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Archive for August 28th, 2014

Madigan: Hang Up On Phony Government Scams

Posted by Admin On August - 28 - 2014 Comments Off on Madigan: Hang Up On Phony Government Scams

Attorney General Warns Phone Scammers Posing as Government Officials Attempt to Con Illinois Residents Into Sending Money

CHICAGO, IL – Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan alerted Illinois residents to a rising phone scam in which callers pose as government officials to attempt to con people into sending money on supposed unpaid taxes or to collect winnings in a fake sweepstakes.

Madigan’s office has seen an increase in the number of calls to her office in recent weeks from Illinois residents who have been contacted by scammers pretending to be government officials with bogus claims that the call recipients are under investigation or that they owe money to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also issued a nationwide alert this week about similar phone scams that “spoof” caller ID devices into displaying what appear to be legitimate calls from government agencies, with identifiers such as “FTC” and “IRS” or from the (202) area code for Washington, D.C. Scam artists on the other end of the line claim they are representatives of the federal government collecting on a phony debt or unpaid taxes and instruct their targets to put money on a prepaid debt cards and then to dictate the number to the scammers over the phone. In a similar scheme, the scammers inform their targets that they supposedly won a prize or sweepstakes sponsored by the FTC or another government agency, but to collect, the “winners” must send in a payment to cover shipping, taxes or other upfront expenses.

“Any time you are asked upfront for money in an unsolicited call, that is a universal red flag for a scam. A government office will not seek money or personal information from you over the phone,” Madigan said. “If you receive a call like this, hang up immediately.”

Madigan suggested recipients of these solicitations should contact the government agency in question to report the call. She also urged Illinois residents to report the scam to her Consumer Fraud Bureau at 1-800-386-5438 or by visiting her website.

IDOT, Law Enforcement Crack Down on Drunk Drivers Labor Day Weekend to Avoid Fatal Crashes

Posted by Admin On August - 28 - 2014 Comments Off on IDOT, Law Enforcement Crack Down on Drunk Drivers Labor Day Weekend to Avoid Fatal Crashes

Safety Campaign Targets Impaired Drivers; Innovative New Digital Media Campaign Aims to Keep Illinois Motor Vehicle Injuries and Deaths on Decline

SPRINGFIELD, IL – The Illinois Department of Transportation, the Illinois State Police and hundreds of municipal and county police departments across the state announced a zero tolerance approach for drunk and drug-impaired driving as part of the Labor Day holiday weekend “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” campaign.

On Aug.15, Illinois law enforcement agencies started the crackdown on impaired drivers in an effort to save lives. The stepped-up Labor Day effort comes as 2014 fatalities remain consistently lower compared to the same point last year. This final summer push, which runs through September 1, seeks to keep motor vehicle fatalities as low as possible through what can be a very dangerous holiday on Illinois roads. As of August 26, Illinois motor vehicle fatalities are at 562, which is 83 lower compared to the same timeframe last year.

“While we are encouraged that seat belt usage is up and motor vehicle fatalities are down so far this year, we can never be complacent about safety,” said Erica Borggren, Acting Illinois Transportation Secretary. “Any death on Illinois roadways is one too many – particularly when using seat belts and driving sober could have prevented it.”

Recent years have seen Illinois motorists buckling up at higher rates than ever. For the first time, over 94 percent of Illinois motorists are buckling up. Based on the annual statewide observational survey conducted in June 2014, the estimated safety belt usage rate for 2014 is 94.1 percent, an increase of .4 percentage points from the 93.7 percent in 2013.

While drunk and drug-impaired motor vehicle fatalities have also declined significantly over the last decade, causing concern are recent National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

(NHTSA) estimates showing Illinois drunk driving fatalities increased rather significantly from 2011 to 2012. NHTSA estimates show 2011 Illinois drunk driving fatalities (motor vehicle deaths involving at least one driver with a BAC of 0.08 or higher) totaled 278 compared to 321 in 2012, a 15 percent increase. Nationally, drunk driving fatalities increased 4.6 percent with 2011 fatalities totaling 9,865 and 2012 fatalities of 10,322.

The increase in belt use and the reduction in drunk driving has resulted in an encouraging decrease in Illinois motor vehicle fatalities over the last 10 years. Illinois motor vehicle fatalities totaled 1,454 in 2002. Last year, 991 people were killed on Illinois roads, marking the 5th straight year that Illinois motor vehicle fatalities were less than 1,000.

“Among the fatal crashes we see on Illinois roads, one-third involve an impaired driver – and nearly half of those could possibly have been prevented if seat belts were being used,” Borggren continued. “Our increased enforcement efforts over Labor Day weekend aim to take these trends head-on by increasing awareness and compliance with state law.”

In a new effort to bring further attention to dangerous driving behavior and continue the downward trend in motor vehicle fatalities, IDOT has launched a fresh and innovative advertising campaign. The campaign utilizes digital and social media to reach those drivers who are most-often involved in drunk driving crashes, most likely to drink and drive and not buckle up.

A TV commercial airing this week features Michael Rooker, who plays Merle Dixon from the popular series “The Walking Dead,” promoting a website series for a mature audience titled “The Driving Dead.” The series will include short videos, also featuring Rooker, that will be publicized on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Hulu and YouTube,  involving a cast of characters living in a Zombie-filled, post-apocalyptic world. The situations the characters find themselves cleverly depicted dealing with the dangers of driving impaired and not buckling up.

Fans can connect with “The Driving Dead” on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for up-to-date news, behind-the-scenes footage and future episodes of the series and by logging on at www.TheDrivingDeadSeries.com.

Tell the Senate To Overturn Citizens United: Sign The Petition

Posted by Admin On August - 28 - 2014 Comments Off on Tell the Senate To Overturn Citizens United: Sign The Petition

“Corporations and the ultra-rich shouldn’t be allowed to buy our elected officials by spending unlimited amounts of money influencing elections. Pass Senate Joint Resolution 19, which would amend the Constitution and overturn Citizens United.”

Add your name:

Sign the petition â–º

Right now, there is an epic battle raging over whether America will be a democracy governed by the people or a plutocracy ruled by corporations and the ultra-rich.

An overwhelming majority of Americans oppose the toxic influence of money in politics. But a conservative majority on the Supreme Court has systematically eroded barriers to the 1% buying elected officials.

Now we have a major opportunity to fight back.

On September 8, the Senate is scheduled to vote on a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and other toxic Supreme Court decisions that have opened the floodgates to unlimited political spending by corporations.1

We expect stiff opposition from Republicans. But with control of the Senate hanging in the balance in November, this is an important moment to force each senator to go on record in support of overturning Citizens United — or publicly sell out to their corporate backers. We need to speak out now to make it clear that millions of us across the country will be watching as the Senate votes next month.

Tell the Senate: Overturn Citizens United.

The proposed amendment is a crucial chance to get our senators on record before the midterm election either supporting an amendment to kick big money out of politics or shilling for their corporate donors.

We have enormous momentum in this fight. Sixteen states and roughly 600 communities have formally demanded that Congress vote to pass a constitutional amendment making it clear that corporations are not people and money is not speech. 2

Amending the Constitution is not easy, nor is it a decision that should be made lightly. But it’s clear that if we don’t organize to amend the Constitution, the Supreme Court will go even further in allowing unlimited spending by corporations and rich donors.

In Citizens United, the Supreme Court opened the floodgates to unlimited spending on elections by corporations. And in McCutcheon v. FEC, the court struck down limits on how money much individual mega-donors can give to candidates during a single election cycle. Worse, the court’s conservatives aren’t likely to stop there, but will continue tearing down campaign finance protections that prevent corporations from drowning out the voices of ordinary Americans.

The Senate’s vote on the amendment will make it clear which side our senators are on: Ours or our would-be corporate overlords. We need to raise our voices now and urge the Senate to do the right thing.

Tell the Senate: Overturn Citizens United.

Zack Malitz, Campaign Manager
CREDO Action from Working Assets

Add your name:

Sign the petition â–º

1. Ramsey Cox, “Reid schedules vote in September on amending the Constitution,” The Hill, August 1, 2014
2. John Nichols, “The Senate Judiciary Committee Just Backed an Amendment to Overturn ‘*Citizens United*’” The Nation, July 10, 2014

New Web Site Makes It Easy To Buy Health Insurance Online

Posted by Admin On August - 28 - 2014 Comments Off on New Web Site Makes It Easy To Buy Health Insurance Online


Nationwide (BlackNews.com) — MyHealthPlusDental.com is a website that allows users to get quotes for and purchase health insurance, dental insurance, Medicare supplements and life insurance completely online.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA), also commonly referred to as “ObamaCare” gives Americans access to affordable health care while reducing the rising costs of health care in the U.S. Open enrollment through the health insurance marketplace ended March 31, 2014 and the extended special enrollment ended May 1. Those without insurance may be forced to pay a penalty fee. However, the opportunity to enroll in ACA health care coverage may still exist for those who qualify under special enrollment.

During the initial enrollment period and the extended enrollment period that ended April 19, 2014, more than 10 million people enrolled in a plan that met the requirements of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), according to an Issue Brief released by the Department of Health and Human Services. Yet, millions more did not enroll in mandatory health care. Of those who initially claimed they would likely not enroll in a required health care plan that meets the minimum requirements of the ACA, over 2/3 were younger adults. The Washington Post reported in December 2013 that a Harvard University Poll showed that only 13% of uninsured young adults between 18 and 29 indicated they were definitely going to sign up for health care and another 16% indicated they were “likely” to enroll in Obamacare exchanges. This is despite a campaign that specifically targeted younger Americans to encourage them to sign up for health care under the Affordable Care Act.

Many people have another chance to sign up without having to wait for the next open enrollment period, which is scheduled to begin on November 15, 2014 and end on February 15, 2015. The special enrollment period will allow those to enroll outside the open enrollment period if they have a “qualifying life event” such as marriage or divorce, if they have given birth or adopted a baby, moved to another state or lost their other health coverage.

MyHealthPlusDental.com (www.MyHealthPlusDental.com) can help them find a healthcare plan that is right for them and their family. It is easy to navigate the user-friendly website to get an affordable quote that meets their health care coverage needs and the health care needs of their family. MyHealthPlusDental.com also makes it easy to access dental coverage, life insurance, Medicare supplements and additional information to help them obtain fast, easy online quotes and assistance.

Top 10 Back-To-School Scholarships For African American And Minority Students

Posted by Admin On August - 28 - 2014 Comments Off on Top 10 Back-To-School Scholarships For African American And Minority Students

Back to School Scholarships For Minorities

Nationwide (BlackNews.com) — The summer is over and the 2014-2015 school year has already started; Students all over the country have returned back to the classroom. To officially kick off the back-to-school celebration, here are the top 10 scholarships with upcoming deadlines for African American and other minority students:

#1 – The Coca-Cola Scholars Program is a very competitive program for high school seniors throughout the United States. Sponsored by The Coca-Cola Company, the largest soft drink company in the world, the program awards millions every year in college funding. The deadline is in October. For more details, visit www.scholarshipsonline.org/2012/04/coca-cola-scholars-program.html

#2 – The Xerox Technical Minority Scholarship Program is designed to help cultivate minority students for potential recruitment in the field of technology. The scholarship amount award depends on the student’s tuition balance, academic excellence and classification. The deadline is in September. For more details, visit www.scholarshipsonline.org/2012/03/xerox-technical-minority-scholarship.html

#3 – The “From Failure to Promise” Essay Scholarship Contest offers an opportunity for high school seniors, undergraduate, and graduate students to earn scholarship money by writing a 1,000 word essay. Students will be asked to describe the challenges they have faced in achieving academic success. For more details, visit www.scholarshipsonline.org/2013/02/from-failure-to-promise-essay.html

#4 – The Gates Millennium Scholars Program (also known as the Bill Gates Scholarship) awards scholarships each year to African American, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian Pacific Islander American or Hispanic American students who plan to enroll full-time in a two-year or four-year college or university program. The deadline is in January. For more details, visit www.scholarshipsonline.org/2012/08/the-gates-millennium-scholars-program.html

#5 – The CIA Minority Undergraduate Scholarship Program was developed, in part, to assist minority and disabled students, but the opportunity is available to all students who meet the requirements. Sponsored by the U.S. government’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the program consists of an actual scholarship award and a full-time paid summer job in Washington, DC. For more details, visit www.scholarshipsonline.org/2012/05/cia-undergraduate-scholarship-program.html

#6 – LAGRANT Foundation Scholarships are targeted toward minority undergraduate and graduate students, offering scholarships for students interested in careers in advertising, marketing, public relations, anthropology, or art. Students must be American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian/Pacific Islander, Black (non-Hispanic) or Hispanic. For more details, visit www.scholarshipsonline.org/2013/02/lagrant-foundation-scholarships.html

#7 – The Go Red Multicultural Scholarship Program champions greater inclusion of multicultural women in the nursing and medical industries, address important gaps in treatment, and ensure that all Americans have an opportunity to work with their healthcare providers to make the best choices that lead to good health. For more details, visit www.scholarshipsonline.org/2012/09/go-red-multicultural-scholarship-fund.html

#8 – The First Freedom Student Competition is a national essay and video contest open to high school students in the U.S. and U.S. territories. Students in grades 9-12 may participate. Two awards will be given, one essay award and one video award. For more details, visit www.scholarshipsonline.org/2014/08/first-freedom-student-competition.html

#9 – The Foot Locker Foundation/ United Negro College Fund (UNCF) Scholarship is funding a scholarship program for students attending or planning to attend a UNCF member college or university during the fall of 2014. All undergraduate classifications (freshman, sophomore, juniors and seniors) will be considered. For more details, visit www.scholarshipsonline.org/2014/08/foot-locker-foundation-uncf-scholarship.html

#10 – The Wendy’s High School Heisman Award Program recognizes male and female high school seniors who excel not only in sports but also academics and leadership capabilities. Every student who applies has a chance to win at the school, state and national level. For more details, visit www.scholarshipsonline.org/2013/05/wendys-high-school-heisman-award-program.html

BONUS – The Center for Alcohol Policy Essay Contest is open to all persons over the age of 18. Applicants may enter the competition by submitting an essay on a topic related to prohibition. Applicants can include students over the age of 18, as well as members of the general public. The topic changes every year but is always related to the subject of prohibition. For more details, visit www.scholarshipsonline.org/2014/07/center-for-alcohol-policy-essay-contest.html
Thousands of scholarship programs give away billions of dollars every year to deserving students. To search hundreds of other 2014-2015 scholarships, visit www.ScholarshipsOnline.org

African Festival of the Arts Chicago Celebrates 25 Years

Posted by Admin On August - 28 - 2014 Comments Off on African Festival of the Arts Chicago Celebrates 25 Years
Annual event uplifts global contributions of African Diaspora; showcases transformative speakers, authors and pavilion hosts; emphasizes role of Art/Culture in violence prevention

Throughout the Labor Day weekend (August 29 – September 1, 2014), the African Festival of the Arts of the Arts Chicago celebrates its 25th anniversary as the world-class, end-of-summer destination for family fun in the historic Washington Park, 5100 South Cottage Grove Avenue.

Boasting more than 300,000 attendees, it is the largest neighborhood festival in Chicago. This year’s theme, Cultural Connection, is an opportunity to celebrate, promulgate and educate the general public about the shared rich cultures of people of African ancestry.

“It is with pride that we celebrate 25 years of exposing, and, in some instances, introducing African culture to those who never recognized its connection to their lives,” says Patrick S. Woodtor, founder and executive director of Africa International House, Inc., host of the African Festival of the Arts.

Each year, the grounds of the African Fest come alive as a simulated African village, replete with special-interests pavilions featuring African drumming; colorful and rich fabrics; hand-crafted fine arts; interactive demonstrations; health and wellness workshops; spectacular jewelry; children’s programming; author and book readings; and captivating entertainment.

“Our flagship event serves as an opportunity to remind those of us in the Americas that our culture derived from strong Black traditions and continues to colonize the world today through fashion, music, and innovative style. Moreover, it is because of our connection to the cultures and traditions of the Motherland that we can look back with dignity at the contributions we have made all over the world. And it is why we can look with hope that future generations will propagate and enhance the connection.”

Woodtor, along with his late wife, Dee Parmer Woodtor, founded AFA after escaping Liberia during the horrendous civil war of the 1980s. To survive and make a living in Chicago, Woodtor sold the family’s heirlooms and other valuable artifacts. The demand for this “art” made way for a kiosk in a local retail store; and then evolved into a shop, Window to Africa, which was located in the former Harper Court. It is there that AFA was born as a yearly showcase/customer appreciation sale. Today, it is one of the most anticipated end-of-summer destinations in the Midwest.

Cultural Arts Exchange
This year, the AFA Dee Parmer Woodtor Main Stage features a diverse mix of entertainment from local artists to international sensations to Grammy Award-winning performers, including Musiq SoulChild, Salif K-eita, Cassandra Wilson, and the Temptations Review featuring Dennis Edwards. The stage opens 10am on Friday, August 29th with a tribute to local Chicago hip hop artists and closes Monday, September 1st (Labor Day) with the Temptations Review featuring Dennis Edwards.
A full schedule will be posted on the AFA website soon. Featured Pavilions:
  • Bank of the Nile: Senses come alive as mouth-watering smells lead to a food court rich in delectable and authentic African cuisine. Experience exotic fare from the diverse cultures of Africa including egusi from Nigeria; wolof rice from Senegal; jerk chicken, goat-meat and fish from the Caribbean; and other spicy, appetizing dishes from across the African Diaspora. And don’t miss out on the distinct Cajun and soul foods from the different corners of the world.
  • Film Pavilion: (sponsored by Inner City Entertainment-ICE) View a variety of short and feature-length films that are produced by filmmakers of African ancestry and interpret the culture and experiences of peoples living in all parts of the African Diaspora. Enjoy free popcorn, get free movie posters and learn more about the Black World Cinema independent film screenings.
  • Fine Arts Pavilion: The Festival is world-renowned for its collectible fine art that includes original oils, acrylics, watercolors, pastels, charcoal, graphite, and works of limited editions, as well as sculptures in metal, wood, and mixed media. The best artists and works of wearable art and jewelry are featured in the Fine Arts Pavilion. Throughout the years, the Festival has become known for assisting in uplifting the careers of contemporary visual artists, craft-makers and art galleries. Importantly, the fine arts program continues to educate collectors and beginning collectors on art in general. This year’s featured artist is Sekou Ra of Regal Adornment, who will be joined in the pavilion by artists such as Karen Joy Gill, Uwa Hunwick, Woodrow Nash, Frank Frazier, Melvin King, Rondell, Stacy Brown, Nii-Oti, Dimali, Isodor Howard, and Dayo Laoye, who is also the pavilion coordinator.
  • The Drum Village: Come celebrate The Drum. The Dance. The Experience. Explore the influence African and African-American heritage has on the cultural arts in Chicago for more than 40 years. Master drummers Olu Shakoor and Baba Tyehimba Mtu lead this spontaneous and collaborative pavilion showcasing interactive music education sessions and cultural performances rooted in African traditions; historical artifacts, photos, performances, and demonstrations lead by artistic drummers and dancers from around the world. Bring your old drums for re-skinning.
  • Author and Book Pavilion: Browse and shop for great book deals then hang around to meet, greet, and enjoy readings by best-selling and emerging authors.
  • Quilting Pavilion: Quilting is an ageless tradition that has cultural significance across the African Diaspora. From slave codes to storytelling, quilting seamlessly connected generations of Africans to the Motherland. Festival-goers can visit the Quilting Pavilion to learn about the craft, gain insight to the intricate stitching and techniques like appliqué, piecing and embroidery. We also invite you to bring old family quilts for restoration lessons. Enjoy the breathtaking vibrant colors and fabrics that make this textile artistry a lasting cultural legacy.
  • Children’s Pavilion (hosted by The Institute of Positive Education and Betty Shabazz International Charter School): Youth of all ages can enjoy games, music, dance, storytelling, theater, arts, drum, and crafts all day long! Other highlights include a children’s drum workshop as well as a fashion show. Social service agencies will be represented in the pavilion to provide answers to family, parenting, educational, and children’s questions.
  • Dr. Nurudeen Olowopopo Health and Wellness Village (sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois): Join in fun fitness programs, Zumba sessions, dance, and exercise demonstrations. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois invites all ages to Try Your Hand at Tennis workshops held Saturday and Sunday during the Festival. Important health resources and screenings for the entire family provided by University of Chicago Medical Center Urban Health Initiative and the American Cancer Society.
  • Green Village Pavilion (sponsored by Blacks in Green): Visit the “walk-to-work, walk-to-shop, walk-to-learn, walk-to-play village” where experts and artisans share wisdom and innovation. Learn the 8 Principles of Green-Village-Building, and find our way back to neighborhood health/wealth and independence. Grow your own food, make your own clothes, recycle everything, and let storytelling, music, and dance form your foundation. Visit with artisans all day and touch, smell, hold, and create. Take tours from backyard gardens to the great outdoors with activities you never imagined. From 1-5pm, there will be teach-ins and performances. In the end, enjoy the many ways to lead where you live, increase household income with home-based business and land stewardship, and restore our place in the world!
  • Spirituality Pavilion: Engage or observe sessions and conversations with African priests, spiritualists, healers, nutritionists, and herbalists. Try the diviners and other readers to uncover your hidden paths.
  • Beer and Wine Garden: Enjoy the full-bodied, refreshingly smooth spirits, wines, and beers.
We’re social! Updates, giveaways and live coverage will be posted to our social networks:Facebook and Twitter. Use hashtag #AFAChi25 to follow live tweet-coverage and pre-Festival updates.
The 25th Annual African Festival of the Arts Chicago opens daily Friday, August 29th – Monday, September 1st from 10a-10p. The tax-deductible admission is $10 in advance; $20 at the gate; or $30 for a 4-day weekend pass; $5 for seniors and children under 13. Family and group discounts are also available.

Madigan: Lake County Man Arrested for Child Pornography

Posted by Admin On August - 28 - 2014 Comments Off on Madigan: Lake County Man Arrested for Child Pornography

CHICAGO, IL ─ Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan announced charges against a Lake County man on multiple counts of possessing child pornography as part of “Operation Glass House,” her statewide initiative to apprehend the most active offenders who download and trade child pornography online.

Roman Oletsky, 37, of Mundelein, was arrested after investigators with Madigan’s office and the Mundelein Police Department executed a search warrant at his home in the 1300 block of Newport Street. Oletsky was charged with four counts of possession of child pornography, a Class 2 felony punishable by three to seven years in prison. Bond was set at $500,000.

This is the 68th arrest of Operation Glass House, which Madigan launched in 2010 to investigate and arrest offenders trading child pornography online. The operation’s investigations are conducted by Madigan’s High Tech Crimes Bureau and have revealed a disturbing community of criminals who are trading and viewing extremely violent videos of children as young as infants being raped and abused.

“Child pornography is a horrific crime that victimizes children each time a video of the abuse is viewed or traded,” Madigan said. “My office has been—and will continue to be—relentless in tracking down and apprehending offenders who download these heinous videos.”

The Mundelein Police Department assisted in the investigation, and the Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office will prosecute the case.

“Thank you to the Attorney General’s Office and Mundelein Police Department for their efforts,” said Lake County State’s Attorney Michael Nerheim. “This is yet another example of how we are more effective at fighting crime, when we work together.”

“Mundelein was fortunate to work with the Attorney General’s Office in identifying and apprehending this dangerous offender,” said Mundelein Police Chief Eric Guenther. “There is nothing more important than protecting our children.”

In addition to Operation Glass House, Madigan leads the Illinois Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (ICAC) with a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice. The Task Force investigates child exploitation crimes and trains local and county level law enforcement agencies throughout Illinois to do the same. Since 2006, Madigan’s ICAC task force has been involved in 812 arrests of sexual predators. The task force has also provided Internet safety training and education to 369,000 parents, teachers and students and more than 17,600 law enforcement professionals.

The public is reminded that the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

20th Anniversary AfroSolo Arts Festival Continues With Black Voices Series & Project Empowerment: The Audacity To Succeed

Posted by Admin On August - 28 - 2014 Comments Off on 20th Anniversary AfroSolo Arts Festival Continues With Black Voices Series & Project Empowerment: The Audacity To Succeed
September 19-28, 2014 in San Francisco. Ticket prices free to $50

San Francisco, CA (BlackNews.com) — The award-winning AfroSolo Arts Festival 2014 closes its 20th anniversary with two events: its seminal Black Voices Series – Our Stories, Our Lives and with Project Empowerment: The Audacity to Succeed – designed to help young Black men and boys successfully transcend youth to adulthood. Ticket prices: Free-$50

“We are excited to host this Festival. Through the arts we have an obligation to explore all the facets that make us human. Especially, issues related to Black youth and social injustice,” said Thomas Robert Simpson, Artistic Director of AfroSolo.

This year’s festival performers include solo performance artists Stephanie Anne Johnson, Lance Burton, Tarika Lewis and Kurt (DJ Lamont) Young, hosted by Thomas Robert Simpson, AfroSolos founder and artistic director.

I. Black Voices Series:Our Stories, Our Lives

Program A:
Stephanie Anne Johnson will perform “Every Twenty Days: Cancer, Yoga and Me,” her personal story about being diagnosed with cancer in December 2012. The title refers to her chemotherapy treatments, self-healing practices, and remembrances of family and friends who died from this disease. Its an intimate, funny, and uplifting story about the journey from diagnosis to treatment to physical well being. Johnson is an AfroSolo alumna as a visual artist and lighting designer. With more than thirty-five years of experience behind the scenes, this show represents Johnsons first venture into playwriting and solo performance.

Program B:
Lance Burton will perform “The Irrelevance of Being Relevant,” the story of a Black man who, as a 1st grader, left Little Rock, Arkansas for San Francisco just as the 101st Airborne dropped into Little Rock to escort 9 Black students into Central High School. He shares his trials as a teen navigating 1960s Civil Rights Movement in the Fillmore and protests in the Haight/Ashbury. Leaping to years later, he considers the struggles of loves, marriage and a 30-year career on the fringe of media and technology as a Black man in San Francisco. Burton is a media entrepreneur creating print, video and photographic features, stories and profiles that depict the Black experience in San Francisco over the past 75 years.

Tarika Lewis performs “My Life As A Black Panther, her personal story as the first female to join the Black Panther Party (BPP) for Self Defense in 1967. She was one of the founding members of Its About Time, a website dedicated to the legacy and alumni of the BPP. She was also a consultant on the movie “Panther” by Marlo Van Peebles and played herself in a few scenes. Lewis is an accomplished violinist and has traveled the world playing in the Legendary John Handy’s Band and many others. Lewis is the director of MyStringsOfSoul, a youth instruction and string ensemble that performs Jazz, Traditional African, Hip Hop, R&B and good Soul music.

Kurt (DJ Lamont) Young performs “If God Wanted Me To Fly,” an autobiographical story about the last time he spent time with his father’s father and how his granddads favorite pair of dress shoes traveled with Young around the world. DJ Lamont is a KPOO FM – San Francisco, CA programmer, renowned disc jockey, and audio storyteller. He now takes those skills and live performance to the stage. Young is the founder of Fingersnaps Media Arts, which is dedicated to the education, cultivation, and inspiration of DJ culture.

Gala Benefits, Performances & Ticket Info
Show dates: September 19-28.
Ticket prices range from $15-$50

For tickets visit:

Program A

Program B
II. Project Empowerment: “The Audacity To Succeed”

AfroSolo Arts Festival joins President Obamas “My Brothers Keeper Initiative” by inaugurating “Project Empowerment: The Audacity To Succeed.” The mission of the project is to help guide and inspire young Black men and boys to successfully transcend youth into adulthood. Using the arts as a conduit, the project has three parts:

1) a summit entitled “Project Empowerment: The Audacity to Succeed: Young Black Men and Boys Soaring Into The Future,” that will include workshops, seminars, and teach-ins;

2) the publishing (late 2014) of an anthology of letters “Lighting up the Future: Letters From Black Men to Young Black Men and Boys” 3) host a “Performance Extravaganza” of young artists, using a range of mediums to possibly include: theatre, dance, spoken word, poetry, mixed media and live painting.

The Summit and the Performance Extravaganza will take place on September 27, 2014 (tentative) from noon to 6 pm at the African American Art and Culture Complex, 762 Fulton Street, San Francisco, CA. Free admission. For more info, visit: www.afrosolo.org, email thomas(at)afrosolo(dot)org or call 415/771-2376.
AfroSolo Theatre Company’s mission is to nurture, promote, and present African American and African Diaspora art and culture through solo performances and the visual arts. Since 1993, they have provided a forum to give an authentic voice to the diverse experiences of Black people in the Americas. Through art, they bring people of different ethnicities together to explore and share the human spirit that binds us all.

Funding for the AfroSolo Theatre Company is made possible in part through the support of the Friends of AfroSolo, California Pacific Medical Center, Kaiser Permanente, Rainbow Grocery Coop, Inc., San Francisco Arts Commission, San Francisco Grants for the Arts/Hotel Tax Fund and the Zellerbach Family Foundation.

Revamp underway for Arts and Social Studies

Posted by Admin On August - 28 - 2014 Comments Off on Revamp underway for Arts and Social Studies

Learning standard review a partnership between State and local partners; continues critical look at benchmarks for college and career readiness

SPRINGFIELD, IL — State Superintendent of Education Christopher A. Koch announced that he has requested a review of the state’s arts and social studies education standards to build on the State Board of Education’s work to update the Illinois Learning Standards and better prepare students for success after graduation.

This latest review follows the Board’s approval to implement new learning standards for math, English language arts, physical education and science.

“It’s essential to review our learning standards to ensure they are up to date, rigorous and relevant to what students need to be ready to succeed in college and careers,” said Superintendent Koch. “We began the process of reviewing our standards with the adoption of new math and English language arts standards in 2010. It’s important that we review all subject areas to ensure we have high standards for well-rounded students who can think critically and creatively, collaborate and communicate effectively.”

Superintendent Koch has asked two committees to study the current standards, review the standards of other states,  and make recommendations for improvements.

Arts Alliance Illinois, a statewide advocate for arts education, will lead the review of the arts education standards and convene a committee of education partners to review the National Core Arts Standards, released in June. The committee will include teachers representing all arts disciplines, administrators and community partners. Members will review existing Illinois standards; analyze public input; and evaluate research and best practices in arts education. This work will culminate in a recommendation to the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) for the adoption and implementation of new statewide arts standards.

“Illinois students need high-quality arts education to reach their fullest potential,” said Ra Joy, executive director of the Arts Alliance of Illinois. “We appreciate the opportunity to bring together arts and education partners and leaders from across the state for this review. The lessons learned in arts education classrooms transcend the subject matter, teaching skills that have a profound impact throughout our lives.”

Another group of education partners will form a task force, led by the Illinois Civic Mission Coalition, to develop new social studies standards. The task force will consist of teachers representing various grades, as well as representatives from the disciplines of civics, economics, geography, history and sociology. The panel will review the College, Career, and Civic (C3) Framework, which was published last fall by the National Council for the Social Studies, to guide its efforts. The group will also draw from the experiences of several other states that have recently embarked on a similar process.

“Strong social studies standards join the core disciplines of math, English language arts and science to help not only prepare students for college and careers, but for engagement in civic life,” said Shawn P. Healy, chair of the Illinois Civic Mission Coalition and the Civic Learning and Engagement Scholar at the Robert R. McCormick Foundation. “I commend the Illinois State Board of Education for agreeing to revise these state standards. This is a promising step in reviving the civic health of our state.”

The review of arts and social studies standards represents the next part of ISBE’s work to update student learning benchmarks. Teachers and administrators, who continue to write local curricula and lesson plans for their own classrooms, show strong support for the new English language arts and math standards. A majority of educators believe the new standards will improve students’ ability to lead, focus and connect with ongoing initiatives to improve the quality of education in Illinois, according to results from Scholastic’s Primary Sources Survey of Illinois teachers last fall.

ISBE adopted new learning standards in math and English language arts in 2010, physical education in 2013 and science earlier this year. All of the new Illinois Learning Standards are geared toward preparing all students for success in college and careers after graduating high school.

For the latest news from the Illinois State Board of Education, follow us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Illinois-State-Board-of-Education/136022251779 or Twitter at https://twitter.com/#!/ISBEnews. Visit the official ISBE website at http://www.isbe.net.

The Ruckus Theater Announces Its Sixth Season, Including Plays By Dan Caffrey and Matt Lyle

Posted by Admin On August - 28 - 2014 Comments Off on The Ruckus Theater Announces Its Sixth Season, Including Plays By Dan Caffrey and Matt Lyle

New Artistic And Executive Directors Also Announced

CHICAGO, IL -  Following a successful fifth season with productions at The Side Project Theatre and Collaboraction, The Ruckus Theater is proud to announce its sixth season in Chicago, as well as the appointment of a new Artistic Director and Executive Director. Outgoing Artistic Director Allison Shoemaker, who will now serve as the company’s Director of Marketing and Publicity, and incoming Artistic Director Derek Van Barham releases a season of two plays, each investigating the impact of cataclysm on a community. In addition to announcing Barham’s appointment, the company also proudly announces the appointment of Catherine Bullard as Executive Director.

First up in 2015, Thomas Murray (Waltzing Mechanics) helms the Midwest premiere of Barbecue Apocalypse by Matt Lyle (The Boxer, City Life Supplement). Lyle’s play, which TheatreJones called “furiously funny and finally insightful,” will take the stage at the Athenaeum Theatre (February 15-March 15, 2015). Following Barbecue Apocalypse, Allison Shoemaker will direct a summer 2015 production of Matawan by Ruckus ensemble member Dan Caffrey (Sandalwood, Little Triggers). Matawan, which Shoemaker and Caffrey devised with an ensemble cast as a part of Red Tape Theatre’s Fresh Eyes series, was a finalist for the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center’s 2013 National Playwrights Conference.

“We’re incredibly excited about this season, from Matt Lyle’s deviously funny ensemble comedy to Dan Caffrey’s lyrical portrait of paranoia, loneliness, and the savagery of nature,” said Shoemaker.

Added Barham, “While apocalypses and shark attacks set these stories in motion, it’s the communities that they disrupt—and create—that resonate with us.”

A founding member of The Ruckus, Shoemaker passes the baton to Barham, who will lead the company alongside incoming Executive Director Catherine Bullard. Bullard succeeds Martin Kettling, who will remain on the company’s Board of Directors. Shoemaker continues as an ensemble member, and will now serve as Director of Marketing and Publicity. Associate Artistic Director Joshua Davis, a founding member of The Ruckus, also departs for a position with the Illinois Arts Council. Resident Dramaturg Jessica Reese succeeds Barham as Literary Manager.

“I’m so proud of the work The Ruckus has done as an ensemble over the last five seasons, and can’t wait to see what happens next, in this season and those to come,” said Shoemaker. “Derek and Catherine are remarkable artists and collaborators, and I look forward to working with them as they continue to grow the company and create great, gutsy theatre.”

“Catherine and I look forward to a vibrant season, more remarkable collaborations, and a significant increase in the number of emails we receive every day,” said Barham.

“The Ruckus’ entire collaborative staff and ensemble, but most significantly Allison herself, has helped build a rich foundation for our theater company’s continued growth,” said Bullard. “We are no longer an upstart storefront company; The Ruckus is growing into its own place in Chicago’s diverse theater scene. I’m thrilled to work with Derek and our company to explore this next chapter in The Ruckus’ life.”

Derek Van Barham (Artistic Director) has served as Literary Manager for The Ruckus since 2012, collaborating with its artists in Dan Caffrey’s Little Triggers, as well as the workshop performances of Matawan and Elise Mayfield is Samuel Clemens, Samuel Clemens is Mark Twain with DCASE.  Derek is an Artistic Associate with Pride Films and Plays, where he directed and choreographed Songs from an Unmade Bed (Jeff nomination: Best Director of a Musical or Revue), Terrence McNally’s Some Men (co-directed by David Zak) and Kill Your Boyfriends. He has performed with BoHo Theatre (Hauptmann), Red Tape Theatre (The Skriker, Stadium Devildare, The Life & Death of Madame Barker), and The Island Theatre (Wallace Shawn’s The Fever). He has choreographed for Black Button Eyes (Coraline the Musical), The Plagiarists, Inappropriate Theatre, Brain Surgeon Theatre, and Salonathon, and is the founder of the Crush Dance Collective. He can currently be seen improvising with the LGBT team Baby Wine (Fridays at iO Chicago). MFA: Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University.

Catherine Bullard (Executive Director) graduated with a degree in Theater Performance from American University, where she was also executive director of AU Players, the highest-funded student organization on campus. After graduating, Catherine found an artistic home with The Ruckus after helping devise and perform Common Hatred, as well as participating in workshops for Elise Mayfield is Samuel Clemens, Samuel Clemens is Mark Twain at DCASE and Scott T. Barsotti’s Facing Angela. Shortly after becoming an ensemble member with The Ruckus, Catherine became the Social Media Director and interim Company Manager. She’s excited to help shape The Ruckus’ big-picture goals while keeping a hand on the tiller of day-to-day operations. Expressions of congratulations can be made in the form of coffee donations.

Additionally, The Ruckus will partner with the side project to present a series of new play readings throughout October 2014. Playwrights include M.E.H. Lewis, Joe Zarrow, Randall Colburn, Joshua Davis, Will Goldberg, and Wren Graves. Directors include Josh Sobel, Allison Hendrix, Nathan Robbel, Kristin Davis, Dennis Frymire, and Brian Ruby. Further details, including casting and ticket information, will be announced in the coming weeks. This season, the company’s sixth, kicked off this summer with a remount of Jenny Magnus’s The Strange, first produced as a part of Curious Theatre Branch’s MAGNUS IN PLAY festival and brought back to the stage in partnership with Athenaeum Theatre Productions.

Barbecue Apocalypse by Matt Lyle | directed by Thomas Murray
February 15-March 15, 2015 at the Athenaeum Theatre

The yard is wrong. The fence is wrong. The patio furniture is really, really wrong. As Mike and Deb prepare for a backyard barbecue designed to impress their more stylish friends, these concerns threaten to send them into a spiral of shame and self-doubt. But the world is about to fall apart, and apocalypse has a way of putting things in perspective. The Ruckus presents the Midwest premiere of a devilish new comedy from the writer behind The Boxer and the City Life Supplement.

Matawan by Dan Caffrey | directed by Allison Shoemaker
Summer 2015 | dates and location to be announced

In the summer of 1916, a series of freakish and fatal shark attacks paralyzed the Jersey Shore. Further inland, a polio outbreak plagued Philadelphia, while the cloud of World War I loomed over the entire nation. As the forces of nature, disease, and war close in, people struggling to adapt must face a monster whose evolution has led to millions of years of survival— a monster who now faces some terrors of her own. Spanning several cities and the infinite depths of the ocean, Matawan conjures an unusual moment in American history and the ways in which our hidden selves can wreak just as much havoc as catastrophe.

Thank God for Music Stands: a Series of New Play Readings
October 2014 | produced in partnership with the side project

It takes a village, a photocopier, and something to hold all those pages in place to make a reading series. Six remarkable playwrights join forces with up-and-coming Chicago directors and equally renowned audiences to help brand new plays get to that next draft.

About The Ruckus Theater

Founded on the principle that the best art comes from fearless collaborations, The Ruckus is composed of multi-disciplinary artists from across the country and around the globe. We aim to create a company without borders—a theater that blends the lines between playwright and actor, audience and ensemble member. The Ruckus Theater is led by Artistic Director Derek Van Barham, Executive Director Catherine Bullard, and a company and ensemble of twenty-seven.

We’re here to create, to examine, to invent, to explode—to create a ruckus. The Ruckus develops new work and the artists who create that work. Our ensemble breaks down the walls of traditional methods to nurture new plays and challenge exceptional artists. We commit to the growth of our ensemble, the artists we collaborate with, and the plays we develop. We aim to deepen the cultural bedrock of our community by giving megaphones to new voices and by making theater affordable. By fostering conversations that rip through the curtain, we aim to lead both artist and audience down an unexpected path with art that doesn’t play by the rules.

See how we make a ruckus all over the Internet at facebook.com/theruckustheater; view our perfectly squared photos at http://instagram.com/theruckustheater; follow our tweets at twitter.com/ruckustheater; and spend hours at youtube.com/theruckustheater.

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