re uben Bidez h as big plan s to make h is way to Ch icago an d h opefu lly make a d eb ut this way.

Halfstack Magazine | September 2017



Celebrates 50 Years with Their 2-Week Lineup…and I saw Hansonource: Uptatie mod WRITTEN BY: JENNIE VELASCO PHOTOGRAPHY: ALEX OCHOA

The end of June gave us some humid days, but we were on the cusp of what would be a comfortable Fourth of July. These were some key weeks for fantastic ventures to nearby Milwaukee for the 50th anniversary of Summerfest! Unquestionably, a trek that once again my photographer Alex and I made on Friday Jr. (Thursday), to experience night 2 of this 11-day festival by the lake. If you’ve never been to Milwaukee, it’s a quaint metropolis with some frightening skyways. Yet, the skyline of this city is unique and breathtaking. Although we were coming in to what is normally rush hour in Chicago, we were given a smooth journey through the city. Since this was a Thursday, we were there on a mission. This mission was mostly a surprise for me since I had only found out about this performance a month or two prior to my visit. I know there will be some judgment, but I am definitely a 33-yearold Latina mom that is and always has……been in love with Hanson. The band was set to play on the


US Cellular Connection Stage which is an oddly small area knowing what Hanson crowds often look like. Before I get to their performance, however, the evening was only moderately packed with diverse crowds. After making our way to the food and beer tents, we took a tour of the large expanse of grounds that not only housed stages, but it was also accompanied with mini sports arenas, a children’s play area and stage, paddle boats, a million and one vendors, and the Summerfest Skyglider that took you through a mini-tour of the grounds from above. More gorgeous views of the city skyline and the massive crowds that were beginning to gather at the Miller Lite Oasis stage for Pluto and Steve Aoki. We also saw some adorable couples; greasers and pinup girls dancing at the Harley-Davidson Roadhouse stage where Pokey LaFarge was performing and were prepping the stage for Brian

Setzer’s Rockabilly Riot. I would save this space for all the other acts that performed the entire day, however we are talking about over 60 acts in one day. I still have so many details to get to…. BACK TO HANSON… This trio of brothers has released over 10 albums, a career span of over 20 years and a tribe of committed fans that still give them the support and screams of yesteryear. No, they don’t quit. Their talents have continued to provide some of the soundtracks of our youth, but with the high fives, beer and cigars we need to get through adult life. Their feel-good tunes and organic sound reflect old rock and roll vibes, and I prepared my photographer for what he was about to experience. As the true professional he is and overall music fan, he kept an open mind as I crazy sang every song of Hanson on our hour plus trip to Milwaukee. JENNIE ENJOYING THE SUNSET

Halfstack Magazine | September 2017



Their songs have such an iconic quality to them that they have a tendency to have such an explosive feel once they are played live. The kind of emotional connection that gives you an empty feeling once it all ends. I honestly couldn’t even tell you what they opened up with; it was a mix of some straight up classics from their Middle of Nowhere album.

A few other trips to Milwaukee warranted an evening to see Blues Traveler, Chicano Batman, DNCE and Alessia Cara. Alessia was also set to play the Taste of Chicago the following day and gave a reason for some locals to also scream-sing her song “How Far I’ll Go” that she performed for the Disney Pixar film, Moana.

Songs like “Where’s The Love,” “A Minute Without You,” and something else mixed into there that got me so hyped up I started sweating of excitement. The obvious favorites were played from This Time Around, Underneath, and Anthem. They did some old time classics from Chuck Berry and Spencer Davis Group to which they often regard as their inspiration for becoming a band. Nothing could ever prepare you to hear a classic like “MMMBop.” Everyone bouncing and not really coherently singing the words, more like scream-singing or shout-singing… you get it.

The headliners for this special 50th anniversary included Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Sheryl Crow, P!nk, Future, Big Sean, Migos, Tom Petty, Luke Bryan, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Zac Brown Band, Chris Stapleton, Willie Nelson and literally THOUSANDS of others! For all those that like to keep things local in the summer, Milwaukee is a great spot during these two weeks to spend listening to great music at an incredible value. You are basically getting a miniature version of Chicago, without all the traffic. Definitely don’t skip Mars Cheese Castle, you don’t want to miss out on their epic cheese curds! ▶






Halfstack Magazine | September 2017




An Adventure on the West Coast: FYF Fest -Exposition Park /Los Angeles, CA WRITTEN BY: JENNIE VELASCO

. ce: Uptatie mod tin voluptat praesse quisit utpat nisci eraessequam dolenim do ex eu feugait FYF Fest might be a lesser-known fes-

go Felipe

Bjork Santia

tival in the Midwest parts, but this year the festival brought an epic lineup that inspired me to fly across the country. As much as this was an opportunity to visit my sweet friend, photographer, and Halfstack’s West Coast correspondent Nicki Niemet, there was still some great opportunity to experience the so-cal vibes that are the epitome of LA. The fest hosted six stages total, two of which were DJ centered dance parties lasting until 2am. The late opening gate times (5pm) allowed me an opportunity to explore downtown LA. The festival was hosted in Exposition Park; currently a bit of an


eyesore, considering that the city of Los Angeles is updating its transit system surrounding the area for the 2028 Olympics. It still did not take away from the glory that is this Olympic park where the 1984 Olympics was once hosted and still has that eternal flame going alongside its RomanGreco statues. Notable acts that we caught included: Bjork, Nine Inch Nails, Frank Ocean, A Tribe Called Quest (who performed their last festival as a group following the passing of Phife Dawg), Kehlani, Erykah Badu, 6lack, MGMT, Iggy Pop, Dave P, Kelly Lee Owens, and none other than the ultimate hip hop queen ….MISSY ELLIOT. Yes, we were pumped for other artists…but as Missy had said during her set; this was the first show she performed in the states in over 10 years. There isn’t a Missy song I DON’T know and for any fan, you know every song was a hit.

For music fans that don’t particularly enjoy the festival experience of porto-potties and camping, consider attending FYF next year! You’ll be near a lot of trendy shops and popular neighborhoods without having to spend an entire day at a festival. This gives you an opportunity to explore what downtown LA has to offer. And after seeing what I thought to be a stellar lineup this year, I’m looking forward to what crazy surprise artists FYF will bring back from the dead next year! FyF Boombox - Danielle Garza

Trent Reznor of NIN - Roger Ho

Iggy Pop - Lance Skundrich

Missy Elliot FYF FB

Halfstack Magazine | September 2017

Jesse Fulton


MA K E T H E PI L GR I M A G E Summer’s Final Affair: Make The Pilgrimage to Franklin, TN for Pilgrimage 2017 Written by: Jennie Velasco Photography: Nicki Niemet


MUSIC MUSTS Last year Halfstack was invited to SO many others. The line up will surely bring you Pilgrimage Festival in the quaint town of the southern atmosphere that you will be craving. Franklin, Tennessee. My photographer, Nicki and I made the road trip down to the southern mountains for sweet tea, Americana, and to wave past Justin Timberlake’s house.

After adventuring around Harlinsdale Farm and the festival grounds, we enjoyed the gorgeous scenery and great music. Headliners last year included Beck, Daryl Hall and John Oates, Kacey Musgraves, Grace Potter and Violent Femmes. It was a treat to see families gathered and people of all ages enjoy the peaceful grounds and gorgeous breeze as much as we did.

If you’re looking for a low-key festival with memorable music minus the stuffy, atypical festival goers of Lolla or Coachella…this is your home. The best way I can describe it is precious. The farm atmosphere gives you an incredible view of mountain ranges covered in trees. You can row your way via kayak on the Harpeth River, all during the last remaining summer days in Tennessee sunshine. Don’t miss out on some grooves, soul, and grunge. Enjoy some of our photos from last year’s festival!

This year Pilgrimage will be bringing its co-producer to the stage to bring you his sultry R&B/pop jams; Justin Timberlake alongside one of grunge’s most iconic voices: Eddie Vedder. Also joining them this year are The Avett Brothers, Ryan Adam, Mavis Staples, Gary Clark Jr, Fitz and the Tantrums and

Halfstack Magazine | September 2017




Halfstack Magazine | September 2017



Halfstack and Art and Sol have been invited to attend this year’s LouFest in St. Louis, Missouri. At this point we’ve visited the South, the West Coast, and it is about time we explore some Midwest parties that are not Lollapalooza. Taking place in St. Louis, MO – Loufest kicks off fall September 9th -10th


Headliners for this festival include Snoop Dogg and Weezer, as well as some radio favorites like Marian Hill, Run the Jewels and Nathaniel Ratliff and the Night Sweats. What brought this festival to my attention was my love for ZZ Ward, whom I call my bluesy, Americana Queen. Over the summer she released The Storm, which includes her recent release “Ride” for the third installment of Disney Pixar’s Cars 3. If you happen to be around and want to party with us, certainly find me at the Bud Light Stage September 9th at 4PM!

LOUFEST Bringing Some Vintage and Some Modern to Missouri 66


Some new features at this year’s festival include LouFestU; a free studentonly event that will give the fest an early third day on Friday the 8th. The St. Louis Regional Chamber sponsored evening will include local and national bands, plus guest speakers and presentations from some of the region’s top corporations. Think of it like a TED talk meets concert festival—enjoy music and possibly meet your future employer! Just go easy on the booze. The lineup for LouFestU will be unveiled in the weeks to come. The Malibu Beach House by Malibu rum, hot air balloon treks, and the Tech Artista Installment are just a few of the new popups that will also be featured. This lineup proves to be diverse with their two-day attractions. This is our first time making our way in this direction. So, we are bound to find you some new goodies we’ve never found before! Join us on the road trip down by checking up our Instagram stories on @artand.sol and @ halfstackmag!


Halfstack Magazine | September 2017






Chicago Based Ready Pretty offers Personal Styling for Real, Busy Women RIGHT PAGE Jeannine Benoit Adams of Ready Pretty in Chicago


My experience at Project Entrepreneur was incredibly eye opening to the realities behind female founded startups. According to Tech Crunch, “The percentage of startups that have at least one female founder was flat in the first quarter of 2017. From 2009 to 2012, the percent of venture-funded companies with women founders increased by nearly 8 percent; however, the percentage of women-founded venture-backed companies has plateaued at approximately 17 percent since 2012. “ When reviewing the quarter one 2017 data, that percent doesn’t appear to have changed. This highlights that there has been nearly five years with no percentage growth in women-founded venture-backed startups. It’s tough being a woman, but it’s even tougher being a woman business owner. One of the major obstacles female founders mention is a lack of opportunity for funding and venture backed deals. Yet, more and women are working hard to overcome these obstacles and launch businesses that are making an impact on their communities and making a difference in societies.

More and more organizations are launching to challenge the status quo that is all to evident in the male-dominated start up world. Many of these organizations are focusing on addressing the challenges that female founders and other under represented minorities are facing in the business world. The Rent the Runway Foundation’s Project Entrepreneur ignites bold ideas by providing women access to the tools, training and networks needed to build scalable, economically impactful companies. Founded by the women behind Rent the Runway and in partnership with USB, the organization is working to reach their goals through a multi-faceted national initiative that includes a robust digital hub, multi-city events, a venture competition, and a 5-week accelerator program. The team behind Rent the Runway is working diligently to encourage other women to establish their own disruptive businesses. Women from all over the country trekked to NYC this past April for a weekend of workshops, networking and inspiring keynote speakers. I had the opportunity to


connect with fellow Chicagoan, Jeannine Benoit Adams, from Ready Pretty, a personal styling service brand that caters to real, busy women. Ready Pretty focuses on the needs of their clients through a personal connection that allows them to get to know their clients better. Clients share a little about themselves, and the Ready Pretty Style Experts will email a carefully curated collection of links to full outfits and/or wardrobe pieces from some of the best online shopping destinations from around the world. They keep the shopping and styling experience simple and convenient with links and looks you want, exactly when you need them. Best of all, the Ready Pretty team work within a budget that works for you. Their mission is to give you access to the wardrobe you’ve always wanted - allowing you to look good and feel great, while saving you the time and headache of trying to find the perfect pieces. Jeannine took some time, to talk with the Halfstack team about her journey into entrepreneurship.

Halfstack Magazine | September 2017


1. Can you please tell us a bit about yourself, your background and what led you to pursue launching Ready Pretty? I came to Chicago for graduate school and simultaneously started my career in marketing and public relations more than a decade ago in Chicago. I have always had a love of fashion and style and found myself doing a lot of side jobs here and there that fulfilled that interest. I was a fashion writer for various print and digital publications both Chicago and nationally, did a stint on NBC 5 Chicago as an on-air style expert and always found myself helping friends and family pick out clothing to wear here and there. After helping so many family and friends, I sketched out on paper one night what it might look like if I created a service that did this in a virtual way that could reach more people. I knew that at some point in my career I wanted to create a business using the skills and experiences as had as both a marketing and a lover of fashion and style. And the idea for Ready Pretty was born. 2. Can you tell us more about your brand, the idea behind it, the customer you cater to and the purpose and mission driving it? I’ve always said that clothing can be transformative - when you look good you feel good. It’s a simple fact of life that I’ve always believed. In a nutshell, we help real, busy women get dressed. No matter your size, age, budget or style preference, we’re here to help you dress better. We’ve found that the majority of our users are moms, busy professionals or both, often jugglings a to do list a mile long. They are wanting their wardrobes to evolve just as they have, as they are no longer running to Forever21 to grab a quick outfit for Friday night. They’re more interested in quality and fit and making smarter shopping decisions. We simply help guide our users through personalized picks by an expert stylist that best fits their fashion needs and aspirations. We’re taking the guesswork out of getting dressed and putting the fun and excitement back into getting dressed. Ready Pretty offers a simple and convenient way to shop without having to do all the work! 3. What led you to focus on pursuing the idea of the Ready Pretty brand full time? What has the transition been like? Can you share any insights to the “not so pretty side of running a styling business?”


HAHA. Some might call me risk-averse, probably not the best trait for an entrepreneur. I like to think that I am a very calculated risk taker. I am surrounded by entrepreneurs - my husband, brother, and so many of my close friends all took the leap and are running successful businesses. I worked in marketing my entire career at large agencies and for more than a year was doing both up until the moment I felt ready to take the leap. It was a challenging (and exhausting!) year and a half - but I needed to feel comfortable both financially and also mentally to leave the comforts of a full-time job and more importantly a fulltime paycheck. As far as the not so pretty side? It’s stressful. I’m stressed and worried about the business all the time - it’s 24/7 and you’re so invested in it that it can feel overwhelming. But it’s also incredibly rewarding and gratifying to actually see things work or have small and big wins that make it all worth it. 4. Where do you get your creative inspiration and what does your creative “process” look like as you work on styling and assessing the needs of your clients? I’ve always been a very creative person - for me it’s just intuitive. As the business continues to grow I’m doing less and less styling and handling more of the “back of house” needs, but I still get to focus a lot on our marketing efforts and some styling here and there. My creative process always starts with getting into the mindset of our users. At the end what does she want to feel like? Who is she trying to be? What would she consider to be the best version of herself. Those are the types of questions that help me get to our best marketing or our best picks for our users. 5. Are there people, mentors or figures that have made an impact in your life and career? If so, how? For certain. My parents first and foremost. My mom is a force. Since I can remember she’s always been both a total boss and incredible mom. She’s been in leadership roles since I was young, and grew up watching her evolve as a business woman. I wanted (and still want) to be just like her. From my dad, I learned how to treat people. He’s got the patience of a saint, and people are just drawn to him. He’s one of those people that is just so incredibly respected by all - he taught me the things that

school doesn’t teach - how to be fair and kind, but still strong and bold. It’s cliche but growing up, and even still now, my parents made me feel like I could do anything that I dreamed and worked hard for. I’ve also been lucky enough to have (for the most part) been surrounded by really dynamic people that have supported me throughout my career. My most recent boss at the agency I worked at prior to doing Ready Pretty full-time, was a true champion of mine. Not only was he a boss to me but a mentor - I learned a lot in my time working closely with him - lessons in marketing and client service that have stayed with me - how to navigate difficult and challenging work situations, how to develop solutions when issues arise . I’ll be forever grateful for the opportunity to have worked with him - to grow and learn and ultimately become a better professional because of him. 6. What are your goals for your brand in the next 2-5 years? How do you hope to be making an impact or what kind of growth are you looking forward to? Like any small business, growth is our number one focus right now. Creating more opportunities to connect and engage with women in need of our service is the number one priority. In addition, we’ve had some great partnership with nonprofit organizations like My Favorite Outfit, dedicated to supporting women and girls. I’d like to continue to expand these efforts to ensure we’re doing our part as a brand to give back and help in way that support our ultimate mission of helping women build confidence through clothing. 7. How is your brand remaining innovative and what are you working towards when it comes to changing the standards within your industry? Over the last 5 years, the way women shop has truly changed. You see so many brick and mortar shops closing simply because people are no longer leaving their homes to shop because technology is making it so much easier. At Ready Pretty, we’re focusing on helping small boutiques, shops and brands stay relevant by partnering with them to grow our styling network. It’s truly a win-win. We get to leverage the amazing finds of these small boutiques, and they are able to expand their reach and ultimately sales by partnering with us. My hope is that together, we can help

Halfstack Magazine | September 2017



these small boutiques and shops build digital storefronts that flourish. 8. What kind of obstacles have you faced when it comes to entrepreneurship and growth as a female business owner? How have you overcome? Like any entrepreneur, there have been challenges - be it resources, hiring challenges, operational issues etc. Luckily enough, they have not been related to my gender. There were certainly some assumptions that people have that I don’t believe my husband got when he said he was leaving his full time job to pursue his entrepreneurial path. I’m fairly certain nobody said to him, “oh you must be excited to spend more time with your son” or “now your son won’t have to go to daycare” when he discussed his career goals. Those things were frustrating (P.S. - for me I work WAY more than when I was working at an agency and yes, my son is still in daycare) but I use it everyday as fuel to create an incredible company that not only I can be proud of, but one day my son can be as well. 9. What has been your greatest success or proudest moment to date? The proudest moment to date for me - though a while ago - was getting my very first order that was not a friend or family member. Knowing that someone, on their own free will, not only found us, but then went on to purchase one of our services was a very big deal. It’s honestly still a thrill for me each day when I look at the order report. Not so much because of the money, but more because of the fact that this was simply an idea, that I made up out of nothing, that turned into a real, tangible thing. 10. What kind of advice would you give to someone looking to launch their own business? Anything they should really think about before they take the leap? As I mentioned, I’m more of a “look before you leap” type of person. So may advice would be to thin through it (but don’t think too much as you might think you’re way out of it!). Know your options; create a bit of a cushion for yourself if you can. But more than that, do the work. Put your head down and get to work. Nothing works if you don’t and though my journey with Ready Pretty is still in its infancy, I have found that when I work the hardest good

things happen, opportunities arise and sales increase. Be sure you’re ready to really do the work.

1. Can you please tell us a bit about yourself, your background and what led you to pursue launching your company?

11. Finally, where can we learn more about your brand online?

I am a physician and visual artist. I’ve always been passionate about health and helping people achieve the best health outcomes possible and communication is a large part of that. When I was a doctor in training, I would sometimes sketch pictures for people to explain their health conditions and I really saw how that made a difference for some people. I also saw that the standard of care for communication with patients really needed a lot of improvement.

Find us online at or on Instagram at @ReadyPretty

Valeet Healthcare is Re-imagining Healthcare From fashion related brands, to tech as well as startups in the medical field, the Project Entrepreneur alumni group included a wide range of different types of businesses and diverse women founders. Launched by: Sima Pendharkar, MD, MPH, FACP – Valeet Healthcare is committed to re-imagining healthcare in a way that’s easy to navigate, collaborative, transparent, prioritizing excellent health outcomes for patients, easier and more effective workflow for physicians while ensuring that healthcare organizations excel in meeting quality measures. Startups targeting women’s healthcare and healthcare, in general, have multiplied in recent years. From launches such as PayPal co-founder Max Levchin’s launch of fertility tracking app Glow in 2013 to a slew of women focused clinical care, and even subscription tampons. Other top-tier VCs have entered the field as well and have noticed how this growing crop of healthcare startups are looking to improve healthcare. Dr. Pendharkar’s background as a hospitalist and patient advocate made her the perfect founder to launch a startup catering to the needs of both patients and medical facilities. She has worked as a hospitalist in a number of institutions gaining a deeper understanding of the systems flow processes within healthcare systems. Through her experiences, she has developed a strong commitment to leveraging technology so that health consumers, healthcare professionals and healthcare institutions can all work together seamlessly to ensure excellent health outcomes for individuals and healthcare systems. She took some time to share her journey and explain how she is hoping to make an impact on the healthcare industry.

Halfstack Magazine | September 2017

2. Can you tell us more about how the idea for Valeet Healthcare came about? Was there just a spark of inspiration or did you experience something that led you to pursue building on this idea? Specifically, I was watching a group of doctors interact with a patient. At the end of the interaction, I asked the patient what his understanding was about his health conditions – the doctors had just spent 45 minutes talking at him. He shrugged his shoulders and made it clear that he had no idea what was just communicated to him. For me, this was a critical moment where I realized I needed to do something. From that point I was committed to envisioning a better solution. 3. How is your company looking to create more convenience when it comes to communication within healthcare? We are looking to make information more accessible and interactive. Medical information is complex – medical professionals spend years trying to learn how to synthesize and process medical data. The layperson doesn’t have that advantage of learning the information yet they need to utilize this important information to manage their health. Add to that, health data is complex so we are harnessing machine learning and AI to synthesize data and patterns to yield information at the fingertips of patients and providers that can be easily used and is actionable. We’re thrilled to be serving in this capacity and understand this this is the future of healthcare!




4. What are your goals for your brand in the next 2-5 years? How do you hope to be making an impact or what kind of growth are you looking forward to? I’d like to continue expanding our services and partner with more organizations who are really in need of our help. We also have ties to international healthcare organizations and we are looking to make a mark in the global market as well as in the local US market. 5. Are there people, mentors or figures that have made an impact in your life and career? If so, how? My mother, father and sister have all been important figures in shaping my personal growth. My mother is an artist and had a huge creative influence on me from an early age. I was involved in painting, tap, jazz, ballet and gymnastics from an early age. My parents both always encouraged me to expand my horizons and never put limits on what I could do. We spent summers in India growing up so I also had the advantage of having a global perspective. Of course I’ve met many awesome people along the way. One of my biggest mentors was an infectious diseases doctor, Dr. Bill Miller and also Opinder Bawa, a saavy business minded mentor who encouraged me and my dear friend and mentor Dr. Christine Boyle who’s the founder of Valor Water. There’s a long list of wonderful people I’ve met along the way and I’m lucky to have an incredibly supportive network of people in my life. 6. What are your thoughts on being a woman in the competitive world of startups? What are the struggles women face in entrepreneurship and how do you think we can change the narrative when it comes to funding opportunities for women? I’m aware of the data, statistics and the reality of being a female in a male dominated sector. However, I like to keep my focus on the issue at hand – improving patient care and health. When I do that, I find it’s much easier to brush aside not so pleasant encounters. Also I have a tribe of successful women who I can look to for mentorship, support and more and I’m grateful for that. I feel that to overcome the odds you must have a clear vision of what you’re trying to achieve and you must surround yourself with people who understand

you, the struggles you face and who have positivity to give. I’m also working with a few colleagues to create a support network for female physicians and maybe we can translate some of that to women in business. I’m hopeful that one day there will be an equal playing field and am committed to doing my part to help us arrive at that place sooner rather than later. 7. Has your company been impacted by any of the government changes or potential changes to come within the healthcare industry? If so – do you think there will be positive or negative impacts and how do you plan on overcoming any potential obstacles? There is a bigger push for building a healthcare system where there is transparency on all levels – patient outcomes, healthcare costs, provider skill level and more. So in that sense, our company will benefit because that is that driving principle behind what we are doing. We want patients to own their health and be a part of the conversation. We want to empower physicians with the advanced analytics an other tools so they can do their jobs effectively, efficiently and sleep well at night.

demo. Subsequently, I got invited to Australia to have further conversations with a healthcare system there! Sharing your vision and having it resonate with people who are facing the same struggles is largely rewarding and the reason that I’m doing what I’m doing! 11. What kind of advice would you give to someone looking to launch his or her own business? Anything they should really think about before they take the leap? I’d say the best thing you can do is make sure you’re connecting with the customer and really solving a problem that’s real. And when you affirm that you are solving a real problem, surround yourself with people who support you and who can be helpful in your vision. 12. Finally, where can we learn more about your brand online? Come check us out at Valeet Healthcare www. and feel free to send me an email if you have any questions. We can’t wait to hear from you!

8. As a startup – what has been the most difficult part of the process of launching a business? think the most difficult part of any innovation is convincing people that there is a better way to do things. Meaningful change never happens overnight and in general, people are creatures of habit and get stuck with the norms or the current ways of doing things. However, each generation comes up with a new way to reinvent current standards and that’s the hallmark of progress. I’ve always been the type of person that likes to envision and imagine the future and how things can be better so in that sense, I’m really loving the journey. 10. What has been your greatest success or proudest moment to date? To date, the proudest moments I’ve had are when my team members and customers get pumped about the Valeet Healthcare vision and platform. For example, I gave a demo of the Valeet Healthcare platform in Santa Clara and the minute I walked off the stage I was getting multiple text messages and emails from excited people who had jus seen the

Halfstack Magazine | September 2017

Sima Pendharkar, MD, MPH, FACP - Valeet Healthcare, Founder + CEO




Halfstack Magazine | September 2017





Idyllic beaches, adventure, a deep history and a culturally diverse community are the cornerstones of the Dominican Republic. Going beyond the traditional resorts, the Dominican Republic offers a plethora of opportunities for individuals, couples and families alike to explore the beauty of this island. From the bustling markets of Santo Domingo to the history of San Pedro de Macoris, each town offers its own unique vibe that is tied together with the ribbon of romance that showcases the country’s beauty. The coastlines of the Dominican Republic offers hundreds of kilometers of white sandy beaches, rows of palm trees as well as dramatic rocky cliffs, wind-swept dunes and serene mangrove lagoons. An extensive network of bays, coves, parks and preserves highlight the country’s natural heritage. Whether you are looking for an opportunity to explore historically relevant colonial architecture, snorkel through the beautiful oceans, catch a baseball game or relax at a gorgeous resort, the Dominican Republic offers ample opportunity for adventure. The Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism, took some time to share more about this beautiful island with the Halfstack Team. The Ministry of tourism is a Dominican government institution whose main goal is to promote the Dominican Republic as a the ideal Caribbean destination for vacations and tourism. With over 30 offices located all over the globe, including Chicago, they are working towards increasing awareness of the destination.



They work closely with major tour operators from the area, travel agencies, meeting and events planners and media in general, to educate them on all of the things the DR has to offer to tourists, updates of new hotels and things to do. The Midwest office is located in the heart Chicago, and is the number one source of information for all the Midwest to learn about traveling to the Dominican Republic. THINGS TO DO When it comes to having an experiential vacation and adventure, the Dominican has so much to offer. Whether one is seeking a relaxed retreat or an action-packed family weekend, Dominican Republic has an abundance of travel activities well suited for every type of traveler.

throughout the country, will be surrounded by unspoiled nature, breathtaking coastlines and mountains, swaying coconut palms and lush green fairways. Located in Cap Cana, which is only ten minutes from the Punta Cana International Airport, is one of the country’s most iconic world-class courses, The Punta Espada Golf Club. The Punta Espada is legendary designer Jack Nicklaus’s first Signature Course in the country. This can’t-miss course routinely reaches the top of lists for best courses in the region. Another noteworthy accomplishment, the acclaimed PGA Tour heads to Dominican Republic for the first time this March.


•Whale Watching in Samaná Between January and March, head to Samaná to witness thousands of humpback whales migrate to the Samaná Bay. •Magnificent Golf Courses Dominican Republic attracts thousands of golf enthusiasts each year and consistently ranks among the world’s best travel and golf destinations. As the undisputed “It” destination for golf, links dispersed


The Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism Halfstack Magazine | September 2017


When it comes to having an experiential vacation and adventure, the Dominican has so much to offer. Whether one is seeking a relaxed retreat or an action-packed family weekend, Dominican Republic has an abundance of travel activities.



The Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism

Halfstack Magazine | September 2017


•Los Haitises National Park Located in Samaná, explore the mangroves by kayak and tour the park’s caves to see immaculately preserved pictographs from the Taíno Indians for a step back in time. The protected park has very little road access, with most travelers arriving by boat. •Saltos de Damajagua’s 27 Waterfalls The collection of 27 individual waterfalls located 30 minutes from Puerto Plata in the Northern Corridor Mountain range is one of the country’s best-kept secrets. The series of waterfalls can be explored by jumping from one to the other, or sliding down natural slides into the water below. •Below Sea Level: Lake Enriquillo Dominican Republic is home to both the lowest and highest points below and above sea level in the Caribbean. In the southwest region of the country, Lake Enriquillo is a scientific marvel situated in a rift valley. This saltwater lake is both the largest lake and the lowest elevation in the region, at 42 meters below sea level. The lake is best explored by boat to take in the spectacular sight of the tropical birds, flamingos, two types of iguana and American crocodiles. PLACES TO SEE & ADVENTURES TO EXPERIENCE There are so many different cities and towns to experience in the Dominican Republic. Each with its own atmosphere. The following are some key areas to explore and experience. •Punta Cana: Soft sandy beaches, all-inclusive hotels and endless activities make Punta


Cana the perfect destination for a family trip to remember. The region has become a haven for family vacationers seeking R&R, action-packed days including discovering local wild life, water sports and more. Located on the country’s east coast, where the Atlantic Ocean (to the north) meets the Caribbean Sea (to the south), Punta Cana is the most popular tourist area in Dominican Republic, in large part to its undeniably breathtaking views with tall swaying palms scattered along miles of some of the whitest and finest coral sand beaches in the world. •Samaná: On the Northeast side of Dominican Republic, is widely known for its tranquil atmosphere, unspoiled beaches and plenty of unique opportunities to explore. The combination of its untouched beaches, gorgeous nature, excellent weather and rich culture make it the perfect destination for people looking to explore the DR in an area nothing short of paradise. It remains one of the most natural and undiscovered areas in the country. •Puerto Plata: Lies on the country’s North coast and is also one of the DR’s most visited hotspots. It is overshadowed by Mt. Isabel de Torres, which at 2600 feet (793 meters), cannot be missed. Hotels in the Puerto Plata-Cabarete area cater to active clientele and are perfect for eco-enthusiasts looking to relax between adventures. Aside from offering affordable worldclass service and pampering, many hotels also offer their own tours and excursions, allowing visitors to explore the area with a local expert. The destinations’ coastal location, warm waters and ocean breezes make for the perfect playground for adventure, with attractions such as:

oKiteboarding at Cabarete Beach, the Kiteboarding Capital of the World oHiking deep into the Septentrional Mountain Range and cascading Ciguapa Falls oJumping and swimming through the 27 Waterfalls of Damajagua WHERE TO EAT If you are looking for mind shattering dining experiences, look no further. The Dominican Republic offers an array of culinary escapades sure to tantalize your taste buds. The following are restaurants that are on our must try list: •Passion by Martin Berasategui at Paradisus Punta Cana – 2016 Travelers Choice Award winner. Mediterranean restaurant known for its tasting menu and wine list. •La Yola Restaurant – Located in Punta Cana Marina, this place offers incredible meals and views •Jellyfish Beach Restaurant – beautiful restaurant and location with more casual meals and price points. Also, a beautiful place to just grab drinks! •Don Queco Cigar & Rum Bar - is located on the Punta Cana club and resort properties, but you can access it even if you are not staying there. A great selection of high-end cigars and rum, in an upscale environment. •La Casita de Papi - offers fresh seafood, lobster and shrimp “Papi” style! A very cozy atmosphere invites you to start with homemade French appetizers such as salads, sandwiches, fruit juices everything prepared just

fresh! The beachside seafood dining experience under the moon stars of Cabarete, offers a truly unique dining experience.

located. It is no other than Christopher Columbus himself who first made landfall in Puerto Plata in 1492.

Beyond its bungalow-style and swim out suites, expansive infinity pool, eight gourmet restaurants and world-class spa.

•Barra Payan - There is history in each bite at this iconic eatery which has been selling hot sandwiches for over 50 years. Located in the heart of Santo Domingo, Barra Payán offers Creole and Latin American cuisines.

Additionally, Colonial City in Santo Domingo is the first city founded in the Americas and the country’s capital city (also named the Cultural Capital of the Americas in 2010). Santo Domingo boasts an impressive collection of museums, culture, historic sites, monuments, arts, music and more. The Colonial City (or “Colonial Zone”), located inside Santo Domingo is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the site of the first city of the Americas. It features the first street, hospital, university and cathedral in the Americas, along with ancient buildings, parks and streets where Spanish conquistadors once lived.


ALL ABOUT THE NIGHTLIFE If you are looking for nightlife, the Dominican Republic is known for it’s social culture, music and love of merengue. From the late night parties at the Colmados (combined corner stores and bars) to the Carnival celebrations all over the island, the events are an opportunity to peek into the deep rooted Caribbean culture and experience the joy of life that is so evident within the Dominican Republic. Most resorts offer dance clubs. Travelers seeking a fun experience of the night life in Punta Cana can head to Drink Point, which offers a good mix of locals or tourists and plays traditional and fan-favorite Bachata and Merengue. PLACES TO EXPERIENCE HISTORY It’s always a wonderful opportunity to experience, not only the culture, but the history of the island. The Dominican Republic offers those looking to learn an amazing adventure set against a beautiful ocean backdrop. Puerto Plata lies on the country’s North coast and is also one of the DR’s most visited hotspots, in addition it’s loaded with history. Puerto Plata is the where the remains of the first European settlement in the Americas are

TIME TO RELAX For those of you looking to rest and relax, the Dominican Republic offers top of the line spa venues throughout the island. Set amidst natural beauty, you can find respite by escaping to an out of the way spa for some pampering and TLC. The country offers natural beauty and a variety of spa offerings from coast to coast, but La Romana is an ideal region for a revitalizing escape. Pamper your body and soul at worldclass spas in La Romana, many of which are located right in the all-inclusive resorts. Products unique to Dominican Republic are often used in spa treatments. Many resorts also provide cosmetic treatments, hair dressing services, manicures and more. Cap Cana, the newly opened Secrets Cap Cana Resort & Spa in Punta Cana is an adults-only, sophisticated haven along the white sands of Juanillo Beach.

Halfstack Magazine | September 2017

Above all, resorts here understand high-quality service. Whether you are looking for an all inclusive stay or a private villa, the opportunities are endless. Some standout resorts include: •Tortuga Bay - It was designed by Oscar de la Renta •Palmera Villas – a unique option for people looking for the privacy of a villa without worrying about food, etc. Each villa comes with a butler and cook. Kitchens can be stocked with food and drink of the guests’ choice. In addition, Lake View Villa comes with its own fulltime French gourmet chef (He has worked in Michelin Star Restaurants in Europe). The villa also has 2 maids and a butler, so you do not have to lift a finger and can just focus on relaxing and having a good time. Chef Beltran is exceptional. •Dominican Tree House Village – Located in Samaná on Dominican Republic’s northeast coast, travelers can spend the night tucked away in the tropical jungle of the Dominican Republic. Not only is the tree house stay a remote and environmentally conscious lodging experience, it’s also located a short bike ride away from beach activities like snorkeling, horseback riding and hiking. •eXtreme Hotel in Cabarete – is an eco-travelers haven found tucked away in the beach town of Cabarete. Guests can learn how to kiteboard, practice yoga, take part in the unique circus classes and more healthy offerings. eXtreme Hotel also




The Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism


offers fitness camps for travelers looking for a complete and unique wellness getaway.



Soft sandy beaches, all-inclusive hotels and endless activities make Dominican Republic the perfect destination for a trip to remember. The region has become a haven for travelers seeking R&R, action-packed days including discovering local wild life, water sports and more, Dominican Republic truly has it all.

For travelers on a budget, an exotic getaway doesn’t have to break the bank. A well-kept travel secret for years, Dominican Republic’s Punta Cana offers a wide variety of getaways at an affordable price. Located on the country’s East Coast, the region boasts pristine white beaches, gentle waters shielded by coral reefs, luxurious pocket-friendly hotels and rich local gastronomy. Whether you’re looking for an adventure for two, a secluded beach escape or a pampered retreat, Punta Cana offers it and everything in between. The award-winning destination also boasts an array of well-known all-inclusive resorts.


A six-hour flight separates many Dominican Republic destinations from Chicago, making it one of the closest, and wallet-friendly international destinations for Chicagoans. Plus, the area’s year-round tropical temperature makes it the perfect winter getaway for Chicagoans looking to escape the cold!

Modern and inviting airports make for charming first impressions and accessible gateways to the diverse regions of Dominican Republic. Eight (8) international airports receive flights from all over the world, with daily flights to and from the United States. Additionally, six (6) domestic airports ensure convenient travel within the country. WANT TO LEARN MORE? If you want to learn more about the Dominican Republic and plan your getaway, make sure to check out the Dominican Republic’s Ministry of Tourism website. You can get an insiders view on the island, plan your trip and connect with hotels and so much more. Learn more at :

GIVEAWAY OPPORTUNITY Follow us on Twitter and Instagram @GoDomRep, Like us on Facebook GoDominicanRepublic. The Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism, Apple Vacations, Riu Palace Punta Cana and Halfstack have teamed up to give 1 lucky winner a trip for two to The Dominican Republic. One winner will receive (1) prize pack which includes a three night trip for two adults to Riu Palace Punta Cana in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic valid through December 1st, 2018. Trip includes three night accommodations, roundtrip nonstop air from Chicago O’Hare, ground transfers to/from the airport and hotel, all meals and drinks in the resort and the assistance of a resort Apple representative. Check out to learn more and for your chance to enter the giveaway! Giveaway opens: 9-15-2017 and closes 9-30-2017 at Midnight CST. ENTER THE CONTEST HERE: f70b7f1e1/? IN PARTNERSHIP WITH:

Halfstack Magazine | September 2017




accessories 88

handcrafted leather LIKE US ON FACEBOOK




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Fall Fashion: Tobi Edition I don’t know about you, but Fall is my favorite season when it comes to fashion. However, I may be a little partial to fall clothing because I love wearing anything with leather, fur (real or faux), in the colors burgundy and red, and animal prints. Fall is all about these luxe textures and prints, which makes it perfect for high fashion and street styling. One company that has many of the key trends in their look book for the fall is Tobi. This is my second time collaborating with Tobi and I always love how fashionable, comfortable, and easy their clothing is to style with other pieces I already have in my closet. I was lucky enough to choose a few great pieces from their site that will now become some of my fall go-to’s. All of the outfit details for these looks are on, so be sure to visit to see how to get your hands on all of these great products for the fall! Look #1: Off-the-Shoulder Dress This dress is the perfect layering piece for Fall. My tip is to layer a fur vest over an off-the-shoulder piece, so you still get the look of the shoulders being exposed, while adding warmth. Toss on a pair of knee high boots and a statement necklace to keep the edgy vibe of the outfit.

Look #2: Faux Fur Coat I am absolutely in love with this coat and can think of a million ways to style it for the fall, but pairing it with a leather legging is my favorite. The fitted leggings offset the oversized look of the jacket, while a rose colored blouse and animal print pumps add even more interest.


Look #3: Structured Jacket The perfect neutral coat for the fall is here! Having the option of layering long tops with prints under this jacket is ideal going into the chillier months, but for now it serves as a great way to add another element to a fitted dress. The animal print pops under this jacket, while a neutral bag and booties tie the whole look together.

Look #4: Buckled Bootie Black booties are always my go-to shoe for the fall, since they go with practically everything in my closet from jeans to skirts to dresses. Jeans paired with booties is a great combination, along with a printed top and bold jacket. This combo can take you from day to night in an instant. Just change your typical work tote or shoulder bag for an oversized clutch in the evening.

Follow me @emilyehardtblog on Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest! Stay Classy! ---Emily Ehardt---

Halfstack Magazine | September 2017




Where is your happy place? Happiest Tee lets you celebrate your favorite destinations in style and comfort. A Happiest Tee starts with a luxe American-made garment from State & Manor. There may be a more comfortable tee shirt out there, but they haven’t found it. Whether a celebration of your hometown, a memento from a fabulous vacation or a gift for that friend with a passion for travel, a Happiest Tee is the perfect choice.


Michael J. Marx is a California-based PMC sculptor who specializes in unique and original works. He has been working with PMC since 2000 and believes that “Sanity is the Playground of the Unimaginative”. His work is currently being shown at multiple Northern California art galleries. Born in Massachusetts in 1969, he lived there for 18 years before becoming a born-again Californian in 1987. He currently resides in Alameda, California where he has lived since 2000. He primarily works in PMC with occasional forays into mixed-media and polymer clay.



By: Stella Quimby


what were they thinking? end of summer special edition 2017 Just like us, Stars have “off” days. Let’s review some of these “off” days the stars debuted this past summer as we leave it behind for fall! It’s a HOT one! All Images by CP Images

First Victim or Star whichever you prefer: Marisa Tomei Marisa Tomei, a star for decades and a beauty for even longer did NOT wow the fans with this piece. Piece of garbage is more like it! Seriously was she trying to audition for the new villain in the next Spider-man movie? Garbage girl? Entrapment witch? What the hell was she thinking? Or is this a throwback to the time when she was the “IT” girl? Girl, you are giving your age away. Halfstack Magazine | September 2017


WTF?!? END OF SUMMER EDITION The younger star and super hunk is apparently not cashing in on his newfound success with his new show. Instead he has to take on a part-time. Pimping is usually not an acceptable job, but Nico flaunts his new position with sass. You go Nico with your bad self. Now please add some color! May I suggest a feather hat and cane?

2nd Star: Nico Tortorella part-time PIMP?

Another fashion failure at the Spider-man Homecoming premiere. This time it isn’t a garbage dress but instead a bee. Who in the world wears a bumblebee sweater to a damn premiere? Young lady (since she looks 10) you have to yet learn about fashion. Rule #1, you cannot wear a damn bee sweater to a big movie premiere (for goodness sakes, it is SPIDERMAN!), 2nd a tutu with the sweater? Really?? My 9 year old has better style! Zendaya hire a proper stylist, not someone from Craigslist.

3rd Star: Zendaya the Bee



WTF? I know you are proud to be in a movie (voice it more like) but do you have to wear an Emoji suit? Do you really need to flaunt that you are actually voicing a movie? Plus accessorize with emoji shoes? Might as well. I am just surprised that instead of an emoji tie he has on a plain black one. At least he got 1 part right. Holy smokes, I literally just wrote emoji 4 times in a short paragraph. Sad, just like his outfit.

4th Star: T.J. Miller and the Emoticons

Save the best for last, right? NOPE! Our beloved Celine looks like a secretary from the 80’s mixed with a Queen Victoria dress top with a dash of Andy Warhol. You wouldn’t expect this hurricane of ugliness from a $380 Million net worth star. You definitely would expect it from a person who shops clearance thrift stores and who is partially losing their sight due to bad style. Did she trip and rip the front of her pants to reveal those icky black nylons? Eeww, who in the world wears black nylons other than actresses playing 80’s characters in movies? I just threw up in my mouth. Time to wash it out, till next time.

5th and last star (thankfully): Celine Dion Halfstack Magazine | September 2017


TECHNOLOGY IN FASHION Written by Tyronita Bell Layout Design by Tyronita Bell

entreDonovan is clothing brand based in Wilmington Delaware that specializes in custom-made professional clothing for women. The company was voted Best of Delaware for a women’s clothing business three years in a row. They provide superior fit and quality using technology as the forefront of their service. Linda Farquhar established the company in 2011. Linda recognized a need in the market. She would see companies


like, “Hickey Freeman and Rock the Tailor coming to campus to make them (referring to her male counterparts) great-fitting work clothes and women had no such service.” After a successful career as a stock analyst she went on to pursue her passion. During this time she took advantage of the body scanning technology available. When asked about the process of receiving a garment from entreDonovan,

Linda shared, “The process is our secret sauce. We’re all about the fit. When a client wants to order custom clothing from us, the process begins with a questionnaire so we can understand her tastes, preferences, lifestyle, fit issues, and other details. Then we do a 3D body scan to capture her measurements and shape. We use the body scan to do a digital fit analysis and create a digital pattern that we send out for cut and sew. It’s our back-of-

the-house process that assures her of a great fit. When the garment is completed, we invite her back to try it on and see how the fit feels versus her preferences. There’s often some fine-tuning required and that is all done in-house by our expert tailors. She walks out with great-fitting new clothes!”. It is important that we invest in our closets because as many young professionals enter the workforce, they’re constantly networking and meeting new people. The goal is always to make a great first impression. Great fitting garments that make you feel confident will give you the peace of mind needed to focus on being your best at work. enteDonovan is confident in their ability to make apparel that exceed off the rack quality.

“We use the body scan to do a digital fit analysis and create a digital pattern that we send out for cut and sew”

The east coast business has been on quite the journey since 2011. The company bootstrapped for 6 years in order to raise capital for research and development on the technology. When asked what the determining factor of success is for entreDonovan the founder told us, “We have some loyal clients and wonderful relationships here, but Wilmington itself is struggling for growth. It’s a decent market in that our costs are lower here than they’d be in a major metro, but it isn’t the best test market for the demand side and it’s not clear that this market can support our current infrastructure. We’re at a critical point in the company’s health. We recently reduced staff in Wilmington and allocated resources to open a showroom in NYC Halfstack Magazine | September 2017



We believe this will be the better litmus test. Client reaction tells us that women would be interested in custom clothing if it were available, so going to women in NYC will be the proof case. We’re still somewhat constrained by the current state of the technology… we see ourselves as a potential weapon available to existing high-end retailers. They have to think of ways to engage customers who are increasingly moving away from traditional retail. Established brick and mortar players are seeking ways to build experiential retail. We believe we could help them by offering true differ-

entiation through scalable customization, rather than just dressing rooms with fancier mirrors. We just signed our first B2B deal in the custom vertical and we look forward to more B2B deals as we prove that our process works.” The company also plans on launching a LinkedIn campaign to reach their audience of professional women.

customers. The market has shifted and it shows. entreDonovan is taking the problem out of what is usually the most difficult part of shopping, the fit. The idea behind making custom made clothing accessible to everyday women is groundbreaking. entreDonovan is a trailblazer in their own right.

Integration of fashion and technology has been a hot topic over the past few years. The benefit that technology brings is the convenience and customization options businesses will be able to offer their

Halfstack Magazine | September 2017


Photo Credit: Delaware Public Media


STYLE IN REAL LIFE For Real Girls Written by Avante Edmonds Layout Design by Tyronita Bell

Eunice Kim founded her e-commerce fashion brand Here/Now in December of 2015. In nearly two short years, she has created a coveted fashion forward label that is driven by tech and social media. Eunice built her brand with savvy marketing and by tapping into the social conversations of her fashion forward customer. Even before she launched product on her website, Eva Chen was a fan thanks to Instagram hashtags and street style shoots. After Chen took notice, Nordstrom followed along with Bergdorf Goodman. Eunice, a Parson graduate, Korean LA Native made her move to NYC and has100 been building her brand since

“ I didn’t know I would be an entrepreneur, but I knew I was born to create something! ” graduation. Her digital prowess, humble attitude and empowering mission are just some of the reasons her company is continuing to see growth.

As a brand Here/Now is committed to bringing fashion-forward pieces into people’s everyday wardrobe at an affordable price. Inspired by the people, street style, pop culture and social media, their Instagram-worthy sneakers and apparel empower buyers to be confident about who they are and how they express themselves. Here/Now believes in supporting real women, who are creating change through what they do and dream. I had the opportunity to talk a bit more in depth with Eunice about her journey. Keep reading for the full interview:

Halfstack Magazine | September 2017



Halfstack Magazine: Can you describe your aesthetic for me? Eunice Kim: I style my look minimally and comfortably -almost always in a t-shirt and jeans with delicate gold jewelry. I highlight my look with an awesome pair of shoes and a fun accessory. HM:Did you always know you would be an entrepreneur? EK: I didn’t know I would be an entrepreneur, but I knew I was born to create something! I’m also too stubborn to suffer through something I don’t like/ want to do, so I guess...entrepreneurship is perfect for me.

HM: What is the difference between LA women and NYC women? How are they the same? EK: I’m from LA, but I live in NY. So, I think, aside from the environment we’re in, women of both coasts can be the same! Our environment influences who we become, but our creativity and passion come from within.

our customers and supporters first whenever we design and launch something new - I think “will our girls like it?” The answer has to be “yes.” HM: We know Eva Chen is a fan, have any other influencers and celebrities expressed their love?

EK: We’ve been so fortunate to have won the hearts of a lot of influencers like Marianna HM: How did you build Here/ Hewitt, Pari Eshan, Faye Tsui, stylists like Micaela Erlanger, Now so rapidly? Petra Flannery, models like Jordan Rebello, Nina Agdal, KaroEK: It was the amazing suplina Kurkova, editors at Vogue, port of the community and soit girls like Madeline Poole, and cial media that really catapulted our growth. I try to keep that even tennis player Maria Sharapova! in mind every day and think of

Halfstack Magazine | September 2017


HM: What will be in style and what will you be wearing? EK: I’ll be wearing a lot of denim as always, layered with my favorite white t-shirts, blouses, and knits, with sneakers (probably our new Kim). HM: We are based in Chicago, have you ever visited? If so, what did you think about Chicagoan’s style? EK: I’ve never been, but Chicago is on my list of must-visit food destinations (I am a closet foodie). I feel like Chicago is such a cosmopolitan city with booming culture, art and food scenes. Therefore, the girls there MUST be strong,


energized and totally cool. Probably a bit tough too, since the weather can be brutal out there. HM: What goals of expanding do you have for your brand in the long term and short term?

EK: I want to grow Here / Now to a destination for women to buy for their full wardrobe as well as a place to learn and be inspired from women like me. I am so happy to share the stories of awesome women through our Here / Now With features.

HM: Who is the Here/Now girl? EK: The Here / Now girl can be any and all women. We're driven dreamers who aren't afraid to share our voices and style with the world. And we're always on the go, so our footwear keeps us style.

HM: Are you a sneakerhead? If you could collaborate with any athletic brand, which one would it be? EK: I love all shoes!! If I could collaborate with an athletic brand, it would have to be Nike. Phil Knight's memoir, Shoe Dog, was actually a huge source of inspiration for me when I started the brand.

Halfstack Magazine | September 2017

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Halfstack Magazine | September 2017


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Halfstack Magazine | September 2017


Beauty Guide An Interview with TAHNYC Written By: Danielle Hazekamp Layout by: Kandace McVickar


Irene Barksy

Today, there are so many added fillers to not only our food, but also our beauty products such as skin care items. If you don’t know what a filler is let me educate you. A filler in beauty product is any inactive ingredient that is used to create bulk, texture or lubrication. In most cases fillers in beauty products don’t enhance the product in any way and some may cause harm. You are probably wondering why companies use them? Well, it is because it saves them money. Thankfully, not all companies utilize this type of product development. One company that is taking a stand against fillers is our very own Chicago based company TAHNYC. All TAHNYC’s products are free of fillers, texture makers and slip agents. Thanks to TAHNYC’s Co-Founder: Irene Barksy, I was able to gain a better understanding on fillers, dermal wellness as well as education on TAHNYC’s products.

Halfstack Magazine | September 2017


TAHNYC is all about Dermal Wellness, can you please explain what that is?

care routine for morning and night. When you eat breakfast every day and then you skip it one day, your stomach growls and you feel off. That’s because your stomach remembers your routine. Well, your skin loves routine too and consistency is key.

There’s a lot of talk about Dermal Science and that’s very important when it comes to how products are formulated and what the product does. But, there’s very little talk about Dermal Wellness. Dermal Wellness is a concept we created and discuss a lot at TAHNYC. It’s a different way of thinking about skin care and it’s focused on one question, “How do I get my skin feeling happy and healthy?” It’s not magic, there are very few lucky people who have perfect skin, for most people (yes, even the ones who look like they have perfect skin) it takes real work.

What do you think sets TAHNYC aside from all other skincare lines?

I started thinking about Dermal Wellness after I had removed all allergens from my skin, but found that my skin was still exceptionally reactive and was not going back to “normal.” That was the first time I realized it wasn’t about going back to normal, that would never happen. This was my new normal. That’s when my focus shifted and I began thinking about Dermal Wellness - how do I get and keep my skin feeling and looking great? At TAHNYC, we believe Dermal Wellness and Dermal Science work together in harmony. This belief informs everything we create. The key to Dermal Wellness is creating a consistent skin care routine for morning and night. When you eat breakfast every day and then you skip it one day, your stomach growls and you feel off. That’s because your stomach remembers your routine. Well, your skin loves routine too and consistency is key.

I love that all TAHNYC’s products are free of fillers, what made you want to go that route with your products? There’s a lot of talk about Dermal Science and that’s very important when it comes to how products are formulated and what the product does. But, there’s very little talk about Dermal Wellness. Dermal Wellness is a concept we created and discuss a lot at TAHNYC. It’s a different way of thinking about skin care and it’s focused on one question, “How do I get my skin feeling happy and healthy?” It’s not magic, there are very few lucky people who have perfect skin, for most people (yes, even the ones who look like they have perfect skin) it takes real work. I started thinking about Dermal Wellness after I had removed all allergens from my skin, but found that my skin was still exceptionally reactive and was not going back to “normal.” That was the first time I realized it wasn’t about going back to normal, that would never happen. This was my new normal. That’s when my focus shifted and I began thinking about Dermal Wellness - how do I get and keep my skin feeling and looking great? At TAHNYC, we believe Dermal Wellness and Dermal Science work together in harmony. This belief informs everything we cre ate. The key to Dermal Wellness is creating a consistent skin-


We’re redefining beauty. TAHNYC is the first brand dedicated and focused on beauty without unnecessary fillers, slip agents and texture makers. Our focus is on replenishing ingredients that exist in your skin, aka skin identical or skin replenishing ingredients in balance with Peptide Care. We use powerful proven ingredients and omit anything unnecessary, which includes no-no add-ons and toxins - leaving our products exceptionally effective while beautifully dew like. If you want to put your science hat on, TAHNYC is Skin Identical Peptide driven skin care without unnecessary fillers, slip agents and texture makers.

Many people have many different skin issues, can you use multiple products? How many products is too much? TAHNYC’s consistency is dew like and it can absolutely be layered. Typically, when starting TAHNYC we recommend omitting other products initially and allowing your skin 3-4 weeks to replenish and flourish. Select one or two areas you’d like to focus and work on, for example: Hydration and Flare Ups, Fine Lines and Radiance, Hyperpigmentation and Deep Lines; this will help inform your routine. Once your skin is flourishing, I always recommend introducing additional products into your routine one at a time and monitoring your skin’s response over two weeks.

What does a typical skin care routine look like when using TAHNYC? A personal routine is very individual and is dependent on the area you want to focus on. But, primarily a routine is comprised of our stand-alone formulations such as Pure, Renew, Complex B and Contour or our Complete Care sets, which are full care routines developed to provide balanced hydration, complete care and nourishment for your skin. Initially, we recommend combining two to three formulations. Let’s say you wanted to address radiance, hydration and fine lines, we recommend starting with Pure and Renew, and adding Complex B if you want to help your skin heal and calm.

Is there any way for someone who is interested in TAHNYC’s products to get a customized routine? Our goal is to help you glow! We offer all our customers a complimentary Personal TAHNYC Care Routine. Just reach out to our Care Team at with the subject line: TAHNYC Care.

My Personalized TAHNYC Routine



Complex B //$68.00

Pure // $58.00

Renew //$65.00

I was lucky enough to try to a TAHNYC skincare routine tailored for my skin goals of an even skin tone, hydration and add radiance/glow. First, when I received the recommended products I will have to say that I was hesitant, as each of the products I received were in the liquid form and all felt the same texture. After trying just PURE, I realized that my skin looked better after adding COMPLEX B and RENEW to my routine. After just using these 3 products my skin looked and felt amazing. I had a healthy glow as well as my skin was starting to look more even in tone.

Additional TAHNYC Products to use along with a Personal Routine

Nude Freshwater Pearl Luster// $78.00

Translucent Freshwater Pearls //$78.00

Halfstack Magazine | September 2017

Preventative Care //$68.00


Must Haves For Her Written By: Danielle Hazekamp Layout by: Kandace McVickar


Younghee Essential Rinse Purifying Scalp & Hair Toner with Mint

Lately, my scalp and hair have been dry due to over processing and the desperate need for a haircut. I couldn’t believe how refreshing this treatment is. Not only did it help add some life back to my limp hair, but it also left my hair feeling incredibly soft after use. //$29

Halfstack Magazine | September 2017


Biolage HydraSource Conditioning Balm I am obsessed with this product and feel like this is something almost everyone with longer hair should have in their shower. Once you use it, you will notice such a difference in your hair compared to when you use your regular conditioner. This product leaves your hair so smooth and soft. The great thing about this product is that you can use it every wash if want to. I tend to use this with every other wash to keep my hair looking and feeling healthy. //$25

Trophy Skin Ultrasonic Skin Spatula

I don’t know how this skin spatula does it, but it makes my skin feel amazing after each use. I am sure that it leaves my skin feeling wonderful because of the ultrasonic waves that it produces which removes dead skin and unclogs pores. Another great aspect is that you can use it to apply face serums. Use it to exfoliate and then tap in some serum to lock everything in. Your face will feel and looked amazing. Make sure you read the directions carefully and follow them accordingly. This is a device that you shouldn’t use every day as you can over exfoliate and damage your skin. // $149


Controlled Chaos Curl Crème

My niece has extremely curly hair that is extremely dry. Not to mention she also battles the frizz. I figured that if this product could tame her frizz and make her curls look good, that is was worthy of being added to my fall must haves. Well, sure enough she informed me that it worked really well in her hair. It made her hair look healthy, tamed her curls and was able to combat the frizz. //$16.99

Rodan + Fields Lash Boost I have tried many lash growing products and haven’t had very much success in the past. That is until I started using the Rodan + Fields Lash Boost. Now, I know that this product can be a bit more expensive, but when compares to something like lash extensions, it is less expensive and less time consuming. As long as you follow the directions and make sure to use the product every night, over an extended period of time, you will see a difference. I used this product for about 10 weeks straight and my lashes have never looked better on their own. While wearing mascara, I have had people ask me if I am wearing false lashes and I proudly say no. //$150

Halfstack Magazine | September 2017


A Q&A with of Written By: Danielle Hazekamp / Layout by: Kandace McVickar

Chelsea Scott

As much as I like getting my hair done, I don’t get to visit the salon as often as I would like because I don’t want to over process my hair. Thankfully, when my hair grows out, my roots are never too bad. However, when my hair is darker my, roots look gray even though they aren’t because of the color of my natural hair. Now, I don’t have to worry about my roots or when my hair starts to turn gray, but I’m always looking for a way to touch up between salon visit without damaging my hair. Thanks to TRUHAIR by Chelsea Scott, I can now cover up my roots as well as refresh my color as needed. Want to know more about TRUHAIR and Chelsea Scott? Check out my interview with Chelsea.


First tell me a little about yourself and what your background is in. When I was 18 and living in Milan, Italy, I needed money to get a plane ticket home and by chance walked into cosmetics manufacturing plant and asked for a job. That day changed my life, working for the equivalent of $1.50 and hour, it took 4 years to save up for the plane ticket back to the USA and I left Italy with a passion for the beauty industry that continues today. Since then, I have been involved in nearly every facet of the beauty industry from running retail chains, heading product development for manufacturers and owning two beauty boutiques and salons Florida. My obsession with beauty products led me to the realization that there was a void in the market for hair care solutions that let women solve their trickiest hair issues and easily recreate salon looks at home. The result was TRUHAIR, a unique hair line, born out of my belief that if you have a great hair day, everything else falls into place.

How did you come up with the idea for TRUHAIR? Driving in my car looking in my rear view mirror, I noticed I had those pesky roots showing around my hairline. I ran into a beauty supply store as I was on my way to an event and picked up a waxy stick for a quick root touch up. Half way through my event, I noticed it looked wet and fake and was actually smudging on my face. I knew there had to be a better way.

There is other hair fill in, root touch up products out there what do you think makes TRUHAIR different from any other products? Waxes, creams and sprays tend to look unnatural. Think about it, when you put a wet product on dry hair what happens? It looks unnatural, goopy and wet. We created a micronized powder formulation that combined dry powder with thickening fibers and ultimately this multi-tasker colors and lifts all in one.

Halfstack Magazine | September 2017


TRUHAIR consists of multiple products, which product is your go to and why? Hmmmm, that’s a hard one as I am passionate about each product for individual reasons, but at the moment my go to is Color-n-Lift To Go. You have eyeliner, lip liner and this is the first hair liner! We were able to take our proprietary formula and add in the coolest component that lets you line around the hair, your part, anywhere you need a quick on the go touch up. Men also love it for side burns, beards, and I use it on my brows too.

If there is one thing out of the TRUHAIR line that everyone should own what would it be? That’s easy, Volcanic Volume, our go to styling paste that is so unusual because we formulated the product with actual volcanic spring powder. It refreshes hair, gives texture and adds thickness. It’s the perfect product for all hair types; especially if you are like me and you don’t like to shampoo daily. Just rub a small amount into the scalp area, scrunch through the ends and your hair looks renewed.

What is next for TRUHAIR? Big things are coming with our newest innovation “The Big Lift”. We discovered this hair volumizing formulation on a recent trip to South Korea. Basically, it looks like a mini deodorant stick but the results when you apply to hair at the root is the biggest lift and volume I have ever experienced. We are excited for its debut coming up September 21st on HSN.

The Goods Color & Lift To Go This is so small and perfect to take on the go or pack for a vacation. The applicator is tiny and resembles a sponge, which works great for a more precise application. The formula seems to be the same as the regular size Color and Lift. //$18.00


Color & Lift with Thickening Fibers When I tried this product out, I was a couple of days away from getting my hair done. So, I had a good amount of outgrowth. This was so easy to use and very effective. It blended very nicely into my hair and made it looked refreshed. //$26.00

Revive & Style Instant and Temporary Color Mousse This is unlike any product I have ever used before. First off, it is recommended to use on clean dry hair. I was really worried about that since I thought that it was going to make my hair crunchy like mousses do. This mousse did the complete opposite. It left my hair soft and shiny while adding some richness to my color. //$28.00

Extreme Volume Brushable Hairspray I am in love with this hairspray. I have one of the hardest types of hair to get to keep a curl. Therefore, I am always in a need of a good hairspray. I am proud to say that this hairspray passes my test. It kept my hair looking good for 2 days! I have never had that happen. //$26.00

Halfstack Magazine | September 2017


Come on the journey to find the new faces of the Chicago Fashion Industry...the “next� fashion designers, stylists, make-up artists, and much more will be featured along with events, and even the new fashions on the streets!! In Estrella Modas, we keep an eye out for the stars of fashion of tomorrow! READ THE LATEST > 122


Halfstack Magazine | September 2017



Halfstack Magazine | September 2017


Rochetta Tyler & Antonio While many will argue the reasoning behind the spike in deaths, parents who are living in the communities have quite a few ideas. From fractured gang hierarchies and rivalries to the high rates of neighborhood poverty and segregation as well as an influx of guns from other places are some of the reasons parents believe there has been an increase in gun violence. People believe that the issues are not being targeted and that many neighborhoods are being ignored.


written by:jennifer veguilla-lezan PHOTOGRAPHY: Laura lopez Connecting to the People Impacted by Gun Violence


letters to my city Gun violence in Chicago has reached epidemic levels not seen in the city for decades. The city witnessed a frightening increase in gun violence in 2016. According to data collected by University of Chicago’s Urban Labs, “764 murders, 3,550 shooting incidents, and 4,331 shooting victims, according to a statement released by the Chicago Police Department. “ There were 480 murders in 2015. That figure was the highest the city has seen since 1997. The citizens of Chicago are facing an increase in the loss of lives. Families have been torn apart and young lives have been cut relentlessly short due to the current circumstances affecting Chicago. Urban Labs has explained that most institutions, “have no reliable way of measuring the number of guns owned or carried in Chicago, or how that changed, but we know that CPD recovers more firearms than police in New York City, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia. In 2016, police in Chicago recovered firearms at a rate per capita that was almost twice that of Los Angeles, six times that of New York City, and roughly on par with that of Philadelphia.”

According to multiple news outlets, last fall, one single weekend saw a total of 43 people shot in the city, four of them fatally. 19 of those people were shot during an 11-hour time frame on Friday night into Saturday morning, including two men who were wounded on a crowded sidewalk outside a taco restaurant in Wicker Park, according to police. That is more than one death per hour for that day. 15 more people were hurt from Saturday morning to early Sunday that weekend. Another man was killed and seven more people were wounded in shootings just that Sunday afternoon and evening. Chicago is seeing a shooting every other hour. The families impacted by this violence are frustrated, lost and often feel as if they have nowhere to turn where they can truly find justice or answers. Many of the murders in Chicago remain unsolved. The most daunting fact that we see within these murders is the age groups most affected. Across U.S. metropolitan areas, 15 percent of those arrested for homicide in 2015 were adolescents, compared to 25 percent in Chicago. The average age of those arrested for homicide in Chicago was 26 in 2016 and 2015 (Urban Labs

Halfstack Magazine | September 2017

Chicago). The city is seeing a tremendous loss of the youth. Young people, whose lives have barely begun are either dying or committing murder at an increased rate. Many of the parents that the Halfstack team spoke with only had one question, “Why?” While, there is not a clear answer for this, there are some clear indicators that the problem is associated with systemically deep-rooted issues within the city. Minorities are a primary target. Young people of color and Latinos have been deeply impacted. Yet, that is not to say that people of all ethnicities have not been impacted by gun violence. As one mother put it, “Chicago’s gun violence issues are a health epidemic.” Chicago’s homicide increase was disproportionately concentrated in some of the city’s most disadvantaged neighborhoods including: Austin, Englewood, New City, West Englewood, and Greater Grand Crossing. These neighborhoods accounted for nearly half (45 percent) of the city’s overall homicide increase. While many will argue the reasoning behind the spike in deaths, parents who are living in the communities have quite a few ideas. From fractured


gang hierarchies and rivalries to the high rates of neighborhood poverty and segregation as well as an influx of guns from other places are some of the reasons parents believe there has been an increase in gun violence. People believe that the issues are not being targeted and that many neighborhoods are being ignored. Many mothers informed us that while data shows stability in the amount of money being put into schools for children in the inner city, the reality is that many sports, creative and afterschool programs have been shuttered. Leaving the youth with nowhere to turn. Some have pointed out that there also seems to be issues tied to a faulty legal system in which murderers are being put through. From insufficient penalties for illegal gun-carrying to ease of access that gang leaders have at obtaining legal permits to short sentences that give them opportunity to reoffend. It has been tough to connect gun violence with firearm research. In an article from 2015, The Washington Post highlighted, “The CDC had not touched firearm research since 1996 — when the NRA accused the agency of promoting gun control and Congress threatened to strip the agency’s funding. The CDC’s self-imposed ban dried up a powerful funding source and had a chilling effect felt far beyond the agency: Almost no one wanted to pay for gun violence studies, researchers say. “ In a statement 2 years after Obama a ordered the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to get back to studying the causes of gun violence, the organization still continued to avoid this research. They explained, “It is possible for us to conduct firearm-related research within the context of our efforts to address youth violence, domestic violence, sexual violence, and suicide, but our resources are very limited.”


The Internet has even played a role in their eyes. Street beefs have migrated into social media disputes in the digital space. One mom highlighted how the demolition of public housing has had a tremendous impact on impoverished communities. Young people are faced with a lack of options, they turn to gangs and their lives are changed forever or they forever change the lives of an innocent victim with their misguided decisions.

the wrong time. Many were not the main target and were often murdered in their own neighborhoods and died due to drive by shootings or shootings aimed at others. The ages of the victims ranged from adolescents to those in their 30s, but many were just out of high school or in college. A loss is a tragedy, but a mother dealing with the loss of their child is heart wrenching. It’s a wound that cuts deep and one that never truly heals.

Many mothers also found that there seemed to be a lack of resources devoted to solving serious crimes; police department management and manpower; reduced police activity; changes in city and state funding for social services and other core government functions such as funding for mental health have played a role in the eyes of the parents we spoke to. Yet, the overwhelmingly common response we heard was that the absence of family involvement in the lives of youth seems to be a major indicator to the gun violence issues that the city is facing. Young people without guidance or love is a common theme many have witnessed within the experiences of those committing murders or involved in gun violence.

While, the gun violence in Chicago has no immediate resolution, we can continue to bring awareness to the issues the city is currently facing. We can no longer cover our gun wounds with Band-Aids hoping they will get better. We have to rip off the temporary fixes, and get to deep-rooted issues of rebuilding our communities and reconnecting our people. Many of the individuals the Halfstack team connected with believe that Chicago is a city filled with a strong community. They believed that the best way to overcome the current obstacles our city faces is to come together: to unite. We asked mothers, community members and creatives to share their thoughts in an open letter to their city.

The news and media tend to focus on the gun issues, the gang issues and police issues rather than the people who have been directly impacted by this trauma. Each of those statistics relates to a person. A life. A life damaged, a life lost and many lives forever changed. These lives are more than numbers. They are brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers and often someone’s child. Halfstack wanted to share the stories of these individuals and offer some insight to the impact that gun violence has had on their life. Many of the mothers we met, whose children have died due to gun violence were not involved in gangs. Quite a few were just in the wrong place at

These are their words, these are their stories.

Rochetta Tyler My name is Rochetta Tyler and I lost my daughter Michelle Pearson due to gun violence. My daughter was dropping some friends off at home on 46th and Ellis when a car pulled up and got to shooting. They shot my baby 3 times in the head, arm, and buttocks. She was only twenty years old. When they shot her in the head she lost all her cells. She fought so hard to live. She has a son. He was four at the time.

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My baby fought 9 months and then died. I had to lay my daughter to rest on her 21st birthday. This was the worst I ever had to do. I’ve been fighting for justice since my baby got shot. Now, she’s dead and I still don’t have justice. It’s devastating... Michelle was my oldest daughter out of 3girls. I raised my girls to be the best they can be. I never in my life could imagine losing a child. She has a son that they took her from. He has to deal with losing his mother for the rest of his life. It hurts soo bad.... It’s like I’m living a different life from everyone else. I miss and want her back. I did everything to protect my children and I mean everything and I still lost a child. I tried everything to prevent this from happening to my girls and I still lost one. I’m so distraught. My heart hurts so badly. My daughter was killed for no apparent reason. She shouldn’t be dead. She should be finishing college and taking care of her son. I need help. I need justice. I don’t understand how a young lady that had never been

in trouble, who wanted to be a forensic scientist because she said that’s what’s going to help her take care her family. She just wanted to live and be loved and somebody took that from her. I don’t know what disease came to our city of Chicago, but it’s wiping our children away. No mother deserves to lose her child under no circumstance. Chicago isn’t a bad city. It’s the lack of communication amongst the people that seems to be causing a lot of dead bodies, innocent bodies, our children bodies, mothers, fathers, grandmothers, and grandfathers’ bodies.... Our children and grandbabies can’t even play in peace. People are scared to come out their doors. No one is safe walking period. They’re barely safe driving. It’s ridiculous. We can take back our city; we just have to come together. How we gonna build up, if we can’t get these vicious peoples together and off the street? My daughter’s life mattered. Other mothers who lost their children, their child’s children and loved ones lives matter. Some don’t have justice for their lost children neither. Something has to give.

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This has to stop. We have to come together or we are going to continue losing our loved ones and more and more bodies. It’s simple -everybody is constantly worrying about the wrong BS, when we need the most help saving our children. I don’t want to lose another child. I shouldn’t have lost my first one. We need help. If it takes the national guards, then they need to come. Come on! We can take back our city and rebuild it, but first thing first, we have to stop the violence. We are losing our people. I am a mother that lost my child in the city of Chicago for no apparent reason with no justice....... I need justice. I need help. Please!!!!!! Why would someone let AN INNOCENT LIFE BE TAKEN AND DON’T SAY NOTHING?

Beth Thomas There is so much plaguing Chicago right now…gun violence, racism, drugs, poverty, political corruption, inadequate funding of education…I could keep the list going but I’m going


to stop and focus on the one that affected me on May 24, 2014: gun violence. I’ve lived in Chicago my entire life and I don’t remember it ever being this bad. I hear people say this is a beautiful city, I love this city, its great here…and to some that may be true, but are these people really paying attention to what is happening in the communities they aren’t frequenting or communities where the poverty rate is high…or do they even care? Probably not, because they most likely don’t live in the areas of city that are being hit the hardest by gun violence or it hasn’t happened to them or their family, so it doesn’t bother them. The part of the city that I am talking about is being kept from tourists…this is the part of the city where I see a liquor store on almost every corner, this is the part of city that houses some of the largest food deserts in the city, only small convenience stores that don’t sell healthy foods are found here, and this is the part of the city where you frequently hear gun shots ring out or drive down the street and see yellow tape or red tape up like it’s normal. Now, that’s the Chicago I know and that’s just a small part of what happens here, which leads to my story. On May 24th 2014 my son was brutally murdered in the city of Chicago. Everyday, I ask myself, WHY!!!?? He wasn’t out there gang banging, he wasn’t a murderer, he was not out there selling drugs, and he wasn’t robbing or beating anyone up. He was waiting on a friend to come from a store so that he could go home and begin to celebrate the holiday. He never got a chance to celebrate that holiday. Someone who didn’t know how to settle their differences with another individual decided to come to this store and shoot up the place… and my son suffered the ultimate consequences to this monster’s decision. I don’t know what motivates these people to do things like this, but what I do know is my child never messed with anyone, he always made people laugh and he loved life. My son had a lot going for him; he was beginning a new job the very next week and was


enrolled in college, his classes started the next month. In a blink of the eye my son’s future was taken away, he didn’t deserve to die that way. That day has affected my grandkids and me drastically. When Kenny’s life ended part of my life ended too…he was my only child. My son was a son, a father, a nephew, and a friend to so many people. His murder broke not only my heart, but also his children’s heart, and their mother’s heart. Have you ever had to look in the eyes of a child who lost a parent and try to explain why it happened, when deep down you know it didn’t have to happen? That has been a tough battle to fight. My grandchildren are still asking, 3 years later, “ Why did my daddy die,” “WHY did that man kill my daddy”… their little hearts are broken forever. These children were traumatized and will be for the rest of their lives. They have endured counseling, break downs at school, breakdowns that have forced them to miss school, crying themselves to sleep at night, and sadly having to watch other children around them with fathers. I had to watch my grandson walk across the stage at his 8th grade graduation and deal with the fact that his father wasn’t there. I had to watch my granddaughter’s godfather take her to the daddy daughter dance and fight back tears because my son should have been there with her. I have had to deal with holidays without him and go above and beyond to ensure that smiles were on those little faces and that they didn’t focus on the fact that their father was missing. There isn’t much you can tell a young child about their dad not coming back. They are saying things like, “I need my daddy,” or “I’ll never see him again, who’s going to protect me now?” The people who think it’s so great here must not have the front row to pain and grief that I have had. With murders happening DAILY, I repeat DAILY… it is only getting worse. Just this week, my son’s best friend passed away from the violence in Chicago. It is affecting so many

people. So many people are hurting. The city officials need to do better to solve these killings and shootings. There needs to be unity and serious laws to begin to cease this epidemic. Maybe if this line of violence travels to other areas, which it will, then officials will begin to see the seriousness of this horrific matter. When the mayor’s son’s was robbed, the robber was quickly caught, when a police officer’s son was killed, the killer was caught… part of the issue is allowing so many unsolved murders and all of these murderers are being allowed to strike again, but we can find the offenders when it happens to a city official. That shows that we need more detectives and investigators out here who care about all of these murders and work diligently to solve them. It is totally a shame how I pass by so many nice parks with everything a child could dream to have in a park, but all of these parks seem to be empty of children because they are at home, where it is safe. It’s sad that Chicago’s children’s childhood is being taken away. Something has to be done… To end my letter, my pain feels as fresh as it did the day this tragedy happened. It still feels like it happened yesterday. I can only hope and pray that the city officials do their part in this quickly and help parents and organizations find solutions to end this horrific nightmare before it travels their way and they feel the pain that I fell daily. I don’ wish this on anyone, but these people who are out here taking lives don’t care about anyone and will eventually move to other areas of the city. I don’t want any parent, sibling, child or friend etc. to ever have to endure what I have. Since this happened to me, I quit my job, withdrew led from school, and suffer from depression. I have been attending support groups and have recently enrolled in school. I can’t give up. I am looking into starting my own organization and foundation in my son’s name, Kenneth L. Anthony Jr. and I refuse to let my son die in vain!!

Beth Thomas

Brenda Mitchell

enjoying each other’s company.

My son, Kenneth, was the center of our family. He was the first grandchild and became a role model for his younger siblings and cousins. At 31, he was the single parent of two little boys, and had another son on the way. He was responsible and considerate of the people around him. He had a very strong sense of family and was the one who would organize a barbeque if too much time had passed between family gatherings.

As Kenneth was leaving, an argument broke out between two individuals outside of the bar. Kenneth intervened, attempting to diffuse the situation and make peace, when a friend of one of the individuals went to his van and grabbed a gun and started randomly firing into the crowd. Kenneth was struck.

It was Super Bowl weekend and Kenneth was the manager at a golf center in University Park, a suburb of Chicago. He was busy that weekend getting ready for a Super Bowl party he was hosting on Sunday. His boys were with their mother, so Kenneth took the rare opportunity that evening to spend some time with friends at a local sports bar—playing darts and

I was in bed when I got a call from another one of my grandson’s mother saying that Kenneth had been hurt in a shooting and he was lying at the scene with a sheet over him. The blood drained out of my face and everything within me poured out at the shock of this news and at the realization that my son was most likely dead. I told my husband Kenneth had been hurt, but I couldn’t bring myself to tell him that I thought our son was dead.

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I quickly got dressed and bolted out the door to try to find him. In a state of denial, I went by the hospital to see if Kenneth was there—of course, he was not. This was confirmation that I would never see my son alive again. I drove to the scene of the shooting and there he was, lying on the cold, hard ground. Every fiber of my being wanted to run to him, pull back that sheet and help him—to hold him and tell him how much I loved him. I wanted my son, my gift from God. My husband arrived just in time to stop me. He said, “Brenda, you can’t go over there. They have a crime scene.” It was horrifying to see my baby, my good son lying there lifeless, and not being able to touch him. I felt for the first time in our lives that my family was dysfunctional; I could not touch my son. The pain was so intense that I would not wish this experience on my worst enemy.


Jhoanna Gulmatico


Earlier that day, I distinctly remember feeling so satisfied with my life, and I thanked God for meeting my needs and the needs of my family. Little did I realize that, in less than 24 hours, I would need strength. Just a week before Kenneth’s death, our younger son, (Kevin), left for his third tour of duty in Afghanistan. This is the kind of thing that makes a mother worry, I prayed for him and placed him on the altar. In my mind, he was the one who was in danger. Never in a million years would I imagine Kenneth would be the one to die from an act of gun violence, right here at home in a free country. It was soul crushing to tell my grandchildren—who were just 6 and 8 years old at the time—that their father was not coming home. My oldest grandson asked, “Grandma, what’s going to happen to us? Where will we live?” My younger son, (Kevin), safely completed his tour of duty, but gave up his military career to come home and care for Kenneth’s children—one (Mykhi) of whom never got to meet his daddy. He struggles with the fact that everyone knew his dad but him. I don’t think you can ever come to terms with the death of a child. It’s been 12 years since Kenneth’s death, but life has never been the same, and it never will be. To this day, I still struggle with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and have had to take an extended leave of absence from my job to try and get better. I worry about my grandsons now. The threat of gun violence surrounds us. As a minister, I have officiated the funerals of too many black men in our community, and the crime is on humanity. How many young men and women have we lost who will never have the chance to reach their full potential? The impact of gun violence on our community is devastating, it is genocide. We have children in Chicago

who aren’t worried about growing up to be a doctor or a lawyer—they are just worried about growing up, period. It’s so important for families like mine, who have been so deeply impacted by gun violence, to keep telling our stories. If we keep shining a light on the real impact that gun violence has on families and communities, then our children’s deaths will not be in vain. They are still speaking; don’t put a period behind them.

Jennie Velasco To the city that is my city: I’ve taken intimate looks at your flaws and your beauty. Chicago, in my interpretation is a flourishing beauty that is both vibrant and peaceful. Driving in the city after 7pm on a Sunday presents a certain kind of quiet that allows you to admire the straight edges, the corners, the architecture and the roads that take you outside of its lines to humbler residences. I always keep this in mind when I travel through the neighborhoods others would not want to, because there is beauty in your brokenness. Even in the smaller spots, it still gives that glimmer of strength. And strength is what is grappling its way to the forefront. In recent months we’ve seen hometown heroes of lofty status make efforts to heal the wounds that are being left from underfunded schools, broken homes, and gang violence. When I hear the cries of families and community members, I’m left with such a triggered angry feeling on how or why these stagnant politicians remain unmoved by the loss of life that ravages this city. We so often see parents cry over losing their babies, children that barely had a chance to experience any kind of childhood or memories. We don’t cry enough over the kids we lose to gang affiliation. We give up on them too quickly once they’ve broken themselves off from the school system and the suffering

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community outreach programs can barely provide the guidance for these kids who believe that life, work and honor is to affiliate themselves with violence and drugs. After all, all their options have been taken from them. My naivety was cut short in my early years as a kid, with family members that were involved in gangs in the southern neighborhoods. I heard the way they spoke and the threats they often made. I experienced unsought conflict standing outside a strip mall in the suburbs. I frequently heard the boisterous pride of their affiliation and what it meant to be part of this “family.” I remember at some point when I was 7; HBO did a special on gangs in Little Rock, Arkansas. And the words that came out of my cousins’ mouth were, “I want you to see this. This is what I do,” in the most prideful way that would suggest this as a career/ life choice. I remember watching this documentary and feeling, even at my age, a degree of disgust that trouble was nothing to be proud of. These kids came from broken homes, had experienced some difficult situations raised by extended family, didn’t go to school, and lived in such poverty that these same kids didn’t see any other option other than joining a gang. Their futures were decided by government systems that put them and keep them in disenfranchised situations. At the time this occurred, we were living in the suburbs. Our lives were not difficult here. We met the same challenges as any immigrant family would, however we had it better than most. The choice that my cousins made to leave school and involve themselves in an empty sense of belonging intertwined with angst and recklessness, was just that…a choice. It seemed to follow me, this glamourized version of gang affiliation that would give the girls at school a reason to bully me for not being an agitator.


I knew the recourse of this kind of association. At a point when my gang affiliated cousin became pregnant, there was a fear of what would happen to her since this life change would eventually lead her out of such a thing. She and her baby were safe to live out their days, but that is a rare story for others that have zero affiliation. I had few friends as a kid, no one in my family was close in age and through a family friend, I had a friend. She was a tomboy forced to wear the lace cupcake dresses that our moms always made us wear. She had grit and a tough grip, and mostly communicated through rough play, to me it was okay though, I figured she had older brothers and this is why she was tougher than most. But she was nice to me. Of course my dad, the protector of my femininity, never liked me playing with her, but here we were in a suburb of south Chicago running and playing on the block like all kids did. It was during a block party and the sun was setting. There was vibrancy in the air full of music and loud conversation and the delicious smell of food. It was an innocent game of tag where we ran in-between the houses on the block and we had made our way near the edge of the street. The sound was confusing, but horrifying. Over the music, I thought it was some sort of electrical malfunction…but it was accompanied by screams over the music. The music continued, but I was no longer being chased. I was hiding in between houses where one had a fence and the other didn’t, I remember this because I naively thought maybe the fence could act like a shield, but I was paralyzed once I looked behind me. It’s still a difficult scene to describe, when it happened when I was young. When I attempt to recall memories of it, it feels unreal and foggy like a vivid dream. You can’t tell what’s real, but you can recall the scent of the food and the grass, the coming evening accompanied with


music, the cool air, and everyone surrounding me and not her. I didn’t think of her often over the years, I think it was a way to suppress what it was that I witnessed and instead of focus on the scene, I wrestle with the confusion of the sound it made. The confusion of the slow response from authority, it felt like hours until I heard sirens, and it was already dark while her parents were out there with her crying and screaming. I don’t like thinking of how time moved so slowly, how I stared at her pictures in her house while she laid outside in the increasingly cold night. No one ever gave me an update on the situation or if it was even a case that was being investigated. I remember hearing about a group of teens that ended up in jail, the ones intended to be shot and the ones that shot at them. How all of their lives were over; kids whose future was also cut short among the dead. I remember “30 bullets” being repeated and wondering how many of those 30 ended up in my friend. The thoughts were never coherent, perhaps purposely, they were difficult things to hear, but I never knew when was an appropriate time to react, to question, to ask about her family. Our home was emotionally strict, my face was permanently blank and we never went to that neighborhood again. I just hear the words echo in my head, “this is what I do.” I hear them after every agonizing story of another child, family, mother, exceptional student, and future athlete become victim to violence. I hear it when family members are making tearful pleas to the public to put an end to the gang violence. I hear it when 45 feels the need to reprimand our city for its inaction, and how that inaction continues even with his words. In fact, government officials further perpetuate the growing poverty and disenfranchised communities that cannot afford decent housing, education or community programs. With the threat of CPS school closings I

have to put faith in the programs that I had worked for. Ministries that aided homeless women with addictions and families, workshops in affiliation with the DARE program for at risk youth in struggling communities; they were all foundational. However small they may have been, it’s these efforts that build a community. Leaving future leaders with as many options as possible is also foundational. As people continue to lose faith in governmental powers, communities that rally together to help their own people can develop thriving neighborhoods. It’s a challenge I see and an opportunity to build which seems helpless at times, but there are certainly people out there doing the work that needs to be done. It deserves the recognition that any celebrity gains from their efforts. There is strength in the small efforts. The kind of strength that still gives glory to the city we love. That still attempts to shine through its brokenness and its many flaws, and it comes from its people. I don’t have the all the answers as I attempt to recall a story I never said out loud. It’s only one of a handful of stories closely connected to me related to gang and gun violence. However, I have found meaning in the efforts that I had made in the past to protect those in charge of our future. The last thing I want is for these unqualified politicians to make statements about a city they know nothing about, without knowing the efforts that its people are attempting to make without their help. Recourse and survival should not be the only option; there should be a world open to them to brighter futures. Here’s to praying for these “lesser-knowns” that epitomize the strength that Chicago represents, the “city of big shoulders” that carry the weight of heartache and the lost. Let’s be better.

Jennie Velasco

Halfstack Magazine | September 2017


Barrett Keithley


Avante Edmonds The beach is just a quick drive down the road. A 25-year-old new mother who just graduated with her grad degree in journalism plays with her daughter in the park. Born and raised in Flint, Michigan I always dreamed of growing up and moving away. I did not realize I would move from the one time third most dangerous city in America to the first. I will repeat again. I am not from Chicago. So, I speak of my experiences with an awareness of my disconnect. The common thread of gun violence does not mean they are duplicate cities. Many of my jobs were in Streeterville, an affluent neighborhood in the Near North Side community area of Chicago. I graduated from Columbia College located in the south loop, the site of Chicago’s gentrification surplus. Whole Foods, Target and overpriced Lakeview apartments now live where working class families formerly resided. My closest proximity to Chicago’s culture of violence was resting my head in Austin. This community officially surpassed any south side neighborhood for the title of Most Dangerous community in Chicago however; I lived in the Galewood section of it. Oak Park was across the street, a village home to Ernest Hemmingway, Betty White, Frank Lloyd Wright, and the Style Rookie herself. Not exactly Al Capone territory. My former block was also home to African Americans, Latinos, whites, and homosexual couples. The violence “taking over” Chicago is only felt by a select and specific group of people. To say gun violence disproportionately affects low-income minorities on the south and west sides of Chicago may win the award for understatement of the year. Though everyone does not feel the violence, the culture of crime is deeply embedded in the city and involves all

Chicagoans. As long as politicians and city workers continue a “dirty hands” approach to business, the ripple effect will be felt throughout the city. I would never suggest the media cease to report the gory murders taking place and acknowledging the lost of community members. I will suggest the media not report horrific crime stories more than they highlight the positive and active community members trying to alter this reality. For that reason - I want to highlight my 10 favorite positive aspects of Chicago. 1. Kanye West- Homecoming / This melodic classic from Chicago’s very own relies on Coldplay’s front man to belt out a memorable chorus hailing The Windy City. 2. Batter and Berries- Black-owned, brunch ready, and beloved. Having opened it second location in the Gold Coast this summer, this local favorite continues to thrive. 3. Off-White- In my opinion, Virgil Abloh was the first designer to successfully combine street wear with couture. Kudos to the Spring/Summer 2017 “Business Woman” collection. You made this fashion nerd cry. 4. The home of comedy - Many of the most notable comedians from SNL are proud to have started their career at none other than Second City. 5. Chance The Rapper- The amount of love Chance has shown toward public education in Chicago is outstanding. Not only has Mr. Bennett donated money to CPS, he gives away school supplies at the Bud Billiken Parade, and before the fame, he hosted open mic nights at Harold Washington Library. This rapper embodiment of “Knowledge is Power,” is the youngest member of Forbes 40 under 40 most powerful list. Go Chance! We are all rooting for you. 6. The Dojo- A hidden Pilsen gem,

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The Dojo is the closest to an organic Woodstock experience you will get in 2017. 7. The Black Star Project – Phillip Jackson and a team of dedicated mentors ensure at risk youth have a safe haven and the resources to better themselves. 8. Bronzeville – If you like Harlem you’ll love Bronzeville. Sans the SoHa gentrification debacle delicious Soul food, familiar faces, and affordable rent. 9. South Shore Cultural Center – Over one hundred years later this South Side gem still stands. Home to the annual Black Fashion Week, it was also pristine enough for Michelle and Barack’s wedding day. 10. Promontory – Steadily quieting complaints of the South Side not having any fine dining and nightlife options, this two story venue offers risotto and Chanté Moore under one roof. The best way I know to fight violence is through uplifting and highlighting positivity within our community. Let the light cast out the darkness.

Jennifer Veguilla-Lezan Not a day goes by, where I don’t fully appreciate the journey that has been my life. Born and raised by a single mother in one of the toughest neighborhoods on the West side of Chicago, I am proud to call Humboldt Park my home. Although, my mother moved us to the burbs in my early teen years, Humboldt Park is forever imprinted in my heart. I still go back often with my family to support the restaurants, festivals and shops on Division. It’s a community that I feel most at home in. Despite the hardships the neighborhood has faced over the years, it is a community that I believe can move mountains. As a young Puerto Rican and Mexican girl, my family not


only instilled a respect of education, but also instilled a respect for street smarts. Growing up in the neighborhood I did, it was a requirement for survival. From close family members addicted to drugs and involvement in gangs to domestic violence and crime, I bore witness to things that most young people shouldn’t be exposed to. Yet, I am not ashamed of my past. It is because of my past, that I am the strong woman and mother that I am today. I am grateful for the hardships because I learned that for good to prevail, it must overcome evil. I am who I am, because of my history and it is through this history that I have learned to be a better woman and offer my children a better future than I ever had growing up. It is because of the lowest of lows that I have seen, and the darkest of moments that I have experienced that I am able to understand and not pass judgment on the youth and people experiencing violence within Chicago’s inner city. I know their hardship, I know their hurt, but I also know their strength. It’s in all of us inner city kids. There’s certain grit to us that allows us to overcome, even when the odds are stacked against us. Chicago is experiencing difficult times. Not all of Chicago, but very specific certain parts like the West side of the city where I grew up and the South side of the city. These neighborhoods are historically impoverished communities that lack resources, guidance and leadership. It is these very same communities where gangs are the family of choice and where gun violence runs rampant. It’s these communities that still have schools similar to the ones I went to in the 90s that were underfunded and lacking in the barest of necessities like up to date textbooks and toilet paper in the restrooms. These are the same communities where I grew up in the 90s hearing gunshots outside of my window, in the middle of the night while rival gangs would run through our alleys. It’s in


these communities that the youth experience hardships that people could never imagine. They are merely looking to survive. They can’t think about their future when they realize, they might not even last the year. Many are left to their own devices, as their caregivers are often working two or more jobs to provide for them. Some are a part of single parent homes due to a parent being incarcerated. Some have no guidance because of the travesty of drug-addicted parents. Some come from good homes, but may just get lost along the way. Due to these circumstances, many feel they have no options. What the city of Chicago doesn’t want to admit is that, each and every day in these communities, schools are closed, afterschool programs are defunded and arts, music and sports programs and shuttered. People say, well why can’t you just get a job, why can’t these kids be kept off the streets?! Kids ages 9-14 can’t get jobs. It’s hard enough for parents to find good paying jobs that offer a livable wage. The minimum wage hasn’t’ been increased in 10 years and the minimum wage is still not even comparable to the cost of living increases we have experienced since the 60s and 70s when adjusted for inflation. Yet, gangs start recruiting as early as 9. Jobs are few and far between in these neighborhoods. Businesses won’t open because the costs are prohibitive or they are scared to invest in the neighborhood, but the city continues to invest in “booming” areas and in downtown while impoverished communities get left behind in the dust. The City of Chicago would lead you to believe that all the schools and communities are fairly invested in, but those of us who have lived in these areas know better. The violence has erupted to epic proportions. Why? The gangs have access to guns; the question is where are these guns coming from? The young kids have no jobs, no

guidance and some no love at home. The parents have minimal support as they are working multiple jobs to just get by, but 45 would lead you to believe they are all a bunch of swindlers living off government handouts. Poverty is a cycle and a profitable cycle for those in power, so why should they help eliminate it in one of the biggest cities of the nation? It’s a power play. If our communities can stay divided, they can be controlled. There is power in our starving communities, the power to unite and overcome systemic issues of poverty, racism and classicism in America. Yet, we continue to fall prey to the mixed media messages on TV, online and stay divided.Tupac Shakur once explained in an interview, “sometimes people try to destroy you, precisely because they recognize your power – not because they don’t see it, but because they see it and don’t want it to exist.” The kids in these communities are hungry. They are hungry for food, they are hungry for guidance, they are hungry for knowledge and most importantly they are hungry for purpose. Yet, the world turns their back on them. So, I can’t judge the young people involved in these situations. I know their plight all to well. Most of the people involved in the gangs that are perpetuating the gun violence are not bad; some are, but not all of them. They are being brought up in bad circumstances with no real options to overcome their hardships. Gun and gang violence hits close to home for me. Not just because I witnessed it as a kid, but also because my own older brother was a victim of it. My family had a first hand account of the typical experiences of a Latino family in the neighborhood. Family members struggled, tried to keep jobs, and attempted to stay on the straight and narrow, but somehow people we knew would fall into gang life.

Growing up, many of the young men I knew associated with gangs, weren’t bad kids, but they were often in bad situations. I never fully grasped their way of life until the day I learned about my older brothers’ involvement. Robert Daniel Torres or Tuto as I call him is my half brother, the son of the father of my younger brother and I. Tuto’s mom and our dad parted ways early on in his life, same with our dad and my mother, but our dad made an attempt to keep us in his life. We would visit most Humboldt Park most weekends growing up and over the years Tuto, my younger brother and I bonded.


Tuto wasn’t a bad kid, but he was growing up in some difficult times. Having had a baby with his significant other as a teen, overcoming the obstacles of being a young Puerto Rican man in the 90s, dropping out of high school and working through our family situation he found it hard to make a living for his young family. Turning to the streets, he was able to make a lot money fast, doing things I would have never expected; dealing drugs. In the beginning, he ventured into this on his own, but after becoming a target by gangs, he turned to a rival gang for support. It was through these decisions his life became a target. In 2003 Tuto was gunned down just a few blocks from where our dad lived, in a neighborhood we knew well. I can still recall how that prior night, I had a nightmare of going to a funeral at Holy Rosary Church off Western Ave. In my dream, I was walking down a sidewalk and saw framed photographs of young men, one of them caught my eye and my heart dropped when I realized it was my brother. I woke up in a cold sweat. My premonition was only partly true; I would come to find out the next day that my older brother nearly lost his life. This was not the first time, as he was shot just a year prior, but this was the time that his life would be forever changed. He kept his life, but


he lost his ability to walk. Tuto has been wheelchair bound for the last 14 years. His struggle is real. After an initial battle with depression, he managed to overcome. Still he persists. His strength and purpose to change is evident in the fact that his 3 young boys are well adjusted and working through school despite the typical obstacles many face in Chicago. His oldest graduated this year and to me that is the greatest success. He is an inspiration. He doesn’t glorify his journey, but works to educate the youth within his community in hopes that they’ll make different decisions with their lives. He’s not perfect, but he’s a work in progress like every other human being in this world. I along with the team at Halfstack, worked on a series of mini documentaries to share the stories of the mothers and community members. Where you can put a face to words and hear first hand, the stories of people impacted by the gun violence of Chicago. You can view the interviews as well as my brother’s story and his current journey here: If I could say one final thing to the people of Chicago, it is this. Despite all of these obstacles, we still have the power of choice in our lives. I don’t have all of the answers to help eliminate poverty or to end gun violence. I know there is still darkness in this world, but I truly believe in the collective power of good. I know, inherently, the people in the hardest hit communities of Chicago are good. I know the kids wrapped up in gangs need a hand up, not a hand out. I believe that our communities can do good, if we come together. The Donald Trumps of the world are doing a frighteningly good job at convincing many desperate people that other desperate people are to blame for the situations in which they live. Let’s not continue to allow those in power to create a divide amongst our people. It’s up to us, to break free of these chains. It’s up to us to make our world better. Chicago, we need each other today more than ever.


Halfstack Magazine | September 2017











There are many organizations working to help cure violence in Chicago. Those within the communities are often those who are working directly to attempt to change norms. It is parents, families, elders and some community leaders who coordinating to launch programs to keep youth off the streets by providing alternative opportunities and working to de-escalate violence within the gang communities. There are also organizations that are working to help people who have lost loved one to gun violence to overcome their tragedies and create positive change in their communities.




written by:jennifer veguilla-lezan Connecting to the People Impacted by Gun Violence


C OM M ITTING TO CU R E VIO L EN CE There are many organizations working to help cure violence in Chicago. Those within the communities are often those who are working directly to attempt to change norms. It is parents, families, elders and some community leaders who coordinating to launch programs to keep youth off the streets by providing alternative opportunities and working to de-escalate violence within the gang communities. There are also organizations that are working to help people who have lost loved one to gun violence to overcome their tragedies and create positive change in their communities. I had the opportunity to connect with two: Young Knights and Parents for Peace and Justice. Yet, I wanted to include a special mention of one organization that I didn’t get the chance to connect with directly, but that has recently gone through changes due to funding cuts. Cure Violence (formerly known as CeaseFire) stops the spread of violence in communities by using the methods and strategies associated with disease control – detecting and interrupting conflicts, identifying and treating the highest risk individuals, and changing social norms – resulting reductions in violence of 40% to 70%.

Cure Violence – Formerly known as Ceasefire Illinois Cure Violence (CeaseFire) Illinois is the Illinois branch of the Cure Violence Organization, which currently only operates in Chicago. CeaseFire began in 1995, and after five years of strategy development, had its first program in the West Garfield Park neighborhood where it achieved a 67% drop in shootings and killings. Following four more replications of the new model – averaging a 42% drop in shootings and killings – the work was expanded to 15 communities and in 2004, Chicago had a 25% drop in killings, with a 50% drop in the CeaseFire zones. The method has had an extensive multi-year multi-method evaluation supported by the U.S. Department of Justice. Currently, the program operates in the South Shore neighborhood as well as in all four major trauma centers in Chicago. Cure Violence sees violence as a health issue. Cure Violence works directly within the communities with volunteers known as Interrupters. They are often reformed ex-gang members who are trying to protect their Chicago communities from the violence they once employed. They work to prevent retaliations, mediate ongoing conflicts and keep conflicts cool to ensure conflict does not become violent. These trained, culturally-appropriate

Halfstack Magazine | September 2017

outreach workers work with the highest risk to make them less likely to commit violence by meeting them where they are at, talking to them about the costs of using violence, and helping them to obtain the social services they need – such as job training and drug treatment. You can learn more about this organization at: Watch their critically acclaimed documentary: The Interrupters here: http:// interrupters/

Parents for Peace and Justice Elizabeth Ramirez, co-founded Parents for Peace and Justice after her son Harry “Deejay” Rodriguez was gunned down at his own 23rd birthday in 2011. Nearly 6 years later, his case remains unsolved. Elizabeth wants peace for the streets of Chicago. She works with a group of mothers who are each overcoming the loss of their children to gun violence. Those involved in the organization are parents, siblings, family friends and neighbors seeking justice for those taken away from them through violence; but most importantly they’re fighting for peace in the streets of Chicago. They are an organization


based in Humboldt Park, but they’re advocates for anyone affected by violence in Chicago. The mission of the organization is to draw attention to unsolved murder cases involving untimely passings of their loved ones due to gun and gang violence. They honor loved ones lost to violence through vigils with the hope that it brings answers and closure to the victim’s families. They also work on violence-prevention programs with at-risk youth, and partner with other non-profits working toward the same goals. Their ultimate vision is to have a safe Chicago so their kids can enjoy their childhood without fear of getting shot. They envision a peaceful society that brings justice for those who have passed due to violence. Elizabeth connected the Halfstack team with 9 mothers who lost their children to gun violence. We created a video interview sharing their stories. You can view it at: halfstackmag You can learn more at: http://www.

Young Knights The Young Knights organization was founded and launched by Karl Clauson. Karl is well known as a

Christian Radio host for Moody Radio as well as the lead pastor of 180 Chicago. His history is what has fed the trajectory of his life. Born and raised in Alaska, he was raised by great parents and attended a good church. At 18, he completed the 1,100 mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, but he was still unfulfilled. In his 20s, life took a daunting turn. During the mid eighties, he found himself lost. Battling drug addiction and not finding the guidance he so desperately yearned for, he explains he was changed by God on February 11, 1984. Brokenness is where he started his journey toward becoming whole. After completing his B.S in Biblical Studies from Multnomah University in 1989, he began his mission in ministry. Over the years, he built churches; spoke at conferences all the while being the rock for his family alongside his wife Junanne. While coaching a multi-racial track team in South Africa, his experiences compelled him to reach all people. His journey brought him to Chicago. It is because of his time in the city that he connected with an even greater calling to connect with the Youth on the Southside of the city. Young Knights is working directly in the most violent communities to connect with young boys before street life becomes an option. Young men growing up on the south



side of Chicago live in fear and without hope. Compared to their peers, they are 4x more likely to live in poverty, 2.7x more likely to be convicted of gun and drug charges, and 2x more likely to be incarcerated. Young Knights believes that, behind these statistics and the tragic stories played out on the nightly news, lays the epidemic of fatherlessness. Young Knights highlights that there are many consequences of fatherlessness in the City of Chicago. Whether a boy’s father died, abandoned him or is emotionally unavailable, a teenage boy without a guide will lose his way. Fatherlessness is one of the single largest contributing factors to pain and hopelessness in children, especially in the inner-cities of America. It is responsible for some staggering statistics. • 68% of teen suicides [US Department of Health] • 90% of all runaways and homeless children [US Department of Health] • 85% of children with behavior problems [Center for Disease Control] • 71% of high school dropouts [National Principals Association Report] •85% of youths in prison [Texas Department of Corrections]

Young Knights is committed to making a difference and turning the tide on this crisis. They believe the key is found in “turning boys into great men!” The organization connects mentors with fatherless boys from 5th to 8th grated to engage, teach and transform the lives of these young people. The organization works to Celebrate boys’ God-given cultural heritage and gifts. As well as challenge boys to develop personal relationships with God. They Intentionally confront race-related barriers by pairing young men with mentors from outside their community. Young Knights works to reach boys at the most significant stage of development in their journey toward manhood within one of the toughest neighborhoods, 400 blocks of Chicago’s South Side. Finally, they ask for a 3-year commitment from each boy, their mom, and their mentors to promote trust.


To learn more about Young Knights visit: Organizations such as these are vitally important towards creating change directly within the community. They are empowering the community to create change from the inside and working to connect with families and youth that are susceptible to violence that is deep rooted in their neighborhoods. By creating opportunities to build unity, these organizations are helping to cure violence in Chicago.



Halfstack Magazine | September 2017


N’Sights for the Soul

Grief: A Comfort to those Left Behind Written By: Reynisha Lindsay Layout By: Kandace McVickar

If you live in Chicago, you may have become desensitize to the news of murders every week. Violence erupts all too often and too often, its victims are the young and the innocent. There is so much violence and turmoil going on in Chicago (and in other major cities). Yet, when the camera is turned off, you do not see those who are left to pick up the pieces when a love one has been wounded, paralyzed or fatally shot. Families are being destroyed and the pain is overwhelming. Many of us may be able to empathize with what a parent is going through, but most of us will never understand the emotional struggle and perpetual loss of a family member through violence.


How does one continue with such a loss? How does one have the will to live without a child or a parent? Well, as you can imagine it certainly is not easy. However, what I do know is that the process of grieving is a necessary coping mechanism to handle such a loss. Grieving is a personal process that cannot be rushed nor bypassed. It is not the same from one person to the next. You may think you do not have to grieve. Yet, grief has its own way of taking a hold of you and reaching inside to your very core. It does not discriminate or play by the rules. Nevertheless, it is a necessity in overcoming a tragedy. Halfstack Magazine | September 2017


It has been widely discussed that grief has stages – 5 to be exact. They are denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. I think most everyone can relate to the first two stages. Whether the death is sudden or prolonged, the loss is still immeasurable and unbelievable. A doctor tells you that your child is not going to make it or a parent has cancer and immediately most of us think about treatment options or getting a second opinion. We want to find someone to tell us what we want to hear‌that our loved one is not dying or that our loved one is not dead. Even when a loved one enters into hospice, many of us think they will come out of hospice. Statistics show that this thought process is not accurate. Alternatively, we think no one is going through what we are going through. No one can understand what we are feeling and so we retreat into ourselves and close the door to others. Once we get past denial, anger may start to set in or perhaps you could have started your grief with anger. There is no rule that says you pass the five stages of grief sequentially. You may go straight to anger because you are upset that your loved one is dying. You feel cheated for the time you will never have with them. For a parent, it must be a heart wrenching reality to realize you will never see the hopes and dreams for your child actualized. A Father will never get to walk his daughter down the aisle and a Mother will never be able to see her son grow into a young man. As a female, you spend a great deal of your life preparing to be a wife and then a mother. There is no greater gift than to be able to bring life into this world. Alternatively, there is no greater pain than to see that life taken from this world. Consequently, many of us may never get past this stage of grief. Many people never recover from a death of a child. Marriages have ended in divorce over the death of a child. Families have become dysfunctional from the death of a child. Do not let anger make you its home. You can get past it through fellowship with friends, family and prayer. Most importantly, you need forgiveness to conquer anger. Forgive yourself and stop second-guessing what you could have done better or what you should have done differently. Forgive the person who took the life of your child whether it was intentional or accidental. Do not walk around with that burden. It is not yours to bear. Once you recognize this, you can start to move pass anger and progress through other stages of grief in order to live your life again. Now I am not going touch upon each stage of grief because some of us progress through them at different lengths of time, in different order and some of us never experience all of the stages. The last stage is an especially difficult one for many – acceptance. Having said that, it does not mean that you should not try to progress through all of the stages. We all need to grieve the loss of life. It does not matter if the loss came violently or peacefully, death is a finality that does not need our approval or acceptance. (Conversely, we need to accept it to move on.) It is a certainty from the moment we breathe our first breath. Yet, knowing this does not lessen the pain of death or the manner from which it came.


Having lost someone recently, grief and I have become friends. Grief comforts me when I am driving in the car and something reminds me of my loved one. Grief comforts me when I think of all the things I will never get to share with my loved one. Grief comforts me when I think my children will never have their grandmother see them graduate from high school or any other important firsts. While grieving is a personal and necessary process it is not the only tool to combat a loss. Prayer has been an essential part of my grieving process. I pray for comfort and strength. I pray to remember all the wonderful times we have shared. I pray to thank God for allowing me to share in the life of my loved one. She was a blessing that I am so very grateful to have received. The tears I shed are not always of sorrow. They are also for the joy that fills my soul when I think of what I wonderful gift I was given. I have my memories to sustain me and to share with my children. I have pictures and videos so I will never forget her smile or her voice. Matthew 5:4 says, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted”. Do not be afraid to grieve for your loss. Friends, co-workers, neighbors and those you may not even know are grieving with you. They are sending condolences to you and are praying for you. Therefore, why should you not do the same? I know the loss of a loved one is never easy. If you have experienced it more than once, it does not make it any less difficult. Each loss requires its own grieving process with its own timeline. The important thing to recognize is that grieving is natural and it is not something to fear. Embrace it, know that God will be there to comfort and keep you in times of sorrow. If you call on His name, He will replace the sorrow with joy. He will restore your spirit and give you the strength to live the purposeful life He has given you. The “Why’s” of Death, we may never fully understand. While it brings suffering and sorrow to those who are left behind, it brings rest to those who have suffered in life. Even as I grieve, I find comfort in knowing my loved one is no longer in pain. Allow yourself to grieve. Use it as a tool to remember, revive and rejoice in the knowledge that all things work according to God’s will and for His glory. So, while we may not always understand the circumstances of death, know that we who are left behind must carry the light forward so that no life is shed in vain.

Halfstack Magazine | September 2017








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You may shoot me with your words, You may cut me with your eyes, You may kill me with your hatefulness, But still, like air, I’ll rise. – Maya Angelou

- steve jobs


Halfstack Magazine Fall 2017 Issue  

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