28th Annual African Festival of the Arts and other events

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WYCLEF JEAN, musician turned activist for many causes in his birthplace of Haiti and around the globe, headlines the African Festival of the Arts on Sunday, September 3. This is the 28th year of this event that brings the community together for an African Diaspora experience.

By Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J., Chicago Crusader

Africa International House USA, Inc., has confirmed that lyricist, singer, musician, producer, poet, and songwriter Wyclef Jean (also known as Clef) will perform on the African Festival of the Arts’ (AFA) Main Stage on Sunday, September 3. Jean will join performers from around the world during the four-day Labor Day event, September 1 – 4. The highly-anticipated event, one of the largest, and longest running festivals in the Midwest focused on African art and culture, each year draws tens of thousands of people to its long-standing home in Washington Park.

The music that Wyclef Jean has written, performed, and produced — both as a solo superstar and as founder and guiding member of the Fugees — has been a consistently powerful pop cultural force for many decades. In 1996, the Fugees released their monumental album The Score. The album hit No. 1 on the Billboard chart, spawned a trio of smash singles (including a remake of Roberta Flack’s 1973 ballad “Killing Me Softly”), and is now certified six times platinum. But Wyclef launched himself as a producer and solo artist whose work draws from an innovative and eclectic palette that includes elements of pop, country, folk, disco, Latin, and electronic music.

Tickets for Clef’s concert are included in the price of admission for the show and may be purchased beginning at $15. The AFA is held annually, over Labor Day Weekend, where the festival grounds come alive when Washington Park is transformed into an African village. Visitors are transported across the Diaspora with interactive engagements, vibrant drumming, museum quality and collectible artifacts, colorful and rich handwoven fabric and textiles, and other program spaces, including Drum & Afro-folk Village, Children and Family, African Heritage, African Spirituality, Wellness (Health) Village, Books and Authors, Fine Art, Film and Video, Food Court, Seniors and Quilting, and the African Marketplace.

The Festival will have themed entertainment for each day of its four-day run featured on two stages. For more info, visit https://www.aihusa.org/african-fesitval-of-the-arts/

ELI TOKASH, as Trevor, is jubilant as he imagines what his world could be like if he can only aspire to bigger dreams, motivated by his idol Motown great Diana Ross, played by Salisha Thomas. Trevor’s bedroom is all Diana, all the time. After a musical filled with the “Diva’s” music, when I left the theatre, her hit “Nothing But Heartache” was playing on Sunday afternoon radio. (Photo by Michael Brosilow)

Trevor the Musical

Meet Trevor, a 13-year-old boy in 1981 whose vibrant imagination drives a turbulent journey of self-discovery. As he deals with adolescence and all that goes with it, Trevor begins to explore what it means to be himself, influenced by his friends, parents, and his musical idol. Based on the story that inspired the Academy Award-winning film, the charity and the national movement, “Trevor The Musical” is a coming-of-age story about identity, emerging sexuality and the struggles of growing up in a world that may not be ready for you.

Trevor’s reality is embellished through his infatuation with Motown great Diana Ross. The play gets a bit gloomy toward the end, but since Ross is Trevor’s ‘shero,’ he also proves triumphant. With 1981 as the backdrop for the year in which the play was set, there was much Ross repertoire to spread around. It was brilliant how the director interspersed Ross’ songs throughout the play, which was a great piece that is as relevant today as the time period in which it was presented. Trevor was played by Eli Tokash, and Ross was played by Salisha Thomas. A nurse named Jack, whom Trevor met after he decided he had been bullied once too often, was played by Jhardon DiShon Milton. All three actors have mesmerizing, strong voices. The Trevor Project was created as a result of the Academy Award-winning film that also inspired “Trevor The Musical.” The Trevor Project is the nation’s only accredited crisis intervention and suicide prevention organization focused on saving young LGBTQ lives. This world premiere musical is directed by Marc Bruni and is running now through October 1 at Writers Theatre in Glencoe. For info, visit www.writerstheatre.org.

Black Harvest Film Festival: Gene Siskel Film Center,
164 N. State St.

On the Sly: In Search of the Family Stone: August 25 and August 26.

In the early 2000s, out-of-work actor Michael Rubenstone became obsessed with the music of Sly and the Family Stone. He also became curious about the whereabouts of the group’s charismatic front man Sly Stone, who had last been seen in public in 1993 and whose seclusion had long been the subject of speculation and dark rumors. Rubenstone’s 12-year quest to track down and interview the elusive Sly is the subject of this entertaining film, which is part autobiography, part history of the legendary funk group, and part detective story, filled with dead ends, near sightings, and tantalizing clues. Michael Wadleigh (who captured the group’s epochal Woodstock performance), Bobby Womack, Clive Davis, Paul Shaffer, Dick Cavett, Cornel West, manager David Kapralik, and original Family members are among the witnesses and admirers whom the filmmaker encounters as he follows the trail.

The Chicago Way and Blueprint for Bronzeville: August 28 and August 30.

With 762 shooting deaths, 2016 was one of the bloodiest years in Chicago history. Written and produced by Tio Hardiman of the Violence Interrupters and Gregg Greer of Freedom First International, the impassioned documentary “The Chicago Way” goes into the streets to capture at close range the battle to make Chicago safe, putting theater patrons alongside mourners for fallen friends and family members, demonstrators outside a gun shop, protestors confronting Gov. Bruce Rauner as he exits an African-American church, and paraders for New Era Chicago whipping up community pride.

Blueprint for Bronzeville: In 2009, when Chicago made its ill-fated bid to host the 2016 Olympics, with Bronzeville the proposed site of the Olympic Village and a new stadium, the historic neighborhood was in crisis. The demolition of decaying housing projects had left thousands of empty lots that were being filled by high-income housing. The community group Housing Bronzeville, embroiled in a struggle to maintain affordable housing, seized upon the Olympics bid to gain leverage for their cause. This concise and illuminating documentary, with Ronit Bezalel (“30 Acres in Chicago”) as supervising producer, combines informative history with a stirring account of grass-roots activism.

For info, visit http://www.siskelfilmcenter.org/blackharvest

Bonnie and Clyde

Kokandy Productions continues its 5th anniversary season with the Chicago premiere of “Bonnie & Clyde,” the musical story of two small-town nobodies searching for meaning at the height of the Great Depression from the creative team of Frank Wildhorn, Ivan Menchell and Don Black. Directed by Spencer Neiman, with music direction by Allison Hendrix and choreography by Aubrey Adams, Bonnie & Clyde will play August 27 – October 15, 2017 at Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont Ave. in Chicago. Tickets are currently available at www.kokandyproductions.com, by calling (773) 975-8150 or in person at the box office.

The play features Desiree Gonzalez as Bonnie and Max DeTogne as Clyde and centers on real-life Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, the ill-fated lovers and outlaws whose story has been infamous since they achieved folk hero status at the height of the Great Depression. Fearless, shameless and alluring, the Tony Award-nominated musical from the legendary Frank Wildhorn is the electrifying story of love, adventure and crime that captured the attention of an entire country, with a non-traditional score featuring blues, gospel and rockabilly music.

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