In the Frunchroom: Rebeca Nieves Huffman

South Side stories are often journey stories. From where you were to where you are, from where you are to where you’re going. This week, Rebeca Nieves Huffman joins us to talk about how life took her from Humboldt Park to Beverly and all the spaces and places in between.

Rebeca serves as Executive Director of City Year Chicago. Her passion for education began there, when she served as a corps member for two years (1998 and 1999). During her service, she led a team of corps members at Brian Piccolo Elementary in the Humboldt Park Community, the same community where she grew up. Today, Huffman is leading the organization with the goal of providing 230 tutors, mentors and role models to students within their 26 high need partner schools.

Having been the first in her family to attend and graduate college coupled with being exposed to the crisis in public education through her time as a City Year corps member, Huffman has dedicated her life’s work to quality education opportunities for students in neighborhoods of limited resources.

Rebeca has served in a variety of leadership roles within and around the K12 education system locally and nationally. As the Associate Director of Recruitment and Selection for the KIPP School Leadership Program, she recruited talented and passionate educators to start their own middle schools and learned how school leaders/principals are critically important catalysts for student achievement in high need schools. As the founding president and CEO of the Washington DC based Hispanic Council for Reform and Educational Options (Hispanic CREO), she led stakeholders across all sectors to advocate for policies that support Latino students, which represent the country’s fastest growing yet among the most vulnerable populations. She was also the Vice President at the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) where she created and managed their first grant-making program.

An alumnus of the Aspen Institute’s Fellowship for Education leaders, Rebeca has a deep commitment to develop the next generation of leaders in her community. She is a fellow with the current class of Leadership Greater Chicago and serves on the board of the Noble Network of High Schools. She resides on the South Side of Chicago with her husband, Craig, and her school-aged children Sofia and Solomon.

Join us this Tuesday in The Frunchroom!

Tuesday, September 25th, 730pm, Beverly Arts Center. $5 donation requested to benefit the Beverly Area Arts Alliance.

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In the Frunchroom: Patricia Frazier

With Beverly Art Walk Week, our producing partner the Beverly Area Arts Alliance celebrates art in all its forms: visual, spoken, musical, poetic and more. Art moves, it challenges and it celebrates. In this spirit, we’re thrilled to have Patricia Frazier joining us this Tuesday for The Frunchroom, our celebration of South Side storytelling.

A filmmaker, activist and Chicago and national Youth Poet Laureate, Patricia uses art to express issues of urgency and celebrate young and black political movements. Young Chicago Author’s newest teaching artist, she has appeared in Chicago Magazine, South Side Weekly, New City‘s Lit 50, Vogue, and has performed with Apple Inc. at the Library of Congress, Federal Hall and more.

She is an organizer with Assata’s Daughters, a intergenerational, grassroots organization of women-and-femme-identifying folks working to deepen, sustain and escalate the Black Lives Matter movement. The Davis-Putter scholar currently studies Cinema Arts and Sciences at Columbia College Chicago.

Join Patricia and our other readers this Tuesday at Beverly Arts Center.

Tuesday, September 25th, 730pm, Beverly Arts Center. $5 donation requested to benefit the Beverly Area Arts Alliance.

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In the Frunchroom: Claire Hartfield

History is often more present than we realize. At The Frunchroom, we look back often because it tells us how to move forward. Claire Hartfield‘s work is very much in that spirit and it’s why we’re so glad she’s joining us this Tuesday at Beverly Arts Center.

Claire is a nationally recognized children’s book author and education leader. Her book Me and Uncle Romie (Dial Books for Young Children 2002), is a historical fiction picture book based on the life and art of world-renowned collage artist, Romare Bearden. The book received national honors (favorable review in the NYT Book Review, Smithsonian Magazine Notable Book of the Year, Junior Library Guild Choice, one of New York Public Library’s 100 Books for Reading and Sharing) and has been reprinted in three textbooks.

Her newest book, A Few Red Drops (Clarion Books) tells the story of the Chicago Race Riot of 1919 and how the building tensions and conflicting interests exploded in bloodshed that sent shock waves across the nation.

Claire’s career has centered on providing underprivileged children with opportunity to achieve their potential through education. After graduating from Yale University and University of Chicago Law School, she oversaw development of school desegregation plans for the cities of Chicago and Rockford, Illinois. More recently, she led a non-profit organization that develops leaders for elementary and secondary education. She is currently Board Chair and a senior consultant for one of Chicago’s highest performing charter schools.

Claire is a lifelong resident of Chicago and a current resident of Hyde Park. At this edition of The Frunchroom, she’ll read excerpts from A Few Red Drops that give insights into both the Irish and Black communities – circumstances that caused tensions, ultimately leading to the 1919 race riot.

Join Claire and the rest of our readers this Tuesday at 730pm at the Beverly Arts Center – presented by the Beverly Area Arts Alliance.

Tuesday, September 25th, 730pm, Beverly Arts Center. $5 donation requested to benefit the Beverly Area Arts Alliance.

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In the Frunchroom: Rayshauna Gray

Fall is (finally) in the air and that means the Beverly Art Walk isn’t far behind.

This year marks the 5th anniversary of this new Beverly/Morgan Park tradition. Without our friends at the Beverly Area Arts Alliance, The Frunchroom simply would not, could not, be. We are very proud to be a part of Beverly Art Walk Week with out next show this Tuesday at Beverly Arts Center.

Without further ado, our first reader for this special edition of The Frunchroom is Rayshauna Gray.

Rayshauna is a Chicagoan living in Cambridge. She’s thrilled to be living her childhood dream of being a time traveling storyteller. She loves researching with Tufts University’s history department, Harvard’s Slavery Research Project, and petting all the good dogs in Boston.

She’s currently putting the finishing touches on Roseland, a book about the last 200 years of her family’s history through the last seven generations of women in her family (out with Belt Publishing in Fall 2019).

Her Frunchroom story is about history and circumstance. She’ll be sharing her love of the South Side (specifically Roseland and Beverly) and how circumstance unfolded in *just* the right ways to get us in the same room.

See Rayshauna and the rest of our readers at Beverly Arts Center this Tuesday at 730pm.

Tuesday, September 25th, 730pm, Beverly Arts Center. $5 donation requested to benefit the Beverly Area Arts Alliance.

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The Frunchroom, Volume XV: The Art Walk turns five edition

The Frunchroom, the live storytelling series about the South Side of Chicago that makes its home in Beverly/Morgan Park will switch to Tuesday for its next show as part of the Beverly Art Walk Week’s 5th anniversary.  

The next show will be at 730pm on Tuesday, September 25th at Beverly Arts Center (2407 W 111th St, Chicago). A $5 donation to benefit the Beverly Area Arts Alliance is requested.

Our lineup includes:

Patricia Frazier, Chicago’s National Youth Poet Laureate

Rayshauna Gray, researcher at Tufts University’s Center for the Study of Race & Democracy and writer of the forthcoming book Roseland

Claire Hartfield, nationally recognized education leader and children’s book author (including A Few Red Drops, the story of Chicago’s 1919 race riots)

Rebeca Nieves Huffman, executive director of City Year Chicago

LaShawn Williams, an arts and entertainment freelance writer for Gapers,,, Comedy Hype and more.

Guests are encouraged to arrive early and see a preview of one of the Art Walk installations curated by Beverly Arts Alliance co-founder Sal Campbell.

The unique mix of art, cocktails and stories at The Frunchroom is sponsored by The Beverly Arts Center. The event continues to be produced as a showcase for original written work, presented in partnership with The Beverly Area Arts Alliance, the organization responsible for local arts events like the Uprising Craft Market and Local Art on Tap.

The Frunchroom has played to packed houses since it began in April 2015. Previous readers include local residents and business owners; radio and podcast hosts, teachers, poets, politicians and artists. In addition, The Frunchroom has featured reporters and anchors from the Chicago Tribune, South Side Weekly, Bloomberg News, WBEZ-FM and WGN-TV.

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Everything you need to know about The Frunchroom, Volume XIV

We’re three-plus years into The Frunchroom. We must be doing something right because they’re even using the name for fancy North Side restaurants now. It’s all thanks to YOU for showing up at our shows, our readers for sharing their talent and the fine folks at The Beverly Area Arts Alliance for co-producing such a great night of art and storytelling.

One note of caution about tonight’s show: Most of 111th St around the Beverly Arts Center is tore up due to construction, from Longwood on the east all the way to Sacramento/the railroad tracks. Leave some extra time to drive and park in the BAC parking lot off Campbell.

So here’s what’s on tap tonight:

Who are the readers?

Lily Be
Forever changed by the challenges

David Daruszka
Quixotic retired locomotive engineer 

Sahar Mustafah
Other humans still amaze her

Joe Shanahan
Founder of Metro and Smartbar

Celina Villanueva
Fighter for social justice, lover of brunch


What’s the time? And where?
730pm. But show up to the Beverly Arts Center (2407 W. 111th St.) by 7-715pm to guarantee yourself a seat, chat with friends, get a drink from the bar, check out the art (see below) and settle in. We usually close the balcony at BAC to keep things a bit more intimate and cozy unless the crowd size demands it. 

Wait, there’s art?
Come early, grab a drink and enjoy photography in The Blue Room, located just off the lobby at BAC. Curated by Beverly Area Arts Alliance co-founder Sal Campbell, The Blue Room will showcase photography by one of our readers, David Daruszka (seen above).

Where do I park?
Beverly Arts Center has parking just west of the building and another lot on the south.

How do I get there via transit?
Take the Metra Rock Island Line which departs from the LaSalle Street Station in the Loop. Get off at 111th Street. Head west up the hill for about three blocks. The BAC is the big red building on the corner.

Where can I eat?
We recommend Ellie’s Cafe at 107th and Hale. If you eat at Ellie’s tonight, bring your receipt and you can bypass the request for a $5 donation at the door.

Their Thursday night dinner specials are not to be missed. Tonight their special is bourbon baby back ribs (half or full slab) served with corn on the cob and garlic mashed potatoes. Choice of soup or salad & dessert included. Or try their weekly special: The Black and Bleu salad (fresh blue cheese and tender ribeye steak or try it with portobello mushrooms instead of ribeye. Served with soup or salad and dessert.

There’s also Horse Thief Hollow or Open Outcry on Western Avenue.

You mentioned drinks?
Beer, wine and liquor will be available at the cash bar before and during the show. The post-Frunchroom festivities will continue at Open Outcry Brewing.

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, Lizzy Benner, Chris Castaneda, Corinne Rose and Cicely Harris who’ve given this event material, financial and moral support. And a huge thanks to Beverly Arts Center for sponsoring the show.

See you there!

The Frunchroom is presented by The Beverly Area Arts Alliance and sponsored by Beverly Arts Center. 

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In the Frunchroom: Celina Villanueva

It’s not often our readers tend to make the news the same week they’re appearing at The Frunchroom. But our final reader is one of the week’s big political stories.

Yesterday, Celina Villanueva was sworn in as the state representative of Illinois’s 21st district (she was appointed to finish the term of Silvana Tabares, who became alderman of Chicago’s 23rd Ward upon the retirement of Ald. Mike Zalewski).

On Thursday, she’ll appear at The Frunchroom to tell us how she got there.

Prior to Tuesday, Celina was the Civic and Youth Engagement Manager at the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. With a focus on building immigrant power, developing leaders and expanding our democracy to be inclusive of new voices, Celina ties in her background in organizing, civic engagement and youth development to engage immigrant communities and allies throughout Illinois into the various campaigns at ICIRR.

With various wins under her belt, Celina has helped to expand voting rights through her efforts on online voter registration, Election Day registration, and most recently automatic voter registration, all of which are now law in the Land of Lincoln. Additionally, Celina led the largest immigrant civic engagement program in Illinois that has registered over 200,000 new American voters and mobilized hundreds of thousands more to get out to vote.

Prior to joining ICIRR, Celina served as the Director of Organizing at Chicago Votes, as well as working on various issue-based campaigns including the fight for Marriage Equality in Illinois. She also previously served as Outreach Coordinator for Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, a role that superseded her work on various state and local electoral campaigns.

When she’s not busy trying to change the world into a place where we can all live openly, freely and safely, Celina is an avid reader, lover of musicals, dancing and a great brunch. A born and bred Chicago girl, Celina graduated with a B.A in Latina/Latino Studies with minors in African-American Studies and Spanish from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Join Illinois’s newest state rep at The Frunchroom this Thursday at 730pm at Beverly Arts Center.

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