In the Frunchroom: Kevin Coval

If you haven’t figured it out by now, we’re pulling out all the stops* for our 2nd anniversary with a two-night event. But as with all other nights, we’re telling stories about the South Side that have something to say about all of Chicago. One of the people who’s been doing a lot of thinking and writing about all of Chicago’s neighborhoods is one of our Night Two speakers: Kevin Coval.

Kevin is a poet and community builder. As the artistic director of Young Chicago Authors, founder of Louder Than A Bomb: The Chicago Youth Poetry Festival, and professor at the University of Illinois-Chicago—where he teaches hip-hop aesthetics—he’s mentored thousands of young writers, artists, and musicians.

He is the author and editor of 10 books, including The BreakBeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop and Schtick, and co-author of the play, This is Modern Art. His work has appeared in Poetry Magazine, The Drunken Boat, Chicago Tribune, CNN, Fake Shore Drive, Huffington Post, and four seasons of HBO’s Def Poetry Jam.

His most recent collection of work, A People’s History of Chicago was released this month by Haymarket Books. The book, in Kevin’s words, seeks to “retell some of the best and most radical and real and celebratory and difficult parts of our Chicago story we often times forget or didn’t know in the first place. In this time especially, we need look back at the progressive legacies we inherit, the radical stream we swim in and be emboldened to create and fight for a city/country that is more just, equitable and fresher for all.”

Immediately after the launch, Kevin and Young Chicago Authors guest artists embarked on a year-long journey within Chicago’s 234 square miles, leading 180 sessions in libraries, high schools, museums, community centers, dive bars, and places of worship in each of the 77 neighborhoods.

Kevin lives in Albany Park and will read selections from his new book on Night Two of the Frunchroom. RSVP below or click the Night One link to see our first reader lineup. See you at 730opm at Beverly Woods Restaurant!

Frunchroom – Night One
Frunchroom – Night Two

* Despite this phrases’s origin, we will not have an organ on the premises.

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In the Frunchroom: Jahmal Cole

As we’ve mentioned, the Frunchroom’s 2nd anniversary will be a special two-night event: 730pm on April 26th and 27th at our usual home at Beverly Woods Restaurant.

We’ve started posting bios from our readers on the 26th and here’s our first reader for the 27th: Jahmal Cole.

Jahmal is a tireless volunteer and role model. An advocate for education reform in Chicago, he is passionate about improving schools and is a frequent speaker at colleges in the Chicagoland area. Jahmal is the author of The Torch of Decency: Rekindling the Spirit of Community Organizations, “Athletes & MC’s” and “50 Excuses: to not Follow your Dreams.”

Recognized for his contributions to the community, he is the recipient of many awards, including a 2012 Certificate of Appreciation from Governor Pat Quinn, 2012 Chicago Ideas Award Winner presented by Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, 2013 Scion Motivate Winner presented by Toyota, 2013 John Lennon Song Writing Grand Prize Award Winner, 2013 Cook County Juvenile Detention Center Volunteer Award. 2016 Roberto Clemente Global Health Award, 2016 Chicago Urban League Innovator Award 2017 Outstanding Commitment to Community Service Award on behalf of State Treasurer Michael Frerichs, and 2017 Mazda Drive for Good Competition Winner.

He was appointed as honorary chair of State of Black Chicago Steering Committee by Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court and named one of Huffington Post’s 15 Inspiring Chicagoans.

Most recently, he has successfully launched a groundbreaking social initiative entitled “My Block, My Hood, My City, where he takes teenagers from underserved Chicago communities on City Wide explorations.

A resident of Chatham, Jahmal will read a piece titled “The Hoodies Designed to Save Chicago.” See him on Night Two of The Frunchroom. RSVP at the links below.

Frunchroom – Night One
Frunchroom – Night Two

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In the Frunchroom: Tom Cramer

Our 2nd reader for our first night of The Frunchroom’s 2nd anniversary show is Tom Cramer who, like more than a few readers of ours, came to see the show and is now onstage.

We ask each of our readers to send bio information, but Tom’s was so specific to his voice that I’m running it exactly as he sent it:


I was born in 1965 at Little Company of Mary in Evergreen Park into a South Side Irish Catholic family. I have 4 siblings, ranging 14 to 27 years older than I (the word you’re searching for is surprise; not mistake  .) I was an uncle at the age of 2, have 10 nieces and nephews and 20 great nieces and nephews.

My first home was at 103rd and Drake, second near 107th and Kildare in Oak Lawn, and then moved to the Oak Forest/Tinley Park area. I attended Kolmar (Oak Lawn) and St. Damian’s (Oak Forest) for grammar school, Marist High School and the University of Notre Dame.

Several years ago, I was shocked to hear that my friend Bob had passed suddenly. We met in 7th grade, and graduated St. Damian’s, Marist and Notre Dame together. That night, I had a flood of vivid memories about my childhood in Oak Lawn, before I ever met Bob. I typed them up and sent them to all the Kolmar school friends I could track down. Much to my surprise, one was an editor for the Huffington Post.  She loved the piece and invited me to blog about growing up in the 70’s, and I started in the fall of 2012.

I’ve spent my entire career in the printing industry, which led me to live in the Dutch/Flemish speaking area of Belgium for a while during the 1990’s. This afforded me the opportunity to travel, including a visit to County Kerry Ireland, where both of my mother’s parents were born. Living in Belgium and travelling in Europe exposed me to the many different styles of beer, and I returned to the States just as the craft beer scene started to take off. I also blog for a social media craft beer group called the Pints Templars. Currently I’m working on building my own blogging site and ideas for fiction.

I will be sharing some stories of growing up in the Oak Lawn/Evergreen Park/Beverly area, which a lifelong friend has nick-named “God’s Country.”

Tom will be one of five readers on the 26th, with five more on the 27th. Watch this space for more bios and click the links below to RSVP on Facebook. See you at Beverly Woods!

Frunchroom – Night One
Frunchroom – Night Two

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In the Frunchroom: Ayana Contreras

It’s less than two weeks before our two-night, 2nd anniversary event at Beverly Woods on April 26th and 27th. We’ll have ten readers from all walks of life telling stories about the South Side. Our first reader is Ayana Contreras.

Photo by Andrew Collings.

Ayana hosts Reclaimed Soul on Vocalo 91.1 FM (sister station to WBEZ). On her radio show, she works to document the narratives, history, and cultural significance of the music scene in 20th Century Chicago. She’s also a producer on Sound Opinions, which airs on WBEZ and over 100 public radio stations nationwide.

Ayana was a 2014/15 Arts+Public Life Artist-in-Residence at the University of Chicago, during which time she studied Chicago music and culture from the Post-Civil Rights era. She was a 2015 AIR New Voices Scholar through the Association of Independents in Radio and currently lives in the South Shore neighborhood.

Ayana will read on April 26th, the first of our two nights. See her at Beverly Woods at 730pm.

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It’s the 2nd anniversary of The Frunchroom!

When The Beverly Area Arts Alliance and I started The Frunchroom two years ago, I imagined we’d tell a few stories to about 50-60 people every few months. I never expected we’d outgrow our first home at O’Rourke’s Office and expand to Beverly Woods where we now play to audiences two to three times what I initially imagined. Nor did I expect that we’d mix in visual art and cocktails.

But here we are. All thanks to a very supportive South Side community, which is apropos considering The Frunchroom has its roots in conversations with friends at Ellie’s, Horse Thief Hollow and the St. Barnabas gym that started “What would you think if…”

In two years, we’ve heard more than 40 stories from reporters, writers, local business owners, college professors, DJs, poets and even a few lawyers.

For our 2nd anniversary show, we wanted to do something special so we’ve expanded to two nights: Wednesday, April 26th and Thursday, April 27th at Beverly Woods Restaurant (11532 S Western Ave.) where a different set of five readers will perform each night. As usual, we’ll feature great art and craft cocktails. (And sometime in the next month, we’ll launch our long-promised podcast.)

The Frunchroom continues to be produced in partnership with The Beverly Area Arts Alliance, the organization responsible for local arts events like The Beverly Art Walk, the Uprising Craft Market and the upcoming Constant Struggle exhibits at the Beverly Arts Center. A $5 donation is requested at the door with all proceeds supporting future Alliance events.

The readers for April’s 2nd anniversary shows will be:

April 26th
Ayana Contreras
Radio host/producer, DJ and writer

Daniel Kay Hertz
Writer, reader, mapper, spreadsheeter

Rodney Walker
Author, educator, South Side native

Tom Cramer
Blogger, 70s kid, craft beer geek, native South Sider

Sue Sadlowski Garza
Alderwoman 10th Ward, CPS Counselor, Progressive Activist, Grandma

April 27th
Jahmal Cole
Founder of My Block, My Hood, My City

Bridget Gainer
Part-time pol, full-time Chicagoan, reader, mother & dual citizen 

Lendon Sadler
Activist & actor; performer, raconteur, unabashed lover

Kevin Coval
Poet; community builder; artistic director, Young Chicago Authors

Kim Bellware
Huffington Post reporter, bike adventurer and full-city wanderer

Photo credit: Holly Evanchik Donovan

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Everything you need to know for Volume VIII of The Frunchroom

Whether you’re a longtime fan or attending for the first time, we think there will be something for you at The Frunchroom.

South Side Weekly named us one of the Best of the South Side and with our eighth edition, we think we’ll live up to that reputation.

Here’s everything you need to know. Even if you’ve been to The Frunchroom before, there’s new info here for you like the artists whose work you’ll see and details on our craft cocktails.

frunchroom_vol8Who are the readers?

L.D. Barnes
Blogger, poet, mystery writer, essayist, wife and nerd

Robin Baumgarten
WGN Morning News anchor and lifetime South Sider

John Chatz
Blogger, tech consultant, softball player and father to many

Eric Charles May
Writer, professor, Sox fan, native South Sider

Jamie Nesbitt Golden
Journalist, mom, coffee-drinker, Buffy-expert

What’s the time? 730pm. But show up by 7-715pm to guarantee yourself a seat, chat with friends, get a drink from the bar and settle in. Even in our bigger location, we always pack the room and standing room only is a possibility.

Where’s the place? Beverly Woods Restaurant (11532 S. Western Ave.) in the Caravan Room.

What’s the cost? We ask for a $5 donation at the door to support the work of the non-profit Beverly Area Arts Alliance, which co-produces the show, sets up the room and coordinates the beautiful art you’ll see in our space.

Wait, there’s art? Yes, we will have gorgeous visual art from G.L. Smothers and Katherine Kampf (that’s her work at right) on display. Another great reason to come early.

Where do I park? Beverly Woods has ample parking. Park in the north lot and you’ll be closest to the entrance for the show.

How do I get there via transit? We’re a more car-friendly destination than a transit-friendly one. It’s a 15-20 walk from Metra’s 1115th St. stop on the Rock Island Line.* Or you can take the Western Avenue CTA bus (note to North Siders: this is a reaaaaally long ride) or the Pace 349.

Where can I eat? Get there early and you can eat in Beverly Woods’s restaurant area (try their famous rolls). Snapper’s is right next door for some fast-food fish and Lumes Pancake House is across the street. For more nearby restaurants, there’s this list from Yelp.

You mentioned drinks? Beer, wine and liquor will be available at the cash bar.

What are the stories like? Some are sincere, some are tongue-in-cheek. One may be a call-to-action, another might make you think. One might be historical, one might make you remember a place you haven’t been since childhood. Basically, like having a conversation with someone you haven’t seen in a while. This review from South Side Weekly really captures what we’re about.

Who’s helping you with this? I’m producing this in partnership with The Beverly Area Arts Alliance (or The Alliance, for short).

A big thanks to Monica Wilczak, Sal Campbell, David Barsotti, Jane Zia, Chris Wilczak and Lizzy Benner who’ve given this event material, financial and moral support. And a huge thanks to the McGann family and Beverly Woods for hosting us. (You can thank them by purchasing beverages and tipping profusely.)

And, of course, huge thanks to all our readers and, in advance, to you for coming.

* Take Metra’s Rock Island line to 115th St. Walk west on 115th St. then make a left on Longwood to 116th St. and make a right. Walk toward Bell Ave. and make a left until you get to 116th Pl. then make a right. Walk to Western Ave. and make a right. Cross Western at 116th St. You’ll see Beverly Woods on your left. This is kinda confusing so Google Maps will be your friend.

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In the Frunchroom: Eric Charles May

Our final reader for tomorrow’s edition of The Frunchroom – the last before we celebrate our 2nd anniversary in April – is Eric Charles May.

ericcharlesmayEric is the author of the novel Bedrock Faith, which was named a Notable African-American Title by Publishers Weekly. The 2015 recipient of the Chicago Public Library Foundation’s 21st Century Award, Eric is an associate professor in the fiction-writing program at Columbia College Chicago and a former reporter for The Washington Post. His short fiction has appeared in Criminal Class, Fish Stories, F, and We Speak Chicagoese.

In addition to his writing for the Post, his nonfiction has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, Sport Literate, and the 2nd Story anthology, Briefly Knocked Unconscious By A Low-Flying Duck.

A South Side ex-pat – his novel Bedrock Faith takes place here and he’ll be reading an excerpt from it – Eric now lives in Lincoln Park. Join him and our other four readers tomorrow, January 19th at 730pm at Beverly Woods. ($5 donation at the door to benefit the Beverly Area Arts Alliance.)

Click here to RSVP on Facebook for a reminder about the event.

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