The Frunchroom, Volume X: Summer break edition

Hey folks, we’ve been a bit lax in getting the word out for next week’s Frunchroom, but it’s only because it takes a little more time to put together a super-sized lineup – and that’s what we have for you.

For July 20th, we will break with our traditional format and feature seven readers, instead of five, with two readers teaming up as a duo.

The next show will be at 730pm on Thursday, July 20th at Beverly Woods (11532 S Western Ave.)

We always try to have an eclectic mix of readers, but this will be something we’ve never done before not just in featuring two more readers than usual, but also having the two of them work as a team. We have a former Chicago mayoral candidate, the director of the Chicago Writers Studio, a ninth grade English teacher, a ChicagoNow blogger and a “cultural anthropologist.”

In addition, we’ve invited Nareman Taha and Itedal Shalabi, the co-founders of Arab-American Family Services in nearby Bridgeview, both of whom were raised on the South Side, to read as a duo. Though you won’t see them on the posters, when we met them during a recent protest they led against an elected official in nearby Palos Township who posted anti-Muslim rhetoric on social media, we knew their story had to be told at our next show. We talk about how, as a city, there is more that unites us than divides us. Their story – touching on immigration, starting a business and finding your niche – speaks to a lot of South Siders’ experiences.

As usual, we will have a mix of South Side storytelling, art and cocktails. Our artist-in-residence for July is Mathias Shergen. He’s a retired Golden Apple art teacher that taught Jenner Academy of the Arts decades.

We continue to produce this show at Beverly Woods 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 Local Art on Tap.

Without further ado, the readers for July’s show are:

  • Amara Eniya, a public policy consultant who serves as the President of Blue 1647, an entrepreneurship and technology innovation center, is the Executive Director of the Austin Chamber of Commerce and serves as Policy Director for the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association. She also ran for mayor of Chicago in 2015.
  • Cole Lavalais, a Chicago native who has called Beverly home for the last twenty years and whose first novel, Summer of the Cicadas, debuted in May of last year. She is the founder/director of the Beverly-based Chicago Writers Studio.
  • Kathleen Leahy, a native South Sider who has a Master’s degree in Education and teaches in Roseland. Her writing tends to focus on mental health, class mobility, and Midwestern family dynamics.
  • Lyletta Robinson, who has authored the ChicagoNow blog “I Hate My Developer” since 2005, which discusses a mixture of Woodlawn neighborhood issues, personal and unemployment stories along with South Side observations. She describes herself as “an opinionated woman with a gardening problem.”
  • Ernest Wilkins, is a “cultural anthropologist” at Red Bull Media House and a freelance writer whose work has appeared in GQ, Pitchfork and Deadspin. Previously, he was a reporter and producer for Chicago Tribune’s RedEye where he served as Chicago’s Wingman from 2011 to 2015.
  • Nareman Taha and Itedal Shalabi, the co-founders and co-executive directors of Arab-American Family Services, a non-profit social service agency. Since 2001, AAFS has served as a catalyst for social change by actively seeking to confront the myths and taboos that have kept some Arab Americans from obtaining the assistance they need. They both grew up on the South Side of Chicago.

See you on July 20th – This Thursday! – at Beverly Woods at 730pm.

Photos: Holly Donovan

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Everything you need to know about the 2nd anniversary 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’s 2nd anniversary shows tonight and tomorrow, 730pm at Beverly Woods Restaurant.

South Side Weekly named us one of the Best of the South Side and with this 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 artists whose work you’ll see and details on our craft cocktails.

Who are the readers?

Wednesday, 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

Thursday, 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

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 Kevin Demski of Sixty Four Creative who will have new work on display and some of his signature decals for sale (see above and at right). Another great reason to come early. Kevin will be raffling off some of his art (2 tickets for $5, 5 for $20).

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. 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? 
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 frozen daiquiris and two signature, not-found-anywhere-else cocktails: The Minion (blueberry lemonade vodkas) and The Duke of Earl Gray (Earl Gray tea with bourbon and lemon).

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: Bridget Gainer

Our final reader in this two-day 2nd anniversary extravaganza is Bridget Gainer.

Bridget Gainer is a Chicago native and comes from a long line of Southsiders – Englewood meets Roseland and then Beverly. After McAuley and U of I, she started her career as an organizer and has spent the last 25 years between the public, private and non-profit sector all the while working to live up to the example she learned from her parents: show up for people and play the long game.

Bridget was elected to the Cook County Board in 2010 and has focused on revitalizing neighborhoods hit hard by the foreclosure crisis and developing new ways to get young people working. One of the results was the creation of the Cook County Land Bank. Four years later, the Land Bank is a self sustaining social enterprise with 400 homes in development by over 100 community based developers.. Most recently the Land Bank partnered with Arne Duncan and the Emerson collective to buy 20 vacant homes in Pullman and engage 30 young men in the redevelopment.

Bridget is married to Dennis Kibby and has three children and is soon to lose the fight for a dog. A graduate of the University of Illinois Urbana and the University of Chicago, she serves on the boards of the Big Shoulders Fund and the Archdiocese of Chicago school board. Most recently, and with the support of United States Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Bridget launched a Chicago chapter of Off the Sidelines here in Chicago to encourage more women to ‘take their ideas to action’ and has quickly grown the organization to 2,500 members.

On Night Two, Bridget will tell us about riding around in cars on the South Side and how some things don’t happen even if the people who tell you they will sound like they know what they are talking about.

Join us by RSVP’ing at the links below. We’ll see you at 730pm on Wednesday and Thursday night at Beverly Woods.

Frunchroom – Night One
Frunchroom – Night Two

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In the Frunchroom: Lendon Sadler

It is with some confidence that we say no other Frunchroom reader has a more colorful bio than our Thursday night reader Lendon Sadler.

Lendon has been – in his own words – a peace activist & actor, artistic and cosmetic model, street transvestite and guerrilla theater performer, fast food worker & dumpster diver, domestic & factory employee & construction laborer, winner of multiple Boy Scout merit badges & sex educator for the Girl Scouts of America, Mother Superior of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence & co-conspirator for the Cockettes, a rhetorician of the obscure Gay Left, a raconteur of American musics; an ecstatic student and enraptured confidant. But of notable consequence, an unabashed lover.

When asked to describe the story he’ll read on Thursday, Lendon said it was “life sketches by a homo hippie Negro in Beverly.”

I’m confident in saying you will not want to miss Lendon Sadler on Night Two of The Frunchroom this week: Thursday, 730pm at Beverly Woods. And be sure and check out our Wednesday lineup, too, which is similarly can’t miss.

Frunchroom – Night One
Frunchroom – Night Two

Photo: Diego Ivan Martirena

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In the Frunchroom: Susan Sadlowski Garza

Our 2nd anniversary show is a milestone for a few reasons, but one might not be immediately apparent: It’s the first time we’ve had elected officials sharing South Side stories. First up, on Wednesday, is Susan Sadlowski Garza.

Susan is the first ever active Chicago Teachers Union member to be elected to City Council and the first ever woman to represent the 10th Ward in City Council. Susan’s priorities include keeping schools public, increasing wages and creating long lasting economic development in the 10th Ward.

Susan is constantly working to protect public interests, increase equality for women and the LGBTQ community, foster business relationships and protect air, land, and water resources for residents.​ 

Susan is a lifelong Chicagoan and 10th Ward resident who has dedicated her entire life to the youth and families of the 10th Ward. Starting out as a lunch lady at South Shore High School, Susan returned to college as a mother and persevered to become a Counselor at Jane Addams Elementary School, the same school her mother, herself, and her children attended. She is a former Chicago Public School counselor, former Chicago Teachers Union area Vice-President, and now 10th Ward Alderwoman.

Susan has earned a Bachelor of Arts from Governors State University and holds a Master in Counseling from Concordia University. Daughter of famed steelworker/labor leader Edward Sadlowski, Susan was raised in a proud union home with strong values of income equality, gender equity, racial harmony, and workers and environmental rights.  She is happily married to Raul Garza, a proud mother of four children and ecstatic grandmother of two.

A resident of the East Side in the 10th Ward, Susan will talk about “my journey to City Hall: from the cafeteria to the chamber.” Hear Susan’s story on Night One of The Frunchroom at 730pm at Beverly Woods. RSVP below.

Frunchroom – Night One
Frunchroom – Night Two

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In the Frunchroom: Rodney Walker

An ongoing theme for Frunchroom readings seems to be childhood – specifically about how your formative years shape who you are as an adult. This week, we’ll hear from Rodney Walker on this very topic.

Rodney, a Chicago native, is the founder of Forever Life Productions, a company that creates custom videos for special occasions and events. Along with his production company, Rodney travels both nationally and internationally, speaking at public schools, corporations, and conferences about the importance of education, entrepreneurship education, mentoring at-risk youth, and corporate philanthropy for non-profit organizations aimed to uplift and support at-risk youth.

Given the obstacles placed before him as a foster child, Rodney struggled academically and socially in school. In his early years of elementary school, he was placed in special education, repeated the fourth grade due to poor academic performance, and underperformed with a sub-1.5 GPA in his freshman year of high school. But today, Walker is an award-winning entrepreneur, has a Bachelors’ degree from Morehouse College, and a Masters degree from Yale University – all before the age of 25.

Rodney is the bestselling Author of the educational memoir titled A New Day One: Trauma, Grace, and a Young Man’s Journey from Foster Care to Yale, available on Amazon and in all major bookstores nationwide.

In an effort to address the epidemic of violence and social failure among at-risk youth in Chicago, Walker is currently partnering with former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to create a comprehensive employment pipeline program for disconnected youth across the city.

This fall, Walker will be pursuing his Doctorate in Education at Harvard University.

On the first night of our two-night, 2nd anniversary event, Rodney – a resident of Englewood – will read a poem that is about (in his words) “unconditional love as the vaccine for deep-rooted trauma.”

RSVP below and we’ll see you at Beverly Woods!

Frunchroom – Night One
Frunchroom – Night Two

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In the Frunchroom: Kim Bellware

In the two years we’ve been alive and kicking, we’ve had reporters from many news organizations at The Frunchroom. In an age of spin, insight from reporters is needed more than ever. We’re glad to welcome another great reporter to our 2nd anniversary show: Kim Bellware.

Kim Bellware is a reporter for The Huffington Post who covers crime, politics and breaking news with a special emphasis on the death penalty. She’s previously recycled her jokes on WBEZ, The Paper Machete, Funny Ha-Ha, and The First Time. In a past life, she wrote about Chicago music and lifestyle. She learned to ride a bike at 25 and now tours across multiple states. Her favorite paths out of the city are the south branch of the Lakefront Trail and the Major Taylor Woods.

Kim is a current resident of Humboldt Park and will read an essay about the way the nature of the South Side seems more organic than on the North Side and how it truly reflects urbis orbis, the city in a garden.

Don’t miss her! Come to the 2nd night of our 2nd anniversary show on April 27th at 730pm at Beverly Woods Restaurant. RSVP at the links below.

Frunchroom – Night One
Frunchroom – Night Two

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