The crowd at the Speak Your Peace open mike in the backyard of the Pilsen Art House fills the yard, a tent off to the side of the yard, and the porch and stairs behind the house.
The Speak Your Peace open mike in the backyard of the Pilsen Art House Credit: Juan Jose Avala Jr.

In summer 2021, I was a just-graduated Northwestern student, and Speak Your Peace was the first open mike I attended as a newly Chicago-based musician looking for Black community, shared artistic experiences, and the opportunity to whip out my guitar for a three-minute slot in front of my peers. I couldn’t know it then, but none of the dozen open mikes I’d attend afterward would live up to the lively experience that FourtuneHouse curated for me. 

Makafui Searcy, the 22-year-old director of FourtuneHouse, says he founded the company as an artistic safe space that could function as an engine to drive creative entrepreneurship in Chicago. Speak Your Peace, which began as a collaboration with the Pilsen Art House, is attended by longtime artists as well as first-time performers, primarily 18- to 24-year-old Black and Brown folks on the south side.

Searcy, the child of entrepreneurs, grew up side by side with Chicago artists such as Sonny, NombreKari, and Dreamer Isioma, and he says he “inherently just wanted to support [his] people.” The open mike his creative company birthed is one of the most vibrant and celebratory spaces in the city; you can feel how eager attendees are to perform and to hype up anyone else with grit enough to grace the stage. SYP started online during the pandemic as a virtual place that invited local artists to share messages of uplift and personal inspiration, but it’s since evolved into a seasonal indoor-outdoor marketplace and open mike featuring vendors of clothes, visual art, food, and books. On an average day, 60 or more people sign up to perform, some of them just rapping and singing over a track and others bringing multiple support musicians onstage for a more fully live performance. 

Speak Your Peace has since moved to the FourtuneHouse Art Center at 4410 S. Cottage Grove, and for its upcoming season it’ll add a north-side venue to be determined. The open mike usually runs from late spring till early fall, and FourtuneHouse will post updates on Instagram at @fourtunehouse. You know it’s summertime when Speak Your Peace is popping off.

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