All posts by alissaanderegg2017

Chicago’s CircEsteem uses circus arts to empower young people

By Alissa Anderegg

When Antoinette Mpawenayo, 17, first came to Chicago from Tanzania, she struggled with the language and the culture.  “English is not my first language,” she said. “I was bullied by students at school.”

Her  refugee caseworker saw something in the way she moved around and suggested she join a circus program that had helped other young people like her. Antoinette is now a key performer in CircEsteem, a non-profit that has taught circus arts to more than 10,000 youths in the Chicago area.

Founded in 2001, CircEsteem’s social impact mission aims to build confidence in young people like Antoinette, and create a sense of community among its diverse performers.

Photo at top: CircEsteem students perform in their showcase performance. (Alissa Anderegg/MEDILL)

Mole brings Pilsen community together

By Alissa Anderegg

At the annual Mole de Mayo Festival, thousands of hungry Chicagoans come to explore the authentic Mexican flavors of the Pilsen neighborhood. This year’s festival marks the eighth anniversary of the event, where locals and visitors come to taste some of the best mole dishes in Chicago. Each year Mole de Mayo features a mole contest, where restaurants compete with their versions of the Mexican staple. The festival is organized by the Eighteenth Street Development Corporation, a non-profit organization that has been serving the Pilsen neighborhood for more than three decades.

Mole tacos are served at the eighth annual Mole de Mayo Festival. (Alissa Anderegg/MEDILL)

Local business brings healthy chocolate to Chicago

By Alissa Anderegg

After struggling with depression for several years, Renee Faur knew it was time to make a change. She changed her outlook– and her eating habits– by turning to an all raw, plant-based diet. Faur was amazed by her fast improvement and began experimenting with raw recipes to share with her family and friends. Her most popular was a recipe for a healthier, raw alternative to regular chocolate. After several months of experimenting in her home kitchen, she decided to launch Renee’s Raw Chocolate to bring “chocolate you can eat everyday” to grocery store shelves. Now a family affair, the business brings together four generations of the Faur family to share their product– and lifestyle– with others.

Photo at top: Donna Faur and her three-year-old great-grandson, Jack, mix together chocolate at Renee’s Raw Chocolate’s West Town kitchen. (Alissa Anderegg/MEDILL)

Local musician teaches toddlers about healthy eating

By Alissa Anderegg

As a professional singer and voiceover actress, Jamie Martin has performed at venues across the country. After giving birth to her first child, she transformed this love of singing into a children’s musical act to be able to spend more time with her young kids. Now known as Miss Jamie on the Farm, Martin performs throughout Chicago, using her songs to teach children the values of friendship, compassion and living a healthy lifestyle. Through her performances, she hopes to inspire not only her young fans, but their parents as well and encourage them to continue living their dreams.

Photo at top: Jamie Martin performs her musical act, Miss Jamie on the Farm, at the Roscoe Village Mariano’s.(Alissa Anderegg/MEDILL)

‘Live Music Now’ brings music education to Chicago Public Schools

By Alissa Anderegg

The International Music Foundation is a Chicago-based organization dedicated to providing high-quality musical performances and music education throughout the city. As part of its outreach, the foundation has provided free, music programs to Chicago Public School students for 35 years. Through in-school visits and field trip opportunities, including its performances at Preston Bradley Hall called Live Music Now, the foundation gives arts enrichment to local youth. The 45-minute presentations and demonstrations are free events, where students and visitors can come to enjoy live music that they may not be exposed to otherwise.

Photo at top: The Link Quartet of Roosevelt University’s Music Conservatory program perform for Chicago Public School students. (Alissa Anderegg/MEDILL)

Robot Revolution comes to Chicago

By Alissa Anderegg

Last week, the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago (MSI) unveiled its latest exhibit, Robot Revolution. The national touring exhibit features 40 robots from around the world—including Japan, Poland, Denmark, Germany, China, Canada, South Korea and across the United States. Visitors of all ages can interact with the robots, which are divided into different aspects of robotics: cooperation, skills, smarts and location.

The exhibit also aims to increase student interest and involvement in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields through hands-on interaction with the robots on display. Robot Revolution will run now through February 4, 2018.

Photo at top: RoboThesbian, a life-sized humanoid robot, greets visitors as they enter The Museum of Science and Industry’s latest exhibit, Robot Revolution.(Alissa Anderegg/MEDILL)

AfriCaribe brings Chicagoans together with Puerto Rican music and dance

By Alissa Anderegg

On the last Saturday of each month, up to 200 Chicagoans gather in West Town to celebrate their community through song and dance. These musical gatherings called “bombazos” are held at the non-profit AfriCaribe. They give locals of all ages the opportunity to come together to take part in the traditional Puerto Rican music of bomba. Each bombazo is a “free for all” where participants can improvise together through singing, dancing and drumming. AfriCaribe founder Eravisto “Tito” Rodriguez says he hopes this will encourage both attendees and performers to learn more about the rich cultural background of bomba music.

Photo at top: Twelve-year-old bomba student Yanese Rolzan dances in AfriCaribe’s monthly bombazo gathering. (Alissa Anderegg/MEDILL)

Logan Square teens preserve their Latino culture

By Alissa Anderegg and Stephanie Rothman

Logan Square is a trendy, up-and-coming neighborhood that has seen thriving new businesses and rising rents. But gentrification is pushing out the Latino population that has lived there for decades. According to U.S. Census data, in the last 15 years, Logan Square has seen the most Latino displacement of all 77 Chicago neighborhoods.

Young teens at the Logan Square Neighborhood Association are getting involved to try to preserve their culture in the face of gentrification. These teenage activists are speaking out against the changes that are directly affecting their families, neighbors and local businesses.

Photo at top: An installation dedicated to the heritage of Logan Square families is on display at the XingonX Cultural Festival, sponsored by the Logan Square Neighborhood Association. (Alissa Anderegg/MEDILL)

‘Fiesta’ brings health services to Chicago’s Latina community

By Alissa Anderegg

After being diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992, Venus Ginés decided there needed to be more health awareness and education for other Latinas. Together with the Mexican consulate, she founded Día de la Mujer Latina to provide free services, seminars and screenings to women around the country.

Now in its 20th year, the organization has reached more than 96,000 women through “health fiestas” in 39 cities. Last week marked the second year the event has come to Chicago.

Photo at top: A nurse administers blood pressure tests to participants of Día de la Mujer Latina’s Health Fiesta. (Alissa Anderegg/MEDILL)

Millennials look to traditional music to help preserve Puerto Rican culture

By Alissa Anderegg
Translation of Luís Lace Melecio interview by Yarilet Perez

In the beachfront Puerto Rican community of Piñones, the vibrant music of bomba fills the breezy air, as duelling drummers beat in rhythmic unison.

The sounds come from Corporación Piñones Se Integra, an organization that teaches locals and tourists the art of bomba as a way of passing on the music to future generations.

One of Puerto Rico’s traditional Afro-Caribbean musical forms, bomba is considered a rhythmic dialogue between the dancers and the drummers. Puerto Ricans hope this musical dialogue will turn into actual dialogue that will be a key part in preserving the Afro-Puerto Rican culture.

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