In early March, the Neighborhood Writing Alliance (NWA) presented “Walking the Distance of Your Vision” Verse Journalism Seminar Series at the Harold Washington Library Center with local poet and scholar, Quraysh Ali Lansana. Lansana introduced Verse Journalism techniques created by poet and Pulitzer Prize winner Gwendolyn Brooks. Participants explored topics of identity, world view, and community awareness identifiers, and discussed examples from a variety of texts including Lansana’s Our Difficult Sunlight: A Guide to Poetry, Literacy, & Social Justice in Classroom & Community.
NWA was pleased to host Peter Adams (the News Literacy Project), Natalie Moore (WBEZ), and Rhonda Gillespie (freelance journalist, formerly of the Chicago Defender) in February at Jane Addams Hull-House for "Demanding Quality: How News Literacy Can Empower Consumers and Inspire Citizen Journalism." The presenters each gave a short presentation, then conducted an open discussion with workshop attendees about what news is, what gets covered and why, and how consumers can develop the skepticism and skills necessary to know what to believe in the news and information landscape. Participants explored the role of citizen journalists in the digital age and discussed effective strategies for writing letters and emails to the editor.
In January, NWA and Warriors Writers Project collaborated in presenting a discussion and reflective writing seminar on "Radical Vulnerability," an exhibition at the National Veterans Art Museum featuring work by veterans of Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Global War on Terror, exploring their relationship to personal, political, and social vulnerabilities during a time of war. This is the first event of NWA’s "When I Am Free: Community Visions of Liberation" program series.
On November 19th, the Neighborhood Writing Alliance (NWA) was pleased to present "If These Blocks Could Talk" at Columbia College Chicago Ferguson Auditorium. This staged reading explored the theme of urban legends, rumors, and myths, and featured poetry and prose written and performed by Neighborhood Writing Alliance writers. Directed and arranged by performance poet, musician, and educator “Discopoet” Khari B., the show looked at stories of family, Chicago politics, and neighborhoods that sounded just too good to be false.
Through-out the month of October, poet, columnist, arts educator and acclaimed performance and recording artist Khari B. lead a 3-part workshop series on urban legends to help the writers create and develop their own stories and performance styles. The series introduced methods of storytelling that enhance content, builds skills, and engages audiences both on the page and in oral performance.
As part of our Urban Legends project, in October, Ronne Hartfield—poet, essayist, and author of the biographical memoir, Another Way Home: The Tangled Roots of Race in One Chicago Family (University of Chicago Press 2004)—lead NWA writers in a workshop that drew from her memoir.
Professor Gary Alan Fine, author of Whispers on the Color Line: Rumor and Race in America, facilitated three workshops where he led participants in discussions and creative writing exercises on the different types of rumors, and how rumors and legends are shared within a community, in September as part of NWA's "If These Blocks Could Talk" project..
On June 5th, the Neighborhood Writing Alliance (NWA) writers once again participated in the Chicago Tribune's Printers Row Lit Fest. They presented on the Arts and Poetry Stage "JOT Year Book: The Best of NWA."
On May 17th, NWA hosted a special workshop titled: "The Life and Legacy of Malcolm X" at Jane Addams Hull-House Museum. The workshop was facilitated by Tasleem el-Hakim, writer and founder of My Soul Speaks Press, and co-propietor of the Black History 101 Mobile Museum. Tasleem led a discussion about the important work of Malcolm X and his impact on organizations such as the Black Arts Movement and the Washington Heights Art Movement. He shared examples of art created for social change from the last 50 years, and facilitated a writing exercise with the group.
Throughout the month of May, NWA writers performed in "Traveling Down Freedom’s Main Line: The Freedom Rides at 50" at DuSable Museum of African American History, Woodson Regional Library, and Homan Square Community Center. They shared the stage with Congo Square Theatre and Young Chicago Authors to present their new works of literature and theater that were inspired by the Freedom Riders, and that honor the legacy of the movement.
NWA partnered with the Black History 101 Mobile Museum on May 3rd to present Necessary: An Exhibit Exploring the Life and Legacy of Malcolm X at Jane Addams Hull-House Museum. The exhibit celebrates the life and legacy of Malcolm X. The opening reception was hosted by mobile museum founder Khalid el-Hakim, and followed by a facilitated dialogue. This event was free and open to the public. This event was funded in part by the IRC.
On April 21st, NWA presented a panel representing a variety of artistic mediums and social movements across the city in "How Art Works: The Impact of Art on Chicago Movements” at the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum. Presenters discussed how they have used art to further specific causes, such as environmental justice, youth development and intergenerational collaboration. A discussion followed. Presenters included: Credell Walls, the Illinois State Coordinator of Roots and Shoots, a subsidiary of the Jane Goodall Institute; Mindy Faber, media educator and founder of Open Youth Networks; Tasleem el-Hakim, activist, spoken word artist, and hip-hop vocalist; and Joyce Fernandes, Executive Director of archi-treasures. Mariame Kaba, founding director of Project NIA moderated. This event was free and open to the public. This event was funded in part by the IHC.
On April 5th, NWA Assistant Director Hollen Reischer facilitated a writing workshop based on “The True Cost of Coal.” Topics included the energy crisis, green technology, and the impact of personal choices. This event was funded in part by the Illinois Humanities Council (IHC).
As part of the Creative Resistance theme, NWA collaborated with the Beehive Collective on March 29th for an exhibition and discussion around their "The True Cost of Coal", a 14’x 18’ portable mural which uses mountain top removal as a lens through which to understand the historical and contemporary story of energy, resource extraction, and its impact on American advancement globally. This event was funded in part by the Illinois Humanities Council (IHC).
In late January and early February, NWA and the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum partnered to present screenings of the film Freedom Riders. May 4, 2011 marked the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Rides, a pinnacle movement during the Civil Rights era.
On January 18th, NWA hosted a Community Arts Assistance Program (CAAP) workshop for NWA writers at Harold Washington Library Center. CAAP is an annual grant opportunity open to new, emerging and mid-career artists and nonprofit arts organizations with annual operating budgets up to $150,000. Applicants can request a maximum of $1,000 for projects that address specific professional and artistic development needs.