Mayor Rahm Emanuel at a press conference announcing CTA Red Line extended times. May 12, 2016 Photo credit: Mary L. Datcher

As we prepare for Memorial Day weekend festivities, Chicagoans understand this is the launch for summer activities and vacations. I’m extraordinarily geeked because summer also marks the plan for plenty of festivals, picnics and concerts.

Before we begin name-dropping some highlights around town, we must press pause and digress on the growing concerns of Mayor Emanuel’s budget proposal to keep CPS schools open, preventing a shorter school year.

Some Black aldermen are on board with the mayor’s plan because there hasn’t been a better one proposed, but serious questions must be asked—how many times must the city borrow before there is no more left to borrow? What are the preparations for next year’s school budget and how many teacher and administrative jobs will be affected? The hardest hit will be schools in Black and Brown communities and rumors of another wave of school closings will not be a good look for the Emanuel administration.

One Chicago Campaign

DuSable Museum of African-American History was used as a beautiful backdrop on Sunday for the city of Chicago’s newly launched campaign, “One Chicago.” The “Kumbaya”-like anthem is a rallying cry to maintain the message of Chicago’s history of cultural diversity and maintaining our sanctuary city status. The video showcased real Chicago residents from diverse cultural, religious and racial backgrounds—driving home the message of unity and equality. As much as we would love to drink the Kool-Aid and buy into this message, we just can’t believe Chicago is not segregated or that some unions do not welcome Black contractors. Many construction projects that the mayor brags about showing economic strength in the city still show few Black workers at construction sites.

As guns flood our communities and police officers hold down street corners—watching but begrudgingly making arrests—we also cringe at what this summer holds for us.

J.B. Pritzker along with his wife, Mary Kathryn “M.K” Prtizker makes official announcement to enter Illinois gubernatorial race at Grand Crossing Field House. Photo: Mary L. Datcher

No Love Lost

The Illinois GOP party is gunning for Illinois Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker. They are calling out Pritzker for applying property tax breaks on a mansion that was bought next door to his home with renovations that have been estimated at $150,000. There is no one living on the property at this point (and hasn’t been since it was purchased in 2008) and by using a vacancy provision (given to encourage development and rehabilitation)  to reduce his taxes—Republicans are calling Pritzker’s move another example of property tax fraud. While partisanship dealings are the norm in Springfield, Democratic Rep. Robert Martwick and House Speaker Mike Madigan are being accused by the GOP for protecting their closest ally.

Where there’s a threat, you go after it and try to chip away at it so it’s interesting that neither Democratic candidates Chris Kennedy and Alderman Ameya Pawar have become the subjects of character assassinations by the Illinois GOP party.

Meanwhile, fellow billionaire and friend Ken Griffin dumps $20 million into Gov. Rauner’s war chest. Wow, now that’s a powerful friendship!

On Wednesday, a handful of community stakeholders received a sneak peek inside the first of three Southside satellite offices of the Pritzker camp. The first location at 740 E. 87th St. is in the heart of the 8th Ward. Both Alderman Michelle Harris (8th) and Alderman Roderick Sawyer (6th) were on hand to introduce the candidate and show their support. While the Pritzker campaign prepares for a ‘boots-on-the-ground’ strategy, we hear Chris Kennedy is in California rounding up support at a fundraiser with some Hollywood supporters adding money to his campaign efforts. This wouldn’t be the first time for a Illinois political candidate to reach out to the ‘glitz and glamorous’ for a little helping hand. Both Mayor Rahm Emanuel and President Barack Obama have followed the Cali money trail.

DJ Ron Trent

Birthday Shout-outs

Belated birthday wishes and hugs to House music DJ and producer Ron Trent on May 23. Blue 1647 founder and social activist Emile Cambry; Westside favorite and long-time DJ John Young; Two Yards Bangin’ Producer Dwaine Yokley; and Chicago broadcast journalist Bill Campbell celebrate on May 25. Best wishes to Gospel music tastemaker Lisa Wheeler on May 26. The Gemini love continues for House music pioneer and singer Keith Nunnally; Executive Director of LINKS Scholars Roslind Buford; Chicago Rap artist, Jah-Rista and Universal Music Regional Manager Maurice Harley on May 27. Much love to Chicago native and radio on-air personality Don Black on May 28 and ABC-7 news journalist Eveyln Holmes, who kicks up her heels on May 29.

Memorial Day Weekend Must-do’s

Kicking off the pre-Memorial Day celebrations is the Chicago House Music Conference hosted at the Chicago Cultural Center. The conference opens up on Thursday, May 25 with a sneak peek into the House Legacy Project rehearsal led by House music DJ and producer Joe Smooth starting at 11:00am. Other panels that day include House Preservation: Cultivating the Next Generation of Practitioners, Sound of the City: Ableton for House Music and two other panels. On Friday evening from 6pm-9pm, the final panel discussion will feature From Drum Machines to Laptops: The Evolution of House Music and The Business of House Music: Labels, DJs and Merchandise in the New Economy.

House pioneer, producer and DJ, Vince Lawrence (Slang Music Group)

This is the first continuous line-up of panel discussions that centers around the House music community. Panelists include DJ Pierre, Jerry King, Larissa Johnson, Hugo Hutchinson, Terry Hunter, Anthony Nicholson, Craig Loftis, First Lady, Jacqulyn Guerrero and many other notable industry leaders. Music veteran and architects of House music, Producer and DJ, Vince Lawrence will receive a special lifetime achievement award at the House music party. Lawrence is the founder and owner of the award-winning production company, Slang Music Group. 

All panels will take place onsite and there is no admission charge to attend. Also, make sure to attend the city’s largest House music celebration at Millennium Park on Saturday, May 27 with a stellar line-up of live performances and DJs playing from 2:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Bring your water bottle and towel because it’s about dancing your heart out!

Grammy nominated singer and songwriter Avery Sunshine will be in Chicago on Sunday, May 28 performing at the South Shore Cultural Center. She is gearing up for her new CD release, TWENTY SIXTY FOUR. Chicago loves her charisma and downhome Soul anthems. If her recent video performance on NPR’s ‘Tiny Desk’ is any indication of what to expect from the Shanachie Entertainment release—her fans will not be disappointed.

One of my favorite West Loop festivals, the Randolph Street Market Festival, is a great way to try out some of the culinary stylings from the area’s restaurants and vendors. It’s not free so make sure you purchase tickets online at their website or walk-up is permitted. The event has grown as the neighborhood has seen a rise in more residential lofts and tech offices of Google, LinkedIn and Facebook.

It’s that time again where the family can enjoy some free summertime fun that doesn’t hit your pockets. Navy Pier’s fireworks return on Wednesdays (9:30 p.m.) and Saturdays (10:15 p.m.) beginning Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend. Every Wednesday and Saturday, enjoy the colorful display over Lake Michigan to the rock tunes of the legendary Rolling Stones. Unfortunately, the best view from upper East Wacker Drive will be limited as construction is currently underway—so find an alternate viewing spot.

For the party goers, make sure to check The Promontory’s event calendar because Shalamar original member Jody Watley returns on May 26; Party Noire presents Deep & Buck on May 28 and BODY presents BANG! on May 29.

After the BBQ outing on Monday, City Winery presents R&B songtress Vivian Green for two shows on May 29.

In Memorial

Our condolences and prayers to the Stewart family as they mourn the passing of Morris “Butch” Stewart, Jr.  At 64, Stewart died last Friday due to complications from surgery. The man behind familiar theme songs to the Oprah Winfrey Show and the Tom Joyner Morning Show was a musician and producer. Born in Chicago, Stewart grew up in Harvey, Ill., and later attended DePaul University. He soon married his sweetheart, Brenda Mitchell, and began to build a budding career working as background vocalists for Ramsey Lewis and later Earth, Wind and Fire.

In 1978, Stewart established JoyArtMusic, creating jingles for some of the top creative agencies, becoming a one-stop destination for television and radio shows. Throughout his illustrious career, he has written and produced music for many national and local artists—helping to cultivate multiple careers including his sons’ group, the Rich Kidz.

Samuel G. Roberson, Jr.

A Bright Star Dims Too Soon

Congo Square Theatre Company announces the passing of Artistic Director Samuel G. Roberson, Jr.  He was the ultimate fighter and lived his theatrical life to the fullest, creating and leading an array of successful initiatives and productions for the company. 

Congo Square Board President, Chanel Coney reflected on Sam’s inspiring dedication to the company and the arts. “Sam has been such an incredible force for Congo Square and the theatre community at-large. I’m so grateful for his commitment and it has been a privilege to work with him.”

At the helm of Congo Square’s artistic space, Sam made his mark as a producer for productions such as the Chicago premiere of Pearl Cleage’s What I Learned in Paris and the World Premiere of Lekethia Dalcoe’s A Small Oak Tree Runs Red, directed by Harry Lennix.

Sam’s fast paced drive for excellence was also directed at Chicago’s young artists community, through his literacy-driven work with Urban Prep Academy’s Y-Boom (Young Brothers Owning Our Mission) program.  He believed in nurturing the next generation of artists and worked diligently to inspire the young people he worked with. Arrangements will be announced by the family of Sam Roberson at a future date.

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