Arts & Culture

Sí, Yo Soy Afro: What it’s like to be Black in Argentina

By Sidnee King & Beth Stewart
Medill Reports

BUENOS AIRES — The myth that there are no Black people in Argentina is pervasive. Walking the streets of the nation’s cosmopolitan capital, Buenos Aires, you’ll likely find European influenced food, style, and architecture, all of it among mostly white faces.  Today, the city’s population is less than two percent black. But a once substantial community of African descendants has made an indelible imprint on even the most celebrated and exported aspects of Argentine culture.

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What I’ve learned: Sarah Hay

By Olivia Lee
Medill Reports

At 32 years old, Sarah Hay has become an accomplished ballerina and actress. As a child, she danced at the prestigious School of American Ballet. She later trained at American Ballet Theatre, and at the age of 22, she joined the Semperoper Ballett in Germany. In 2010, she made her acting debut as one of the corps de ballet members in the movie, “Black Swan.” Six years later, she was nominated for a Golden Globe, Satellite Award and Critics’ Choice Television Award for her role as Claire Robbins in the Starz mini-series “Flesh and Bone.”

Today, Hay is still dancing, but not professionally. Rather she’s dancing for the joy and the happiness it gives her. She’s currently living in Los Angeles, where she’s also developing her own films and working on TV projects. Hay shares a few things she’s learned since her early years and start of her professional career.
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Kitchens are cooking up a recipe for mental illness

By Olivia Lee
Medill Reports

It’s Saturday evening, and the tables are set. Servers are dressed in their finest suits. Chef Ryan McCaskey, owner of Acadia, a two-star Michelin restaurant, and his staff have spent all day prepping for tonight’s service. Every little detail has been planned out. Guests are greeted with a welcome drink, something to warm them up in the Chicago cold. Tonight, it’s a warm apple toddy, fused with thyme and brown butter. They sip while walking down the hallway from the entrance to the dining room.

“I literally timed how much liquid was in the cup and how long it takes to go from one point to the next, and by the time they sit down, where they are in that drink. They should be done with whatever is in that cup. Then service begins,” said McCaskey. He labeled this type of mentality as the “artist brain.” “It’s a creative mind that is searching for something that is close to perfection, but is not always attainable,” he explained.

Marissa Doctor, physician and leader of a local mental health support group for individuals in the service industry, described how this way of thinking can lead to depression, anxiety and substance-use disorders. “It’s horrific for mental health because you’re trying to obtain a goal that’s impossible. And it’s not like a goal over a long period of time, it’s a goal every day you step through the door,” she said.

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No more undercover food critics

By Olivia Lee
Medill Reports

It’s 2006 and Jeff Ruby, food critic for Chicago magazine, is being interviewed by the History Channel. In attempts to keep an undercover profile, like most food critics do, Ruby shaves his beard for the first time in 10 years and dyes his natural red hair jet black. To make himself even more unrecognizable, he decides to wear a baseball cap and glasses. Over a decade later, Ruby says the History Channel still airs his segment periodically, usually late at night. Despite his elaborate efforts, he almost always gets a text from a friend suspecting it’s him.

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Arts and culture non-profits hit by stay-at-home order find flexibility from foundations

By Kari McMahon
Medill Reports

During the spring season, the Garfield Park Conservatory expected around 70,000 visitors to pass through its doors. But on March 17, two days before the first day of spring, the conservatory closed based on public health advice. Visitors stayed home, and revenue was lost.

The free-to-visit conservatory, a botanical oasis located within the concrete of the city on the West Side of Chicago, earns revenue through a combination of memberships, in-person donations at the conservatory entrance, fundraising events and grants. Most of these revenue streams have taken a hit following the implementation of Illinois’ stay-at-home order on March 20 to minimize the spread of the coronavirus.

“The effect has been the shut off of our revenue streams for visitors attending [the conservatory],” said Jennifer Van Valkenburg, CEO and president of Garfield Park Conservatory Alliance, a nonprofit organization that works with the Chicago Parks District to provide events and resources to conservatory visitors.

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Journalist Teryn Payne speaks to challenges Black women face in the industry

By Grace Asiegbu
Medill Reports

Teryn Payne, director of strategic communications and logistics for Chance the Rapper and former deputy editor and project manager of the Chicagoist, walked into Dollop Coffee Company in relaxed, casual joggers and a sweatshirt under her black puffer coat. Payne, 25, sits somewhere between communications newbie and magazine veteran. While the Chicagoist website says it “will be launching later” and tells readers to enjoy the archives, she confirmed there is no set date yet. She discussed how to look for jobs and follow your dreams.

How did you get to where you’re at right now?

My first job was at Ebony. It’s crazy the way I got it. Kathy Chaney [now at the Sun-Times], was the NABJ (National Association of Black Journalists) president at the time, and she worked at Ebony. When I was on my job search, she had just gotten hired as a managing editor. I knew her a little bit because she visited my undergraduate NABJ chapter. I wanted to move to New York, and they had an office in New York. She put me in contact with the digital managing editor in New York. I had informational interviews. An informational interview is when you email an editor or hiring manager or HR person, and you tell them like, “Hey, I’m interested in applying. Can we just talk?” So, in that case, a job may not necessarily be open, but you can still establish that relationship with that person. In the magazine world, the turnover is so high. Somebody can say there’s nothing open this week and next week, the position will be open. The managing editor in the New York office wanted me to meet his boss, the editor-in-chief at the Chicago office. Of course, I took it seriously and met with her. I was so nervous because … she’s the editor-in-chief! She turned out to be one of the nicest — she’s like my mentor to this day. We just gelled in that moment.

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The man in the skyscraper church

By Alyk Russell Kenlan
Medill Reports

“An unexpected raise! #blessed,” the Rev. Dr. Myron McCoy, 64, told his congregation during a recent service. “You don’t want one?” he teased.  From the tallest church in the world, he delivers messages of inclusivity and diversity every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday.

The pastor’s journey to the 23-story Chicago Temple started almost two centuries ago, when his ancestors founded a Methodist church in Maryland. He grew up in New Jersey and spent many of his boyhood summers around that church. “One part of my family, even in the 1800s, was free,” McCoy said. Influenced by his ancestral legacy, McCoy has wanted to be a preacher as long as he can remember.

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In DC, Memorial Day represents a return to normalcy

By Yousef Nasser
Medill Reports

Americans have been living in quarantine for more than two months due to COVID-19. In Washington D.C., Memorial Day presented an opportunity for people to get out of their house, enjoy the weather, and honor those who have served our country.

People sitting on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on Memorial Day 2020. (Yousef Nasser/MEDILL)

The giant of Michigan Avenue

By Alyk Russell Kenlan
Medill Reports

Imagine waking up on the 80th floor, going down to work on the 35th floor, grabbing lunch on the second floor, stopping by the grocery store or dry cleaner on the 44th floor and eating dinner on the 95th floor before going back home to the 80th floor. Residents of 875 N. Michigan Ave., formerly the John Hancock Center, don’t have to imagine. Their amenity-rich, mixed-use skyscraper epitomizes the idea of a city within a city.

On March 7, 1970, the dedication of the John Hancock Center marked the beginning of a new architectural movement and the renewal of Chicago’s urban life in the Gold Cost. Since then, lessons from the building’s construction have inspired other iconic structures like the Willis Tower and the Trump Tower.

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