In the Frunchroom: Troy LaRaviere

It’s been a busy month behind-the-scenes of The Frunchroom. First, we launched our podcast. (Expect the next episode very soon.) And then Beverly Woods closed and we had to find another venue.

We’re very glad to say the Beverly Arts Center will host us this Tuesday, October 3rd at 730pm.

This edition – our 11th – will be a little different as we’ll have a unifying theme for all our readers: the topic of race, from segregation to identity to integration. We have five great speakers lined up, including Troy LaRaviere.

Troy LaRaviere has been a student, teacher, principal, and parent at both public and private schools in Chicago. He led the #1 ranked neighborhood school in Chicago (Blaine Elementary). In 2013, after two years of unprecedented student improvement at Blaine, Troy became the first Chicago principal to speak openly about the destructive school policies of Chicago’s mayor and unelected school board.

From 2013 to 2016 he continued to lead his school while launching a one-man assault against City Hall’s intimidation of principals, the failings and abuses of school privatizers, disinvestment in school custodial services, the manipulation of school test score data, the misuse and overuse of standardized testing, fiscal recklessness and incompetence on the part of school district officials, and corrupt school district contracts.

Troy was the first and only CPS employee to speak out publicly against the now infamous Barbara Byrd-Bennett SUPES contract long before it became a national scandal. He has had multiple works published in the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times, and the Washington Post. In addition, he maintains an education blog that receives between 10,000 and 200,000 views per post.

In 2016 Troy was featured in two campaign ads for presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders, one of which was the moving two-minute national TV ad called “America Beyond,” which used Troy’s life story to represent the hope and possibilities of the Sanders campaign.

In February of 2016 he was nominated for the presidency of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association (CPAA). In an apparent attempt to influence the CPAA election, the mayor’s appointees at CPS abruptly removed Troy from his principal position. However, on May 19, 2016 he won with nearly 70% of the vote. Since assuming the presidency Troy has focused on building a member-driven association that unites principals’ voices to impact state and local policy.

Raised in Bronzeville and now a resident of Beverly, Troy will tell what he describes as “an entirely unbelievable story about my 1986 experience with the Chicago Bears and the Chicago Police Department. Despite its implausibility, it actually happened. Every bit of it.”

Don’t miss The Frunchroom at Tuesday, October 3rd at 730pm at the Beverly Arts Center.

Need a reminder of this event? Click here to RSVP on Facebook.

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The Frunchroom, Volume XI: Walk the (Beverly art) walk edition

For the third time since ours debut two-and-a-half years ago, The Frunchroom will have a new venue. And for the first time, our evening of South Side stories will have a unifying theme.

Our next show will be at 730pm on Tuesday, October 3rd at Beverly Arts Center (2407 W 111th St, Chicago). A $5 donation to benefit the Beverly Area Arts Alliance is requested.

Each of our five readers will address the topic of race through South Side stories of identity, racism, family, segregation or integration.

And they are:

Tina Jenkins Bell
Writer, President of FLOW, Educator, and MOB

Parneshia Jones  
Author, poet, editor, Chicagoan

Troy LaRaviere 
Kay’s son, Zahran’s father, Your brother

Francine McKenna  
Writer, reader, teacher, traveler

Marisa Novara 
Superpower is curiosity

The move to the Beverly Arts Center was necessitated by the sudden closing of Beverly Woods Restaurant, though we’ve been planning on this theme for the last month or so. Every edition of The Frunchroom has touched on race in some way. It’s built into our South Side narrative. But with events in Charlottesville still fresh in everyone’s mind, it felt like we needed to be explicit about race in this show and how important it is that we discuss and celebrate both our similarities and differences.

For those who are wondering if we’ll lose a bit of intimacy in a bigger venue, have no fear: I’ve noticed the back wall of the BAC’s theater is not as far back as the Woods’ Caravan Room. We may even close the balcony and keep everyone on the ground floor.

Plus, we’ll still have beautiful visual art in the space, cocktails in hands and banter with the audience. And, most importantly, we’re still in the neighborhood.

Despite the shared theme, our latest lineup will still offer plenty of variety, featuring a former Chicago public school principal, a national financial news reporter, a recipient of the Gwendolyn Brooks poetry award, a community developer with a non-profit who writes about segregation and an author who runs a powerful local writing group.

As always, we are producing this with our friends at The Beverly Area Arts Alliance. Plus, this edition of The Frunchroom will also serve as one of a series of Beverly Art Walk Week events, which is why it will be on a Tuesday instead of its usual Thursday night slot. As with every show, The Frunchroom will feature retro-inspired, arts-driven decor created by Alliance members and curated by Beverly Area Arts Alliance co-founder Sal Campbell.

We’re a little over a week away. So expect bios on our readers soon. See you Tuesday, October 3rd at 730pm at Beverly Arts Center.

P.S. Don’t forget about our podcast!


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Podcast: The Frunchroom, Volume 1 plus show notes

It’s finally here: the first episode of The Frunchroom podcast.

The monthly podcast will consist of recordings of our live shows. Not every one of our early shows was recorded, but we have copies of every one since we moved to Beverly Woods. Once we run out of live shows, we’ll change things up a bit, but more to come on that.

The first episode is a recording of the stories from our very first show on April 16th, 2015 at our previous location: O’Rourke’s Office. So much has changed in the lives of our readers and the subjects of their stories that a decent amount of between-story banter is taken up with discussions of what’s happened in the last two-plus years.

The readers are: 
Adrienne Samuels Gibbs
Natalie Y. Moore
Jen Sabella
Dmitry Samarov
Chuck Sudo

You can read Chuck’s story at his blog here. Dmitry’s story was also published by Belt magazine. Natalie’s story became “Kale Is The New Collard,” a chapter in her excellent book The South Side.

Dmitry is the artist behind that gorgeous painting of a Beverly front….er, frunchroom.

The intro/outro music is “Quittin’ Time” by Patrick Lee and the interstitial music is “Ground Cayenne” by The Good Lawdz. All music is licensed via Creative Commons and is courtesy of Free Music Archive.

The audio production is by my friend Tim Mata. You can follow him on Twitter: @timlmata. The segue between the audience response to Jen’s piece and the start of “Ground Cayenne” is pretty incredible and all credit goes to Tim for that.

You can subscribe via iTunes here or search its Podcasts app for “Frunchroom.” We’re also on Stitcher and Google Play. Or listen here via Podomatic or in the player below.

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Everything you need to know about tonight’s Frunchroom show

Epicurean Mandala by Mathias "Spider" Schergen

Epicurean Mandalla by Mathias “Spider” Schergen

Whether you’re a longtime fan or attending for the first time, we think there will be something for you at tonight’s Frunchroom show: 730pm at Beverly Woods Restaurant.

South Side Weekly named us one of the Best of the South Side and with each edition, we think you’ll see why.

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 artist whose work you’ll see and details on our craft cocktails.

Who are the readers?

Amara Enyia
Policy wonk, Globetrotter, Athlete, Systems-thinker, Risk-taker

Cole Lavalais
Writer, Teacher, Director of Chicago Writers Studio

Kathleen Leahy
Educator, Writer, Intersectional Feminist, Occasional Bartender

Lyletta Robinson
Hoosier by birth, South Sider by choice

Nareman Taha
Co-director/founder, Arab-American Family Services

Ernest Wilkins
Cultural Anthropologist, Writer

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. 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?

Mandalla Study by Mathias “Spider” Schergen

Our resident artist for this edition of The Frunchroom is Mathias “Spider” Schergen. You can see his work in the photos at left and above. Spider is a retired Golden Apple art teacher that taught at Jenner Academy of the Arts for 30 years. He makes assemblage and collage out of found objects and detritus. For more on him, read this article from Mary Schmich, who wrote about him when he retired a few years ago (and explains how het got the nickname Spider.

Where do I park?
Beverly Woods has parking. Park in the north lot and you’ll be closest to the entrance for the show. But again, earlier is better as if there is another event there that night the lots may fill up.

How do I get there via transit?
It’s a 15-20 walk from Metra’s 1115th St. stop on the Rock Island Line which departs from the LaSalle Street Station in the Loop. Or you can take the Western Avenue CTA bus (note to North Siders: this is a reaaaaally long ride) to the Pace 349. Or a ride-share option.

Where can I eat?
We will have some light apps for sale for $5. 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. Also, Lizzy Benner of Horse Thief Hollow will mix up a surprise concoction. The post-Frunchroom festivities will continue in McGann’s Pub inside Beverly Woods.

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.

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In the Frunchroom: Nareman Taha

Many of you undoubtedly saw news coverage of Palos Township trustee Sharon Brannigan’s anti-Muslim statements and the subsequent protest and calls for her resignation. One of the women who helped lead this protest will join us at The Frunchroom this Thursday and talk about her life as a native South Sider who built a social service agency that serves Arab Americans in the surrounding area. We’re very honored to host Nareman Taha, co-director and co-founder of Arab American Family Services. (Her fellow director and founder Itedal Shalabi was originally scheduled to appear, but is now unable to make it.)

In 2001, Nareman Taha and Itedal Shalabi co-founded Arab American Family Services (AAFS). AAFS is among the first leading social service organizations in the Southwest suburbs established to serve and advocate for Arab Americans within the Chicago land area. Located strategically in Bridgeview, Illinois, AAFS’s mission to change and impact the quality of life by serving and building stronger and healthier generations of Arab Americans in our communities has created a profound impact on the lives of thousands of individuals and families.

Nareman and Itedal took the office from a non-existent budget to a budget close to $1,010,000 last year alone. Under their leadership and management, in 2016 AAFS saw 8,333 families, impacting over 29,192 individuals.

They have been recognized for their leadership and dedication to the agency and community. Under their leadership, AAFS has received several awards for outstanding community service, taking AAFS from a tw-staff agency to 28 staff, one Fellow, and six interns in past fifteen years.

Nareman Taha oversees and works within the various areas of administration, management, advocacy, community service, fund raising and development to improve and provide quality life to underserved and underrepresented Arab Americans and immigrant families and individuals. As a community catalyst, Nareman devotedly coordinates the agency’s efforts to identify and eradicate barriers to the participation of Arab/Muslim based/community groups in accessing services.

Nareman Taha is a highly accomplished, passionate and motivated public service leader. She has a broad background in community development and social service delivery at the local, state and federal levels, as well as extensive experience in community affairs. Nareman is a firm advocate in developing, educating, empowering smart and strategic giving within the community. By helping advance the cause of philanthropy in the Chicago land area; Nareman has driven the proliferation of non- profit philanthropic contributions within the community.

Nareman received her Bachelors of Science in Psychology from University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) in 1999. In 2006 she graduated with a Master’s of Science in Public Services Management from DePaul University. She serves on a number of boards both local and national.

Join Nareman and the rest of our readers at The Frunchroom at Beverly Woods at 730pm tonight.

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In the Frunchroom: Ernest Wilkins

As longtime Frunchroom attendees know, we like to bring a variety of experiences, neighborhoods and points of view into our conversations about the South Side. Luckily, we have a cultural anthropologist to help us with that this week.

Ernest Wilkins is a writer and cultural anthropologist. That means he equally studies the history of cities and what people in them eat and dance to. He’s written for national publications like Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, GQ, Complex and Deadspin and locally worked as a music reporter for RedEye Chicago and the Chicago Tribune.

Mr. Wilkins a resident of Humboldt Park, will read an essay on Chicago’s hidden gem, the sweet steak sandwich.

See him and our other readers this Thursday at 730pm at Beverly Woods.

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In the Frunchroom: Lyletta Robinson

A fixture of conversations about Woodlawn, we are so very excited to welcome Lyletta Robinson to The Frunchroom this Thursday.

Since 2005, Lyletta has authored the ChicagoNow blog “I Hate My Developer” which discusses a mixture of Woodlawn neighborhood issues, personal and unemployment stories along with South Side observations. She sees beauty and foolishness everyday – some of it just happens to gets written down. Most people are surprised to discover that she’s an opinionated woman with a gardening problem.

Keep up with her shenanigans on her blog’s Facebook page or on Twitter @WoodlawnWonder and join her this Thursday where she’ll be reading about the Obama Library and its effects on the surrounding neighborhood.

See you at Beverly Woods at 730pm.

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