The whole song and dance

The little auditorium at the University of Chicago Charter School’s Woodlawn School is packed, full of rowdy secondary school students still wide-eyed at this time of night. The walls are a bright blue, with a faux-rococo aesthetic marking the architecture. Behind me sits a chatty group of freshman girls. They are at this show–a school performing arts exhibition–for physics extra credit.

Truck Show

“Once upon a time,” Tim the Mindbender drawled, “a magician lied to me.” It was 5pm on the first truly cold Saturday of the year. The small crowd, faces partially obscured by cups of cider, looked up from their tarot cards. With a grin, the magician situated himself in front of the open trunk of a white rent-a-truck capped with an old-time-circus-style sign decorated with doves.

A Part of Me

Taylor Brooks walks in, still wearing her Woodlawn Secondary School uniform underneath a purple coat. She takes a seat at the end of the table and pulls out one of Wendelin Van Draanen’s “Sammy Keyes” books. She keeps quiet and…

PUSH for Justice

“Stop the killing!” Stop the killing. Reverend Jesse Jackson, Sr. is speaking at the national headquarters for his Rainbow/PUSH coalition, blocks from President Obama’s Hyde Park home.

Plot Development

The Mary Zepeda Garden looks nothing like the before-photos. A year ago, an abandoned, rusted-out car stood guard over a vacant lot; toxic soil sprouted unsightly weeds. Today, gravel slopes and freshly planted greenery frame the perimeter, and the previously…

Creative Futures

Bruce Taylor began the first day of class by asking his nine students why they were given their first names. “I was named Joy,” responded one student, “because my daddy said I brought joy into his life.” After two beats…

A Timely Conversation

Norma van der Meulen says that she is getting old, that she can’t quite remember as well as she used to. She is modest, seated in front of a pot of tea in her Hyde Park apartment. Her eyes come…