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OUTspoken! marks one year with rousing stories
by Carrie Maxwell, Windy City Times
2015-08-12

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Appearing before a packed house, emcees Kim Hunt ( outgoing executive director of Affinity Community Services ) and Art Johnston ( co-owner of Sidetrack ) kicked off OUTspoken!'s one-year anniversary celebration Aug. 4 at Sidetrack.

The event featured stories by Tracy Baim ( Windy City Times publisher ), Bea Cordelia ( playwright, slam poet, essayist, performer and researcher ), LeVan D. Hawkins ( writer, poet and performance artist ), Archy Jamjun ( writer and co-host of Do Not Submit Lakeview at Sidetrack ), Alexis Martinez ( human rights activist ) and Jeffrey Tomlinson ( dean of instruction at Rowe-Clark Math and Science Academy ).

OUTspoken! curator David Fink ( co-founder, producer and board member at the Acorn Theatre in Three Oaks, Michigan ) was unable to attend due to a scheduling conflict. He was serving as a judge for a live talent show, Michiana's Rising Star, on South Bend, Indiana's, PBS station while OUTspoken! was taking place.

Johnston welcomed everyone and noted that while there are many storytelling events in Chicago, OUTspoken! is the only LGBTQ-specific storytelling venue in the city.

"This is by far the best storytelling audience in the city of Chicago." said Hunt. "This is a real institution, I hope, and I'm so proud to be a part of it."

Hawkins' story centered on the pitfalls of meeting someone online and falling for them before getting to know them in person.

Martinez spoke about her early years including what it was like growing up on the South Side of Chicago in the days before the Dan Ryan expressway was built. She noted that while in San Francisco she tried to volunteer with Harvey Milk's campaign, however, they didn't accept her because they didn't want any transgender people involved in the campaign.

Tomlinson's story focused on coming out as a gay man to his middle school students in 2007 while teaching reading in the Anacostia neighborhood of Washington D. C. He explained that his coming out was within the context of a student led discussion of The Laramie Project.

Jamjun, who recently won The Moth Grand Slam, spoke about a talent competition that he participated in when he was a boy where, instead of singing his favorite song, Whitney Houston's "Greatest Love of All", he froze.

Cordelia debuted a slam poem that melded past and current events.

Each storyteller received an OUTspoken! T-shirt as a token of appreciation following his or her performance.

See OUTspokenchicago.com for more information .


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