For over a decade beginning in the early 1950s, the U.S. State Department sponsored goodwill tours featuring African-American athletes throughout Africa, Asia, and Latin America. “The U.S. was trying to counteract Soviet propaganda that highlighted racial abuses in the United States,” says Damion Thomas, an assistant professor of Afro-American studies and kinesiology at the Uni-versity of Illinois. “Athletics’ assumed lack of ideological content minimized its vulnerability to the charges of cultural imperialism and neocolonialism that characterized its other propaganda campaigns.” Thomas, who’s working on a book called “American Poli-tricks: Race, Sports and the Cold War,” will give a free talk today at 3:30 called The Cold War Roots of the 1968 Mexico City Olympic Protest, in which he’ll place the legendary black power salutes of sprinters Tommie Lee Smith and John Carlos in historical context. The lecture kicks off the 2003-2004 Chicago Seminar on Sport and Culture, a series of monthly talks that runs through May at the Newberry Library, 60 W. Walton in Chicago; call 312-255-3524 for more information.
David Nelson’s controversial 1988 painting Mirth & Girth, which depicted the late Harold Washington in women’s lingerie, won’t be on display at the Chicago Histor-ical Society today, but just about anything else you can think of related to Chicago’s first black mayor will be. The new exhibit, Harold Washington: The Man and the Movement, includes, among other things, a recreation of Washington’s Hyde Park apartment, a desk used by him during his tenure in the U.S. House of Representatives, the 1,245-page stack of petitions he submitted to the city clerk’s office to get on the ballot in 1982, and a wall of 500-odd campaign buttons–both official and homemade–whose messages range from “Honkies for Harold” to “Bigots for Bernie.” The exhibit runs through May 31, 2004, at the Chicago Historical Society, 1601 N. Clark. There’ll be a free opening celebration today from 10 to 2 that includes readings of Washington’s speeches plus live theater, music, and dance. Call 312-642-4600 for more. i A $300,000 donation from the Village of Rosemont last winter provided the seed money for the Chicagoland Pops Orchestra. In the nine months since, conductor Lloyd Butler has put together an 80-piece group of Chicago-based professional musicians and developed a five-program inaugural season. For tonight’s kickoff concert, What a Movie! What a Show!, vocalist Karen Mason and the Chicago Children’s Choir will join the orchestra to perform movie music by everyone from Gershwin to John Williams. It starts at 8 at the Rosemont Theatre, 5400 N. River Rd. in Rosemont. Tickets range from $30 to $60 and can be purchased in person at the theater box office (847-671-5100) or through Ticketmaster (312-559-1212).
Ernie Flatt, who danced in films like Singin’ in the Rain and An American in Paris and choreographed Annie Get Your Gun and other Broadway shows, was a premier TV choreographer in the days when dance was a regular part of many network programs. His work will be resurrected tonight in Flatt Out, Northwestern University’s fall dance event; it’ll be performed by assistant professor and Light Opera Works artistic director Lara Teeter, Northwestern students, and two special guests–Carl Jablonski and Bobbi Bates, original members of the Ernie Flatt Dancers on The Carol Burnett Show. The program, directed by Dominic Missimi, is part of an effort to preserve Flatt’s work from the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s; it also in-cludes video footage from Flatt’s career. It starts at 8 in the Josephine Louis Theater, 20 Arts Circle Dr., on the school’s Evanston campus. Tickets are $25; call 847-491-7282.
Atlanta promoter Cedric Walker launched the lively hip-hop-infused UniverSoul Circus in 1994, and though the troupe’s early years were rough, it’s now officially hit the big time. Not only has it attracted corporate sponsorship (from Burger King) and audiences in 45 cities worldwide, it’s also aroused the ire of animal rights groups such as the Animal Pro-tection Institute, the International Pri-mate Protection League, and PETA–whose lobbying efforts convinced Gen-eral Motors and Ford to drop their support of the circus last year. The troupe’s Poppin’ Soul tour, which arrived in Chicago September 26, features the Hair Hanger of Brazil, the Flying Navas from Ecuador, the Big Top Biker Boyz motorcycle quartet from Colombia, the China Soul acrobats, and performing animals ranging from tigers and elephants to the “Hoppin’ Poppin’ Kan-garoo.” It runs through Thursday, October 9, in Washington Park, 55th and King Drive in Chicago. Today’s shows are at 1, 4, and 7 PM, and tickets range from $15 to $30. Call 312-559-1212 or see www.universoulcircus.com for tickets and more information.
“Feminine writing is a place which is not economically or politically indebted to all the vileness and compromise; that is not obliged to reproduce the system. That is writing.” French philosopher and literary critic Helene Cixous is perhaps best known for the concept of l’ecriture feminine, but she’s also a novelist and a playwright; her 1999 play Tambours sur la digue (“Drums on the Dyke”) was developed in conjunction with Europe’s radical Theatre du Soleil. Based on a 15th-century Chinese folktale and performed by actors dressed as Japanese Bunraku puppets and puppeteers, the piece addresses the class conflict that results when a river threatens to flood the surrounding villages. Filmed excerpts from the stage production–which was described as “visually stunning” by New York magazine in 2000–will be screened tonight at 6 as part of a program that includes an introduction to Theatre du Soleil by Northwestern University theater professor Craig Kinzer and a discussion with Cixous and actress Myriam Azencot. It’s at the university’s Annie May Swift Auditorium, 1920 Campus Dr. in Evanston. On Tuesday, October 7, at 6 PM, Cixous will give a lecture called “The Book I Do Not Write: Discovering the Interior Stage–Books and Plays at War With the Author” at the McCormick Tribune Center, 1870 Campus Dr. in Evanston. She’ll give a second talk (also at 6) on Thursday, October 9, titled “Evening at the Corner of the Two Worlds: A Chronicle of Creation With the Theatre du Soleil” in Lincoln Hall at Northwestern’s School of Law, 357 E. Chicago in Chicago. All events are free. For more information see www.communication.northwestern.edu or call 847-491-5490.
Not in Our Name’s Youth and Student Network, one of the organizing forces behind the March 5 student strike that inspired hundreds of thousands of high school and college students around the world to walk out of classes in protest of U.S. policy in Iraq, is now urging its constituencey to rise up against military recruitment in schools. Today, the second anniversary of the start of U.S. bombing in Afghanistan, organizers are urging students to walk out of classes, hold speak-outs and teach-ins, perform street theater, and engage in direct action at recruitment centers. In Chicago there’ll be an open speak-out for all interested parties at 2:30 at the corner of Lincoln and Halsted. Call 773-430-4699 or see www.notinourname.net for more information.
DePaul University political scientist Maria de los Angeles Torres was six in 1961 when her mother and father sent her to the U.S. as part of Oper-ation Pedro Pan, a program secretly sponsored by the U.S. government to bring more than 14,000 Cuban children to America following Fidel Castro’s decision to replace the island’s Catho-lic schools with Marxist-Leninist “Schools of Revolutionary Instruction.” “I was a lucky child,” says Torres, who stayed with friends and relatives when she first arrived. “My parents came within four months.” About 8,000 of the children were sent to camps and then foster homes–and some never saw their families again. Torres began working on her new book, The Lost Apple, about 11 years ago, when her eldest daughter turned six. “I had all of these questions…. Could I put her on a plane? What led my parents to do this?” Her years of research eventually led to the declassification of documents establishing a link between Operation Pedro Pan and the CIA. She’ll read from and discuss her book tonight at 7:30 at Women & Children First, 5233 N. Clark, Chicago. It’s free; call 773-769-9299.
“You can’t live off scenery, and I wanted to be in a bigger cultural pond before I died,” says fiber artist Lynn Basa about her decision to move here from Seattle last year. She says her new hometown has both inspired her and boosted sales–“which allows me to make more art.” Tonight from 6 to 8 she’ll take part in a free Artists at Work forum called Being Here: How Place Affects Practice, where she’ll be joined by fellow relocated artists Lina Bertucci and Accra Shepp. Part of Chicago Artists’ Month, it’s at the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington, Chicago. Call 312-744-6630.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/courtesy Chicago Historical Society.