YCA Blog

How “Brown Girls” Helps Us Better Understand Identity

How “Brown Girls” Helps Us Better Understand Identity

Written by Christian Sanchez, Marlena Wadley and Tanya Munoz 
photos via RJ Eldridge

On Wednesday (February 15), Chicago Art Department hummed with chatter and laughter while people lined up outside waiting for the premiere of the web series Brown Girls. Written by Fatimah Asghar and directed by Sam Bailey, Brown Girls is a story based on Asghar’s life. Centered around two brown women, Leila and Patricia are trying to settle into their identities and careers while being each other’s shoulder and combing out the kinks.

Asghar is no stranger to writing or performing; in 2015, she published her own book, AFTER, a number of poems that truthfully explore the aftermath of an abusive relationship. In 2015 she also delivered a TED talk, “We Own All The Language In The World” about poetry being a powerful...

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Crossing the Street Bring Positivity & Creativity to Chicago’s Youth

Crossing the Street Bring Positivity & Creativity to Chicago’s Youth

Written by Marlena Wadley, Nick Dimas, Tanya Munoz and Tommy Brannigan
photos via YCA

Maurice Swinney, the principal of Tilden High School on the South Side, decided to move to Chicago after he heard the poem “Lost Count” by Nate Marshall, Demetrius Amparan, and Deja Taylor.

That poem—written by three then-high school students—focuses on corruption in the school system, police misconduct, and violence. Swinney wanted to be a part of the solution, explaining why it’s so surreal to be leading the high school that serves as the starting point for the Louder Than A Bomb (LTAB) festival each year.

“To have LTAB start here, and knowing I was inspired to move here because of HBO’s Brave New Voices special, seeing Demetrius and Nathaniel, it was really good; it was so rich. It was inspiring and painful,” Swinney said. “They had to...

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A Review of Noname's Sold Out Telefone Tour

A Review of Noname's Sold Out Telefone Tour

Written by Marlena Wadley
photo via Noname

Upon arrival, The Metro was filled with a swarm of fans dying to see Chicago rapper Noname bless the stage at the first sold out hometown show of the Telefone tour. With acts Akenya and Ravyn Lenae opening the show, The Metro was a booming spectrum of Chicago talent.

I arrived in the middle of Akenya’s set, whose voice would make anyone wonder who she is, if they didn’t already. After a stretched interval of reggae elevator music, Ravyn gave the crowd a fun and boisterous performance, opening with her song “Greetings.” A mix of twists, shimmies, and whining, you could tell she was carefree and enjoying her performance just as much as her spectators. Her soft melodious voice touched ...

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How Louder Than A Bomb Unites Chicago's Youth

How Louder Than A Bomb Unites Chicago's Youth

Written by Marlena Wadley and Tommy Brannigan 
photos via YCA

It’s no secret that Chicago is one of the most racially segregated cities in America. Constantly under speculation because of the violence, many benefactors to the city go by as unsung heros. However, their efforts to build a better community in the city have resulted in the largest annual poetry festival in the country, Louder Than A Bomb.

This Sunday (January 15), LTAB kicked off its 17th year with its annual coaches meeting, where novice and veteran coaches come together to discuss the year’s theme, and prepare for the start of the festival.

One of LTAB’s main goals is to instill positivity and unity within communities and its more than 1,000 youth participants. LTAB founder Kevin Coval notes, “[LTAB] brings young writers together, especially because Chicago is...

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Artist Spotlight: Producer Jaro

Artist Spotlight: Producer Jaro

Written by Breanna Bonslater
photo via Jaro

Jaro is a producer from the Humboldt Park neighborhood in Chicago, IL. His family is originally from Vietnam, but he was born in America. While we talk, he always says something that makes you think about the topic on a more profound level.

His earliest musical influence was the piano, which echoes in his production work, through his use of keys. His uncle taught him how to play the piano when he was around five, and in middle school, Jaro picked up a little guitar. He’s part of a group known as Beach Jesus, and his most recent solo project is an EP entitled Le Bleue. Overall, his beats have an eerie sound, and with his use of keyboard and snare drums, you get an electronic vibe from his music.

Breanna Bonslater: What inspires...

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Emma McKee: Chicago's Hip-Hop Cross-Stitcher

Emma McKee: Chicago's Hip-Hop Cross-Stitcher

Written by Anna Mason and Nick Dimas
photo via Bryan Allen Lamb

It’s common knowledge that you must fail a few times to achieve success.

Emma McKee’s failures led her from falling off a skateboard in a Jiffy Lube parking lot,to an elevator encounter with Kanye West.

McKee is full of laughter while she explains spending hours trying to teach herself how to skateboard, though she says there was nothing funny about it. She moved to Chicago three years ago, after getting kicked out of Canada. Since then, an old-fashioned hobby passed down from her British mother has helped McKee become a vital part of Chicago’s vibrant hip-hop scene. She's now known as the Stitch Gawd.

But cross-stitching was never part of McKee’s plans. At one point, she wanted to follow in her mother’s footsteps and be an opera singer. She decided it would be...

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