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SOUTH SIDE WEEKLY MAY 7, 2014 ¬ ARTS, CULTURE, & POLITICS ¬ THE CHATTIEST PAPER SOUTH OF ROOSEVELT ¬ SOUTHSIDEWEEKLY.COM ¬ FREE

The Studs Terkel Issue In honor of Chicago’s great oral historian, our most Terkelian interviews, conversations, chats, and profiles

TAYLOR BENNETT, “COLOUR DROP” AT THE RENN, PREGNANT BUTCH, ARTEMISIA

&

MORE INSIDE


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¬ MAY 7, 2014


IN CHICAGO

SOUTH SIDE WEEKLY The South Side Weekly is a newsprint magazine based out of the University of Chicago, for and about the South Side. The Weekly is distributed across the South Side each Wednesday of the academic year. In fall 2013, the Weekly reformed itself as an independent, student-directed organization. Previously, the paper was known as the Chicago Weekly. Editor-in-Chief Managing Editor Deputy Editor

Bea Malsky Spencer Mcavoy John Gamino

Senior Editors Josh Kovensky, Harrison Smith Politics Editor Osita Nwanevu Stage & Screen Meaghan Murphy Editor Music Editor Zach Goldhammer Visual Arts Editor Emma Collins Education Editor Bess Cohen Online Editor Sharon Lurye Contributing Editors Jake Bittle, Jack Nuelle, Rachel Schastok Editor-at-Large Hannah Nyhart Photo Editor Lydia Gorham Illustration Editor Isabel Ochoa Gold Layout Editor Emma Cervantes Sarah Claypoole Senior Writers Ari Feldman, Emily Holland, Patrick Leow, Stephen Urchick Staff Writers Olivia Adams, Christian Belanger, Jon Brozdowski, Cindy Dapogny, Lauren Gurley, Olivia Dorow Hovland, Noah Kahrs Olivia Markbreiter, Paige Pendarvis, jamison Pfeifer Arman Sayani Olivia Stovicek Senior Photographer Luke White Staff Photographers Camden Bauchner, Juliet Eldred, Stephanie Koch, Siddhesh Mukerji Staff Illustrators Ellie Mejia, Wei Yi Ow, Hanna Petroski, Maggie Sivit Editorial Intern

Zavier Celimene

Business Manager

Harry Backlund

5706 S. University Ave. Reynolds Club 018 Chicago, IL 60637 SouthSideWeekly.com Send tips, comments, or questions to: editor@southsideweekly.com For advertising inquiries, contact: (773)234-5388 advertising@southsideweekly

A week’s worth of developing stories, odd events, and signs of the times, culled from the desks, inboxes, and wandering eyes of the editors

Will Kanye Touch the Sky? “No. I’m serious,” is Ben Shepard’s response to the self-posed question, “not to be rude but is this a media or publicity stunt?” Shepard, a Chicago-based artist, wants Kanye West to run for Mayor of Chicago in 2015. More specifically, he wants to transfer power over police to neighborhood councils and decriminalize drugs to reduce violence. He believes that the public transportation system should be redesigned. The reason he chooses Kanye? Shepard simply believes that only a “charismatic and problematic leader” from the South Side can spearhead these reforms, and that Kanye’s rise in the music industry is a sign he has the political finesse (and monetary clout) to dominate Chicago. Ultimately, he thinks, “better it be Kanye West than Rahm Emanuel.” The open letter waits online (kanye4mayor. org), his petition looks eager for signing, and the forthcoming art show details stay pending. Wake up Mr. West, Chicago’s ready for your homecoming.

George Lucas and Hyde Park, Unite Not so long ago, in a neighborhood quite near here, perhaps even encompassing where you’re reading this, George Lucas began to look for a place to make a museum to himself. San Francisco and Chicago are both vying for the spot, but Chicago might have an advantage: Hyde Park. The city’s committee on proposing a location for Lucas museum is considering the grassy area behind the Museum of Science and Industry, where the Midway Plaisance turns into Jackson Park. Lucas rented out the nearby Promontory Point in Hyde Park this past sum-

mer to get married, and perhaps his force will continue to be seen in Hyde Park. Karen Lewis to Ram Rahm into Retirement Karen Lewis, President of the Chicago Teachers Union, thinks “all elections need to be contentious,” but she says that this is particularly true for the 2015 mayoral race. In a speech at a City Club of Chicago luncheon, Chicago Magazine’s fortieth most powerful person threatened to shake things up for Mayor Emanuel in the upcoming election, proposing to “send him into early retirement.” She cited the 3,000 educators who have lost their jobs since Emanuel took office and called CPS’ billion-dollar deficit “a manufactured crisis,” generously leaving out plenty of Emanuel’s other transgressions against the schools. She did not specify an alternative candidate. Lewis 2015? See our coverage of two major challengers on page 22 of this issue.

Tweeting with Louis Nation of Islam (NOI) leader, calypso singer, violinist, restaurateur, noted anti-semite, and Hyde Parker Louis Farrakhan took to Twitter this past Sunday to soothe the Twittersphere’s spiritual and existential angst. Using the hashtag #AskFarrakhan, the head of the NOI-polloi himself tweeted forth on topics ranging from whether or not Nation of Islam members can work as vets (even when they have to touch pigs), to the ongoing crisis in Ukraine. As to the latter, Farrakhan considers it a sign that the world is moving towards Armageddon. Not very surprising, given that he has a tendency to perpetually proclaim that the end is near. ¬

IN THIS ISSUE a conversation with

a profile of

an interview with

an interview with

a chat with

anne holcomb

charles hardwick

khaleelah dionne

tony burroughs

merlyn macfarland

“We had good car thieves, we had good burglars, we had good pickpockets, panhandlers, purse-snatchers.”

muhammad

“I look at that scar every day and I think about racism in Chicago.”

“If I feel good, then I’ll drive. If I feel too tired, I won’t drive.”

“Homeless youth walk all the time. Homeless youth walk without having a direction.”

bea malsky.............4 marissa lee.................6 “artemisia

“My purpose is, I believe, to fight for justice and to serve the people of humanity.”

bess cohen.............9

josh kovensky..............11

jake bittle...........18

a chat with lyra hill

a review of

robert shaw and

a review of taylor

a review of

“I have a hard time comparing it to any other show, which is exciting on its own, very flattering, but—it’s a weird art realm.”

after 40” @ bac

amara enyia

“‘Artemisia closed very quietly, but it should have been a big party!’”

bennett’s new mixtape

living”

challenge rahm

Cover portraits by Allison Torem. Merlyn MacFarland (left) and Khaleelah Dionne sarah claypoole..............20 Muhammad.

“‘The best way to get ready for the campaign season is noah kahrs..........21 to do your job during the governing season.”

christian belanger.............22

“There are good tracks on MainstreamMusic, but it isn’t Acid Rap”

jack nuelle..........23

@

“perverted

flat

“A final radio, also made of bread, was in the bathroom.”

katryce lassale....24


How to See the City’s Hidden Having spent her youth homeless, Anne Holcomb is working to help Chicago’s neediest kids AS TOLD TO BEA MALSKY

A

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my back, because that’s how he could control me. Starting in kindergarten, he’d drag me around the house to try to show me all the places where my mother was not a good mom or a good wife. He’d rub my fingers in the dust on windowsills and he’d force my hand to make a bed. One time he got particularly mad and was rubbing my hand in the spills on the stovetop, and it was still very hot so I burned my finger. Stuff like that. When I got older and even more resistant, he’d grab me by my ankle. He’d drag me around the house, and we had a staircase...my knee is still messed up from that. The older I get the more it impacts me, the fact that my ligaments and tendons were so stretched out. I think I’m probably left-handed, but I would write right-handed in school. It wasn’t because teachers were telling me to, it was because my left

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ost homeless youth don’t look homeless any more than I did, but if you know you can tell. It’s so subtle that it’s hard to articulate—it can be anything from body posture to what time of day somebody’s carrying a very full backpack to how they’re walking. Homeless youth walk all the time. Homeless youth walk without having a direction. It’s the speed at which somebody walks, it’s the confidence with which they walk. If I see the same person consistently on the corner and they’re not doing something like selling drugs, I might walk up to them. I’ve got radar eyes for who’s homeless and who’s not. When I was in high school, I never saw myself as homeless. My father was extremely mentally ill and very abusive; everybody in our house got a different form of abuse. He would twist my arm behind

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n ne Holcomb was born in Columbus, Ohio in 1961, and spent her childhood and young adulthood in varying states of homelessness. Today she works for Unity Parenting & Counseling, and has served on the Homeless Youth Advocacy Committee for the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH) since the nineties. She’s been instrumental in the opening of Ujima Village, an overnight shelter for homeless youth now at 73rd Street & South Yale Avenue. Before Ujima opened last August, there hadn’t been an emergency youth shelter on the South Side for thirty years. Holcomb has also spent the last three years rehabbing a four-flat in South Shore to live in and rent to organizations like the UCAN LGBTQ Host Home Program and the Hyde Park Transitional Housing Project, mimicking a model she created while getting herself off the street in Indianapolis. Holcomb met Studs Terkel at CCH’s 2004 Hope Fest. “It was kind of a conversation that was left dangling by the environment,” she says.

wrist hurt. It’s kind of a blessing now, that I can write with both hands. My father agreed to take me to school every day, but he couldn’t get up to do it. I was thirteen, in eighth grade, and I really wanted to go to school. Sometimes it would take me an hour or two to get him out of bed, and one day I got exasperated and poured water on his head. He woke up boxing, grabbed me by my hair, and put my head through a grandfather clock. I smacked him as hard as I could; that’s the only time in my life I ever fought back. And I said, “If you do this again, I’m ei-

ther going to kill you or I’m going to call the police.” That was the last time he put a hand on me. I started having a lot of slumber parties, so when he was really bad I would just not be home. I would stay for a week at one friend’s house, and then I would call someone else and go stay a week at their house. I told two friends who also had abuse in their families what my situation was, but most people really didn’t know. Nowadays we would definitely call that homelessness, but back then I just was getting out of the house.


CONVERSATION There was about a three- or four-year period when my dad was almost not depressed—almost. He made a lot of promises during that period, and I wanted to believe that he was going to be okay. So I believed him, and it was a big mistake. He promised to pay one third of my education, and I made some decisions based on that. The crap kind of hit the fan my junior year of college at DePauw at Indiana. It got pretty crazy; I worked myself into double pneumonia and I didn’t graduate with my class. When I got out of school, I had nowhere to go. Eventually I got an apartment in Indianapolis. One day I came back from a job interview, and the landlord had taken the lock off my apartment and taken everything. It didn’t even occur to me at first that it was the landlord, because I’d always paid the rent on time. That was one thing I always did: I couldn’t pay my student loans, couldn’t always pay the utilities, but I knew I needed to pay my rent. It turned out he was quite the slumlord. He knew that I was naïve and vulnerable, and that I was living there without electricity. I think he thought my parents would come to the rescue with their wallets. I was in my early twenties and wearing green linen suits, you know? I looked like I had something. I slept in the park that night. I didn’t have any street skills; I knew more about how to get into something like the legal profession than I knew how to navigate poverty. It was probably a good month before I heard from another street kid that there was a legal aid agency. What I found, and what’s still true, is that with homeless youth the experience is more fluid than it is for adults. If you have money you’ll get a hotel room, or maybe a friend will have an apartment you can stay in until they get a boyfriend. I was in and out, in and out, in and out for five years after that. I always had a job, the whole time I was homeless. I probably had fifty jobs in Indianapolis, often two or three at the same time. I would sleep in University Park, and I had to get up early for the breakfast shift at nine. In the park the traffic was my alarm clock, and it would get me up in time to get to work. Getting cleaned up was interesting—I’d have to walk quite a ways to a McDonald’s and they had blow-dryers you could fl ip up to dry your hair. I kept myself clean and presentable to do food service. I was twenty-two. I’d gotten jumped a couple times staying in a hotel, and I thought, “I’m going

to be safer if I just go live in an abandoned building and nobody knows I’m there.” I was right. I found a Queen Anne house built in 1865, right on the edge of a gentrifying area called Lockerbie Square. That house helped lift me out of poverty, and I graduated from college in that house. I was missing two credits for graduation, because I’d had the double pneumonia, and so I actually took classes at IUPUI [Indiana University—Purdue University Indianapolis] to finish up. So I was living in an abandoned building with no working utilities when I did that. I paid the tuition in cash; I certainly wasn’t going to get any more student loans. Eventually I went down to the City Hall and found the owner. He was an old Greek guy, a veteran of World War II, and he was real cool with me living there. He said all I had to pay was $100 a month. He was a little bit of an eccentric, which was

afford the materials that were used in the 1870s. Little Orphan Annie brought me down, and that was the beginning of the end of the house. The last two and a half years I was in Indianapolis I had a nice little apartment, and my life had a groove. I also felt really isolated. In some ways it was a hard time in my life, because no one in my current world had ever been through anything like what I’d been through. Several members of my street family died very young. One was murdered in a hate crime—homeless people are attacked sometimes because they’re homeless. My friend was drinking and fell asleep in the doorway of an abandoned church, and some people came along and beat him to death. I wasn’t going to go around talking about that in the posh part of the city where I was working. That was in the later part of the 1980s,

“I think sometimes that the fact that I’m living and breathing breaks down the stereotype by itself. I wasn’t a bad kid, I was homeless, and I’ve made a success of my life.” exactly the kind of person I needed at that point. He asked me if I wanted to buy the house, and I said, “Sure!” He said, “I’ll sell it to you for $5,000. I can’t keep up with this stuff.” I started renting rooms as soon as I got the utilities up and running. Some of the people who I’d known on the street who had gotten themselves better, and other people that they knew. I had eight bedrooms. There was this guy who was a Vietnam vet who knew electricity, so I gave him a place to live. There was another guy I gave free rent to because he helped me patch the roof. He also helped me put up some vinyl siding, and that’s where I got caught. The area was historical because the guy who wrote the poem “Little Orphan Annie” had lived just a couple blocks away, and they were making the whole thing a historical area. If the material was not around in the 1860s or 1870s, you couldn’t use it. I got busted for the vinyl siding and having a pink flamingo in my yard, and I realized that I was not going to be able to

when homelessness was just starting to get known and people were building shelters in church basements and things like that. In Chicago the homeless crisis really started in 1979 or the next year. That’s when they started forming the Coalition for the Homeless, which still exists. Bigger cities realized there was a problem before smaller cities did. In Indianapolis I began working with Housing Now, and was finally faced with whether or not I was going to come out of the closet about the fact that I had been homeless. I decided to tell the truth, and that’s when I started talking about my own homelessness publicly—October of 1989. When I came back from a march in Washington, D.C., all my coworkers had seen me on TV. The food and beverages manager at my job didn’t want to go out with me anymore. I came back and put my lunch down and they all got up and moved to another table. The people at my other job, at the Indianapolis Symphony, gave me a promotion. Mitch Snyder [a leading advocate for

the homeless] had told me, “If you want to do something about homelessness, you’ve got to get out of Indiana. You need to go to New York, San Francisco, or Chicago.” I moved here in 1991, and I started getting involved with Walk for the Homeless. I realized I really wanted to change careers—I was earning a really nice income, but I really wanted to do something about homelessness. I worked for Night Ministry for ten years, but eventually felt a strong compulsion to start putting my energy into the South Side. I really saw the difference— there’s so much institutional racism and classism. Even the homelessness services on the North Side are better. You can get volunteers who aren’t afraid to go to Wicker Park or to Lakeview. The North Side is in the news more. Even traffic reports only cover the North Side. We have such a huge swath of the city that’s almost invisible, it’s crazy. Ujima’s only been open a year, so I don’t have as much of a longitudinal view, but I’ve seen some miracles happen. I heard the youth talking about me in the back of the bus yesterday, saying, “Man, she’s cool!” The fact that they can actually say that about an adult, when their own parents have kicked them out of the house? That’s incredible. The worst choice I made in my own adolescence was believing that my father would pay for a third of my education. You want your parents to be your parents. A lot of homeless youth come from very fractured families, families that were fractured for a long time before the youth became homeless. Most homeless youth are not homeless because they’re bad kids; that’s the stereotype. Sometimes kids make bad choices, but they’re kids. What kid doesn’t make bad choices? I think sometimes that the fact that I’m living and breathing breaks down the stereotype by itself. I wasn’t a bad kid, I was homeless, and I’ve made a success of my life. At this point I’m comfortable in my own skin. I’m a pretty happy person. Ujima is a port of entry to more stable living, and we try to get anyone who comes to us plugged into things that address the larger issues of why they’re homeless. It’s so important to not throw homeless youth away—these kids don’t have to become our next generation of homeless adults. ¬ For more information about Ujima Village and other services for the homeless, go to chicagohomeless.org or unityparenting.org MAY 7, 2014 ¬ SOUTH SIDE WEEKLY 5


The Mayor of Howard Street In a gentrifying neighborhood, a child of the South Side guards a port of re-entry for ex-offenders like himself BY MARISSA LEE

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little after six o’clock on a Wednesday evening, men begin to filter into the Howard Area Employment Resource Center, in Rogers Park. One young man walks in sporting cornrows and a shirt and tie. Charles Hardwick, who manages the center, grins approvingly. “Brother came in here with his pants down to here,” he says, gesturing below his hip. “Now look at him.” Tall, bald, and broad-shouldered, Hardwick presides over the room. His voice is back-straightening. “Gentlemen, you know the rules. Hoods down, hats off.” The men he’s addressing are here for the center’s weekly Overcomers Group, which helps re-entering citizens find community. They are “re-entering citizens,” the center is careful to say, and not “ex-convicts.” Hardwick, fifty-seven, is fitted in a white shirt and well-pressed black suit, with a stud in one ear. For twelve years he has helped run the employment program at Howard Area Community Center. He always shows up for work in a suit, though he doesn’t have to. Everyone who walks into the Employment Resource Center either knows Hardwick personally, or has been sent by someone to ask for him. The workforce program he manages with Outreach Director Antione Day, an old friend, serves 120 to 160 people a year, meeting with each of them once a month. Many who enroll are re-entering citizens, though anyone is welcome. “Antione and myself,” says Hardwick, “we got a reputation throughout the city as guys who keep it real, keep 6 SOUTH SIDE WEEKLY

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it straight, and run these programs the way they’re supposed to be because we’re both ex-cons ourselves.” Hardwick, who grew up on the South Side and was raised by a single mother on welfare, has served fourteen years in prison. In Rogers Park, he is commonly known as “the mayor of Howard Street.” He doesn’t know if he likes the title. “My bosses already think I think that I’m out-

do it intelligently so they can’t throw me out.” He knows the importance of community integration, better than most.

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n all his fifty-seven years, Hardwick has always been a bully or a leader, sometimes both at the same time. When his mother moved her eight children into a two-flat in the Back of the

“We had good car thieves, we had good burglars, we had good pickpockets, panhandlers, purse-snatchers. Any way of generating revenue, we did it.” side of Howard Area Community Center, that I think this is my own little island.” Sometimes people call him Howard, and he has to correct them. Hardwick is also a skilled code-switcher, able to speak his mind to power brokers. At open 49th Ward business meetings held by the alderman, Hardwick is often the only black man in the room. “I use my position to voice what I don’t think is fair to black people, and I

Yards in the early seventies, there was only one other black family on the block. Within a year, Hardwick says, there were about twenty. The white families were moving out, and Mickey Cogwell, chief of a gang called Cobra Stones, sighted virgin territory from a mile away. Before the move, Hardwick had lived in the Robert Taylor Homes, next door to “the Hole”—three connected blocks of buildings on 53rd and State Street that

formed the stronghold of Cogwell’s Cobra Stones. Hardwick had worked under Cogwell, and soon after he moved he received Cogwell’s blessing to start a charter in the neighborhood. “We were drawn together by a community that was predominantly white,” says Hardwick. “The community didn’t want us there, so it was only natural that we get together and run the community.” They called themselves the King Cobra Stones. Armed with zip guns made from door checks and nails, they embarked on a door-to-door “recruitment” drive. At first, people were forced to join, unless they wanted to see their houses burned down. Later, they did so by choice. At its peak in the mid-seventies, the King Cobras were 150 strong, comprising about fifty true die-hards and a hundred or so tag-alongs, according to Hardwick. They called their turf—from 51st to 56th Streets, between Racine and the rail yards to the east— Motown, so named because Cobra Stones called themselves Moors, or Mo’s. Hardwick, nicknamed Teddy Bear for his formidable size, was a “king,” one rank below the highest office. Drug pushing was the gang’s main business. They bought cocaine and heroin wholesale from the big chiefs of the Cobra Stones, and sold it in ounces to street dealers. Out of a $17,000 “key,” or kilogram of powder, they could make up to $50,000, Hardwick says. Gangs were a business enterprise, and a charter’s first duty was to fatten the treasury. “Sell drugs, sell whatever,” says


PROFILE

Hardwick. “We had good car thieves, we had good burglars, we had good pickpockets, panhandlers, purse-snatchers. Any way of generating revenue, we did it.” In each case, a bulk of the income went to the Black P. Stone Nation, a cartel of allied gangs of which the Cobra Stones were a member. Though Hardwick claimed a leadership position, he had to defend it with public displays of violence. He has twin scars on his palms from when he snatched a knife from a “square” who retaliated when he stole marijuana from him. Hardwick stabbed him eighteen times for trying to make sales on his turf. During another fight, Hardwick was stabbed through the right nostril with a piece of metal that came out through the roof of his mouth. To fix it, hospital doctors had to cut away the jagged edge of his wound and sew it over. “I think they did a pretty good job,” he says, feeling the flatness of his nose, which betrays his bone structure. “They just changed my profile.”

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hen he was fourteen, Hardwick was convicted of burglary and car theft, and sent to a youth detention center. Almost three years later, he was released and earned his high school diploma. At age seventeen, old enough to be tried as an adult, he was sent to Stateville prison for armed robbery. Youth prison was where Hardwick furthered his education in the criminal life, which he began at the age of twelve. In the Robert Taylor Homes, it was obvious even to children that those who crossed the poverty line usually did it illegally. Hardwick got to know a car thief, and was taught to steal a car before he could drive. “I learned how to drive by stealing a car and crashing it,” he recalls. “And then the next car I stole, I learned how to drive a little bit better.” To survive youth prison—to come out undefeated, with priorities unchanged— was another important milestone along Hardwick’s criminal career path, almost like acing a final interview. If he was afraid, he tried not to show it. Fear had no street value, but reputation did. “First I was a money-getting guy. Now, I’m dubbed the tough guy,” he says. “Because if you go to jail and don’t tell on anybody, you’re alright. You’re trusted. And then you meet people and make relationships in jail.” When youth prison spat him out,

allison torem

Hardwick had matured as a criminal. He wanted to “invest” in heroin and cocaine, which the gangs controlled, and his reputation opened the door. He stopped stealing cars. He was a drug dealer now, he told himself, and a chief of the Cobra Stones. With this mindset, prison too turned out to be less of a shock than he had thought it would be. Hardwick was sent to Stateville Correctional Center, and assigned to one of

the prison’s roundhouses. He remembers standing on the cell-house ground for the first time, looking up at the stacks of cells that enclosed it. To the boy who had grown surrounded by concrete, this place did not look much different than the Hole. A voice called out his name, Teddy Bear. The voice belonged to Napo, a Cobra Stone, gone so long from the street that some had thought him dead. Hardwick was at home.

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ou all are some stupid motherfuckers,” Hardwick remembers saying to himself in 1997, lying on his bunk with a blanket over his face. He was in Pontiac Correctional Center, serving the last five of his fourteen years for multiple counts of armed robbery and burglary. One gangster, Crazy MC, had just squirted a bottle of rotting feces into the face of a black officer. Feces clung to the officer’s mouth, recalls Hardwick. The MAY 7, 2014 ¬ SOUTH SIDE WEEKLY 7


smell was awful. When Hardwick tried to reprimand Crazy, the other inmates began starting a row, accusing him of taking up for the police. “I changed that day, but it was a slow process. It wasn’t like, ‘I’m done with this,’” says Hardwick. “It was more like, I’m not stupid, I’m not ignorant, I’m not heartless, but I’m hanging out and calling these guys my brothers. Is this who I am?” He listened to their shouts, and that was the closest he got to a crossroads hymn marking his turn away from gang life. Crazy’s feces remained on the gallery until the inmates were released from lockdown. Gangs ruled Pontiac. Hardwick remembers inmates having sex in the visiting room, picnics and barbecues on the prison yard, and access to whiskey, wine, and drugs. But gang control also made it hard to do time there. Jerome Williams, a former inmate, explains: “I’m a part of a gang, and I’m here talking with you. Cross over there, my gang is fighting with someone. That means I got to stop what I’m doing, and go help because I’m a part of that. How could you do your life like that? I wanted to be accountable for my own actions, not someone else’s.” Inmates seeking peace of mind often sought Williams out in his cell, which the Kennedy-King College graduate decked out like a dormitory room. Even gang leaders like Hardwick would drop by. “Yeah, he was in control,” says Williams, who is sixty-two. “But being the chief, you’re obligated to certain things that you can’t push aside. A lot of the chiefs really wanted to sit out and do nothing. But their foot soldiers wouldn’t allow them to sit down and leave things alone. They pushed him to be what he is.” Hardwick was eventually transferred out of Pontiac and into medium-security facilities for the last leg of his sentence. “It was like being free,” says Hardwick. “I didn’t have to be tough. I didn’t have to handle my business, as they called it. It changed my whole life.” He thought these medium-security facilities must look like college, which he had never attended. Rooms were divided by doors instead of bars. Inmates there had a different mentality from their gang-affiliated counterparts. They obeyed rules, and were set on going home.

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ardwick was released in 2001 and put under house arrest in Skokie, near Rogers Park. He was also enrolled in Strive, a job-training program for ex-offenders. But Hardwick felt less than prepared to re-enter society legally. He headed back to 51st Street, to the White House of Motown, an apartment where the brothers hung out and bagged dope. He was still in his gray prison-issue sweat suit. Hardwick approached 14K, a brother he had come up with. He remembers 14K reaching under a table and slapping what appeared to be $10,000 on the tabletop. Hardwick’s eyes lit up. Then 14K placed two keys of cocaine on the table, followed by a .38 Special and a nine-millimeter. The

apprehension with his counselor at Strive. But he could only hold his Strive counselors accountable for finding him a job if he did absolutely everything that they required of him. On graduation day, Hardwick was asked to speak for the class. On placement day, they offered him a job as a placement specialist, paying $25,000 a year. Hardwick says he could have made $20,000 in just one week as a dope dealer. But it was a different kind of money. Hardwick worked his new job “like it was the last job on the planet.” He was the first one in the office every morning, and the last to leave at night. If a workshop had twenty people in it, he saw it as his job to get all twenty of them a job placement when the month was

“We make it difficult with all this language we use. He keeps it simple.” gang was opening a spot down the street, and 14K wanted Hardwick to run it. Hardwick said he couldn’t do it. 14K leaned forward. Hardwick remembers his words: “Do I fucking look like I’m in the business of giving my money to a motherfucker and then you go on about your business?” Guns cocked, and 14K put a hundred-dollar bill in Hardwick’s hand, telling him never to come back. After thirty-two years, this was how Hardwick would go out. Rejection clarified what he had always known but forgotten. “We were a gang, we were an enterprise. It was very clear,” says Hardwick. “Gangs are not in the business of you going off independently being successful in your life.” Gangs, according to Hardwick, have never been concerned with community or self-improvement. Not in the seventies, and not now. Hardwick was alone. He was growing older, and more hungry. With only a high school diploma and eighteen felony convictions, his prospects of finding legal work looked weak, and he shared this

up. He did not know it, but his contract required him to place only four people a month. In 2006, Hardwick was appointed to head the Howard Area Employment Resource Center.

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n an average day in the center, every sort of person steps into Hardwick’s office. Desperation sends them, or lawyer’s orders, or just the need to share some good news. Some have work but are looking for a career. More will work whatever job they get. Hardwick is always the voice of reality: harsh with his expectations, kinder once you meet them. Under Hardwick’s leadership, seventy-two percent of enrollees in the employment program exit positive, meaning that they have worked the job that they were placed in for ninety days without issue. “He was aggressive with the gangs and now he’s aggressive with changing lives,” says Jerome Williams, whom Hardwick recruited as a case manager. Says Williams of Hardwick: “If you ain’t been nowhere, you can’t show

nothing different.” Hardwick has had his differences with local slumlords and a group of white male residents called Rogers Park Positive Loitering, but he never feels threatened and rarely loses his cool. “He means well,” says Antione Day. “Sometimes when you mean well, you do well. We make it difficult with all this language we use. He keeps it simple.” Day, fifty-two, met Hardwick at Pontiac. After Day was exonerated in 2002, they spotted each other at an ex-offender community conference. When Day talks about his workplace, he calls it a “community center.” It is a humble space in an old building, pieced together with furniture from closing businesses, but always neat and orderly. Goodwill is often shared outside of professional roles. A recovering alcoholic lends his tie to a young man who has an interview. Day gives the men free haircuts on Wednesdays. Hardwick walks a young man to the main center to pick up a pair of work boots. If the neighborhood belongs to those who fight to keep it together, then Hardwick doesn’t face much competition for the title of mayor. Gentrification, as he puts it, is a model of economic growth that rejects community integration. “You get in your car, go downtown to your office, come back to your garage, and wait for the rest of the community to change.” Hardwick therefore makes it a point to intervene when well-meaning but poorly planned community initiatives are put forth by middle-class interest groups. He is on a committee to turn a one-acre lot between Howard and Ashland Avenue into a community garden, which will open by the end of May. Hardwick takes his job very seriously. “Somebody drew this,” he says, holding up a color-pencil drawing of a barn with a big red roof and signage that reads, “Howdy, Howard Pavilion.” Oversized fruit sit in the windows. “Howdy? Give me a break, this is Howard Street. So that’s been scratched.” For a man who has crossed worlds, Hardwick has a fine sense of the ridiculous. He has come a long way up at a very late age, and perhaps that is why he deals in second chances: “Guilt is a strong word, it prevents you from moving forward. The decisions I made in my life, I suffered for them. And that’s probably why I do the work that I do.” ¬


Weaver of Faith

INTERVIEW

Khaleelah Dionne Muhammad on community, Chicago violence, and a bigger concept of faith

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AS TOLD TO BESS COHEN

lawyer by education and a Christian by birth, Khaleelah, fourty-two, now works in community development and is a practicing Muslim. After she received her law degree from Washington University in St. Louis in 2003, she returned to work in Chicago and live in the south suburbs of the city with her two sons and husband. She introduced herself to the Rev. Michael Pfleger of St. Sabina, a church and faith community in Auburn Gresham, where she grew up, and began working for St. Sabina’s Neighborhood Recovery Initiative. She serves as chairman of the board of ABJ Community Services, a social services agency in South Shore, and manages a parent group in Englewood. She also runs the String Weavers Peace Initiative with her colleagues from St. Sabina’s. The knitting and crochet group meets every Saturday morning at the Thurgood Marshall branch of the Chicago Public Library, on 75th and Racine. We sit in the children’s area of the library; Khaleelah is crocheting the last row of a green and orange shrug that she’s making for herself. Her mother and nine-year-old daughter talk softly at the next table, and a gaggle of children play and argue at the computers behind them.

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rowing up as a Christian I was always taught that every human being had a purpose for their existence, so as a young person, I was always striving to not only find my purpose, but to live out my purpose. I have a very purpose-driven existence. My father is a decorated war veteran from the Vietnam War, and there was an incident involving the police—a police misconduct, brutality situation involving my dad. I not only witnessed it but I ended up being mishandled myself. I remember articulating to my mom—and this was at seven years old—that I wanted to dedicate my life to making sure that stuff like that didn’t happen. When I decided to be a lawyer, it was a non-traditional approach to law. I didn’t want to practice law; I wanted to fight for justice for underrepresented, underserved people. And that’s pretty much what I’ve devoted my life to. And now, as a Muslim, I’m doing the same work. I still believe in one’s having a purpose for existence, and

my purpose is, I believe, to fight for justice and to serve the people of humanity. Growing up, we were taught to never, ever question God. Even then, being a student of logic, that didn’t sit well with me, but I complied with it because that was what my parents always taught me. When my granddad died when I was twelve years old, for the first time in my life I lost faith. I don’t know if I would articulate it as losing faith, but it was questioning. I knew that the questions that I had about God, I had to follow that journey alone, I wouldn’t be able to ask my mom. So I went on that journey alone, and that journey led me down so many paths, and one of those paths was Orthodox Islam, and that was actually by accident, although I don’t believe there is such a thing as accident. I don’t believe in coincidence. I met my husband my first or second year in college, at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He’s actually with the Nation of Islam, and he

organized a trip to Chicago to see Mr. Farrakhan. I went on that trip, then I didn’t see him for two years. He was looking for me on campus and I was looking for him. I was so moved by the lecture, I told a friend of mine who was Orthodox Muslim, “I want to be a Muslim, I want to join the Nation,” but I didn’t know the difference between them. He took me to the masjid, which is where the Orthodox Muslim community practices. By the time I figured out that I had been hoodwinked and bamboozled, I was already indoctrinated and I was already beginning to identify with that system of be-

lief. At that particular masjid, I was the only black person, and when we would stand shoulder to shoulder to pray, no one wanted to pray next to me because I was dark. By then, I had a friend, a best friend. She was a Pakistani girl, and she would be the buffer between me and the other sisters during prayer, but when she wouldn’t come, I had nobody who would. At that point, Islam was so engrained in my heart, I maintained my Islam, but I was no longer a part of that community. And this is why I said nothing happens by accident. That didn’t happen by accident because it was my introduction to Islam. And I had been so hurt up to that point, by religion, I didn’t want to join any other religion, any other anything. I was in the Student Union, sitting, eating by myself because I was no longer dining with the Muslims, and the brother who was in charge of the Orthodox Muslim community there walked over to me. He introduced me to my husband, and I looked and I was like, “Why does this brother look familiar?” When I became Orthodox Muslim, I had changed my name to Khaleelah, and by then, I

didn’t look anything like I had looked two years before, and I was in full hijab. He said, “You know what, I’m looking for this girl named Dionne Johnson, do you know her?” and I was like [dissolves into laughter], “That’s me silly, that’s me!” You know what ended up making me come into the Nation of Islam? The fact that my husband didn’t put pressure on me—and he wasn’t my husband then—but I would go to the study-group meetings just so I could learn more, and he never pressured me to come in. And that meant so much to me. Every other faith—whatever you want to call it—that I had been a part of, there was always this pressure initially. Even when it came to things I didn’t understand, he didn’t try to force those things. You know, he would just say, “Ask God for understanding and in time it’ll come.” It was just a different approach to faith, and that’s why I’m comfortable even where I am now. I always jokingly say now, “I’m allergic to religion,” but I’m not allergic to religion, I’m just pro-spirituality, and even though I am a Muslim, I identify with people of faith, people who have conviction from within, no matter where that conviction comes from. But my faith is what guides me, so it’s like even if your faith is in you, and you have that strong urge from within to go and do good for humanity, I’m down with you. That’s kind of where faith has taken me. I have a bigger concept of faith now. How did you become involved with Saint Sabina’s? Over twenty years ago, I went to Lindblom High School [in West Englewood], and I lost one of my dear friends to gun violence, so I high-tailed it out of here as MAY 7, 2014 ¬ SOUTH SIDE WEEKLY 9


em to r n so li al

soon as I fi nished with high school. Before he died, the idea was he was going to follow me, he was a year behind me in school, but he didn’t make it to follow me. When he was killed I said, “There’s no way in hell I’m coming back”—excuse the French. But over time, I said, “God has given me so much. My family is there. There are so many people there that do not have control over their circumstances and they need justice. That’s what you decided you wanted to do.” I came back home to Chicago in 2003, and I wanted to work in the Stop the Violence Movement. And Father Pfleger was already doing so much work in that arena, so I wasn’t going to come in and reinvent the wheel; I was going to learn from someone who was already doing the work. Father Pfleger didn’t know me from Adam at that point, and I emailed him and I was like, “Th is is a shot in the dark here,” but within the hour he had emailed me back and he was very embracing, very excited about me joining on with the work. I’ve been with

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¬ MAY 7, 2014

Saint Sabina ever since. When I was working at the Ark of Saint Sabina’s, managing the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative for Auburn Gresham, I was also volunteering at Muhammad University of Islam, teaching fi rst grade or second grade, whatever class my daughter was in, how to do crochet. At the Ark, on our lunch breaks, Marchae Miller and Katrice Kendall and I would be crocheting, and we had this little fantasy about teaching the girls at the Ark how to crochet. Father Pfleger chimed in too, he was like, “Yeah, that’d be awesome,” and like I told you earlier, I don’t believe in coincidence. In 2012, I lost my brother and my mom lost her son due to gun violence. That was actually the point at which I resigned from Saint Sabina, because working in the anti-violence movement began to be a little too much for me at that time. I was in a very angry place, a very dark place at that time, and crochet was really what saved me. I wasn’t able to verbalize what I was feeling, but

I started going to my mom’s house, and we wouldn’t do a lot of talking, because of the pain, but we would sit there with our crochet hooks. String Weavers is my brother’s legacy. The incarnation of the Stop the Violence movement that I have been a part of focuses on the males. But when you look at the underlying roots of violence—community poverty, lack of access—the approach to violence has to be family-based, it has to focus not on just one person in the family, one demographic of the family. It’s all about healing the ills of the community that lead to and give rise to violence. The idea behind String Weavers was that we would teach the girls how to crochet, how to knit, all the string crafts, and for them to pay it forward in two ways: they would get the lessons for free but they would be charged with making at least one of their projects for someone who was less fortunate than they were. They also are charged with the responsibility of teaching at least two other people the skill that they got for free. Then there are mentoring and entrepreneurship components to the String Weavers program that are scheduled to roll out later in the summer. Even teaching the girls the concept of entrepreneurism, that’s something that, as a woman, means I can have self-confidence and be independent and feel good about my self. I don’t have to now put pressure on some guy to go out and do for me what I’m very capable of doing for myself. You always have to plan and give room for God to work, and I feel like God has been working through this, because this is in no way what I planned but I’m loving every minute of it. Because of the space that we create, which now is intergenerational, you have the natural mentorship relationships that develop. But also, the girls are crocheting and talking and their guard is down, which is good because this is a safe space. We wanted to have a space that was just for the girls, so they feel comfortable talking out the issues that they’re going through. On any given week now, we have about ten to fi fteen ladies, young and old. I think our oldest participant, Ms. Mary, is in her seventies. But it feels like family. Just even the respect of calling—

when the weather got real cold this winter, all of the older women, they didn’t have to call me, but they all called. “Just want you to know sister Khaleelah, that we don’t do cold weather.” I know that’s not very important, but it’s important to me. How much has Auburn Gresham changed since you were growing up? Th is was my library growing up. It was on 79th and Loomis, they moved the location, but this was the library and it is completely different, it’s not the same feel. Resources and whatnot, I would say they’re pretty much the same, but our attitude toward the resources has changed. When I was growing up, and I don’t know if it’s just because of the values that my parents had, but the library was a big deal for us. We respected the library, there was quiet in the library, but we looked forward to going to the library because we wanted to read, and now the books sit on the shelf lonely, in my opinion. When I was growing up here, even though we had a lot of the same social conditions, the poverty et cetera, the family unit seemed to be stronger. I was scared to death of being outside doing things I wasn’t supposed to be doing because the neighbor was watching me. My mom, she worked around the clock, but my neighbor couldn’t wait to tell my momma if we got into something. Now, that sense of village seems to be not as strong, not to say that it’s not there at all. But it seems to be not as strong. We tend to look the other way a lot. When we see things, there’s this idea that we shouldn’t snitch, we’re a bad person if we snitch. There’s this culture of not telling. We have to ask ourselves, what’s the reason that we should tell and whom should we tell? If your motivation is just to get someone in trouble, then you have to evaluate your heart, but if you’re trying to reform the community, the wrong thing to do, always, is nothing. ¬ For more information or to become involved with the String Weavers Peace Initiative, email Khaleelah at stringweaverspeaceinitative@gmail.com.


Inherited Scars

INTERVIEW

Bronzeville’s genealogist talks personal and public history AS TOLD TO JOSH KOVENSKY

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o ny Burroughs has worked as a self-employed genealogist for thirty years, tracking down people’s lost relatives. A self-described “child of the sixties,” Burroughs witnessed seminal moments of black history in Chicago; he participated in the Burnside Elementary School sit-in in 1962 and saw Martin Luther King Jr. speak in 1965. He is currently working on a project to memorialize the Burnside sit-in, as well as a larger plan to build the Center for Black Genealogy on the South Side. Editor’s note: Burroughs refers to his experiences with racism in the following interview, including racial slurs, and his words have not been censored.

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n December of 1961, Burnside School was overcrowded. There were a lot of blacks who were migrating to the South Side, so the schools were overcrowded. There was another school not far from us that was all white. So instead of integrating that school to relieve the overcrowding, they built an addition on another school, Gillespie School, where we had to walk seventeen blocks to get there. Instead of integrating that other white school, Perry School, which was only a few blocks away. Our parents said, “No, we’re not going.” So we had a sit-in in January of 1962. This was organized by PTA mothers. They were inspired by the sit-ins in Greensboro and all throughout the south, at Woolworth’s lunch counters and whatever, in Nashville, Greensboro, all throughout the south. And so after they had the sit-in, the ministers came out in support and picketed the school. They inspired civil rights workers; they came out in support of the school. They inspired other schools to start picketing and boycotting and protesting against the overcrowded schools. The parents got arrested and they got thrown in jail. Once they got thrown in jail, the judge agreed with the parents, and said that the schools should be integrated. So the judge let them out. The parents filed suit against the school board. They lost the suit, so we had to transfer to that other school. Being involved in that sit-in when I was in seventh grade started a spark, you know, to make me politically aware. I knew that there was a struggle between us and the Board of Education, between us and the mayor. I knew it was a struggle between black folks and white folks, I knew we were being dis-

respected. I knew that we were being taken advantage of. It just made an impact on me, and I guess after that it fueled my interest to know a lot more about black history and about Chicago history, and also to be a part of the struggle of oppressed people. It was something that was very significant in my life, in my mother’s life. When I was preparing for the fiftieth anniversary of that, doing some research on it, I found it was the spark that led to the Civil Rights Movement in Chicago, because that was the first activist demonstration to desegregate Chicago Public Schools. And later on, in 1963 there was a citywide boycott where 250,000 blacks stayed out of school, and then eventually it led a couple years later to Martin Luther King Jr. coming into Chicago. When people talk about King in Chicago, they mainly talk about 1966, when he lived on the West Side and when he got rocks thrown at him in Gage Park. This was the year before, which nobody talks about. He visited a dozen different sites. One was at 85th and King Drive, which was called South Park at the time. And my mom took me there to see him. It was the only time I saw him… alive.

And it was very fulfilling to actually see him in person. I was thrilled that he was here to support us in the fight for education. And knowing that we were involved in the sit-in, and we were fighting for education. For Martin Luther King Jr., the largest figure in the movement, to come to Chicago to support us was really just awesome. It’s just hard to describe. And the park was just filled to capacity. Cars were like double-parked. We all got tickets for be-

ing double-parked and the SCLC [Southern Christian Leadership Conference] picked up all the tickets and paid for them. There were a couple things before then from which I got a taste of racism. For example, when I was eleven, we were playing baseball in an alley, and I did a headfirst slide and went into a piece of glass, and I cut my hand right there. [Shows hand. It is riddled with scars down to the base of his arm.] And I almost lost these four fingers. We were living on 93rd and Burnside, about a block north of where Chicago State University is. My mom and dad took me to the hospital, and we went up there and showed them my hand, and they said, “We don’t serve the n-word up here.” You know. So we had to leave there, drive from 95th and Cottage Grove to 111th and Michigan, to Roseland Hospital. That was an allwhite community. We went up to the ER and they took some gauze and wrapped it around

Side of Chicago. But once they did that, and white folks moved out, then all of a sudden city services stopped. More poor people came in, so those middle class blacks started leaving the South Side, going to the suburbs. It seems to be this large continuum of movement and economic decline once all the businesses moved out, because all up and down here on the South Side you had the steel mills, automotive manufacturing. I remember when I was a kid I went to get a job over on 22nd Street. I was working there about an hour and I asked the guy how much we made. When he told me how much we made, I went and quit after an hour. I got another job that afternoon! You could get jobs like crazy! All those jobs are gone now. So with the jobs being gone, that has affected the community tremendously. That affects people’s income, their housing, and their civil rights. In terms of the school system, you know,

“Even today they don’t teach black history in schools. And what they teach is very little. They teach ‘Martin had a dream’ and ‘Rosa didn’t wanna get off the bus.’ ” my hand two times. “We don’t serve niggers up in here.” So we had to leave there, drive all the way up to University of Chicago Hospital, where they did allow “negroes” [puts hands in quotation marks] to be served. And I was in emergency surgery for three hours. They had to go up and grab the tendons, bring them down and tie them together. I was in emergency surgery for three hours. I look at that scar every day and I think about racism in Chicago. Black folks have always wanted to work for improvement. They wanted better jobs, they wanted better education, they wanted to make more money, they wanted to have better homes, and they just wanted to move up on the ladder. That’s one of the reasons they started moving south: to have better homes. They used to have better homes on the South

the school system has never been right. We had a school in our neighborhood, and our parents fought for that school in our neighborhood. You don’t have that now. People who have economic power, who have intellectual capital, they send their kids out of the community. They go to the North Side, they go to the suburbs, they send their kids to magnet schools or private schools, and then in the neighborhood schools they have lower economic ability and lower educational ability, plus the parents have less political power, less intellectual capital. So they can’t really fight for their schools, you know. The people that should be fighting—they left. I had a neighbor who’s in fifth grade.

We used to play checkers all the time. He used to come by and he would bring his report card. I said, “Eddie, what happened

MAY 7, 2014 ¬ SOUTH SIDE WEEKLY 11


INTERVIEW with your report card?” He went, “Well, I flunked history.” I said, “Well Eddie, why’d you flunk history?” I asked why, he said, “They not talking about us, they talking about white folks.” He had internalized that at fifth grade. So he’s being turned off because the teachers had not used their creativity to include how he’s a part of history, and how his ancestors and community are a part of history. They’re just going through something, probably some textbooks that are like thirty years old, and are teaching something that’s very bland. On the other side of the spectrum, I had an ancestor who was a Buffalo soldier. I shared that with my cousin, and he shared it with his daughter. And she went to school, “My great-great grandfather was a Buffalo soldier!” And now she’s into genealogy! My work in genealogy is related in a sense because I’m teaching people how to find their ancestors, but I’m also teaching them black history. In order to find and be successful in tracing family history, you have to place your ancestors into a historical context. So you have to know that history – not only black history but American history. And

we just don’t have a strong foundation in that. Even today they don’t teach black history in schools. And what they teach is very little. They teach “Martin had a dream” and “Rosa didn’t wanna get off the bus.” You know! [Uproarious laughter] That’s about all they teach. Our ancestors were involved in history throughout. We might not have been president, we might not have been a colonel or general, but we were privates, we were corporals, we were bricklayers. And we played some kind of role in that. So what role did everybody else play? And what role did your ancestors play in that? When we came up in the sixties, we thought there was a problem of education. Particularly political education. We thought that certain people act certain ways because they don’t know any better. They’re uneducated. If you educate people as to what is right and what is wrong, what is historical, what is a historical fact, what is economic injustice, then people will understand that and they can turn around and they do things different. But when you have people that don’t analyze, and don’t think, and regurgitate what their leaders think, to me that says you can’t educate people. That’s a very scary situation. ¬

BY ISABEL OCHOA GOLD 12 SOUTH SIDE WEEKLY

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MAY 7, 2014 ¬ SOUTH SIDE WEEKLY 13


Wizard on Wheels An Uber driver and a lifelong Chicagoan talks shop AS TOLD TO JAKE BITTLE

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erlyn MacFarland is an Uber cab driver who lives in Kenwood on Drexel Avenue. Before that, he lived in Pilsen for a decade. At the start of our conversation, he gives me a six-page handwritten document he says he sent to Alderman Will Burns, which is full of grievances and suggestions regarding potholes, street infrastructure, and the City’s treatment of Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar drivers and vehicles. He served two tours of duty in Vietnam and has lived in Chicago most of his life. Scene: a table at Valois, where he sits kitty-corner to me and eats a Thanksgiving-style meal (peas, carrots, turkey, potatoes) while he talks. At 68, he walks with a cane and wears a beret; his Uber vehicle is a Chevy Sonic.

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told my state rep, to his face: don’t fuck with Uber. In a nice way. I said they provide jobs, they provide a service for people. We all drive our own cars. [Pauses to eat] I have to make sure I eat ‘cause I took my insulin, otherwise, boom, I’ll fall over. [Eats a carrot] There’s some beta-carotene there. That’s good. I take my car in once a month. It’s not even time to take it in, usually, but because of all the potholes I take it upon myself to take it to Roger Chevy. I want to make sure the rims aren’t dented. I want to make sure nothing’s broke, bent, messed with in any way, shape, or form. I go to the dealership. I don’t have to go to some bullshit city inspection guy and pay him. I go to Roger and get it done free, because it’s under warranty. It behooves me to take care of the vehicle. It’s my vehicle. I want it nice. [Talking to waiter] Hey, get him a water, too. You have to stay up pretty late for this job, and you sleep pretty late in the day. Well, I’m kind of a night owl anyway. I got crazy sleep patterns. I might end up sleeping during the day and deciding, “Oh, shit, I need some money, I gotta go do this. It’s ten o’clock, I gotta get going.” It depends on how I feel. If I feel good then I’ll drive. If I feel too tired, I won’t drive. I’m not gonna endanger myself or somebody else. I pay attention to how I feel. If I don’t feel right, I clock out and that’s it. I’ve worked night shifts and stuff before, it doesn’t seem to bother me. As a matter 14 SOUTH SIDE WEEKLY

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of fact, I prefer to have my route set up... [To a woman walking by in a graduation mortarboard] Congratulations, young lady! [To me] I haven’t worn one of those since, what, eighth grade? Yeesh.

home around seven in the morning. I started around 8pm, I think. I reached my goal. I put in the time. It worked out. But then, on the other hand, I put fifty dollars worth of gas in my vehicle. I’m basically running a business. We’re all independent in this. It can be dangerous, sometimes, late at night, if I go out to, say, Garfield Park. I get an address, I go out there, there’s no building at that address. I say, “Wait a minute, why am I here, am I being set up?” I cruise around, I don’t stay in one spot once I realize a situation. Another time, I ended up behind a moving company. I said, “A moving company? What the hell? There’s nothing here.” In the wee hours of the morning I got an address on North Green or whatever the hell it was, and the problem was—no, it was Peoria, that’s what it was—there was no business there. I call the customer, which I can do. I hit

“Young people, I hate to say it, but these phones are like an appendage. They got two arms, two legs, and a phone. It grew out of their arm, or their hands, or their ass or something.”

How late did you stay out last night? I kind of pushed the envelope last night, but that was to make up for time when I should have driven. My last call was, hm, well, I got

the name and, boom, I’m connected. This guy was smashed drunk, slurring his words. I couldn’t understand what he was saying, I couldn’t hear what was going on. But he’s too

blasted, and his friends are all laughing in the background of course, it’s noisy as hell. He could’ve been in any number of places around that area. Bottom line was, I had the wrong address. So I cancelled the ride. I’m not going to sit around in a place that’s desolate. That’s asking for trouble. I’ve been around on the West Side, the only white guy in a black neighborhood, and there’s these guys riding around on bikes, checking me out. It didn’t bother me though. Eventually the girl came out, she explained to them. I had my Uber signs on in the car, front and back. She explained what Uber was. She was waiting for me for a ride. They didn’t bother me. She hopped in the car and we took off. I’ll go anywhere, no matter what neighborhood. I don’t want to discriminate against people. What were you doing before Uber? Um, just working around the building where I lived. For three years I’ve been in Hyde Park. I study a lot. Buy and sell a little bit, like I go with a friend to Rosemont, where they have the big open-air bazaars, and make a few bucks that way. Prior to my retirement I had my own floor refinishing business. Before that I lived in Pilsen. When I lived there I was actively engaged in selling at the market, the Maxwell Street Market. I sold there ever since the original market, for like twenty years total. That sort of thing. That was fun, it was interesting. Killer hours though. I’d have to wake up at three in the morning, because you had to get to the site, you had to get there early to get a spot. I’d be really tired at the end of the day. In the winter, really cold. In the summer...you know, heat. But it’s all part of the job. I’ve got a good sense of that area, Maxwell Street, the river, the whole thing. You’ve lived in Chicago your whole life? Damn near, except for a little while in upstate New York. The only times I wasn’t here was


CHAT

You know, I’ve only run into a few really rude customers, out of all of them. One guy, he decided he didn’t like that I had such a small car. Now I have some paper towels in the back, in case someone has the sniffles. It was winter time, mind you. Maybe someone needs to clean their eyeglasses. This guy took my roll of paper towels, and a couple of other things, and he threw it out of the car. It was before we even left. He said, “You have too much shit in the car!” I figured this guy’s got some nerve, doing this. I got out, I got the stuff, and I said, “Hey, this stuff’s for you to use! Sorry there’s not so much room in here.” Another guy, I had to go on a one-way street to get to his house, and he cancelled me, because I was going north, and he was south. I’m on a one-way street, what the fuck do you expect? You want me to drive backwards to get to your house, you dickhead? And then I

Do you think that, with new phones and all this new technology, the world is improving? Or is it getting worse?

you have diagnostics you can run on cars. A lot of positive stuff. All I have to do is hit the OnStar button and I have a diagnostic check on all aspects of my car in twenty seconds. But I don’t like the fact that I can shut my cell phone off and the government can know where I’m at. It’s none of their business. I could be in the Jacuzzi with grandma. [Laughs] Hey grandma, don’t drown! Make sure you get your duck on the way out! But I guess that’s the way mankind has always been, you know. You invent the bow and arrow, you can use it to hunt, but then you could use it to kill people. So that’s kind of a tough call. But that’s the way life is, and that’s the way all this [technology] is. ¬

TOREM

Oh, tough one. Well, I’d say in some ways, for the worse. I look at all the crime that’s been committed using computers and stuff, all the

hacking, identity theft, that’s one thing., the fact that people can use a cell phone for good purpose, but also to create hassles for us Uber drivers. You could think of it on that level. I think the dial, handle, whatever, it’s over more to the negative. There’s just so much abuse. Even the government, the police, they use high-tech stuff to spy on people. Can’t even walk down the street, can’t even talk on a cell phone, and have things confidential between you and friends, or your business, or your banking transactions. The government is privy to all that crap. I would say it leans to the negative just a little bit, is how I see it. It’s a shame. But on the other hand, you look at a lot of high techstuff, you have MRI machines,

ALLIE

Do you find most customers to be considerate, or inconsiderate?

call them, and it’s, “Oh, this is Francine, I’m sorry I can’t get to the phone.” What, what are you doing, are you drinking, are you getting fucked, what? You never get off the phone. Young people, I hate to say it, but these phones are like an appendage. They got two arms, two legs, and a phone. It grew out of their arm, or their hands, or their ass or something. They can’t shut the son of a bitch off.

BY

when I was in the service. That was in 1964, I was eighteen. I’m giving away my age. Well, I can’t lie about that anyway, I look old as hell. In 1964 I went in, and in sixty-five and sixty-six I did two tours of Vietnam. About all my life here, yeah. What I said about the graduation cap: I didn’t have a chance to graduate high school. [Laughs] I think I lost some time moving around, and so on, and I was also kind of a slow learner, so I had to learn slow reading, sucked at math, couldn’t keep my mind on things. They told me, “Oh, you’re a scatterbrain!” But, despite all that, I made it through just short of graduating. As soon as I hit eighteen, I signed up for the military, and I was gone. February 7 I was eighteen, and February 11 I was in the army. Everybody in our family served. Everybody. My older brother, the eldest in my family, did top secret work for the government. He was a chemical engineer, so I can only assume they had him on defense, because those were the Cold War years. All of us kids, even in grade school, we had a sense of nationalism. No one fucks with our country, all these little kids saying that. We were very patriotic people. For me, being in the service was a good thing. I felt like I had to prevent communism from spreading, because it could go all over. In my young mind, it wasn’t a good thing, so I figured, screw the communists, let’s go over there and kick their ass, But I didn’t realize the full scope of what was going on in Vietnam, all the details and all that bullshit. But yeah, now I’m here, driving. Been doing it a couple months now. I like it, I do, yeah. Better than sitting around.

allison torem

MAY 7, 2014 ¬ SOUTH SIDE WEEKLY 15


CONVERSATION

Giving Life to Comics Lyra Hill talks comics, film, and Japanese a capella AS TOLD TO SARAH CLAYPOOLE

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f irst encountered Lyra Hill as the impassioned, excitable auctioneer at a fundraiser for the Chicago Alternative Comics Expo. A recent graduate of the School of the Art Institute, Hill is now a projectionist at the Gene Siskel Film center, co-lead artist for the Museum of Contemporary Art’s Teen Creative Agency program, and founder and organizer of comics performance event Brain Frame, which will end on its third year anniversary in August. She is as enthusiastic and captivating in one-on-one conversation as her regular host duties imply.

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didn’t know what I was doing when I started Brain Frame; I really had no plan, and it was supposed to just be a single show. I was just setting up one show, and a friend was coming to town and said, “Will you set up a comics reading for me?” I said sure, but the comics readings that I had been familiar with were pretty dry: PowerPoint-style presentation, reading along, which I’ve always thought actually detracts from the medium because it’s an awkward combination of image and text. If the performer is compelling, that’s great, you get that kind of insight into their personality and presence. But if not—and most cartoonists are not that compelling on their own as performers—then it’s a little bit of a thing you have to suffer through, whereas reading a comic is a totally independent, enriching experience where you can explore the layout of the page, the composition of the story as a whole and the pacing of the narrative arc on your own. You can take in all of these different aspects that a straight-up comics reading makes null. So, in the first Brain Frame, the one goal that I had was to make sure it was really weird; I was going for this kind of startling discomfort or unpredictability from the very start. I invited the friends of mine I knew had some kind of performance background or who were just really weird, compelling people, and told them they could do whatever they wanted. And that show was so successful that it was insisted upon that it needed to become a series. And I said, “Maybe it’ll become a series.” 16 SOUTH SIDE WEEKLY

The people whose house we were at, I heard them later that night telling everyone else that it was already decided. So it kind of moved beyond me really quickly. The first priority in curating any specific show is finding a range of performers. The contrast is really important. I always want to have a slower, more personal story; often that takes the shape of a straight-up autobiographic comic reading. Then there has to be somebody who is really funny, somebody who is totally bizarre. Other

narrative built into them, there’s a timebased way of looking through the pages or watching the duration of a film. And within that you can do such experimental, avant-garde, totally abstract things, and mess with the timing. You can mess with the back-and-forth. The experience of reading a comic and watching a film are very different, but the methods by which that flow is achieved can be similar. And so when I have ideas, sometimes they go back and forth for me between being in a comic and being in a film. There are other things for me that are tied together—like I have this series of mini-comics that I’ve been making called Possession Scenes that are each just one page folded into an eight-page booklet. There’s one frame per page and so there’s seven pages total, and I just draw the stills. Seven stills from the scene. I’ve always been interested in possession, in much of my work and my life. And the movie that I’m finishing now has a possession scene in it, so this became a way to

“In the first Brain Frame, the one goal that I had was to make sure it was really weird; I was going for this kind of startling discomfort or unpredictability from the very start.”

things I like to throw in are people who just do intense performance stuff. I’m interested also in people who have very strange approaches to narrative, or approaches to non-narrative, that maybe don’t have any through-line that somebody can logically grasp onto. It’s really important to me that something like that happens in every show. I’m attracted to narrative mediums, like comics and film, because there’s this

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make more comics, and also to study the aesthetics of possession in films. Do you ever have to sacrifice the pursuit of being a creator in order to curate, or vice versa? Yes, but that’s more of a logistical issue. The way that I really struggle with both of those is in time management. It’s coming

to a head in my life as of late because I’m doing too many things and I don’t have time to make. I’m working on a new comic now and I performed a new piece at the second anniversary show, but since then I haven’t had time to make anything, any new comics, let alone make a new performance. It’s eating at me because as wonderful as it is to enact the role of MC, or run the auction, it’s different. It’s a curator position as opposed to an expression of my own art and self. On the other hand, my role as a curator is intrinsic to my role as a creator. Collaboration is such an important part of my process, and has become more and more so since I started Brain Frame. I used to be really bad at collaborating, because I’m a perfectionist and super-neurotic and controlling in artwork. And then when I started Brain Frame, I had to learn how to step back and let other people blossom and listen to their ideas and take them seriously, incorporating them into my own work. Every Brain Frame poster is a collaboration between myself and another artist, so that’s a really literal kind of art collaboration-creation. In the show, it’s always inspiring for me to work with the performers. My favorite part of running Brain Frame now, since I’m no longer actually performing, is having meetings with people before the show. I visit and meet with every single person who is going to read, and we sit down and have a conversation about what it is they’re going to do and why and how it’s going to look and how they want it to feel, the very specific technical details of that pursuit as well as the kind of emotional arc of their performance and how they’re feeling about the show in general. It often turns into a therapeutic kind of meeting, but that’s really good for me too. A lot of the people I work with are really nervous—they’re not professionals—and it’s so important to me to really know how people are approaching the work, and approaching the opportunity to be on stage, because it’s become such a unique environment that I have a hard time comparing it


VISUAL ART to any other show, which is exciting on its own, very flattering, but—it’s a weird art realm. It’s a beautiful world of possibility. As exhausting as it is to run the show, and as frustrating as it is to not be able to work right now, it’s constantly inspiring and a brilliant opportunity to help other people find that in themselves and in their own work, and it often leads to more creative work for myself. In Brooklyn last Friday I did a Brooklyn Brain Frame, and one of the performers had this crazy project involving a video where people were singing this old Japanese children’s theme song. She asked me if I’d be a part of the video, which meant that I had to memorize two verses in Japanese—I don’t speak Japanese—and sing it a capella into a video camera, to then be projected at the show. And that’s a position that I never expected to be in, but it was awesome. The song was great, it got stuck in my head, and it felt really good to challenge myself in that way. To challenge someone else then be challenged in return is very rewarding. The Brain Frame community exists outside of Brain Frame events—it always has. There are people who go to school with one another, who are friends and get together for drawing nights, et cetera.

I belong to a cartoonist’s collective called Trubble Club and we do group comics; Trubble Club has performed as a group at Brain Frame several times. Brain Frame has been ridiculously successful at promoting and expanding that community because it’s so fun, because so many different people work together for the show. And because I actively seek to incorporate artists of different media in the show—so I’ll seek out new media artists, animators, musicians, puppeteers, all of these people I try to bring in to Brain Frame because I see that their work has some kind of connection to sequential art or image—the various elements of the comics medium as I see it. And once I do that, I see people make these kinds of friendships, I put a lot of people together. Often, people will ask if I know someone who has a projector they can borrow, or if I know someone who will help them make a soundtrack for their comic, and so I spend a lot of time connecting people. I see those connections flourish and expand, and in a big sense, that’s what Brain Frame has been doing with or without my active emailing—it’s like all flowering and mushrooming all the time, and that’s really wonderful, and I have no fear that it will die when the show ends. ¬

Girl’s Night In Chicago women’s art collective Artemisia comes together one more time BY NOAH KAHRS

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en years after the end of its thirty-year reign, the Chicago women’s art collective Artemisia Gallery presented its legacy of artworks by sixty female members at the Bridgeport Art Center in the exhibition “Artemisia after 40.” The opening felt like a reunion: I saw a name scrawled on a name-tag peeling from a sweater, heard that name called out in between hugs, and then read the same name again on placards labeling artworks. These artworks seemed to be part of a kind of reunion as well. Walking in, between the artists constantly calling to old friends across the room, one sees three pieces hung by three artists spanning over twenty-four years. Kathy Lehar’s 1990 untitled sculpture, a cast-bronze pyramid, emerges from the wall. It hangs adjacent to Leah Oates’s 2008-2009 color photograph and traditional print, “Transitory Space Beijing China 3,” and Susan Sensemann’s 2014 abstract painting, “The Heart Must Pause to Breathe.” The three pieces, though incongruous in style, do not clash. They share a similar sort of radiance. Holding the exhibition together with its distinct presence was Mary Ellen Croteau’s “Endless Columns,” which consisted of several floor-to-ceiling columns made of bottle caps and jar lids, mirroring the room’s own structural columns. First to think of the exhibition was Fern Shaffer, who served as Artemisia president for thirteen years, and who contributed an arrangement of nine small paintings of ginkgo leaves, aptly titled “Gingko Leaves.” “Artemisia closed very

quietly,” she professed, “but it should have been a big party!” To give the collective the party it deserved, Shaffer sent out emails to as many former members as she could for its forty-year anniversary, and received numbers of enthusiastic responses. However, Shaffer was unwilling to serve as curator, because “as members, we’re all equal.” Lelde Kalmite, Bridgeport Art Center curator, was particularly enthusiastic about promoting the legacy of Chicago’s first feminine and feminist art gallery, and offered the Bridgeport Art Center as the exhibition’s home, where she “treats the artworks as the raw materials for the big artwork: the show.” Immersed in the enthusiasm of the other former members of Artemisia, Shaffer retained a positive view of Artemisia’s legacy. When asked whether the show seemed to be forty years after the gallery’s opening or ten years after its closing, she emphatically declared, “This is absolutely forty years after the opening. Time moves on.” Even after galleries close, “people can’t stop making art.” As she spoke, Shaffer often paused for moments to hug women who walked by, all former members of the collective. “I still have a lot of friends from my time there, but it’s not like we have meetings every Tuesday, so it does feel like a reunion.” The flyer advertising the show’s closing reception on June 13 describes a panel on “carrying Artemisia into the present.” Artemisia may not have meetings every Tuesday, but the collective’s legacy lingers, almost making such a panel redundant. ¬

MAY 7, 2014 ¬ SOUTH SIDE WEEKLY 17


PROFILE

Enyia vs. Shaw vs. Emanuel Two challengers enter next year’s mayoral race BY CHRISTIAN BELANGER

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pon hearing the first official candidacies for the post of mayor, Rahm Emanuel responded, at a news conference: “There will be a campaign season. We’re in the governing season. And the best way to get ready for the campaign season is to do your job during the governing season.” Was this the relaxed, unhurried talk of a lifelong fundraiser who knows that the $6.2 million that currently sit in his campaign war chest can easily be increased if it becomes necessary? Or was it the slightly worried exhortation of a mildly unpopular mayor who knows that he needs more time to enact policies that will aid him in his reelection? Either way, his advice did little to deter either Amara Enyia or Robert Shaw—the former a burgeoning community organizer and activist, the latter a former city councilman who has (sometimes unwillingly) been on the sidelines of Chicago politics for the last decade—from announcing their campaigns to unseat Mayor Emanuel in the election on February 25, 2015, though concerns about their viability as challengers remain. In an appearance at Give Me Some Sugah, a South Shore bakery, Amara Enyia looked every bit as intelligently formidable in real life as she does online, where she blogs and tweets under the name Municipal Maven. Enyia’s whip-smart posts are filled with the type of data-driven analysis that one might expect from a graduate department rather than a mayoral campaign. Unsurprisingly, Enyia holds a PhD in education policy, as well as a law de18 SOUTH SIDE WEEKLY

gree, both from the University of Illinois. Yet her interest in community organizing took her out of the political arena after a couple of years in Mayor Daley’s office. She chose instead to found ACE Municipal Partners, a consulting firm specializing in local government. Enyia has also worked with a couple of non-profits aimed at crime prevention and rehabilitation. At the event, she opened by lightly referring to herself as “the crazy black woman who wants to challenge Rahm Emanuel.” Quickly, though, she launched into a smooth series of talking points, including the inspiring story of her parents, Nigerian immigrants who fought against dictatorship in their home country before moving to Chicago, where they still faced harassment from Nigerian government supporters. She had clearly rehearsed her lines well, recycling several of them from a brief interview she gave before the talk. As for the issues, she opposes a “dual-enrollment education system,” and calls instead for an elected school board and well-funded public neighborhood schools as a means of fighting both crime and poverty. Additionally, she wants to close corporate tax loopholes and create a financial transaction tax. More broadly, Enyia sees her candidacy as an attempt to create a voice for the thousands of perennially underrepresented people on the city’s South and West Sides, many of whom feel betrayed by Emanuel’s stances on some of the most controversial issues of his tenure, including charter schools and

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zach goldhammer


MUSIC health clinic closings. Enyia, who can hardly outspend the mayor on advertising, outlined a general plan for creating an effective grassroots campaign to listen to and connect with potential voters within every single neighborhood, though it sounded more optimistic than tangible. Fundamentally, this may prove to be Enyia’s main problem: despite her qualifications and passion, she is banking on the activist inclinations of an electorate she herself describes as filled with “cynicism and apathy,” an attitude that may be easy to adopt when giving a talk to an audience composed mostly of sympathetic community organizations (over half the people there seemed to be eagerly distributing business cards to anyone available). But in the long run that probably doesn’t translate into a feasible campaign strategy. Nevertheless, her pointed criticism and thoroughly professional, policy-driven platform should do much to win her support among informed voters. Perhaps the most immediately notable aspect of Robert Shaw, the other significant candidate who has declared for mayor, is his almost complete lack of an Internet presence, especially when compared to Enyia. He claims that he has both a Facebook page and personal website, but they are impossible to find for all but the most dedicated sleuths (though, for anyone interested, there is a Robert Shaw running for mayor of Porirua City, “the greatest middle-sized city in New Zealand!”). He maintains, though, that he will be ramping up his online persona within the next couple of months, noting, “You have to move with the times.” In person, however, he is talkative, willing to take time away from his weekly Saturday lunch with a group of local ministers to outline his plan for governance, which appears to be mostly based on a principle of “fairness.” Shaw, at age seventy-seven, has been in politics since he was seventeen, when he started out as a local ward captain on the West Side. For the last ten years, though, he has been on the outside looking in, as he lost a bid for mayor of South Holland in 2005 after two terms on the Cook County Board. Prior to that, he was the 9th Ward alderman, though he briefly lost his seat after supporting Jane Byrne for mayor instead of Harold Washington, in what he calls his “one mistake.” (Though he

doesn’t mention if it was a mistake of politics or principles, as he quickly aligned himself with Washington, and just as quickly won reelection.) Much like Enyia, he is undaunted by Emanuel’s money, replying that he’s “yet to see a dollar bill in the voting booth,” and citing his eighty percent name recognition among African Americans as proof that he doesn’t really need money for publicity, because most people already know who he is. Much of Shaw’s platform is similar to Enyia’s. He cites Emanuel’s opposition to unions as a particularly egregious example of an attitude foreign to Chicago and he, too, would like to see an elected school board, as well as an overhaul of the parking meter contracts. His policies seem designed to generate broad goodwill. For example, one of his proposed crime-reduction programs would involve informal gatherings of people from every section of the city, such as mothers and fathers who have reared their children successfully, to simply interact. While the sentiment is admirable, it doesn’t really inspire much confidence in Shaw’s ability to seriously analyze crime in the city; as he vaguely insists, he’ll “have to take a look” at the Chicago Police Department. Nevertheless, Shaw exudes a certain calm—or perhaps apathy—and speaks in a slow, deliberate voice that shows he still knows how to put on a proper political persona, even if he does give the impression, at times, of a political machine whose gears are slowly grinding to a halt. In the end, however, the winner of these early campaigns could be Emanuel, who will sit back and let these two candidates split an African-American vote that, in all likelihood, will not plump for Rahm nearly as enthusiastically as they did in 2011. At the same time, there is speculation that Shaw’s support will last only until a more serious African-American candidate, like Cook County Board President Tony Preckwinkle, enters the race. Ultimately, neither Enyia nor Shaw seem to have much of a chance at winning this mayoral election, but their campaigns could still prove very telling as a sort of referendum on their diverging political stocks—Enyia’s seemingly rising, Shaw’s seemingly falling—as well as an indicator of exactly how tired Chicagoans are of old-school city politics. ¬

Chance the Younger Taylor Bennett follows in his older brother’s footsteps BY JACK NUELLE

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porting a name wildly familiar in the recent Chicago hip-hop scene, Taylor Bennett, young brother of wunderkind Chancelor Bennett—aka Chance the Rapper—is making his own name as Chicago hip-hop’s next big thing. His ascent has been slightly slower than his brother’s, sure, but Taylor’s sophomore mixtape, Mainstream Music, has gotten coverage in Spin magazine as well as Chicago-based hip-hop blog Fake Shore Drive. Born and raised in Chatham, Bennett—eighteen and a senior at Jones College Prep—seems to be hitting all of the same benchmarks his brother did. Elite prep school? Check. Collaborations with a slew of Chicago musicians? Check. Raspy, sing-song flow? Check. But Bennett isn’t the same man as his brother, and this is ultimately both a good and bad thing for his music. It’s good because it’s refreshing to hear a young artist, one inevitably under severe pressure to perform at the same high level and with the same degree of success as his older brother, produce something mostly unique. Bennett is a talented rapper. He has a great knack for switching, on a dime, between a languorous drawl and rapid-fire delivery, and he manages to cram a bushel of lyrics into each verse. Hyper-literate flow seems to run in the family; highlights such as “New Chevy,” “Take Me to the Moon,” and “Hope” showcase this. The mixtape itself, coming on the heels of his first mixtape, The Taylor Bennett Show in late 2013, is, like its title, concerned with music in the contemporary landscape. This is a huge undertaking, and Bennett seems to not really take it that seriously. It’s discussed once, on “Hope,” where Bennett declares, “That’s why I like mainstream music, it don’t make sense.” That’s

really it though, and the rest of the album is concerned with less specific causes, including one strange moment toward the end. Penultimate track “Crème Brulee,” featuring Lil Herb, features lyrics explicitly referencing guns. Taylor’s glorifying verse lacks the sort of emotion and nuance that Chance brings to his hook on “Paranoia,” which connects the act of carrying arms to feelings of fear and confusion. This is part of the reason that conflating Bennett with Chance is a problem. In Bennett’s music, he inevitably is going to be compared to his brother. When he isn’t as successful, it stings that much more. There are good tracks on Mainstream Music, but it isn’t Acid Rap. It isn’t tight and seamless from start to finish. On Acid Rap, the guest producers were woven into the tracks, and the contributors felt natural. On Mainstream Music that isn’t the case. Maybe it’s the annoying calling card of producer Saint the Goodboy, his name echoed repeatedly in a child’s whine, humming out at the beginning of every song he produced. Maybe it’s that Bennett is rapping about clubs and girls in a far more overt way than his brother did. Whatever it is, it feels rote and compiled, not unitary and creative. This of course raises the question: would Bennett be praised if he wasn’t Chance’s brother? Probably. He’s got chops. But he’s standing in too large a shadow to really be critiqued objectively. Vocally, he sounds like Chance. And while this could be simple genetics, in the end the reason doesn’t matter. The influence of Chance is everywhere on the album, regardless of how Bennett channels it. Whatever he does, he will always be weighed against his brother, and that’s a tough scale to balance. ¬

MAY 7, 2014 ¬ SOUTH SIDE WEEKLY 19


VISUAL ART

Radio Free Pilsen

“Perverted Living” at FLAT turns insides upside down BY KATRYCE LASSLE

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ow frequently do you allow others into your private spaces? How often do you invade the private spaces of others? We know, or at least we assume, that we think our most private thoughts and do our most intimate (even perverse) things in those spaces. What happens when the boundary is blurred? “Perverted Living,” the second exhibition for recently opened FLAT Space, questions this boundary between public and private. Featuring works by School of the Art Institute MFA students Stevie Hanley and Jacob Raeder, the show approaches perversion from multiple directions, in ways that satisfy all the senses. Curator and project manager at FLAT George William Price has committed himself to an experiment based on, and occurring in, his own living space. Hidden away a few blocks north of Cermak and a stone’s throw from the Dan Ryan, the apartment keeps its distance from the main artery of Pilsen’s gallery network. The space, a garden apartment with white walls and high ceilings, does not—indeed, it probably could not—hide the fact that it is a home. Wrought iron stairs lead to a loft area with a mattress; shelves of glassware and cooking miscellany populate the small kitchen area underneath the loft. “An apartment gallery is nothing new,” says Price, “but it’s what you do with it.” FLAT Space’s “Perverted Living” does not simply exist as art in a space made for art. The show draws attention to the living space itself; the art becomes furniture and décor, and vice versa. The opening night of “Perverted Living” is very much an apartment party. Beer sits in a tub of ice in the backyard, where smokers are smoking and a small handmade radio plays sound and static from its perch on a ladder. Everyone seems to know everyone else; most visitors are SAIC students or affiliates. Inside, artist Jacob Raeder is baking bread. On a counter next to the fridge is a small PB&J-making station and another handmade radio, this one made of bread; a third radio is displayed near the space’s entrance. A final radio, also made of bread, is in the bathroom. These four radios are Raeder’s work. Of the bathroom radio in particular he says, “There’s actually a scene in the movie Gummo, [which] I found to be disturbing in an unexpected way, of eating spaghetti in a bathtub. He’s taking a bath and his mom brings him 20 SOUTH SIDE WEEKLY

¬ MAY 7, 2014

spaghetti. That stuck out as exceptionally gross and exceptionally disturbing…the idea of food in the bathroom.” This bread radio is “more of a prototype,” but its presence is as disconcerting as it could be. Near the entrance of the apartment is Raeder’s other contribution to “Perverted Living:” two chairs around a coffee table stacked with paint-splattered Playboys, the chairs facing a small television on the opposite wall. Onscreen is a close-up of a penis slowly and deliberately penetrating a turning cylinder of clay. Described by Raeder as an “overtly sensual rather than overtly sexual” experience, the looping video is hypnotizing in a wholly non-erotic way. It satisfies not only voyeuristic curiosities but aesthetic ones; it is plainly pleasing to look at. This video, along with his radios, demonstrates Raeder’s interest in using art to appeal to multiple senses. “Same as the bread being baked that you’re smelling; sound, distorted, coming out of the radios; the video piece is kind of a tacit acknowledgement or nod to an ocular experience of the world,” he explains. Up in the loft, guests are crouching and sitting cross-legged, chatting next to a stripped mattress. The contents of a large Jell-O mold are strewn across the bed, and dozens of Jell-O shots in paper cups surround the mess. Those sitting closest to the bed are more than happy to grab a handful of shots and pass them to those on the farther end of the loft space. This “Jell-O Banquet” is the work of Stevie Hanley, who is especially focused on the animal byproducts that are used to make Jell-O. “It’s these happy chroma colors that sort of stand for…normative Americana, wholesome families. But at the same time it represents the last stages of industrial slaughter.” The scattered Jell-O mess screams gluttony, a whimsical jab at consumer culture. The piece, intended only for display during the opening night of “Perverted Living,” is presented on Price’s own bed. In the apartment’s main area Hanley’s other, larger piece stretches diagonally between two bedframes, one mounted on a window and the other on a support beam. Clotheslines run between the frames, and the lines are hung with paintings, fabric, scraps of mattress foam, a clown wig, and other objects. Hanley cites his interest in anthropologist Mary Douglas as part of the moti-

vation behind his work: “She says that dirt is nothing more than matter out of place. That has been a huge working impetus for me.” This piece, in part because of its nature as a collage, is perhaps the least cohesive in the show; its size and structure make it dizzying and nearly impossible to fully absorb, and its contents hang static, uninterested in engaging with one another. A sense of pervasion, rather than one of overt perversion, threads the works of “Perverted Living” together. Hanley’s bedframe collage looms large and disorienting; over the din of chatter one can sometimes hear

the crackle of one of Raeder’s radios; above all floats the scent of fresh-baked bread. The context and the crowd define the space as a gallery, and it is difficult to imagine the apartment empty, quiet, in daylight. This versatility and complexity is crucial, though, to both the space and the show. Without perversions there are hardly changes; without changes we are static. ¬ FLAT Space, 2023 S. Ruble St. Through June 1. Saturday-Sunday, 1-4; by appointment. (312)647-6286. f latspacechicago.com


ARTS CALENDAR VISUAL ARTS Continuum

Prospectus, an art gallery in Pilsen that chiefly features Latin American art, will be displaying a collection of works by artist Ginny Sykes, created from 1993 to 2013. Sykes’s approach to art is multifaceted: she makes collections of abstract paintings that are tied together by common color schemes, public murals and mosaics, and even an outdoor sand installation called “Healing Grounds.” Prospectus will curate a selection of her work, in what is sure to be a vibrant and varied show. Prospectus Art Gallery, 1210 W. 18th St. Opening reception Friday, May 9, 5pm-10pm. May 9-June 27. Wednesday-Sunday, noon-5pm; Monday-Tuesday by appointment. prospectusartgallery.wordpress.com (Emma Collins)

Things Forgotten...Remembered Treasures hide all around us: in a shoebox beneath a childhood bed, in an attic’s dusty corner, in the pocket of a long-neglected coat. We often forget these mementos, leaving them to the company of mothballs and renegade socks. Joe Milosevich, however, in his exhibit “Things Forgotten...Remembered” at 33 Contemporary Gallery, unearths these tokens of bygone days by constructing elaborate sculptural assemblages that incorporate everything from plastic-barreled monkeys to discarded cuckoo clocks. He marries the kitsch with the surreal, and in so doing creates art that is both powerfully nostalgic and visually enthralling. Come to reminisce, to remember, or at least to assuage your guilt about that lonely teddy bear you lost somewhere along the way. 33 Contemporary Gallery, 1029 W. 35th St, First floor. Through May 10. Monday-Saturday, 10am-5pm; also by appointment. Free. (708)837-4534. 33collective.com (Emma Collins)

Fixation Combining traditional wall-hangs with prints and digital media, the new exhibition “Fixation” going up at the Zhou B Art Center hopes to hone in on

those (titular) titillations in our lives. Curators Sergio Gomez and Didi Menendez have tracked down twenty-four artists and seventeen poets to contribute to their obsessive project. “Fixation” intends to creep into each artist’s personal preoccupations. It seeks to tease out the ineradicable ideas and clingy concepts driving these artists to the canvas, pushing them to the paper. Resist the urge to suppress those elusive longings. Act on this blurb’s suggestion. Zhou B Art Center, 1029 W. 35th St. Second floor gallery. Through May 11. Monday-Saturday, 10am5pm. (773)523-0200. zhoubartcenter.com (Stephen Urchick)

The Art of Influence This fine art exhibition has been curated to feature works of art that—subtly, rather than blatantly— allude to criminal acts that often are accepted and go unpunished around the world, including “honor killing, child marriage, acid attacks, bride burning and more.” Immortalized in artwork, these acts— and the surprising absence of consequences for those who commit them—speak volumes. “The Art of Influence: Breaking Criminal Tradition” promises to amplify the content and spark discourse about the perversion and pervasiveness of unpunished crimes. Beverly Art Center, 2407 W. 111th St. Through May 18. Monday-Friday, 9am-9pm; Saturday, 9am5pm; Sunday, 1pm-4pm. (773)445-3838. beverlyartcenter.org (Katryce Lassle)

Shovel, Spoon, and Braid

What happens when a trio of artists relocates to a rural valley in central Wisconsin? An upcoming show at ACRE, “Shovel, Spoon, and Braid,” answers this question, and explores themes of sustainable living in intentional communities and coexistence with natural environments. Artists Adam Wolpa, Josh Hoeks, and Charlotte Wolf are collaborating for the show: Wolpa and Hoeks will be displaying visual evidence of their radical lifestyle change, including carved wooden spoons and diagrams for rural construction projects, and

Wolf will be showcasing her photography, which documents the relationships of women to natural environments. ACRE Projects, 1913 W. 17th St. Opening reception Sunday, May 18, 4pm-8pm. May 18-June 9. Sunday-Monday, noon-4pm. acreresidency. org (Emma Collins)

Model Pictures Artist Ross Sawyers built and subsequently photographed scale replicas of unfinished model homes, (in)complete with holes in the walls and plastic in the windows. The photographs presented in “Model Pictures,” his first major Chicago solo show, highlight current housing and economic crises by way of images of these unfinished and empty new houses. Haunting and uncanny, the model–model homes bridge the surreal and the (unfortunately) real. Unlike life-sized abandoned model homes, though, Sawyer’s models are swiftly destroyed after their insides are documented. Hyde Park Art Center, 5020 S. Cornell Ave. Through June 13. Monday-Thursday, 9am-8pm; Friday-Saturday, 9am-5pm; Sunday, noon5pm. (773)324-5520. hydeparkart.org (Katryce Lassle)

Imaging/Imagining One of three parts of the UofC’s “Imaging/Imagining” exhibition, the Smart Museum presents “Imaging/Imagining: The Body as Art.” Curated by UofC physicians, the exhibition explores anatomical representations as art. Selections from a wide range of places and times come together in an exploration of anatomical accuracy and artistic imagination. Parts two and three are the Regenstein Library’s Special Collections show, “Imaging/Imagining: The Body as Text,” and Crerar Library’s show, “Imaging/Imagining: The Body as Data.” Smart Museum of Art, 5550 S. Greenwood Ave. Through June 22. Tuesday-Wednesday, 10am-5pm; Thursday, 10am8pm; Friday-Sunday, 10am-5pm. (773)702-0200. smartmuseum.uchicago.edu (Katryce Lassle)

Round Trip Ticket Ugly Step Sister Art Gallery presents a two-part exhibition featuring works by Kieran McGonnell. McGonnell’s work has taken the art world by storm, gaining an underground following in Chicago, New York, Ireland, and the further reaches of the galaxy. Three years ago, the artist’s life was cut tragically short. Ugly Step Sister Art Gallery has curated a three-month-long retrospective of the late artist’s works: the current installment features his early paintings, while the next will showcase his later and more widely known works. “Round Trip Ticket” highlights McGonnell’s signature use of serious subjects, oil and watercolor, and vibrant use of color, in an attempt to preserve his legacy. See review on page 19. Ugly Step Sister Art Gallery. 1750 S. Union Ave. Through July 6. Saturday-Sunday, noon-6pm. Other hours by appointment. Second installment opening reception Friday, May 9, 6pm-10pm. (312)9277546. uglystepsisterartgallery.com (Mark Hassenfratz)

speculationscapes During May and June, Jekyll&Hyde in Hyde Park will host “speculationscapes,” a group show focused on critical inquiry about the world in which we live. The exhibition will explore landscape, seascape, and cityscape as the media for intellectual scrutiny by bringing together the architectural expertise and creative vision of a talented group of artists. “speculationscapes” inquires about the role of high-density human impact, relationships between machines and their makers, and light events such as the existence of widespread laser beams in landscapes. Featured pieces will include dark spaces paired with food coloring and leafless flowering stems. “speculationscapes” promises to deliver a unique and speculative approach to the surroundings we inhabit. Jekyll&Hyde, 1227 E. 54th St. May 10 through June 7. Opening reception May 10, 5-7pm. Gallery open by appointment. (773)691-9541. jekyllhydepark.tumblr. com (Arda Sener)

MAY 7, 2014 ¬ SOUTH SIDE WEEKLY 21


ARTS CALENDAR STAGE & SCREEN Medium Cool

It may be nearly impossible to single out the most important political event of 1968, but the Chicago Democratic Convention has left a distinct historical mark. Medium Cool documents the Convention from street level. Inspired by the style of Studs Terkel’s Division Street, the film sets out to involve everyday Chicagoans in the unfolding action, from the most caustic of the Convention’s protesters to most average passersby. The screening, sponsored by the Studs Terkel Festival and UofC’s Film Studies Center, will conclude with a discussion with Director Haskell Wexler and special guests. Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E. 60th St. Friday, May 9, 4pm. (773)702-2997. arts.uchicago.edu (Meaghan Murphy)

Jacob

“And Jacob was left alone, in his luxurious high-rise in downtown Chicago.” Timothy Gregory, actor, director, playwright, founding artistic director of Provision Theater, and host of HGTV’s New Spaces, has wondered what every Chicagoan-with-a-luxurious-high-rise wonders to themselves when looking from their sweeping windows at the bustling loop below: what if I were to wrestle with an angel until the breaking of the day? From this, he brings to us Jacob, a new production at Provision Theater that brings Genesis’ tale of Jacob wrestling the angel to a modern Chicago. Therefore, to this day, the people of Chicago do not eat the sinew of the thigh that is on the hip socket, even when piled beneath dripping peppers in Italian beef sandwiches. Provision Theater, 1001 W. Roosevelt Rd. Through June 15. (312)4550065. provisiontheater.org (Isabel Ochoa Gold)

M. Butterfly David Henry Hwang’s Tony Award-winning play, M. Butterfly hits the Court Theatre to close out the season. An arresting reimagining of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly through a post-colonial lens, Hwang’s play chronicles the affair between French diplomat Bernard Boursicot and the male Chinese opera singer Shi Pei Pu. Under the direction of Charles Newell at Court, M. Butterfly takes an aggressive look at sex, espionage, and imperialism. Hwang is a masterful and adventurous playwright and he offers a deconstruction of his source material’s Orientalist angle that is both playfully imaginative and downright powerful. Court Theatre, 5535 S. Ellis Ave. Through June 8. See website for show times. $15-$35. (773)702-7005. courttheatre.org (Shanice Casimiro and Meaghan Murphy)

Buried in Bughouse Square

a circus celebrating the life of Studs Terkel. The student cast is working with director Halena Kays and playwright Jay Torrence, both of whom are veterans of Chicago Theater, to perform a show featuring clowns, physical theater, and other forms of circus expression to engage the entire audience in the quest for the story. Buried in Bughouse Square is suitable for all ages, and is part of the UofC’s “Let’s Get Working,” a three-day festival celebrating the life and work of Studs Terkel. The festival, running May 9-11, also includes an impressive roster of Terkel-related film screenings, panels, music performances, and art installations. Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E. 60th St. May 8-11. Thursday-Friday, 7pm; Saturday, 2pm and 7:30pm, Sunday, 2pm. $6 in advance, $8 at the door. (773)702-2787. studs. uchicago.edu (Evan Stoner)

Rock Your World

Joe Bryl is no stranger to the Chicago music scene. As the former co-owner and director of famed, but now defunct, Chicago nightclub Sonotheque, Bryl has over twenty years of experience in the music industry, and he has the Tribune’s “Most Interesting DJ” award to prove it (I’m not making that up, I swear). His musical taste is as wide and eclectic as it is obscure, exposing Chicagoans to genres such as acid jazz, neo-soul, and rare groove. See if you can recognize any of them at Maria’s, where he will be part of a showcase of international rock bands. So if you’re a fan of Siamese soul or Zulu stomp, or if you just want to find out what the hell those are, you should go. Maria’s. 960 W. 31st St. Friday, May 16. (773)890-0588. community-bar.com (Mark Hassenfratz)

Dance Gavin Dance Springing out of Sacramento in 2005, Dance Gavin Dance has gained a large following in Chicago and across the country. The band was formed out of the break-ups of several other bands such as Farewell Unknown and Ghost Runner on Third, and takes a multi-genre approach to music. Although technically classified as post-hardcore, the band has managed to successfully incorporate elements of funk, screamo, soul and other genres into their experimental sound. Ragged screams mingle with upbeat bass riffs and snappy drumming in a wickedly fun amalgam. You can see them perform as well as ask who Gavin is, and why they want him to dance, at Reggies on May 9th during the meetand-greet after the show. Hot dogs and pop will be served. Reggies, 2105 S. State St. May 9. 2pm. Free. (312)949-0120. reggieslive.com. (Mark Hassenfratz)

WHPK Rock Charts WHPK 88.5 FM is a nonprofit community radio station at the University of Chicago. Once a week the station’s music directors collect a book of playlist logs from their Rock-format DJs, tally up the plays of albums added within the last few months, and rank them according to popularity that week. Compiled by Andrew Fialkowski and Dylan West Artist / Album / Record Label 1. ONO / Diegesis / Moniker 2. Quilt / Held in Splendor / Mexican Summer 3. Frankie Cosmos / Zentropy / Double Double Whammy 4. The People’s Temple / Musical Garden / HoZac 5. 31Ø8 / s/t / Trouble in Mind 6. Pure X / Angel / Fat Possum 7. Death / III [Reissue] / Drag City 8. Bitch Prefect / Bird Nerds / Bedroom Suck 9. Flesh Panthers / Flesh Panthers EP / Tall Pat 10. Coltsblood / Into the Unfathomable Abyss / Candlelight 11. Clearance / Carte Blanche Plus One / Public House 12. September Girls / Cursing The Sea / Fortuna Pop! 13. The Yolks / Two Dollars Out the Door / Randy 14. In School / Praxis of Hate EP / s/r 15. Marcus Schmickler & Julian Rohrhuber / Politikenb der Frequenz / Editions Mego ¬ MAY 7, 2014

Christina Mackie brings “Colour” to the Renaissance Society BY JAMISON PFEIFER

MUSIC

This year’s professional show from the UofC’s Theater and Performance Studies department is

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A Chromatic Fantasy

“A

t what point did we start thinking that we needed more colors than there already are in the world?” asks Christina Mackie in her artist’s talk. This, she reveals, is the basic question behind her new multimedia exhibition—entitled “Colour drop”—at the Renaissance Society, which held its opening reception on April 27 and will remain on display until the end of June. The exhibit, which is co-curated by Associate Curator Hamza Walker and Executive Director Solveig Øvstebø, is Mackie’s first exhibition in the United States (she’s Canadian-born but now based in London). When Mackie speaks of the “immanent possibility of color,” as she did during a conversation with Walker, she is referring to the literal mutability of pigment, and to the many dyes and textures in which it can find expression. It’s an idea that is readily apparent in the exhibition’s manifold figures, ceramics, glasses, rocks, and paints. It is colorful, to be sure, but never wildly chromatic. Walking around “Colour drop” feels a little like positioning yourself in various visual landscapes, three dimensional paintings that bring together color and form with all manner of materials and objects. The room’s centerpiece looks like three mammoth-sized dream catchers— really just nets—hang from the ceiling on various pulleys. The bottom halves of the nets, like draped hosiery, are soaked in paint and remain suspended just above their respective pools of paint, one red, one blue, one yellow. “I was really aiming for this almost accidental placing, the sedimentation, the evaporation, and then you stand it up,” Mackie explained, referring to the way the soaked nets have since settled. Elsewhere, on a table, there are five ceramic pieces that resemble giant eggs

strewn over ceramic squares. Altogether, it looks strangely prehistoric. The inspiration for the piece, Mackie said, came from “very, very old paintings… done in five colors” that she had seen on top of rock pallets in Northern Australia. Like the ancient paintings, she insists that most of her art look “synthetic” or “manmade.” Like much of Mackie’s work, “Colour drop” resists brusque characterization. The eponymous “drop” of the exhibition’s title could refer to a number of different objects in the exhibition. On two separate walls, two and three respective planks of gesso-plastered wood lean against the wall. Each is flecked with several drops of different watercolors, a medium that Mackie says she likes because of its “mineral quality.” A few of these drops are painted atop a slight physical divot in the wood, giving depth to the already palpable colors. The wood structures are actually composed of two asymmetrical panels, one resting on top of the other, that together make the leaning planks just slightly unparalleled. At a distance, the effect is subtle but intriguing. As an amalgamation of various colors and materials, “Colour drop” feels like a discursive stroll through Mackie’s own mind. Much of the placement in the exhibition is characterized by a degree of randomness. “I like the accidental,” Mackie admitted to Walker during their conversation. “If something is beautiful, it’s kind of an incidental aspect of it.” ¬ Christina Mackie, “Colour drop.” The Renaissance Society, 5811 S. Ellis Ave. Through June 29. Tuesday-Friday, 10am-5pm; Saturday-Sunday, 12-5pm. (773)702-8670. renaissancesociety.org


MAY 7, 2014 ¬ SOUTH SIDE WEEKLY 23


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¬ MAY 7, 2014

May 7, 2014 | The Interview Issue  
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