Blacks and whites have been victims in almost equal proportions of the 500,000-odd murders that have taken place in the U.S. since 1977. But according to a recent Amnesty International study 80 percent of murderers executed for their crime were convicted of killing white victims, and while African-Americans make up only 12 percent of the general population, on death row the figure soars to 40 percent. This weekend’s Race to Execution conference will examine the reasons behind the numbers; speakers include former Illinois governor George Ryan, author and attorney Scott Turow, state representative Art Turner, and Reader staff writer John Conroy. It’s today from 8 to 5:30 and tomorrow, October 25, from 9 to 1:15 at the DePaul Center, 1 E. Jackson, room 8005, in Chicago. Admission is free except for today’s noon luncheon (which costs $50), but space is limited. Call 312-362-5837 or go to www.law.depaul.edu/racetoexecution for more information.

Next year’s presidential election and the 20th anniversary of the election of Chicago’s first African-American mayor are the springboards for an exploration of the current racial and political climate at this weekend’s two-day symposium, Harold Washington: His Legacy, Our Future. Today’s speakers include Source editor-at-large Akiba Solomon, Pulitzer-winning journalist Leon Dash, U.S. congressman John Conyers, DePaul political scientist Maria de los Angeles Torres, and In These Times publisher Jeff Epton (the son of Washington’s Republican opponent, Bernard Epton). The symposium runs tonight from 5:30 to 8 at the Chicago Historical Society, 1601 N. Clark, Chicago, and tomorrow from 8:30 to 3 at the University of Chicago’s International House, 1414 E. 59th, Chicago. It’s free; call 773-702-8063 or see www.ihouse.uchicago.edu for more.


Just in time for Halloween, Stage Two Theatre Company is holding its first annual Fall Indoor Tent Sale. The nonprofit troupe has collected all the usual garage sale items from its patrons–household goods, clothing, furniture, and jewelry–but is also offering costumes and props from its own collection. There’s a two-person camel getup, ten long gowns in a variety of sizes, stage weapons, sarongs, the front end of a VW Beetle, and miscellany from productions of The Rocky Horror Show and Hair. The sale runs from 9 to noon today at the Estonian House, Estonian Lane and Milwaukee Avenue, a quarter mile north of Deerfield Road in Lincolnshire. Call 847-432-7469 for more information.

“I’m not a writer, I’m an activist,” says jazz historian Timuel Black, explaining why it took him ten years to complete Bridges of Memory, his three-volume oral-history collection on black migration to Chicago. The first book in the series, out now from Northwestern University Press, focuses on the initial wave of African-Americans to arrive from the south in the wake of World War I. (The other two volumes will be released early next year.) Black has a slew of events lined up in Chicago to celebrate: There’s a free reading and release party for the book tonight from 5 to 7 at the DuSable Museum, 740 E. 56th Pl.; call 773-947-0600. He’ll give another free reading tomorrow, October 26, at 2 at the Woodson Regional Library, 9525 S. Halsted; call 312-747-6900. Tomorrow night from 4:30 to 7 he’ll appear with the Jimmy Ellis Jazz Quartet and WVON personality Cliff Kelley at a fund-raiser for the Chicago Committee to Defend the Bill of Rights at HotHouse, 31 E. Balbo. Tickets to that are $50, $80 for couples; call 312-939-0675 or e-mail ccdbr@pobox.com for reservations.

For the past five years the Spareroom collective’s sparse storefront has provided studio, exhibit, rehearsal, and performance space for 17 interdisciplinary artists. Now the place needs a cleanup and a paint job, so the members are staging a benefit party called Spare Change tonight at 9 at the nearby Handlebar restaurant, 2311 W. North, Chicago. It’ll feature fortune-telling, a silent auction, refreshments, and “spontaneous performance.” There’s a suggested donation of $5; call 773-878-8114.


The provocateurs at the 15-year-old Hyde Park-based journal the Baffler spent much of the late 90s chronicling and critiquing the tech boom and bust. Their new anthology, Boob Jubilee: The Cultural Politics of the New Economy (out last month from W.W. Norton), includes updated versions of 32 essays from the last eight issues of the erratically published magazine plus an intro-duction by Studs Terkel. At 4 today Baffler editor Tom Frank (who recently moved to Washington, D.C.) will be joined by contributors Jim Arn-dorfer, Dan Raeburn, Mike Newirth, and Dan Kelly for a free reading at Quimby’s, 1854 W. North in Chicago. Call 773-342-0910.


“I remember reading an article, I must have been eight or nine, about the discovery of the positive electron–the positron,” Nobel laureate Leon Lederman told an interviewer in 1992. “It was a front-page article in the New York Times describing this very romantic discovery and I just thought that was terrific.” Now the high-energy physicist sits on the science advisory board of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing; today at 4 he’ll moderate a free panel called Is Science Writing Coming of Age? Guests include reporter and journalism professor Deborah Blum, who won a 1992 Pulitzer for “The Monkey Wars,” her Sacramento Bee series on primate research, and best-selling author Timothy Ferris, whom the Christian Science Monitor has dubbed “the best popular science writer in the English language today.” Part of the Medill School of Journalism’s Crain Lecture Series, it takes place at Northwestern University’s McCormick Tribune Center, 1870 Campus Dr. in Evanston; call 847-491-5401 for more information.


In his 2002 radio piece “Mr. Fun,” This American Life contributor and former producer Jonathan Goldstein told the sad tale of what happens when new love runs afoul of the greatest obstacle of all–the new lover’s child. Narrated by Goldstein and his girlfriend, Heather O’Neill, the piece chronicled his desperate attempts to win the approval of O’Neill’s daughter, Arizona, who solemnly informed Gold-stein he was 19th on her list of favorite people, after the neighbor’s dog and the plumber. Tonight at 7:30 Goldstein, author of the novel Lenny Bruce Is Dead and coauthor of Schmelvis: In Search of Elvis Presley’s Jewish Roots, will tell stories about love lost and found at the Beat Kitchen, 2100 W. Belmont in Chicago. It’s part of “Nextbook,” a new series showcasing Jewish literature and culture. Admis-sion is free, but you must be 21; call 312-747-4074 for more.


“We want to educate people and lawmakers about issues of affordable housing and living wage jobs,” says a spokes-person for the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, which is sponsoring tonight’s forum for U.S. Senate candidates. Confirmed guests at press time included health care executive Joyce Washington, state senator Barack Obama, TV and radio personality Nancy Skinner, Hull Trading Company founder Blair Hull, and former Chicago Public Schools president and Daley chief of staff Gery Chico–all Democrats with their eye on Peter Fitzgerald’s seat. The forum starts at 7; it’s preceded by a 6 PM reception and the CCH’s annual meeting at 6:30. It’s at the Fine Arts Building, 410 S. Michigan in Chicago, and admission is $25; reservations are recommended. For more information call 312-435-4548 or see www.chicagohomeless.org.


Growing up in Westmont, unemployed teacher Michael Kinnavy says he had to trek into Chicago to see good improv, so last spring he and seven others formed Weee Improv to bring short-form comedy to the burbs. The troupe’s hour-and-a-half show features tried-and-true improv games with audience participation (see your day reenacted in fast-forward, for example), short skits based on audience suggestions, and improvised songs executed with the help of pianist Jon Kostal. It’s hosted by Deep Blue bar at Prairie Rock Brewing Company, 1385 N. Meacham in Schaumburg. Tonight’s show starts at 8; there’s a $5 cover, and you must be 21. Call 630-673-9477.