Smash Play at the Goodman Theatre a *Crowning* Achievement

Whoever coined the saying “use your head for than a hat rack” hasn’t met the ladies of Burlington, North Carolina; the setting of the smash hit Crowns. 4-star got up and out, hatless unfortunately, to see this raved reviewed production. And frankly, we tip our hats off to the cast.

provided by “Stage and Cinema” online

Crowns, written by playwright Regina Taylor,was originally produced in 2002, first brought to the Goodman Theatre in 2004, and for its 10 year anniversary has been reworked for its second Goodman release this summer in 2012. The story follows Yolanda, played by fellow Illinois State University alum Marketta Wilder, as she must leave the familiar yet dangerous streets of Englewood, Chicago. After being shipped off “down south” to stay with her grandmother Mother Shaw, Felicia Fields, she must reluctantly become apart of this new rural backdrop and all its customs. Along with Mother Shaw, four ladies of the community’s social hierarchy work to change Yolanda’s stubborn and flamboyant ways by sharing analogous monologues of past memories, hurts, and lessons learned. These experiences all revolving around the wearing of different ceremonial hats, unite the ladies in a common societal understanding.

I, Vonnie Coleman, of 4-Star Explorer ventured out to the 2 pm matinee showing of Crowns. It was very convenient buying the tickets online and having them waiting, nestled safely in the box office waiting for my arrival. I was lucky to score a ticket for $25 in the first Box seating on the main floor, stage left of the crowd. It was surprisingly busy for an afternoon show, my understanding of plays were that they were usually busier on evenings, but every seat in the house was filled. Once I scurried to my seat I was shocked to see that the box was raised higher above the main floor setting an exquisite allusion of 18th century French theatre.  I was practically a modern-day version of “matinee ladies.”

An example of the raised box seats on the main floor that I sat in.

Once the theater goes black the ears are assaulted by the rhythmic drumming from the orchestra pit. A man and woman dressed in African garb make their way to the stage. They stand quietly off to the side and the spotlight turns off. And as a first to my eyes from any other play I’ve attended the backstage disappears as the walls of the set literally close in around Wilder as Yolanda dancing rhythmically to a unrelenting hip-hop beat. As the space around Yolanda grows smaller,  the backdrop is filled with urban cityscapes, an echoing of metropolitan sounds such as trains and buses, and the words “I was born in Englewood” are etched lovely in script writing.

Without giving too much of the play away Yolanda tells us of the sad circumstances on how she has come to stay in Burlington. The five ladies who shape her knowledge of the town are first introduced dressed in white signaling a pure almost guardian angel quality to them. After giving varying soliloquies we discover the characters are Wanda, played by Pauletta Washington, a stark Gospel traditionalist raised up in the church to follow strict guidelines. E Faye Butler usually plays the role of Mabel, the preacher’s wife but at the performance I attended understudy Shari Addison gives a riveting performance as the harsh often times judgmental church first lady. Jasondra Johnson plays Velma, a young socialite in the congregation known for her wild streak during her “sinning days” but has since mended them and become the funeral director. Jeanette the tiny coy seductress lives very much by the “Hat Queen Rules” (also an upbeat song and dance number in the show) but believes in breaking them a little bit just the same. And of course sagely Mother Shaw rounds out the accomplices in Miss-Yolanda-Education. Though originally dressed in white the characters make an onstage costume change seemingly slipping into their identities. Ms. Wanda in Gold, Ms. Mabel in feisty Red, Ms. Velma in royal Purple, Ms. Jeanette is flirty Blue, and Ms. Shaw in sparkling White and Silver. It rang familiar to me with the color characterization in the popular play For Colored Girl

Through out the play you see that Yolanda struggles between the love she comes to have for these guardian angels and the reluctance she has for assimilating into any custom deemed as normal. I also appreciated the strong African influences that are fuzed into this play. The Ensemble members, regardless of the different roles they must invoke, are always wearing Afro-inspired clothing. The audience is always showed the comparison between old African customs and common practices displayed in modern black churches such as shouting, group chantings, and donning ornamental costumes. There is also a fusion in the music. Please, please, PLEASE, do not let the “Gospel” aspect of this play lead you astray just about every form of music is covered in this play from 50s doo wop to spoken word to popular gospel hymns to jazz and old timey music of the 1900s and always strumming back to the hip-hop beats, specifically Lauryn Hill’s Everything is Everything plays a big part.

A quick shot of Marketta Wilder, the leading lady Yolanda and our editor Vonnie.

 

For me the standout players in this crowd pleasing hit were Marketta Wilder and Felicia Fields as Yolanda and Mother Shaw. Their relationship was so organic and emotional that I really got the sense that they were grandmother and granddaughter. They were also captivating on their own as well. Wilder gives a powerful performance with an overall commanding presence in every scene she is in. This girl can’t go unnoticed. And Mother Shaw tugs on the deep nostalgic longing in all of us of providing the “Big Mama” role that is so desperately needed in today’s society.

Crowns the Gospel Musical, is certain to bring your family together and entertain all of the differing characters of your familial camp. There is assuredly something for everyone. This play is truly something to be “explored.”

 

 

 

For extra parking convenience I suggest you use the online parking spot holder ParkingWhiz.com to reserve the best spot also for the cheapest price. It takes a lot of fuss out of the already hectic downtown parking experience.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crowns! The Gospel Musical

running now to August 12

visit online for tickets and hours at:

http://www.goodmantheatre.org/

170 North Dearborn Street

Chicago, IL 60640

 

Like the article? Want to see more pictures of our trip to the Goodman? Any suggestions for the blog? Visit us on facebook here at Facebook.com/4StarExplorer

Advertisements

WhoisCHI? An Interview With A Chicago Music Artist

I waited anxiously with my friend and 4-Star’s interim photographer, Chris Thompson. I looked up at the address which read 345 North Loomis. I was suddenly worried about how this artist’s personality may be. I was surprised when not a group but one singular man came out to greet us. It was the artist himself, Diontae Johnson, better known as WhoisChi. The West-side raised Chicagoan greeted us warmly and had an air of humbleness that was greatly appreciated. He walked us up to booth 308, appropriately dubbed as “The Jungle.” “It’s because all kinds of musical animals run through here,” WhoisChi jokes, Chi for short.

Since 2009, WhoisChi has been self promoting and independently releasing his music to the masses buliding a substantial facebook and twitter following. He has managed to network and collaborate with such artists and producers such as BluClown, Young Chi, DGrams, and J Green; just to name a few. He impressed many with his first mixtape self-titled, WhoisChi, seemingly wedging his foot in the door gaining many a music-lover’s attention. Chi, has been hard at work gearing up for the release of his second mixtape, IamChi, which does not yet have a tentative release date. His music covers various topics from grinding to girls to overcoming tribulations to staying real and gaining an understanding of self.

Vonnie taking notes before the interview

Chi offers us a seat and excuses himself before the start of the interview. He and Cruz are working on two new songs today which will be featured on the upcoming mixtape. While sitting on the couch trying to keep busy I got a chance to chat with Chi’s main squeeze, IamPrincezz. She giggles while looking on at her beau rap furiously in the booth. “It’s important to get to know the man behind the music. When I met Diontae, I didn’t know he was a rapper. I was a little worried once I found out but I learned to love Diontae, and be a fan to WhoisChi,” she shares with me. Princezz works with Eminent Phenomena Media she books acts for different events and also promotes for clubs. She believes in the important fundamental that your name, your look, your personality, is all apart of your brand. We chatted a little bit more and discovered a shared love of leopard print!

 

WhoisChi comes out of the booth with the effects of sweat on his brow and undershirt from rapping, almost attacking the microphone. He dries off and though standing is his custom he agreeably sits down and we begin the interview. I, Vonnie Coleman, on behalf of 4-Star Explorer prepared the recorder for questioning.

4-Star: Okay, I know you represent for the West-side, tell me a little about how you grew up.

WhoisChi: I grew up in St. Stephen, which everyone calls a community. It’s not really a project but let’s just say it’s a becoming project building. I grew up in a single parent home. I always had the kind of family that worked to keep me out of trouble…I never got into too much trouble though, because I always found a way to work around the system.

4-Star: Well that’s a good trait to have. How did you start rapping?

WhoisChi: When I was at Illinois Central College, some of my friends used to play around with music. They’d have a mic set up and we’d just make music for fun. Somewhere between the rapping we decided to put together a mixtape on Datpiff website. A mixtape which I suggest you never listen to. Only if you want to compare my growth from then to now. The rest of my progress has just been through word of mouth. Meeting new people and expanding my style.

4-Star: So do you work with any entertainment groups?

WhoisChi: I’m currently part of a group called Tag Team. That’s made of me, WhoisChi, and another rapper named, Young Chi. We both come from the same hood. One day we were just working on a song in the studio and we went back and forth, sort of like some Jadakiss and Styles P. stuff, and we just came up with the name and it stuck.

4-Star: Any other people you collaborate with?

WhoisChi: I also work with BluClown. He produces a lot of my beats and he’s helping me on the mixtape that I’m working on now.  I also work with my friend Joseph who goes by the name of Boobie of Boobie Beats.There’s also Narcotics Beatz. I work with a clique of artists who also put on for the West-side:  J. Green, DGrams, Ace-FlyGuy, and Millzi.

4-Star: What drives you?

WhoisChi: My son, DJ. I call him Lil Boss. My son drives me to do better, leave something for him. Plus he’s a junior so you know he has to be like his dad.

4-Star: So for everything that you do, everything in your music, what’s your overall message?

WhoisChi: That West-side has talent also.

4-Star: So do you think the South-side gets more recognition?

WhoisChi: Don’t get me wrong, the South-side has definitely opened the doors for Chicago artists I tip my hat to them. I just feel like the love should be spread throughout Chicago. I’m here to show what the West-side has to offer.

4-Star: What’s the process for writing your lyrics?

WhoisChi: I really just play off the music. I listen to the beats and I think in my head the story behind the sound. Then I just jot the lyrics that come to mind.

4-Star: I’ve gotten a chance to go to your Sound Cloud and listen to some of your tracks. I just wanted to highlight a few. Can you tell me sort of the behind the scenes of how they were written and made. Let’s start with Testimony.

WhoisChi: That was a song again for Tag Team, the group with me and Young Chi. We really wanted to just do something different from the other “look what we have” song lyrics out there. We wanted to set a different vibe and hopefully reach an entirely different core group of people.

4-Star: And 100 Freestyle?

WhoisChi: That was actually a song done for my friend, Romell, Rest in Peace. At the time he didn’t even know I was taking the rapping thing seriously. He was with me when I made it and I shouted him out in the song.

4-Star: Ok, Spotlight‘s a good one.

WhoisChi: I actually wrote that on the train. We were trying to do a little club theme song, something to get people moving. There’s actually a video on You Tube for it. I really like that song because it’s featuring myself, J. Green, DGrams, and Young Chi. We wanted to get out there and show our faces. We work well together because we’re all diverse, we got different styles, and we’re all from the West-side.

4-Star: So what’s the future look life for WhoisChi?

WhoisChi: Mixtape! I’m just really focusing on my music. I want to get 12 or 13 songs together and make a great mixtape to put out for everyone. And whatever’s left over…I’ma just leave them and release another mixtape! After the mixtape I just want to reach out to different people in the business in the Chicago area.

4-Star: Thanks for giving me a great interview. I guess the last question is do you have any advice for other aspiring Chicago artists?

WhoisChi: Keep grinding. Show your face everywhere. Your appearance is everything. As IamPrincezz would say your name is your brand. My name is my brand. So build yourself. Make sure you act professional then you’ll be presented as professional which will make it easier for you to keep grinding.

How does he do it?

Ay Cruz is a musical wizard turning knobs and switches. Clicking different effects and sound levels. It’s all very reminiscent of the old Disney animated epic The Sorcerer’s Apprentice for me. I am mesmerized by how he takes squiggly lines and spiked pitches and turns them into music. He is a chief engineer with the Audio Engineering group, “The Jungle.”

After the interview we are greeted by Manny, a videographer, fellow member of “The Jungle” Audio Engineering group, and friend of Cruz.We network a little bit with him and he shows us some of his work.

IamPrincezz and Vonnie, 4-Star Explorer’s Editor

I couldn’t shake the feeling of awe as the afternoon spent watching WhoisChi and his cohorts make music and deals wound to a close. We snapped pictures and gave our goodbyes as ended a meeting that was hopefully a wonderful beginning for all of us.

WhoisChi, Vonnie, and Cruz

Check out WhoisChi’s newest single Save Me produced by BluClown by clicking here. Enjoy and stay tuned for his new mixtape, IamChi, coming soon.

 

 

Make sure you support our Chicago talent by contacting the following:

WhoisChi

For full track list click here at Soundcloud

Follow on Twitter @TheReal_CHI

Like on Facebook at facebook.com/WhoisCHI

 

Princezz of Eminent Phenomena Media

Follow on Twitter @IamPrincezz

 

A. Cruz of “The Jungle”

Chief Engineer

ACruz@TheJungleAE.com

Want to see more pics from the interview? You want in-depth coverage of just what “The Jungle” looks like? Head over to our page Facebook.com/4StarExplorer for more pics and don’t forget to like us!

House Heads Stand Up! An Evening at Shrine Nightclub

Facebook can clue you in to a lot of things. You can see who’s in a new relationship. You can get visual evidence of someone making a fool of themselves the previous night. And let’s not forget the all too familiar “I just need to be by myself” status update. And sometimes, you can get actual useful advice. This was the case when facebook friend and sorority sister, Pamela Estwick, hipped me to Shrine nightclub. Now I was no stranger to Shrine. I’d been there multiple times sandwiched into the poorly ventilated “hip-hop” section of the club, but that was mostly Fridays and Saturdays. Those days of course dubbed as “young people” days because majority 21-25 year-olds visit during those days. But the grown and sexy crowd need not break a sweat. They know the score, that Sundays…belong to the “house.

 The Shrine

2109 South Wabash Ave

Chicago, IL 60616

Shrine is an appropriate name for the club seeing that its walls stand practically a mecca to all things urban. From the decor to the beats to the crowd this nightclub gives off a “soulful” glow of ambiance welcoming you in. The club is actually two spaces converging into one. Either side often holding two differing styles of music for club goers to enjoy. A bar on either side as well as two lounging areas each, Shrine muses its guests to stay awhile. And this blogger is not too bashful to admit that the restrooms were first-rate, practically upscale. And ladies, we all have been on the bad end of a dreadful club bathroom experience. Signage saying “Ladies Room” when it’s really anything but. But once again, I digress.

Out on a Sunday! So grown-up lol

When I entered the club I was a little nerved being that I had never ventured into such an establishment on my own before. I was excited once I walked in and saw Pam sitting in the lounging area seemingly unfazed as she vibed to the music while glancing at her phone. We chatted and she gave me some further dish on the customs of the harmonious conservatory. Pam has paid patronage to Shrine House Sundays for a couple of years now. She insights that the best time to come is around 11pm and this was rightfully so as I noticed we seemed to come right before the crowd came to a onrush onto the moderate dance floor. From 9pm to about 11:30 there is a Dee-jay who spins some intriguing melodies. We vibe out to the melody and Pam shares with me that she loves hearing him every week. “I love this DJ and I really get to moving when Terry Hunter gets on the turntables,” she divulges. And I am instantly intrigued. While mulling our last few moments over in the lounge before we pay visit to the opposing side of the club to see how the other half parties, I am gobsmacked by what can only be legs…a pinkly wrapped vessel of legs. She is nice enough to let me snap some pictures of her and I apologize for them in advice seeing as they do her no justice. It is entirely my fault seeing as I let the batteries in my camera die leaving me my camera phone which is only useful for grainy night vision pics. Fellas, if this isn’t your enticement to come then I don’t know what else to wager with.

Is she not like…part Amazonian

We walk around the club within a club format and see that there is a reggae side for the Rastafarian in all of us. I swayed my hips and dutty-wined for a few hot seconds before we noticed that there was a little outdoor clubhouse for partiers to rest and have a quick smoke break.

As Pam and I were resting and gearing up for some two stepping back on the “House” side I spoke to a group of girls that drew me in. Especially, Breezy. You heard right, Breezy and her personality was as such. To be honest with you I have never seen a lady pull of a clean shaven head such as she. She equally impressed me seemingly winning me over by asking me if I wanted to “chill” with them later. She explained she was a concierge and the invite seemed so tantalizing but I told her I was on the job. (The things I sacrifice for you people!)

Once the “House” side was in full swing it was on! The hypnotic beats mixed with the varying purple, blue, and green strobe lights were almost similar to trance music. I got a couple of dances in with some nice overzealous partners but all and all I enjoyed myself and the thrill of being out late on a Sunday night burned deep within me as I made my way to the car.

So how does The Shrine measure  up?

Pros: The Shrine is a seemingly hodgepodge of people, a proverbial tossed salad if you will. (Am the only who thinks that sounded a bit dirty?) Shrine holds my personal meaning of the word “urban” being that they have visitors of different races all coming together under one roof  representing a shared ethnic vibe.

Even if you have been to Shrine often there’s something new for you to see. During those peak days regular customers can’t sit in the lounges at least without purchasing some ungodly priced bottle of alcohol. Sundays all areas of the club are open to everyone.

Did I forget to mentioned its Free…. yep, Shrine is free .99 on most Sundays begging bored singles with Monday off and nothing to do to come out and kick it and maybe sample a nice drink. There are special events though that sometimes charge but the price is never over $5.

Here’s everyone’s favorite Amazon dancing on a speaker. (She’s there every week boys *wink*)

Cons: The music was way too loud. I had to leave a bit earlier than I intended because my ears couldn’t take it any longer…but then again in their defense, I may just have girly ears.

If you are not a lover of House music then obviously this won’t be for you. Also under 25 crowd…this is not the usual bump and grind, juking, bang-bang-bang music you are accustomed to. This is a classy place so if you feel you need constant stimulation this might not be the night for you.

If you enter a dancing agreement…then you are practically locked in. Now it might have been just my amazing outfit or my dancing moves but
I found once a guy started dancing with me I had to almost beat him off with a club. And being that House music beats go on and on sometimes with no end or transition I found myself moving a lot longer than I usually like to.

Shrine House Sundays gets my approval but definitely for the over 30 crowd but I believe I will find myself back there soon on another lonely Sunday night.

What did you think of the article? Love it or Hate It? Similar stories or anything to add? Email us at fourstar.explorer@yahoo.com. follow on Twitter at @4StarExplorer and did we mention we have a Facebook page? Facebook.com/4StarExplorer

***My special thanks once again to my friend Pamela Estwick for being my guide into the club. This piece would not have been written without you.

There Goes the Movies-The Dark Knight Rises Tragic Opening Day

collider.com

Here at 4-Star I was all set to enjoy my theater going experience via the midnight showing of the new Dark Knight Rises movie. I was going to get my life in every possible way, come home around 3:30 am, and then tell you all about it the next day. And I was riding high until I popped opened my Firefox browser today.

Today in Aurora, Colorado at approximately 12:15 am, while a theater of innocent movie watchers looked on a 24 year-old man entered the movie theater with a riffle and two other handguns. Movie watchers believed it to be a prop, a clever live action way to play up the action of the movie. The man, now identified as James Holmes, shot and killed 12 patrons and also wounded 50 others in his tirade. Some say that the assailant was a medical student on his way to receiving his PhD, man of science or not this man should be prosecuted to the fullest extent. The shooter did not resist arrest, actually waiting in the parking lot for police forces to arrest him.

We’ll never know what was going through Mr. Holmes’ head but some of us may never look at a movie theater the same way again. But this shouldn’t take away from the performance of the actors in Dark Knight Rises.

The story follows the events of Harvey Dent and the Joker eight years later and Gotham City is now in peace. Harvey Dent was never revealed to be Two-Face and our favorite masked hero Batman was forced to take the blame. It is something that Commissioner James Jordon, revised by Gary Oldman, is finding hard to live with. Christian Bale, as Bruce Wayne, has become a recluse and morns over the lose of his love. He is brought together with Cat Woman, played by Anne Hathaway, not under the best circumstances as she steals a precious heirloom from the Wayne manor. Bane,Tom Hardy,  arises as a truly respectable villain. A performance not seen since the tragic passing of Heath Ledger as the Joker. There’s plenty of action and the 2 hours and 44 minutes of the film aren’t overkill at all (though it is this blogger’s opinion that some of the longer sequences could have stayed on the cutting room floor). I guarantee you will NOT be disappointed. A solid 3 out of 4 stars.

The two surprise breakout stars in this movie were definitely Anne Hathaway and Joseph Gordon Levitt as Detective Blake. I was a little worried that Hathaway would be too prim and proper to get down and dirty as the iconic cat burglar but ma’am she holds her own. Even in action scenes she gives a tribute to the old-school coyness of past Cat Woman actresses with her snappy and witty banter. Levitt steals the show from Bale seemingly calling him out in the movie as a hero who has given up. His character is full of heart and has a surprising tie-in into the story. He represents Batman’s motto that anyone can be a hero. Shoot, he made me believe that I could take down an army of thugs with just one shotgun but again he probably has his own stunt double.

What both the tragic shooting and the movie have in common is that is shows the strength in which one person can have. It truly does take one person to save or dismantle a civilization. It also shows the darkness of the human spirit, how sometimes the most dangerous spot can be a face swimming in a crowd of people.

4-Star sends its deepest condolences to the people and families of the victims of this shooting. We never thought that an institution such as the movies, which is supposed to give us an escape from the harsh times we live in, would be so mutilated.

Taste of Chicago 2012: Budget or Bust?

A Chicago trademark for thirty-two years and running the annual feeding frenzy fest known as the Taste of Chicago is a foodie beacon for all. When I heard news that the “Taste” would be pushed back after the July 4thholiday I toyed around with the idea of coming out and walking Columbus Drive once again. Reminiscing on days of my youth spent waking up at ungodly hours to take one sometimes two buses to Midway, hopping the Orange Line down to the fest, sporting freshly purchased “fits” (a common urban colloquialism referring to a brand new outfit, usually gaudy and by some sort of B-rate designer, see also Coogi) bought with parents’ money while always seeking the important pursuit of attention from boys.  The bash has been scaled down over the years but the event had over 2.35 million patrons in attendance and 4.9 millions in sales in 2011. So what was the worst they could do this year right? They were already experiencing some less than stellar concert sales only selling half of 15,000 available tickets for all five acts. But hey,that’s $200,000 in concert tickets before the event began, that’s still a lot of coin. Before we debate the suppose it financial crisis that Chicago seems to be in, despite the fact that they are continuously taxing and ticketing our asses, let’s get into the important part of the Taste, the food! I, Vonnie Coleman, on behalf of 4-Star got up and hit the fest with a good friend in tow.

I started out my journey the CTA’s tightly packed 29th Route from Chinatown on 23rd and State. In already 91 degree heat you can imagine the pleasure it was to be face-to-armpit with the “strongly scented” gentlemen next to me. In the words of one of my favorite bloggers/YouTube Commentator Kid Fury, it was “hot boots!” After being packed up in there like the Middle Passage my friend and I were finally liberated and walked a couple blocks over. You know you’re nearing a major Chicago event whenever you hear the city famous “buckle boys” beating on drums, plastic containers, and whatever else recyclable material they can get their hands on. Wanting to enjoy the sites but with notepad and recorder in hand I figured it’d be no better time than ever to interview some fellow fest goers. Three questions. Three questions are all I asked but gave me a lot of insight into the soul of the Taste.

The questions asked were:

1.What brought you out to the “Taste?”

2. What vendor was your favorite?

3. What would you change or take away for the following year?

Michelle C. came out to the Taste on a lunch break with her coworkers. She confessed that one of the crowd favorites Texas de Brazil brought flavor that would make our American state of Texas feel small in comparison. The dish she loved? The Chicken wrapped in Bacon stood tall amongst the other booths. 4-Star grabbed a “Taste” portion, the smaller meal portion that allows you a nibble without squandering your hard earned tickets, and we’d say we would have to agree.

As we made our way around the distributors we found two foxy ladies of a “certain age” (you know a lady never tells) standing in front of The Fudge Pot indulging in some of their famous chocolate covered strawberries. For them, the Taste was an annual event. Two best gal pals hitting the scene!We gabbed and they professed that Lou Malnati’s, only a Chicago institute in pizzeria prowess, was the best there is, hands down! What would they change? Nothing at all! For them, the Taste of Chicago was as much a part of the mystique of our city than the skyline. Good to see there are still some diehard Chicagoans out there.

While trying not to keel over and die in the blazing heat I stumbled upon a trio of teen divas making their way around the action. I must admit I had a soft spot for these ladies. You know, childhood memories and all that jazz. (Yes, before the painful reality of adulthood set in) Destiny L., Ashley R., and Autumn R. were extremely cheerful and welcoming which was awesome for a newbie newsie like me. I mean seriously, you go up to complete strangers in Chicago and expect to leave without your face on the floor.

For the trio of ladies the Taste offered a constant reminder of the joyous time known as summer break before the crushing return to their 10th grade year started up in the fall. Because nothing says screw responsibility than spending your parents money. But don’t let the age deter you the ladies offered some valuable input. Their favorites were Reggio’s and a southside favorite Harolds. The pizza offered a mouthful of Italy’s boot and need I say more on the mild sauce goodness of Harold’s?

After nearly spontaneously combusting this editor had to take refuge under a tree. I had almost forgotten that shade was a thing to rest in and not throw (“shade” being an urban reference to attitude giving as well as putting a particular nasty person in their place). Anywho, after taking a break and sampling some more food I was in awe  of what could only be described as a “crew,” several people brought together in the essence of having fun. I got a chance to pick the brains of Oscar A., Jose S., Maya H., Victor T., and last but not least the gorgeous Janet T.

Why’d they risk near heat stroke to come out that day, “Food!” they all said. Victor T. was more than upset he was near on gospel at discovering the fact our famous turkey drumsticks were no longer in fashion at the Taste. “It’s the only reason I came!” he exclaimed. I felt his pain and promised to mention it on the blog. We were even in talks at starting a petition demanding the reemergence of the gargantuan turkey legs. They shared that the pot stickers at Star of Siam were first rate and the corn from O’Briens was mouthwatering.

Shortly after I was able to strike interviewing gold! A real live tourist group. Victoria, Maurice, and simply known as “Mom” traveled to Chicago from Kansas City, Missouri or KC Mo. It was their first time in the city and they seemed a little reserved but that didn’t stop them from chatting about some of the scrumptious food they tasted while on their travels. For Victoria ice cream from Original Rainbow Cone was the ultimate for cooling and chowing down combined. “Mom,” loved the rib tips from Robinson’s No. 1 Ribs. “They were almost better than mine,” she shared.

So What was 4-Star’s Favorite Picks?

Best Value: Went to Dominicks for offering a 2-ticket slice of watermelon that was more than generous.

Best Dessert: Sorry, Eli’s but Franco’s Ristorante’s took the top spot in dessert decadence with icy but satisfying Italian ice.

Flavor Surprise: Went to Cubby Bear’s Macaroni Bites. Fried morsels of ooey gooey cheesy delight.

Overall Favorite….the first vendor I visited at the Taste, Bacino’s Pizza of Lincoln Park. The cheesy, piping hot wonder stayed on my mind all day as I wished I hadn’t skimped out on the full portion for 9 tickets. Ah, what can you do?

Out of five interviews including the advice of my friend, Denise C., the resounding advice for next year’s Taste of Chicago was more booths and cheaper prices! Only featuring a scarce 36 compared to 70 in the past, after Taste patrons hit up some of their beloved eateries…there wasn’t much left to see. That coupled with steadily climbing ticket prices left Taste-goers wondering did they get what they paid for?

It is 4-Star’s opinion that prices change but entertainment lasts forever! We have got to get more things for the event goers to do while we are not filling our gullets I mean palates. Successful Tastes that I have been to in the past always had something going on: a radio station giveaway, FREE concerts, attractions, demonstrations, you name it. It was there, it was fun and it was free. Many times friends and I would be done eating but still manage to stay at the event until it closed.

I guess others in attendance felt the same because numbers went down from 2.35 million from last year to half 1.2 million fest goers. Official numbers are not yet in on how much Mayor Emanuel racked in, I mean acquired, from the 5 day extravaganza. But many were not discouraged by this. Taste of Chicago overseers’ commented that given the fact the event had been all but rebooted attendance was not looked at as a disappointment. At the end the Taste of Chicago is still America’s largest food festival so I think we as Chicago-dwellers can be relieved in that fact.

A Little Bit of History…

It is usually the custom on Sundays for most people to carry themselves to whatever religious institution they choose to worship. Some people take a rest on Sunday, it worked for God after all. For this twenty-something Chicagoan it had been a common practice to sleep in until at least noon (often times sleeping off the hangover acquired from the previous night’s exploits). But for whatever reason this was not the case this particular seventh day of the week. As I sipped my coffee I perused the local paper. As I looked around at the headlines I thought what better way to slide into a city then by thumbing through some of its history. With the division of sides (such as Northside and Southside), counties, and towns (ex. China town, Greek Town, etc.) it may be hard for some groups to be able to clearly track their influence within the city. This is why 4-Star thought it’d be a good first showcase to do a write up on the DuSable Museum of African American History.

courtesy of wikipedia

Starting out as a small historical display in founder Margaret Burroughs’ home, the museum since its creation has made it a mission to display key historic artifacts and [via their website] “achievements of people of African Descent.” While walking through the passageways of the small multi-level museum the patron can get a chance to learn some “not-so” common knowledge about the cultivation of Africa, leading into migration to places such as Brazil and other South American countries, small Caribbean islands, and eventually leads to the settling of early Chicago. I got a chance to learn a fun fact that I, as an almost 25 year old African-American native Chicagoan, was a little surprised I did not know. The museum borrows its name from the first non-Native American settler in the Illinois area Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, a man of African descent, who had hopes of starting a small trading post to generate some business. I think it would be safe to say that some 280 odd years later Du Sable’s hope to get a little cash in his pocket was a success as we enjoy what is now modern Chicago.

When you first walk into the museum you are presented a beautiful display showing some of the first origins of African civilization. There is a handy guided tour kiosk showing an interactive digital tour of different sites in Egypt. From the pyramids of Giza to secret chambers of a pharaoh’s tomb the information is plenty and the eye-catching graphics will lead you to believe you really did take a trip to the Nile. It’s important to mention the artfully done murals of famous African leaders, dignitaries, and warriors. As the deeply tan faces stare back into the patrons’ eyes it is important to digest the fact that much about the mainstream perceptions of people such as Cleopatra, Queen Hatshepsut, and King Tut have been skewed in believing that these figures were “fairer” in appearance.

                                                                                                courtesy of greatchicagomuseums.org

Some of the other notable exhibits currently showing are Red, White, Blue and Black: A History of Blacks of the Armed Services and Word, Shout, Song: Lorenzo Dow Turner.

Red, White, Blue and Black chronicles the scarcely mentioned presence of blacks in various wars such as the [American] Civil, Spanish-American, World Wars I and II, and even the Revolutionary. Filled with factual placards and bursting with memorabilia this exhibit is sure to bring a tear to any veteran’s eye. So bring our favorite servicemen and get there quick!

Word, Shout, Song follows the career of Lorenzo Dow Turner linguist, professor and most famous for his documentation of the Gullah language stationed in South Carolina as well as its connection to Afro-Brazilian and West African roots. The display walks you through different celebrations and rituals of the Gullah people and also highlights important events and people in Turner’s life. Located down stairs near the rear exit of the museum this is seen as sort of an end to the museum.

But without a doubt the “treasure” of this Chicago museum as well as a clear favorite among us at 4-Star is the Slow Walk to Greatness: The Harold Washington Story exhibit. The lighting bright, reflecting on a soft blue backdrop makes you do a quick double-take at a man sitting at a desk, for a second if you were to squint your eyes or in mid-conversation you’d think it was Harold Washington sitting and narrating his own life himself. In a scene that took me back to my fearful childhood years of the moving mechanical puppets at the national chain Chuck E. Cheese’s, I watched as the animatronic likeness of Harold Washington took me through the life and times of Chicago’s first black mayor. The accompanying placards gave me insightful information on Washington’s State and Congress representative career. The man did a lot in his lifetime before he came to be known as this great city’s mayor including a stint in the military. The exhibit boasts over 150 personal, political, and varying artifacts all pertinent to Harold Washington’s career. From his famous desk, to clips of his magnanimous speeches, to materials covering the “Campaign Wars” you will not live that museum feeling anything less than pride in our fair city.

                                                                                                                     courtesy of gkexhibits

4-Star would like to stress that the DuSable Museum is a great attraction for any Chicagoan or tourist seeking to get an in-depth look into history. With colorful attractions and ever-changing exhibits there is always something new learn and take away. It’s good for group or solo trips so grab the kids (especially grab the kids!) and head out for a nice afternoon out.

Before we at 4-Star sign off we would like to leave you with some inspiring words from founder, Margaret Burroughs, in her poem What Will Be Your Legacy?

“I ask you, what will your legacy be? Do you know? Have you thought about it? Do you have an answer? What will you leave as your legacy? If you have no answer, if at this point, you cannot say: Hearken! Listen to me! This is the moment. This is the prime moment for you to think and to get to work and identify what you will leave as your legacy for you to be remembered by”

*please note that flash photography is not allowed in the DuSable Museum.

For more imformation please visit: http://www.dusablemuseum.org

DuSable Museum of African American History

740 East 56th Place

Chicago, Illinois 60637

Museum Hours

(Closed Mondays)

Tuesday—Saturday, 10:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.
Sunday, Noon–5:00 p.m.

Welcome to 4-Star Explorer! I hope you enjoy the content and things we have to offer. We’re cleaning up around here and even though we’re small we’re dedicated to bringing the best stories and write-ups for all our urban readers out there. We’re still cleaning up and always changing our style so please…pardon our dust. We urge you to check out our About 4-Star Section and drop us a line at the Contact Us link.

4-Star Out!

– “Vonnie”

Editor-in-Chief