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OUTspoken LGBTQ storytelling to feature Friends & Allies in November
From a press release
2016-10-19

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The monthly OUTspoken LGBTQ storytelling series at Sidetrack, held the first Tuesday of each month, always features an eclectic mix of voices. November 1st, OUTspoken! will be a Special Edition featuring LGBTQ Friends & Allies storytellers.

November storytellers are:

Scott Whitehair is a storyteller, teacher, and instructor living in Chicago who is as passionate about hearing your stories as he is about telling his own. Scott is the host of This Much Is True, one of the longest running storytelling series in the city, creator of Story Lab Chicago, which has put 400+ new tellers on stage since 2011, and director of Do Not Submit, a citywide network of ten open mics focused on connecting neighbors through story. He performs anywhere someone will listen, teaches a monthly class, and coaches people and organizations in developing their voices. In his free time, he's either on a bike, in front of a grill, or sitting in a sauna.

Linda Beckstrom is a freelance Writer/Creative Director and has been writing short stories for many years. She is a Moth StorySlam winner and GrandSlam teller, she's appeared at many other storytelling events around Chicago over the past few years, including, Is This A Thing? and Louder Than A Mom. She's thrilled to be part of the OUTspoken friends and allies line-up.

Laura S. Washington is a Chicago Sun-Times columnist and political analyst for ABC 7, Chicago's ABC-owned station. She is also a contributing editor to In These Times magazine. She served as a 2015 Fellow at the University of Chicago's Institute of Politics. Washington brings more than two decades of experience as a multi-media journalist and non-profit professional specializing in African-American affairs, local and national politics, race, and social justice. From 2003 to 2009 she served as the Ida B. Wells-Barnett University Professor at DePaul University.

She is the former editor and publisher of The Chicago Reporter, served as deputy press secretary to Mayor Harold Washington and received her Bachelor's and Master's degrees from Northwestern University. Her work has been honored with dozens of local and national awards, including two Emmy Awards, the Peter Lisagor award, the Studs Terkel Award for Community Journalism and the Racial Justice Award from the YWCA.

Her work and commentary has been widely featured in the national media, including Time Magazine, the Associated Press, New York Times, NBC Nightly News, MNSBC, PBS News Hour and the BBC. Washington is a frequent lecturer and moderator for local and national audiences.

John and Char Cepek have been committed allies to the LGBT community in a variety of settings ever since their son, John, came out to them in 1991. John served as national president of Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays ( PFLAG ), where he originated the Straight for Equality program, from 2006 to 2010. This program has presented LGBT diversity trainings throughout corporate America over the last ten years. In the area of faith communities, John and Char chaired the Open and Affirming Taskforce at the First Congregational Church of La Grange. And in education, John co-chaired the Chancellor's Committee on the Status of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Issues at the University of Illinois at Chicago, while Char helped start a gay-straight alliance at Lyons Township High School.

John and Char have led other PFLAG members to volunteer for Equality Illinois, which successfully campaigned to pass legislation in January 2005 that added sexual orientation and gender identity to the Illinois Human Rights Act. ( In January 2006 John and Char were recipients of the Equality Illinois Freedom Award. ) Later in 2006, John and Char were the primary litigants in raising objections to signatures on a petition calling for a state amendment to restrict marriage to heterosexual couples. The amendment was successfully prevented from being on the ballot.

Being LGBT allies has been a source of great joy and satisfaction for John and Char, and they continue to speak out against discrimination and for affirmation and inclusivity whenever and wherever they can.

Johnny Hickman is guitarist, co-founder and co-songwriter of the band Cracker who have been recording and touring the U.S. and the world for 25 years. Johnny grew up with a gay brother and a transgender sister and is here to share his story of their journey together.

The series is curated by David Fink. Minibar doors open 6 p.m. Stories begin 7 p.m. No cover.


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