Thursday, April 22, 2021

Let famed author Ann Patchett read to you April 28

“Books are a uniquely portable magic,” Stephen King once said. And J.K. Rowling once said “I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a book.”

With that in mind, Literacy Chicago organizes Voices of Literacy, a year-long readers series and literary happy hour hosted monthly via Zoom.

On the last Wednesday of every month, from 6 - 7 p.m., 4 or 5 authors, and other prominent people who enjoy reading, share a passage from one of their favorite books. In addition, audience members get the chance to chat with the authors and readers afterwards and win autographed copies of the books being read.

“Through this series, Literacy Chicago is promoting the importance of the ability to read and write not just to survive, but to thrive and share stories and ideas,” says Joanne Telser-Frere, Director of Program Development for Literacy Chicago.

April 28’s lineup includes: Univision Chicago reporter Rosario Dominguez reading from ‘What on Earth Am I Here For?’ by Rick Warren

Novelist Jennie Fields reading from her book, ‘Atomic Love’

Author Melissa Wilson reading from ‘Editor of Genius’ by Max Perkins

Author Ted Van Alst reading from his book, ‘Sacred Smoke’

Author Ann Patchett reading from her book, ‘Commonwealth’

Tickets are available at on Eventbrite. Donations are requested.

Future Voices of Literacy dates are May 26, June 30, July 28.

Established in 1968 Literacy Chicago has empowered thousands of adults to achieve greater self sufficiency through language and literacy instruction. The organization offers a broad range of programs including Basic Literacy, GED preparation, English as a Second Language, Workforce Development, Citizenship classes, and most recently Digital Literacy.

Monday, January 11, 2021

Toni Preckwinkle to read for Voices of Literacy January 27

Starting January 27 from 6-7 p.m., on the last Wednesday of each month of 2021, Literacy Chicago is hosting Voices of Literacy, a series of readings by authors and other prominent Chicagoans during virtual literacy happy hours which will share bits from favorite books and literature, many of them by Chicagoans.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Chicago’s 35th Ward Alderman Carlos Rosa and Chicago authors Christian Cook, Dr. Garrard McClendon, and Janet Sutherland are the featured readers for January.

“Besides raising funds to support our work and offering a taste of some wonderful books and literature, we’ll be having a lot of fun,” says Literacy Chicago’s Director of Program Development Joanne Telser-Frere. The series will also feature quizzes and autographed books for prizes.

Ticket prices vary. The Winter Ticket Bundle gives you access to three months of Voices of Literacy for only $30. The two-month bundle goes for $22. Individual tickets are $12 per month. Tickets can be purchased online.

Literacy Chicago’s educational and vocational classes has supported the ambitions of thousands of Chicagoans for more than five decades. Established in 1968 Literacy Chicago empowers adults to achieve greater self sufficiency through language and literacy instruction. The organization offers a broad range of programs including Basic Literacy, GED preparation, English as a Second Language, Workforce Development, Citizenship classes, and most recently Digital Literacy. 

Disclosure: I'm on the Associates Board of Literacy Chicago.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Media Curious and a conversation with Cheryl Corley

In episode 7 of Media Curious award-winning journalist Cheryl Corley talks about what it means to cover the Midwest and beyond for National Public Radio’s national desk, serve as one of the outlet’s criminal justice reporters, the time Chicago got “out-Chicagoed”, and other memorable stories.

I started Media Curious in June 2020 to help bridge the gap between the media-consuming public and “the media.” I believe the media, the news media specifically, tend to be individuals who’ve dedicated themselves to being a conduit for the truth, to accurately reflect facts they’ve learned while covering their beats. That said, Media Curious lets the public make up their own minds. I talk to news media workers about their jobs, what goes on behind the scenes in their newsrooms and their perceptions about the industry in the current era.

To learn about new episodes minutes after they go live, subscribe to the Media Curious YouTube channel and/or the Media Curious Facebook group.

Other journalists interviewed include Garrard McClendon, Dorothy Tucker, Mary Schmich, Phil Vettel, Tracy Baim and Maudlyne Ihejirika.

Media Curious collaborators include Chicago Public SquareThe EventorsCAN TV and the lovely and talented Jane Ricciardi who through her post-production skills adds polish to each episode.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Seasons of Change on Henry’s Farm "screens" via the Siskel Film Center starting August 14.

This in from the publicists of "Seasons of Change on Henry's Farm"...

Evanston Farmers Market regular Henry Brockman is the focus of the film "Seasons of Change on Henry's Farm"

The Gene Siskel Film Center will host virtual screenings of the new locally-produced documentary “Seasons of Change on Henry’s Farm” beginning Friday, August 14. Viewers will be able to purchase tickets and access the film via the Gene Siskel Film Center’s website.

Set on an idyllic family farm in Central Illinois, “Seasons of Change on Henry’s Farm” (USA, 83 minutes) follows organic farmer Henry Brockman as he grapples with the future of farming on personal, generational, and global levels. Many Chicago-area residents know of Henry via his large farm stand at the Evanston Farmers Market, where he has been selling vegetables for
over 25 years.

Director Ines Sommer, a local filmmaker and longtime member of Chicago’s independent filmmaking community who is also on the faculty at Northwestern University, weaves together the stories of Henry, his wife Hiroko, daughter Aozora, and the young interns who struggle to maintain the farm during epic flooding that takes place while Henry and Hiroko are on a year’s sabbatical in Japan.

According to the Gene Siskel Film Center, Sommer presents “an absorbing inside look at sustainable farming with a lyrical feeling for nature and a stirring portrait of a down-to-earth idealist.”

When director Ines Sommer first started filming on Henry’s Farm six years ago, she says “the setting seemed idyllic and I loved recording the subtle sights and sounds of nature. Henry Brockman was working in harmony with nature and climate change seemed a distant threat for the Midwest. But during the course of filming, flooding became much more frequent and the effects of climate change unfolded right in front of our eyes.”

Winner of the “Best Documentary” award at the Vail Film Festival, “Seasons of Change on Henry’s Farm” was originally slated for a theatrical run at the Gene Siskel Film Center in April. But when physical theaters had to close their doors, the filmmakers had to pivot and adapt to reaching audiences online instead – thanks to the “Film Center from Your Sofa” program, viewers can now watch this important documentary about food production and climate change in the Midwest from the comfort and safety of their own homes.

An online Q&A with the filmmakers and farmer Henry Brockman will be one of the ways for viewers to engage around topics raised by the film.

Co-producer Terra Brockman says, “No matter if you're concerned with climate change, sustainable farming, our food systems, or a related topic, we look forward to having you view the film, and then join the post-screening discussion.”

She adds that farms like Henry’s that practice regenerative farming can adapt and continue to feed their communities -- not only through floods, droughts, and fires exacerbated by climate change, but also through pandemics that disrupt global food supply chains.

Director Ines Sommer says, ”Food is fundamental. Seasons of Change on Henry's Farm shows how food production in the Midwest is already being impacted by climate change and raises questions that are relevant for all of us, because we all eat!”


photo credit: Ines Sommer

Friday, May 8, 2020

Indy Chicago media collaborate to stay afloat

"A free and truly independent press - fiercely independent when necessary - is the red beating heart of freedom and democracy," newsman Dan Rather once asserted.

Thomas Jefferson was known to say "Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost".

I agree.

On the other hand, when it comes to the business of the press, nothing is free.
Salaries cost. Ink, newsprint and other delivery technologies cost.

Due to the financial woes the current pandemic has brought, some independent members of Chicago's fourth estate seek assistance to keep on keeping on.

This in from Chicago Independent Media Alliance...

Facing drops of revenue as high as 85 percent, 43 independent Chicago media outlets have joined forces to raise funds in a month-long campaign in May. The for-profit and nonprofit organizations represent a wide cross-section of authentic community media in the city and nearby suburbs.

The public can give at through June 5, 2020. The website offers the option to donate one amount to be split among all of the outlets, or donors can select one or more outlets to give a specific amount to.

“We who are in independent media find ourselves in a unique and dangerous economic situation,” said Tracy Baim, publisher of the Chicago Reader. “In response to COVID-19, national news outlets are tallying death tolls and assessing the situation globally. While that coverage is important, it leaves the average citizen confused and unsure of how to proceed within their community.”

The campaign is being coordinated by the Chicago Independent Media Alliance (CIMA), a project launched in 2019 by the Chicago Reader. Sixty media companies and nonprofit newsrooms belong to CIMA, which is coordinating grants, advertising, and editorial projects to assist in strengthening the local media landscape.

CIMA’s goal is to lift all boats through partnerships.

Donations are not tax deductible, but those wishing to provide money to a pooled matching fund can donate to The Chicago Independent Media Alliance 2020 Matching Fund at the Crossroads Fund. *

Several foundations have already committed to donating to the matching fund, and full details on the match will be available in mid-May.

“Local media outlets deliver authentic, community-driven journalism, reporting on the stories that matter most for communities largely affected by this, and future, health crises,” said Yazmin Dominguez, CIMA project coordinator. “Unfortunately, community media outlets are not getting the resources they need and are thus facing the real possibility of closure. This includes media serving African American, Latinx, Asian American, immigrant, LGBTQ, and other Chicago communities.”


The campaign hashtag is #SaveChicagoMedia.

*Those folks with larger donations, who care about their contribution being tax deductible, are advised to send their checks to Crossroads Fund, 3411 W. Diversity, Chicago, IL 60647, Attn: Jane Kimondo, Executive Director. Make the check out to "Crossroads Fund" with this in memo line: The Chicago Independent Media Alliance 2020 Matching Fund. The downside is your contribution cannot be directed to any one media outlet. 


The Chicago Independent Media Alliance (CIMA) is made up of more than 60 outlets covering the African American, Latinx, Asian American, immigrant, LGBTQ, and other Chicago communities. CIMA believes there is no better way to reach the city’s most marginalized and underserved communities than through community media outlets for and by those communities. We stand for information, accessibility, and equity. Questions can be directed to

CIMA fundraising partner media include…

AirGo Radio: Podcast and media hub showcasing people reshaping Chicago for the more equitable and creative.

Better Government Association: The BGA's in-depth investigative reporting exposes failings in Chicago and Illinois government.

Chicago Crusader
: The Chicago Crusader is Chicago’s number one African American weekly newspaper.

Chicago Music Guide
: Your guide to great music in Chicago. Music Promotions, resources and more.

Chicago Public Square: Free daily email news roundup for Chicago. The Reader poll’s pick for Best Blog.

Chicago Reader: The Reader, founded 1971, is Chicago’s in-depth and curated guide to culture, politics, and more.

The Chicago Reporter: is an investigative news organization focused on race, poverty and income inequality.

CHIRP Radio: CHIRP is your live, local community radio station focused on independent music and culture.

Cicero Independiente: A volunteer-run, bilingual, independent news outlet for and by residents of Cicero.

City Bureau
: Nonprofit civic journalism lab serving Chicago’s south and west sides.

E3 Radio: An online station playing queer and independent music. Queer radio done right.

Free Spirit Media: Opportunities for emerging creators (ages 14-25), primarily from communities of color, to produce and create.

Growing Community Media with Austin Weekly News covering the West Side of Chicago from Garfield Park to Austin

Wednesday Journal: independent, intensely local, covering Oak Park and River Forest.

Hyde Park Herald: Hyde Park Herald is a weekly community newspaper rich in history and journalistic excellence.

Inside Publications: Skyline, Inside Booster, News Star newspapers: Your friendly 110-year-old neighborhood newspapers, serving Chicago's north side.

Injustice Watch
: An investigative newsroom that exposes systemic inequities in the justice system.

Invisible Institute: Invisible Institute works to enhance the capacity of citizens to hold public institutions accountable.

Kartemquin Films: Supporting independent filmmakers producing social issue documentaries, fostering a more engaged society.

Korea Times Chicago: Most widely distributed daily publication for Korean news in Chicago.

La Raza Newspaper: The voice of Chicago’s Latino community for 50 years. La voz de la comunidad latina en Chicago por 50 años.

Left Out Magazine: Independent journalism, politics, culture, analysis, and debate by and about working-class Black people.

Loop North News: Loop North News serves the Loop and Near North neighborhoods of downtown Chicago.

: The publication of record for Chicago culture.

North Lawndale Community News: Providing news and information on resources and events that improve the lifestyle of individuals and families.

Public Narrative: Working on balancing public health, safety and education narratives affecting marginalized communities.

Rebellious Magazine for Women
: Rebellious Magazine for Women is a feminist news and culture website founded in 2012.

: Telling the world’s stories and making them engaging and fun.

Sixty Inches from Center: Midwest-focused arts publication and archiving organization that supports BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, disability, and women’s culture.

SoapBox Productions and Organizing: Film and social activism non-profit specializing in multimedia storytelling for equity and structural change.

South Shore Current Magazine
: Good news from Chicago's Cultural Soul Coast—the southeast and southern shore communities.

South Side Weekly: Independent, nonprofit newspaper for and about the south side of Chicago.

StreetWise: Empowering those facing homelessness with access to employment to work toward self-sufficiency with dignity.

StudentsXpress Magazine
: A magazine of art and writing by students in CPS, preK-8th grade.

The Beverly Review: Weekly newspaper covering Beverly Hills, Morgan Park, and Mt. Greenwood.

The Daily Line
: The Daily Line does critical reporting on policy and politics for professionals.

Third Coast Review: Chicago’s online arts and culture magazine, specializing in quirky, underground aspects of the arts scene.

West of the Ryan Current Magazine: Good News from Chinatown to Roseland—on the south side, west of the Dan Ryan.

The West Side Current Magazine
: Good news from Chicago's west side—focused on pride, honor, and value of community.

Windy City Times
: Award-winning newspaper serving the Chicagoland LGBTQ community since 1985.

This one-minute animated video was produced by artist Emma Biancak and narrated by multiple Chicagoans, including Kevin Coval in English and Yazmin Dominguez in Spanish.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Post-pandemic: What should the “new normal” include?

Maybe you’ve heard it too: I look forward to getting back to normal.

As for me, I’m not sure I want to go “back” or if we even can.

This pandemic has changed the whole landscape of our world personally, locally and globally.

When we evaluate all that has happened during the pandemic, we’ll find that loved ones and neighbors have been taken. Students’ education have been impacted. Jobs have been lost. Businesses have been closed and many will not open again. While isolating, all of our mental health has been challenged. On an up note, government agencies have learned to cooperate (to a certain extent). Some of us have gotten stimulus checks. The kind and generous side of many individuals and organizations have been exposed.

But now what?

I’d like to see our kind and generous sides expressed through our governments, corporations and other systems to continue, but more robustly.

Here’s my friend and colleague Carolyn Potts thoughts on the subject:

The new normal should not be a return to unconscious capitalism.
A rebooting of our values and priorities.

Mother Nature has said, "OK. You kids have really been misbehaving. I’ve warned you several times. But now I see that it’s time for a global ‘time-out’ to think about what you’ve been doing to our shared home. I’ll let you back out when you have demonstrated a commitment to share responsibility to clean up the mess that’s been made and that you’re ready to take responsibility for keeping our shared home in a healthier cleaner state."

…and this in from my co-conspirator, Chicago firefighter Cat Renar:

I have come to discover that there are visionaries for different aspects of our culture and times. You’ll see where I’m going, hopefully…eventually ;-)

For example, the geniuses that lead the way for the internet and how it changed the world. I was in marketing at the time the ‘web’ was forming, and one of my last projects I was tasked with was to create a website for my company. At that time, I couldn’t grasp the need for it or where this would go – and this from an educated, relatively computer literate and somewhat intelligent person! Fortunately, I changed careers shortly after and never completed that project, but I look back and am simply stunned by how much an important and integral part of our lives it is now, I am always awed by the visionaries that saw what was needed and lead the way.

Six years later, another world/life altering event occurred. This one wasn’t gradual like the first, but just as earthshaking: 9/11.

Fully entrenched in my new career as a firefighter/paramedic, I saw first hand the effects and repercussions of that devastating day. There were visionaries during that time too. Those who knew intrinsically what had happened and what needed to be done. They were both civic leaders and common folk. An example, my fire department had a large caravan of top notch fire and rescue personnel in route to NYC the next morning to help. I also recall how then Mayor of NYC Rudy Giuliani (!) deftly handled the incident. (Yes, I said THAT.) I remember the way the nation came together in unity, the way neighbors helped one another. That lasted for a while. And that is what I imagine true patriotism to mean.

Fast forward another 19 years. we are faced with another life/world altering event. The pandemic we have been hearing rumblings about for quite some time and ignored, has hit and hit hard. While we are still reeling from its effects, I realize there will be visionaries that lead us through this too. Experts that recognize what we need to move past…be it the testing, infrastructure or simply leadership that has to happen. Sadly, and I suppose cynically, I fear there will be major hurdles to get past. Poor leadership has not helped. Fear is overwhelming sensibilities and the coming together that occurred after 9/11 hasn’t happened…yet. But I suppose that’s because we’re still in its thrall.

So, what should the new normal include? More visionaries taking the lead. Time will tell.

Brené Brown summed up what I believe should happen: “This pandemic experience is a massive experiment is collective vulnerability. We can be our worst selves when we are afraid, or our very best, bravest selves. In the context of fear and vulnerability, there is often very little in between, because when we are uncertain and afraid our default is self protection. We don’t have to be scary when we’re scared. Let’s choose awkward, brave and kind. And let’s chose each other."

…and my friend and neighbor Jeremy Pardoe:

I hope for a world that is more realistic and compassionate: a world where we don't count on our individual good fortune as an entitlement, but see it as a blessing to be generously shared.

I hope for a world where employers, now forced to consider the collective welfare of their employees as a condition of their own survival, will see the advantage of standing by them through the smaller, lonelier crises in their lives.

I hope for a world where we stand in solidarity with the marginal and dispossessed - the imprisoned, the homeless, the mentally ill, and the physically disabled - recognizing that dispossession is a natural condition of life.

I hope for a world where distance brings us together. As we learn to keep friends close despite physical separation, we will come to see every stranger as a potential friend.

I hope that the world feels smaller: that we are more engaged with the human struggles of all our fellow world citizens.

I hope that we achieve a proper sense of the fragility of our existence, and of the terrible strain we put on the natural world.

I hope that we learn to be content with less.

I hope that we develop the collective resilience to deal with the storms that are coming, bending like a willow, not crashing like an oak.

I hope that our children will continue to have faith in the generosity of the universe.


Monday, March 16, 2020

Credible news source: Chicago Public Square

Now is a good time to subscribe to Chicago Public Square.

Veteran journalist Charlie Meyerson
is presenting useful, solid information and perspective on the COVID-19 pandemic and other topics via his "front page" delivered to one's inbox 10 a.m. every weekday.

CPS also offers a voter guide.
Subscribing is "free", but donations are gratefully accepted, because presenting news does cost something. 

CPS features the work of cartoonist Keith J. Taylor.