Street Smart Chicago

Paper Trail: Documenting a career in social activism

Politics, Uptown, West Loop No Comments »

“You can’t really create a credible way of moving ahead,” says Doug Dobmeyer, “unless you know the path.” Dobmeyer, a longtime Chicago social activist, has lined this “path” with more than thirty years of research and work with Chicago’s housing issues and emergency social services. Now the Special Collections department at the UIC Library has acquired the Doug Dobmeyer Papers and will have an opening reception April 8 at 3pm. The papers document the many organizations that Dobmeyer participated in, and include media coverage, reports, administrative records and correspondences. Dobmeyer, who among many other efforts spent several years running the homeless shelter in Uptown, talks about the steps the city has made toward improving the quality of life for the homeless, “In the 1980s, when I was the director of the shelter, we had city government sending out inspection teams trying to find reasons to close us down. And since that time, and I will credit Mayor Washington, the attitude of City Hall is totally different.” Dobmeyer is quick to warn, however, that the solutions are still evading us. It is with collections such as the Dobmeyer Papers, he hopes Chicago will be able to truly make progress on such a serious issues as homelessness. (Peter Cavanaugh)

Lesson Plan: What the hell do you know about Afghanistan?

Education/Training, Events, News etc., Politics No Comments »

The crowd inside the Hideout is gently packed by 8pm. Pockets of conversation get swallowed up in hugs and the toasts of pint glasses. Twenty minutes later, a young man named Aaron Hughes takes the stage. He’s tall, but his soft voice and earnest expression seem to shrink him. It’s disarming, then, when he ends his monologue with a confrontational question: “What the hell do you know about Afghanistan?”

The backroom of the Hideout is now full and leaking into the bar area. Someone from the crowd shouts out, “Taliban!” Another yells, “poppy fields!” After a few more keywords, there is a decided stillness among the audience, proving what organizers of the night’s event hoped. The general public really doesn’t know much about Afghanistan. Read the rest of this entry »

Unplug and Recharge: Arianna Huffington addresses Columbia College

Events, Loop, Politics No Comments »

Nearly two hours before the night’s speaker is scheduled to go on and yet people are already buzzing around shaking off the weather inside the Conaway Center at Chicago’s Columbia College. A woman directs people to the registration line. A man jokes to his friend about her hair, but she chalks it up to the wind. A trio of adults weigh their chances of getting into tonight’s event. It feels not unlike lining up for dodgeball. No one wants to get picked last.

Two student ushers direct people to the overflow room and tell the lucky ones—those who registered early enough for tonight’s event—that the Film Row Cinema will open shortly. A few men try to flirt their way out of the room and into the theater. “I’ve got overflow tickets,” a man in a ball cap says, smirking. “How likely is it we’ll get in?”

A woman appears in a headset, “You know it’s really hit or miss. I don’t want to promise anything.” Read the rest of this entry »

The Hunt For Equality: LGBTQ advocates protest a suburban bar

Events, News etc., Politics, Pride No Comments »

DSC_1038The cars pull up one by one into the desolate suburban parking lot of Hunter’s Nightclub in Elk Grove Village. Transgender activists and people of all gender identifications dressed in varying degrees of drag step out of the vehicles and start organizing. Behind them, a trans flag hangs from the roof of a station wagon. The protesters excitedly look over talking points, pass around a petition and take a moment to hug and catch up. “You’ve got a beard, look at you!” someone in the crowd shouts. “We should give out genderfucked cards,” says another. The party is hastily broken up, however, when the bar’s manager arrives on the scene, accompanied by a bouncer. Asked if the group could enter the bar rather than be kicked out, the manager replies, “If you’ve got IDs.”

Hunter’s, one of the best-known gay bars in the northwest suburbs, has served Chicago’s LGBT community for twenty-seven years. A couple of months ago, Hunter’s instituted a policy that requires patrons to show IDs that match their “gender presentation.” Read the rest of this entry »

Games Over: A wake at Daley Plaza

Loop, News etc., Politics No Comments »

853755_47726595Barely a foot outside the office on my way to Daley Plaza to hear the final Olympics announcement, and Chicago is shockingly eliminated in the first round of voting. There will be no Games on the Lake.

This is what dashed dreams look like. The Olympic supporters still mingle and sway in the Loop, either in disbelief of Chicago’s quick dismissal or simply weary of returning back to work. Orange everywhere—the Chicago Olympic ad campaign, the 2016 logo, on banners, t-shirts, signs and pamphlets. Some optimistic sign-sporters have altered theirs to Chicago 2020, a “there’s always next year” glow of disappointment and acceptance on their drizzle-pecked faces. Read the rest of this entry »

411: Answer Us

Loop, News etc., Politics No Comments »

October 7 marks the eighth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. As such, an antiwar protest will be held at 5pm by the Chicago division of the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition at the Chicago Water Tower. Formed at a very poignant time in U.S. history, September 14, 2001, the coalition is a national grassroots organization that has been holding demonstrations to end war for eight years now. “A majority of people in the country are against the war. The point is that the money we’re spending on this war should be going to people that really need it,” says John Beacham, coordinator of the protest. “No one understood the reason we went to Iraq. Now it seems Afghanistan is a similar situation. Our message is that it’s the people that are going to stop the war.”

Fall Forward 2009

Events, Food & Drink, Lit, Museums, News etc., Politics, Running No Comments »

Newcitycover1We like the way culture upends the universe’s metaphors. Mother Nature might be in the autumn of her year, but the arts are alive with the spirit of new birth.

Labor Day ushers out what meteorologists like to call meteorological summer, making schoolkids go back to school, closing beaches far too soon, and forcing outdoor festivals to sound their last notes, but it gushes in a deluge of culture too magnificent for even the most ardent of arts lovers to fully appreciate. The full richness of our city comes alive in the fall, even when the Bears don’t have a messiah behind center. Read the rest of this entry »

In Bloom: Flowers for Heroes preserves memory

News etc., Politics No Comments »

A couple hundred people gather at the Willowbrook Ballroom in Willow Springs for a night of music, dancing and, more importantly, dedication. Tonight’s four-hour event was put together to promote and raise money for Flowers for Heroes, a not-for-profit organization based in Elmhurst and founded by Russ Phillip, owner of Russwholesaleflowers.com. The group raises money not only to put flowers on every gravestone in every military cemetery but also to give back and support Gold Star Families—an organization whose members are families of fallen soldiers. Read the rest of this entry »

Pride 2009: Gay Marriage Now

City Life, News etc., Politics, Pride No Comments »

newcitycover1For those of us of a certain age, the story of our lifetime has been the civil rights movement and the infusion of its fundamental ideal, one drawn from the very words used to call this nation into existence—”that all men are created equal”—beyond racial equality and into every segment of our culture, whether it be the rights of the disabled or the perpetual struggle to turn a patriarchal society into one of equal opportunity regardless of gender. And so, we turn to what may be the final obstacle that keeps us from turning that noble concept voiced 233 years ago from principle into reality.

Those of you who follow Newcity know that we may be liberal in other ways, but not with the practice of endorsement. But just as we believed the election of Barack Obama as president transcended all other issues last November, so too do we believe that this issue, the equal rights of all persons, transcends all other issues.

This is the moment. Nations around the world are moving forward with marriage equality; so too are states around this nation. While Illinois cannot be first, it can still make its influence, and so too Chicago, since neither New York City nor Los Angeles are situated in states where gay couples may marry. This is the moment to enact equal marriage rights in Illinois and we call upon our elected leaders to pass the necessary legislation with appropriate haste so that our state might resume its place as a portent of progess, as manifest by our favorite sons Abraham Lincoln and Barack Obama, rather than the crest of corruption that the same fingers of progress seem too often predisposed to favor inside the voting booth. We’ll defer to others to lead the way on tactics, but ask all of you to make your voices heard. For as the poet Ella Wheeler Wilcox once wrote, “To sin by silence, when they should protest, makes cowards of men.” Read the rest of this entry »

Pride Events

City Life, Events, News etc., Politics, Pride No Comments »

Parties, parades, workshops, readings and more—we got it all Read the rest of this entry »