Friday 10/16 – Thursday 10/22


By Cara Jepsen

16 FRIDAY Writer Margaret Walker Alexander first heard about “slavery time” in her grandmother’s bedtime stories. When she was 19, just before joining the Federal Writers’ Project here, her poem “I Want to Write” was published in the NAACP’s journal the Crisis: “I want to write. / I want to write the songs of my people. / I want to hear them singing melodies in the dark. / I want to catch the last floating strains from their sob-torn throats. / I want to frame their dreams into words; their souls into notes.” Best known for her poetry, Walker also wrote the 1966 novel Jubilee, inspired by her great-grandmother’s struggle under slavery. In 1977 she accused Alex Haley of stealing from her book to write Roots. Though these charges were later dropped, she did pen a poem to him titled “Ripoff Roots Style.” Tonight Walker, who has counted Langston Hughes and Richard Wright among her friends, will be inducted into the National Literary Hall of Fame for Writers of African Descent as part of the Gwendolyn Brooks Writers’ Conference on Black Literature and Creative Writing, which runs through Saturday. Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright August Wilson is the keynote speaker at the ceremony; it’s from 8:15 to 10. All events take place at Chicago State University’s Robinson University Center, 9501 S. King Drive. Admission to the entire conference, minus Saturday’s closing banquet, is $85; with the dinner it’s $145. Call 773-995-4440 for more.

17 SATURDAY Over at the Field Museum, Swedish Folk Art: All Tradition Is Change opens today. The exhibit features woodwork, textiles, and furniture, and investigates the links between traditional art and sleek modern Swedish design. Folk music and dancing and puppet shows are on the roster, as well as demonstrations of paper weaving and rosemaling, a Scandinavian form of decorative painting. The festivities are from 10 to 3 (the museum is open from 9 to 5) at the museum, Roosevelt at Lake Shore Drive (312-922-9410, extension 497); admission is $7, $4 for students, seniors, and children. If you’re a natural blond whose family hails from the land of lingonberries and lutefisk, you won’t be afraid to take a class on “Finding Your Swedish Roots.” It’s from 10 to 2 and costs $18. Call 312-322-8854 for more.

18 SUNDAY Neofascist groups in Russia are attracting a growing number of followers disgruntled with that country’s sorry economic state. But Peter Hudis, editor of the book The Marxist-Humanist Theory of State-Capitalism, says that the only solution is to smash the power of the oligarchs, the same people who were in charge before the fall of communism. “There’s no way for that to happen without a mass movement from below that would take the power from the elite and bring it to the workplace,” he says. He’s rooting for the independent union movement to win out. Tonight Hudis will elaborate at a free lecture, Russia’s Economic Nose Dive and Our State-Capitalist World. It’s at 6:30 in room 707 of the News and Letters Library, 59 E. Van Buren. Call 312-663-0839 for more.

19 MONDAY Sometimes less is more. That’s the idea behind the Dance Slam, a contest in which dancers and choreographers have five minutes to show their stuff. As in a poetry slam, the audience chooses who wins by offering or withholding applause. The winner of this year’s two-part contest will walk away with a slot at Dance Chicago ’99. The first installment starts at 7:30 tonight (part deux is next Monday) at the Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport (773-935-6860). Tickets are $5.

20 TUESDAY School-reform activist Bill Ayers calls Ernest J. Gaines’s novel A Lesson Before Dying “a teacher’s tale”: “When the sheriff compares education to agitation…one is reminded of Frederick Douglass’s master exploding in anger when he discovers that his wife has taught the young Douglass to read: ‘It will unfit him to be a slave.'” Tonight Ayers and some of the contributors to his new anthology, Teaching for Social Justice: A Democracy and Education Reader, will participate in a free panel discussion about democracy and education. The panelists include coeditor Therese Quinn, former Black Panther and University of Illinois at Chicago professor Bill Watkins, and Journal of Ordinary Thought publisher Hal Adams. It starts at 7 at 57th Street Books, 1301 E. 57th (773-684-1300).

21 WEDNESDAY It’s not by happenstance that “member” became a euphemism for a penis, says historian Linda K. Kerber in her new book, No Constitutional Right to Be Ladies: Women and the Obligations of Citizenship. According to her, when this country was founded it embraced the British legal principle of coverture, which held that a woman’s duties to her husband and children substituted for her civic obligations. That explains why it took so long for us girls to win the right to vote, own property, sit on juries, and serve in the military. Tonight Kerber, who links women’s exception from civic duties to the denial of women’s civil rights, will lead a free workshop on the gender issues raised in her book from 4:30 to 6:30 in room 110 of the University of Chicago’s Judd Hall, 5835 S. Kimbark. Call 773-702-9936 for more. Kerber will also give a free lecture on Tuesday, October 20, at 6 at the Newberry Library, 60 W. Walton (312-255-3700).

22 THURSDAY In her most recent performance piece, The American Chestnut, Jesse Helms’s nemesis Karen Finley focuses her fragmented nonnarrative on the lives of two women–the postmenopausal Lily, whose husband has left her for a younger woman, and Nicky, a shapely beauty who works at a library. She’ll somehow weave musings about Winnie-the-Pooh in an S-M bar and thoughts on public nursing into a piece that “shows the pain of surviving tragedies” such as “AIDS, war, discrimination, racism, misogyny, and violence.” Finley will perform the work (the title refers to a once-abundant tree that was nearly made extinct by disease at the turn of the century) tonight at 7:30 at the Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport (773-935-6860). Tickets are $20; call 312-902-1500.