When we’re talking about Gwendolyn Brooks, we are talking about material that will essentially educate and material that will leave a legacy,” said writer and documentarian Shahari Moore. Her solo directorial debut, Brooks People, a twenty-minute documentary exploring the work and lasting impact of Brooks, the first Black writer to win a Pulitzer Prize, premiered at the Gene Siskel Black Harvest Film Festival last year. To illustrate her outsize influence on the South Side and across the country, Moore interviewed numerous contemporaries of Brooks, including esteemed scholars, poets, and artists such as Dr. Cornel West, Nikki Giovanni, and Haki Madhubuti—as well as Brooks’ daughter, Nora Brooks Blakely.
On May 1, the South Side Home Movie Project launched its digital archive, a globally accessible online portal to home movies shot by residents of Chicago’s South Side neighborhoods between 1929 and 1982.
Chances are that you’re rarely going to see Ricardo Gamboa’s name associated with any mainstream Chicago theaters. And that’s how they like it. Instead, these days you’re more likely to find them at the Storyfront, a theater in Back of the Yards that just a year ago was a storefront, camouflaging with audience and community members who curiously wander in to performances of Meet Juan(ito) Doe. They always break this facade at the end of the performance to express their gratitude and urge audience members to share their stories and reviews with them. Last, they urge the audience to keep using the Storyfront as a community and arts space, letting them know about events that are occurring there in the future and encouraging anyone to reach out to them with ideas of how else to use the space. All this is part of Gamboa’s role as a “triple A”—an artist, activist and academic—committed to making radical, intersectional work centered on people of color (POC).
Diana Quiñones Rivera is a filmmaker from Puerto Rico who moved to Chicago in November 2015. While she was a 2016 fellow in Kartemquin Films’ Diverse Voices in Docs program, she lived in Woodlawn for a year before moving to Avondale. Her new short film “D on the South Side,” which was screened in January and February as part of Collaboraction Theatre’s winter festival, deals with her time living in Woodlawn. “It was tough living in Woodlawn,” Rivera said. “I guess I didn’t expect it to be as segregated. I knew it was segregated but I didn’t think it was going to be a place where I would feel uncomfortable, and it [was].” Invited to make the film by the organizers of long-running weekly performance series Salonathon, Rivera’s experience with Woodlawn’s racial dynamics were a good fit with the Collaboration festival, which was titled “Encounter.” Its focus was on “racism and racial healing in Chicago.”
Two weekends ago, high school poets from across Chicago took to the stage for the finals of the Louder than a Bomb (LTAB) poetry slam, a competition that seeks to engage the city in the “pedagogy of listening,” as Young Chicago Authors marketing manager José Olivarez says. Olivarez has been involved in LTAB since 2005: while he began as a student participant in the festival, he’s now working to make the slam an annual reality.
Last week, the Weekly sat down with Lena Waithe, a writer, actress, and producer best known as the creator of the new Showtime series The Chi, set on the South Side, and for her Emmy Award–winning work on the Netflix show Master of None. Just two weeks ago, Waithe, a native South Sider, won the Essence Black Women in Hollywood Vanguard Award. Here, she talks about being a queer Black woman in the public eye and giving space for tragedy and beauty in stories about Chicago.
This week on SSW Radio we talked with South Side native Lena Waithe about her show The Chi; checked in on community developments in Woodlawn, South Shore, and Jackson Park; and highlighted the personal histories of three South Side women
Last Thursday, a jubilant audience filled the Cindy Pritzker Auditorium at the Harold Washington Library Center in the Loop for a screening of It is No Secret: The Life and Inspiration of Rev. Clay Evans. The short documentary follows the life and activism of Evans, cofounder of the Fellowship Baptist Church in Fuller Park.
The day before the opening night of Hancock College Preparatory High School’s theater showcase “Content Warning: Real Life,” the students in Sarah Baranoff’s Drama II and Drama III classes are thrumming with nervous excitement. In the darkened performance hall within the West Elsdon selective enrollment high school, students walk in and out with costumes in hand, leap on and off the stage, and chatter in the audience seats.
As the crowd trickled into the movie theater, Britney Spears played on the big screen. The footage, desaturated and shaky, cut between shots of Spears beaming and performing on stage and shots of her anxiously calling someone on her phone. But as the theater filled, the footage cut to an uncomfortably close still of Spears standing worried backstage while concertgoers’ cheers played in the background. What at first appeared to be a glitch quickly revealed itself to be an intentional choice made by the filmmaker—one that evoked an unsettling sadness for Spears’s situation.