Arts & Culture

Harvest Christian Bookstore deflects internet with customer service

By Richard Foster-Shelton
Medill Reports

“In these times of online stores and books that can be delivered immediately to your favorite device, one independent bookstore on the South Side of Chicago has weathered the storm by turning to a very specific demographic: Christians.

Harvest Christian Bookstore, at 10600 S. Western Ave., specializes in Christian products. The business, which was founded in 1988 by Pastor Dorothy Jacobs of Consuming Fire Ministries, has gained a loyal following by prioritizing customer service over all.

“There were other bookstores when we opened and they didn’t have very good reputations,” Jacobs said. “The one thing that we were most concerned about was treating our customers well by serving them and ordering what they needed if we didn’t have it. We found our niche to serve the community the way they want to be served. Almost every Christian on the south side of Chicago knows about us.”

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Chinese festivals bring diverse students together at the Pretoria Chinese School

By Xiaozhang (Shaw) Wan
Medill Reports

The traditional Chinese drum team joins together students of diverse origins and is part of the celebration for Chinese festivals at the Pretoria Chinese School in South Africa.

As drumbeats rang in the Year of the Dog in February, the school came alive with a bang. Singing and dancing, students and staff dressed in colorful clothes to welcome the New Year.

Celebrating the Chinese New Year has been a tradition since the school was founded in 1934, when Chinese weren’t permitted into the regular schools in South Africa.

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Chinese students find love and community in the Werewolves Club

By Xiaozhang (Shaw) Wan
Medill Reports

Anqi Hu, a 27-year-old Chinese graduate student, didn’t expect to find the love of her life in the Chinese Werewolves Club at Northwestern University.

“If it were not for the club, we wouldn’t have met each other,” said Hu, in her 5th year as a mechanical engineering Ph.D. student.

Five couples have found their significant others in the club over the last year, according to Xin Xu, 26, president of the Werewolves Club and a 4th year PhD student in applied physics.

The club was officially established on the Valentine’s Day of 2017.
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A Place to Button It Up: Inside One Of Chicago’s Most Unique Museums

By Annanya Johari
Medill Reports

Maybe it’s a victory celebration button from  George Washington’s inauguration that you’re hoping to see.  We have the place to find it.

Nestled in a quiet corner of Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood, is one of its most unique museums. Founded and run by Christen Carter and her brother Joel Carter, the Busy Beaver Button Museum houses a collection of more than 25,000 pinback buttons.

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The House of Burritos that Feels Like Home

By Nick Mantas
Medill Reports

Just west of Wrigley Field at the intersection of Lincoln and Addison sits one of Chicago’s little-known treasures of the city, the original Burrito House. 3545 N Lincoln Ave is the address of where “x marks the spot” for this family run institution.

Now expanded into three locations, Luis Salinas and his family have made fast-Mexican lunches and dinners for the Chicago community while helping those who also came from Mexico.

Every family has their story of how they made it in America. This restaurant is still giving opportunities to other families from Mexico to do the same.

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The maker of a community’s book-space

By Vangmayi Parakala
Medill Reports

You’ll most likely miss it.

If you’re new to Evanston, you’ll wonder whether the fabled bookstore Bookends & Beginnings still exists.

Because when your smartphone map announces, “you have arrived at your destination,” you’ll be looking not at books, but at the overflowing outside of a university merchandise store. Where is the bookstore?

Until very recently, your concern might have been justified. Bookends & Beginnings, along with other independently owned businesses in the block, was living under a cloud of possible destruction for six months. A 37-story highrise designed by the renowned Chicago architecture and design company Skidmore, Owings & Merrill was proposed to take over the block, bringing back the Evanston-born Northlight Theater Company on two of its floors. After months of uncertainty, a final decision on scrapping this plan was announced on March 2.

“We are overjoyed and I do hope that going forward this resolution allows us to develop our location without fear [of displacement],” says owner of the store Nina Barrett, referring to the plans that her store, as well as other independent businesses in the location, had in mind to refurbish the alley they’re located in.

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Bringing 18th century elegance to the 21st century

By Loumay Alesali
Medill Reports

Antique furniture restoration is the business that Ziggy Osak started after turning his hobby into a passionate career.

He opened his first workshop at his home garage in Evanston in 1984, then started his first shop on Main Street in Evanston in 1987. The store is named Evanstonia because Osak loves the town and its abundance of Oak trees.

Osak painstakingly restores furniture for people to use again in their daily lives. He also thinks he is saving trees from being cut down to make new furniture, along preserving fine antiques for new generations. Continue reading

Poised for the prowl: Black Panther’s box office attack continues

By DeForest Mapp
Medill Reports

Superhero King T’Challa led the multitudes  to “Black Panther” for two consecutive weekends. The blockbuster topped attendance at any other movie with a domestic gross of $400 million and shattered previous earnings records for a film that showcased a majority African American cast.

“Black Panther” made gold for a Marvel gamble that debuted on 4,020 screens at midnight, Friday, Feb. 15.  Many theaters nationwide sold out screening the film with a production price tag north of $150 million.

“[Black Panther] was really a story about a family and a monarch that had to make a big decision whether to bring his country into the greater part of the world or not,” said Gary Hardwick, filmmaker of Deliver Us From Eva and The Brothers.  “I was really surprised that they went with that story as opposed to all the other things they could have done.”

“Black Panther” brought us to the home of  King T’Challa, who sought to keep his country cloaked from the outside world.  And in doing so, he learned he could never protect those who mattered to him most without building strong alliances.

“[Chadwick Boseman] was the only choice [for T’Challa],” Marvel President Kevin Feige said during the film’s official press conference held in Beverly Hills, California.  “We were sitting around the table.  We were coming up for the story for [Captain America] Civil War.  Nate Moore, the executive producer, had … suggested bringing in Black Panther because we were looking for sort of a third party who wouldn’t necessarily side with [Captain America] or side with Iron Man.  And almost instantly we all said, ‘Chadwick.’”

King T’Challa’s Royal Talon Fighter, descending upon Wakanda in “Black Panther.” PHOTO: MARVEL STUDIOS/DISNEY

Director Ryan Coogler subtly tied the film to Oakland, California. Since the actual Black Panther Party  was founded in Oakland in 1966, the ties between Wakanda (created with special effects) and Oakland were intentional but clever.

“Wakanda was built in a room with Ryan [Coogler] and the incredible design team.  And so, to see it alive, it’s almost unimaginable,” said Lupita Nyong’o during the press conference for Black Panther.

Wakanda, on the surface, connected to many rural areas of Africa.  But T’Challa took the audience beyond a barrier  hidden to the naked-eye. “Black Panther” revealed a sense of community in Wakanda that the regular world may have found inconceivable.  Leaving the  world we know for this imagined world felt real.

“I think that [Black Panther] reveals that there is far greater potential in this world that we sometimes see every day,” said Chicago non-profit executive Ruth-Anne Renaud, 53, after seeing “Black Panther” at the Arclight Cinema in Chicago with her husband Tom.

Lupita Nyong’o, (left), and Chadwick Boseman (right) in “Black Panther.” PHOTO: MARVEL STUDIOS-DISNEY

King T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) and Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) shared  good chemistry but the timeliness and  the importance of love could have been called into question when Nakia felt the gravity of what was at stake.

“In African culture, they feel as if there is no king without a queen,” said Angela Bassett, Queen Mother in the film,  during Marvel’s press conference of the film.  “I was so proud to have my daughter and my son there last night because in their faces, in their spirit… they were feeling themselves.  They stood taller” during the official press conference.

Simple factors as well as great filmmaking contributed to  Black Panther’s  triumphant success.  First, it’s in the Marvel cinematic universe, which has a loyal fan base.  Second, African American films have always done well at the box office relative to their  often modest budgets.  African American romantic comedies from 1995 to 2008 had budgets between $6 million and $30 million, while generating total domestic revenues of approximately $1 billion, according to The Numbers, Imdb and Box Office Mojo.

“I did have high expectations [for Black Panther] but I went into it with a very open mind, knowing that it would be different than other Marvel movies and stories, but really not sure what to expect,” said Chicago sales and marketing executive Tom Renaud, after seeing “Black Panther” at the Arclight Cinema.  “So, I went into it with a very open mind knowing that the production value was going to be very high.”

King T’Challa / Black Panther in “Black Panther.” Photo:  MARVEL STUDIOS-DISNEY

Add to the  Marvel-recipe the Disney Co.’s global marketing, its distribution partners and a well-written story.  The result was a high-concept superhero who keeps his people safe by literally hiding them from the rest of the world.  An intuitive audience used this as an opportunity to explore its curiosity.

“Sky’s the limit now that they’ve brought X-Men and they’ve brought Spiderman back into the [current Marvel] family,” Hardwick said.  “So, [Marvel] can do anything now if they wanted to.”

If there was any power to draw from the story of “Black Panther” it might be for Hollywood executives to exert more commitment  to connect with segmented audiences.  Though “Black Panther” came from the Marvel universe, there are other science fiction stories to be told.  Disney’s “A Wrinkle In Time” is but one due to be released in March.

“Make more stories that show the full spectrum of humanity and capability and possibility,” is what Ruth-Anne Renaud said she would say to Disney Studios Chairman, Alan Horn, if he were standing at the Arclight theater.

Infographic: BLACK PANTHER. Data sources: WSJ, Imdb Pro and Box Office Mojo.
Photo at top: Chadwick Boseman in “Black Panther.”Photo at top: MARVELSTUDIOS/DISNEY

Chicago reporter learns a new step to help fight cancer

By Dan Order
Medill Reports

Under three weeks of practice remain, as a local TV reporter prepares to perform a dance she’s been working on for months.

It’s more than just a fun new sport for Lauren Victory of CBS 2, as she’s learning the Lindy Hop to help raise money to fight breast cancer.

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Bring on the obstacle course: Jeep Wrangler makes traction at Chicago Auto Show

By Annanya Johari
Medill Reports

Navigating an indoor hillside pulled drivers to the  biggest draw at the 110th expo of the country’s largest auto show. The “Jeep Camp” allowed visitors to rev up the 2018 Jeep Wrangler and set  course for an 18-feet hill, boulders and other off-road obstacles. The Chicago Auto Show highlighted hundreds of vehicles and drew thousands of car enthusiasts of all ages this month.

Other popular attractions included the Cadillac Escala, powered by a twin-turbo V-8 engine, a prototype for future Cadillac models.  It was voted the best concept car at the show, narrowly edging out the Lexus LF-1 Limitless featuring technologies such as digital side-view monitors and 4D navigation.


The Chicago Auto Show Welcome Globe. (Annanya/MEDILL)