Engage: February 2010 Archives

Submitted by second-year Alison Howard and first-year Charna Albert

At the Woodlawn Collaborative Open Mic Night, they don't take no for an answer. At least not if you don't want to offend Travis, the 64-year old, white-braided and bearded life force behind this monthly event.
Travis himself is enough entertainment for one night. In fact, right after we got there, he announced free pizza and grape juice and then promptly took off his pants. Underneath, all he had on were a pair of white tights but any unseemly bits were soon covered by the red, sheer double-breasted cape he soon put on.

And then his noise band performed.

We'll back up. The Woodlawn Collaborative Open Mic night is the brainchild of a coalition of students and Woodlawn community members, and takes place in a Church on the corner of 64th and Kimbark once a month (the next one is March 19th.) Last Friday, we decided to check it out. This is a part of town that will provoke a "you be safe now" from the SafeRide driver, but don't be intimidated; just be smart. It'll be more fun in a group anyhow. It will also be more fun if you come in with an open mind and probably a song or two, or maybe some beat poetry. At the event itself, participation was low but spirited. Which leads us back to the noise band.

As the night began, Travis informed us that his noise band would be opening. This consisted of 15 minutes of... well, noise. It was kind of an acid trip, if you're into that sort of thing. Wearing latex gloves adorned with plastic flowers, Travis shook a gigantic piece of sheet metal and screamed unintelligible, yet most likely profound words into a microphone set on echo. Six minutes in, our hippie friend from San Francisco screamed, just to be heard over the music, "this is so cool!" If you are less of a hippie, this may not be for you, but never fear; there is more to Open Mic night.

One of the highlights included a group of UChicago students who Travis referred to as "the Phoebes." They, however, insisted that they had no name, and that their lead singer, who signed them up, was just named Phoebe. Basically all you need to know is that their version of "Like a Prayer" was played with a cello, a trash can, a violin, a guitar, a keyboard, and a combo fork knife and empty wine bottle. They were awesome.

If you're intrigued (as you should be) note that this event is free and open to the public. It's definitely worthwhile if you're looking for a venue to practice your creative talents... and your creative tolerance. We're for sure coming back with this beat poem: Don't judge us, and we won't judge you. Also, the first two lines can be attributed to my good friend Teddy.

This poem should be read aloud, with two people alternating each line.

Cheez Whiz
Gee Whiz
Stop it

Start over.

(Repeat as necessary. But probably not as long as Travis's noise band performance)

Here's a short piece about the Communtiy Service Leadership Training Corps: a group of 20 first-years and 20 second-years who travel around the city conducting service projects and learn about urban issues non-profit administration while there at it! They've recently visited the Gary Comer Youth Center and Jane Addams Hull House garden.

by second-year Julia Pei, for the University Community Service Center Newsletter

Officially, the Community Service Leadership Training Corps (CSLTC) is a "two-year intensive service and leadership training program run by the University Community Service Center". However, the 20 first-year students who are selected annually to become a part of CSLTC would agree this modest description doesn't do the program justice.

During their first year, students engage in weekly issue sessions on various areas of service and participate in related, biweekly service projects in the Chicago area. During their second year, students use these experiences and discussions to focus on a year-long internship with a nonprofit organization or community service RSO on campus.

However, CSLTC is much more than a group of people gathering to discuss service and leadership. For many, CSLTC becomes a unique and close-knit community as dynamic and organic as the individuals who comprise it.

On Tuesday nights, CSLTCers arrive early to meetings to catch up with friends. Conversation is not only governed by their shared interest in service but also by the personal connections they have forged. It is out of this unique group dynamic, bursting with passionate and engaged individuals that something wonderfully rare and influential evolves.

Fourth-year Hannah Taber, one of the three program coordinators this year, reflects, "I was very excited to work with CSLTC this year because of the enormous contribution that it has made to my education and overall experience at the University of Chicago." All three of the current program coordinators, Prakriti Mishra, Aviva Rosman, and Hannah Taber, are former CSLTCers.

Beyond the current CSLTC coordinators, many other CSLTCers maintain close relationships with the University Community Service Center. Of the twenty current second-years, five are current UCSC program coordinators. Many CSLTCers have also founded community service RSOs including UChicago Mentorship by Correspondence (UMbC), International Volunteer Initiative (IVI), and Global China Connection (GCC). These groups all grew out of the collaboration of several groups of current and former CSLTCers.

Perhaps such a close-knit and multidimensional group dynamic is driven by the wide range of majors and interests that the group represents. Beyond the expected public policy and political science majors, the current second-year group also includes computer science, English, economics, interdisciplinary studies in the humanities, biology, and anthropology majors. CSLTCers' interests within service are just as diverse, ranging from refugee work to domestic violence to environmental sustainability.

Perhaps CSLTC is driven by the fact that it is still a young program directed by three program coordinators per year who all leave their own footprints on the program. Perhaps it is driven by the passion and enthusiasm of the individual CSLTCers.

Or perhaps, as second-year Swagateeka Panigrahy reflects, it is driven by the mere simplicity of the program. "What I love is that CSLTC doesn't make too much of itself. At first, it may seem like a group of people who get together for service, but it quickly becomes a collaborative and diverse environment where you really begin to work through the consequences of service and your place in it. That's why these bonds are so strong."