TeeSee’s Town: Annual ‘Dream a Bigger Dream Gala’ to honor WGN-TV’s Merri Dee

Gala Gal – A fave media sistah, Merri Dee, WGN-TV/Ch. 9’s director of community relations, will receive high honor and peacock praise on March 1 at the Hyatt Regency Chicago Hotel during the annual “Dream a Bigger Dream Gala” hoste

Gala Gal – A fave media sistah, Merri Dee, WGN-TV/Ch. 9’s director of community relations, will receive high honor and peacock praise on March 1 at the Hyatt Regency Chicago Hotel during the annual “Dream a Bigger Dream Gala” hosted by Teen Living Programs, the only Chicago agency since 2001 that has a sole focus on helping homeless youth. Dee is being recognized “for leveraging more than $250,000 for the agency over the past eight years through WGN-TV Children’s Charities.” Among corporate supporters of the 2008 “Dream a Bigger Dream Gala” are the National Black MBA Association, Bank of America, Best Buy, Chicago Tribune, Dun & Bradstreet, First Chicago Bank & Trust, JPMorgan Securities, PricewaterhouseCoopers and several others.

Teen Living Programs’ mission is to create hope and opportunity for youth who are homeless by assisting them to permanently leave the streets, secure stable housing and build self-sufficient, satisfying lives. The agency has successfully served Chicago’s at-risk youth for more than 30 years, beginning as a specialized house care program for wards of the state, and started serving youth who are homeless in 1981. Teen Living Programs annually serves 500 youth through a continuum of services: a street and community outreach program, a school-based prevention program and three residential programs — an eight-bed emergency shelter, an 18-bed group transitional living program and a 10-apartment independent living program — with wraparound supportive services in education, vocation, recreation; a health and nutrition program and aftercare.

According to a study by the University of Illinois at Chicago, on any given night in the city, nearly 2,000 youth, ages 13 to 20, experience homelessness. Yet, there are only about 200 beds dedicated to these youth. Teen Living Programs provides 36 of these beds, making it one of the largest housing providers for youth who are homeless. To purchase tickets for $250 per person, contact Nia Tavoularis, TLP’s director of development and communications (niat@teenliving.org), or call (312) 568-5700, ext. 228 for more info or to RSVP.

“Fat Tuesday” Fun – Join Kim and Julius Thomas, popular co-owners of Exposure Tapas Restaurant, the trendy upscale eatery and cocktail lounge in the South Loop at 1315 S. Wabash, this Tuesday evening (after you vote, of course!) for some New Orleans-inspired cuisine from the kitchen of Chef Stevo.  Menu specials include: crawfish bisque, red beans and rice, jalapeno cornbread, crabmeat creolaise, BBQ shrimp, Caribbean shrimp, curry shrimp, firecracker shrimp, grilled shrimp, salt and pepper shrimp, ratatouille shrimp and tasso shrimp. You can wash it all down with several choice liquid libations: SoCo champagne cocktails, mai tais and hurricanes. And check out live caribbean jazz from 8 p.m. – 11 p.m. For more, call (312) 662-1082 or visit www.exposuretapas.com.

Book Look – Chicago author Bayo Ojikutu will discuss his latest book, Free Burning, on Feb. 21, 7 p.m., at the Chicago Public Library’s Blackstone Branch, 4904 S. Lake Park Ave. It’s all part of CPL’s free program, “Voices from Home: Local Authors Speak” series. In Free Burning, readers meet protagonist Tommie Simms, a young man from one of Chicago’s rough neighborhoods who made good. He attended a state university, married a respectable woman and landed a position at a white collar insurance company. However, when Tommie is laid off, he begins to see himself as just another faceless person on the city’s mean streets. After a series of unsuccessful job interviews, Tommie is forced into selling drugs to provide for his family. However, a corporate job is no preparation for hustling, and Tommie soon ends up being pursued by many people, including a crooked cop, his street-hustling cousins, the police, loan sharks and even friends. In order to break free, Tommie must find a way to dig himself out of an ever-deepening hole before it is too late. Ojikutu, who received the Washington Prize for Fiction and the Great American Book Award for his debut novel, 47th Street Black, was born and raised in Chicago — where he still lives — and currently teaches in the English Department at DePaul University.

The Voices from Home: Local Authors Speak series is presented by the Friends of Blackstone Branch Library and features authors from the Hyde Park community. Registration is recommended. Call (312) 747-0511 to sign on. Magic Music – Under the brilliant baton of Maestro Paul Freeman, revered founder and music director of the Chicago Sinfonietta, the famed orchestra will celebrate 21 seasons of promoting music, excellence and diversity on April 12 at the Fairmont Chicago, 200 N. Columbus Drive.

This year’s event theme, “Sounds of Music,” will feature a very special guest (to be announced). Civic leader Gail Dugas, a long time supporter of the Chicago Sinfonietta, and John Mathias, partner at Jenner & Block and Chicago Sinfonietta board member, are event co-chairs. A cocktail reception and a silent auction will take place prior to a gourmet, four course dinner created by Chef Brad Parsons, the Fairmont’s executive chef. Dinner will be followed by a presentation to the 2008 honoree, Chicago’s Joyce Foundation, and a performance by the Chicago Sinfonietta. The evening concludes with dancing accompanied by the orchestra.

Reservations range from $400 per person to $25,000 per table of 10, with the option of expanding to 12 if guests sponsor musicians at their table. Musician sponsorships are $50 per musician. Tickets are available by calling (312) 284-1559 or by visiting www.chicagosinfonietta.org.  Heritage Happenin’ – Hillary Hansen, project manager of The Field Museum’s George Washington Carver Exhibit, and Dr. Lachell Wardell, CVS pharmacist, keynote Kennedy-King College’s “New Beginnings,” the opening ceremony of the Celebration of Black History Month, which kicks off today and runs through Feb. 29.

Hanson and Wardell speak at “Part 1,” 11 a.m.–1 p.m., which will also feature performances by the Deeply Rooted Dance Theater, the Corky McClerkin Quartet and the Chocolate Chips Theater Company at KKC Theater, 740 W. 63rd St. And on Monday evening, “Part 2” continues with a reception at 5 p.m. and a president’s concert at 7 p.m., highlighted by A Spiritual Journey Percussion Ensemble, The 5 After 7 Project and Crosswind. Emcees: Bonnie DeShong and Art “Chat Daddy” Sims. For more info on this free day-long, city-wide community observance, call (773) 602-5543.

Whazup! Whazup! – Supporters of Ald. Howard B. Brookins Jr. (21st), candidate for Cook County state’s attorney, will gather with him at the Parkway Ballroom, 4455 S. King Drive, in the historic Bronzeville community on Tuesday to hold its election night watch and what they hope will be a celebration.

P.S. from Teesee – Please exercise your right to vote on Tuesday. If you don’t, you’ll have absolutely no right to complain if the outcome is not to your liking! Vote in honor and memory of our ancestors who faced fire hoses and dogs, and died to guarantee that we could vote without hindrance!

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