“During these tough times, they can’t cancel our creativity”

At the newly opened creative maker-space and social club Guild Row, Ivan Vazquez shared his experiences as a Mexican-American man growing up in Chicago’s Little Village and how loss, his best friend’s death at 17, and a traumatic experience with the police at age 11 ultimately lead Vazquez to step out of the grey and into the spectrum to be a renowned visual artist recognized locally and globally, creator, musician, and DJ with a lifetime love for Hip-Hop, Graffiti art, and Chicago’s breakdance/beat box scene. 

Presenting his painting La Princesa Mononoke ( The protector of the urban jungle), Ivan talked about being full of fearlessness as a young boy in Chicago, spending time with his crew breakdancing, going to school, and spending time with his best friend, Luis. Breakdancing on the corner with friends, they were approached by a police officer. Exclaiming, “We are just dancing!” Vazquez recalled a swift punch to the stomach and on the ground in tears. “I had the fearlessness knocked out of me.. And I retreated to the grey area, the safe space in the spectrum…[in the end] I used art as a weapon to combat fearlessness.”

Coping with this trauma, Ivan stopped B-Boying and dancing and became an indoor hermit focusing on high school studies and video games. He discovered music production as a safe route stating, “I knew I had talent and potential, but I was afraid to go all in.” Citing major influences such as Sade, De La Soul, DJ Jazzy Jeff, and Frankie Knuckles as inspiration for his music, ultimately the music of Sade inspired Vazquez to later create his Queen of Diamonds street art graffiti series. This series would come to represent the teachers, activists, and people in the community that he considered heroes. Tied in with Hip-Hop, Sade became a symbol of femininity, compelling Vazquez to engage and contribute to the feminist movement to combat misogyny and gender inequality in today’s society. 

Having lost friends to senseless gang violence, including his childhood best friend murdered at age 17, he stored this pain away for over 15 years. Discovering an old photo from junior high graduation, Ivan had an epiphany. “It was seeing Luis’s heavenly smile and feeling his hand on my shoulder that I had my revival…Art was my way to heal. I turned to art to channel grief and pain.” It became Ivan’s mission to empower and educate youth with positive, relatable, and alternative lifestyles away from violence and gang culture, citing his work with The Simple Good.

His work celebrates Chicago, a deep spiritual connection to his Mexican heritage and the indegenious Aztec culture, and a connection to the Earth. “Chicago is all about the unity.. the solidarity.. All that love I received as a kid.. I am so excited to give it back to the community.” In the last few minutes of his talk, he emphasized the need to come together and unify as a city and community, to help create a strong foundation and balance in a constantly changing world.

Digital Illustrator Kiyomi Negi-Tran (@letskeepdrawing) created a beautiful live sketch as Ivan Vazquez spoke to our audience. 

“Stress can either destroy us… Or it can create the opportunity to do something bigger”

At her Avondale restaurant Wherewithall, James Beard Award winning Chef Beverly Kim spoke about the vulnerabilities of stress while demonstrating kimchi jeegae taught by her grandmother, who recently passed from COVID-19. Its intricate flavors became more than just a dish to pass down, but robust layers that reflected Beverly Kim’s life as a Korean woman, domestic violence survivor, mother, Top Chef contestant, determined to kick down gender walls in the culinary industry, and to rise again through the challenges of the pandemic. 

“Fighting for the truth makes you strong,” she claimed while adding pork belly and sesame oil to the steaming pot.  

Coping with ill family members and sharply pivoting Wherewithall and Parachute into to-go ventures with her husband and restaurant co-founder, Kim had to hit the reset button.  She found peace in waking up and watching the sunrise journaling. Reading her news feed became a second priority. She let go of what wasn’t important and urged the audience to do the same. 

“Treasure what is important to you, connect with your inner self, but also connect with others,” Kim said. 

Through daily gratitude practice, she emphasized passing on positive energy and giving to the world in your own way is crucial.  “We should all keep dreaming. Don’t let anyone, not even yourself, tell you [that] you can’t dream big. Let’s dream about making a world more socially equitable… a beautiful place to be.” 

In the last few moments of her talk, Beverly asked the audience to support local restaurants in their neighborhood. “Do not forget them. They need us.”

Beverly recently began The Abundance Setting, an initiative to help support working mothers succeed in the culinary and hospitality industry. She said, “Stress can either destroy us… or it can create the opportunity to do something bigger.” 

Take your photography skills to the next level by practicing food photography. In honor of this month’s speaker @chefbeverlykim, we are having a #photocontest with @Kehcamera  Take this time to support a local restaurant and capture the photo of your favorite dish, or whip up something savory or sweet of your own. Get creative with your photos. Whether you’re using your phone, digital or a film camera! Winner will receive a $100 Gift Card from #Kehcamera. Go beyond your cell phone and explore photography with a professional camera.Rules:
1. Follow @chicago_CM & @KEHCamera on Instagram2. Tag #CMCreativesatHome & #KEHatHome in your food photos3. Creative Mornings & KEH Team will vote for our favorite photo4. Winner will receive a $100 Gift Card to KEH Camera

“Be a champion to those who get forgotten..”

With a small CM/Chicago crew at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago in its first hybrid live event, Cory Dukes spoke as part of a series on the theme of being an Underdog. Streaming via Zoom, Cory shared a personal, electrifying story of his life and how the underdog persona ultimately led him to become a strong community leader and advocate, working with underserved Chicago youth through the Alternative Schools Network. Growing up in Japan, feeling that being a loner was his birthright, he found comfort and joy in comics, manga, graphic novels, martial arts, and his imagination. Moving stateside and to the Southside of Chicago, Cory witnessed firsthand the purposeful and driven subjugation of residents, in particular teens and young adults. Sharing stats with the audience, including the fact that 45% of Chicago youth do not have a job and are not in school, he emphasized “[we] gotta champion these youth because I know where they came from… be a champion to those who get forgotten.” Cory urged the audience to continually improve ourselves and the lives around us, “I’ve felt like an underdog for most of my life.. And the biggest thing [I’ve learned] is to think outside the box. This is a creative community.. Apply what you’ve learned to support others… [because] the best part of an underdog story is that there is a triumphant victory.” If you are interested in working or volunteering with ASN, visit their homepage for more information.

July’s Theme is Underdog.

An underdog questions and expands what’s considered possible. When others expect them to lose, underdogs must lean on their self-trust and hard won experiences to envision and fiercely assert new realities. They do not dwell on what’s expected of them, but instead focus on what’s not expected of them. In “A Letter to My Nephew,” James Baldwin writes, “You were not expected to aspire to excellence. You were expected to make peace with mediocrity […] Take no one’s word for anything, including mine, but trust your experience. Know whence you came. If you know whence you came, there is really no limit to where you can go.” Whether you’re an underdog yourself or you know someone who is, you can help raise the bar. Recognize that every day is an opportunity to participate in life-affirming problem solving and to, and that every moment is an opportunity to engage creatively with your sense of what is possible. Call in and deploy your experience, your intuition, and your voice. The arena of change is calling. Our  Edinburgh chapter chose this month’s exploration of Underdog, Astrid Jaekel illustrated the theme, and it’s presented globally by Mailchimp

CreativeMornings Chicago welcomed April Friendly, speaking on this month’s theme of being Insecure with a talk called, “Re-Imagining What Is Possible.”

“When you trip, your community will lift you back up!”

April  shared with us her background in community organizing and activism, urging us to truly stop and think about what our community can look like  and re-imagine what is possible. “To be liberated, is to be your  human-ass self… keep responding…and when you trip, your community will  lift you back up.” Through poetry, photos, and personal insight, April electrified and motivated attendees to work together for the collective  good, sharing with the audience how organizing works and the causes that  are important to her—ending mass incarceration with The People’s Lobby  in Chicago, Illinois. April is working to abolish systems of injustice.  “People do not belong in cages,” said April, “Jails are petri dishes of  disaster… and [we] need to call out companies that are using inmates as  slave labor.” Instead of being insecure, she asked our community to  have the belief and hope that we can all create something good together.

Graphic by @letskeepdrawing

Black Lives Matter.

To the Black members of our  creative community: We see you. We hear you. We stand with you.

We are heartbroken and angry by the treatment of Black people and People of Color in America. We will make it clear with our actions moving forward that there is no grey area when it comes to racism, violence, and injustice — and we will not tolerate it.

Everyone is welcomed.

We support our Black speakers, Black partners, and Black creative members. We believe in giving a damn and promise to continue to use our platform to amplify the voices of Black creators. We have a collection of past events that you can access that reflect important themes such as justice and that showcase our talented Black community. 

We are here to support you.

We will continue to further amplify the voices and projects of Black business owners, creators, writers, directors, activists, and others in our community. For our first step, we have compiled and shared a list of informative resources, tools, and platforms that we have found helpful in beginning this journey.

We stand with our Black community and Black creatives in the fight against racism and violence, and we urge us all to do the same. 

If you have suggestions or feedback please contact chicago@creativemornings.com

— The CreativeMornings Chicago Team.                            

Helpful Resources and Tools 

CM Chi Talks to watch;  Abena Boamah-Acheampong, Saya Hillman, Elijah McKinnon, Adé Hogue, Aymar Jean, FM Supreme (aka Jessica Disu), Neal Sales-Griffin, Paul Octavious

Show some love to our partners, Stylin’ Out Network, Dj Mike Caliber

Chicago black owned businesses to support

Why it’s not enough to be non-racist. 

Justice in June: Commit to an action a day to become more informed.  

Listen to the Black Lives Matter Playlist.

Educate yourself and ways to help (via Black Lives Matter).

CreativeMornings talks on the theme of Justice, Equality, and Empathy.

Baratunde’s World-Saving Books Bookshop is an online bookshop on Black history, taking action, children’s books, and more.

It’s Nice That compiled a list of petitions to sign, funds and charities to donate to, and resources for educating yourself and those around you.

20 actions White people & non-Black People of Color in corporate (and otherwise) can take to show up for Black people right now.

The White Shift is a new podcast and resource for committing to justice and ending White silence.

Anti-Racism resources

Watch the movie Just Mercy for free

June’s Theme is Insecure.

Insecurity shrinks our optimism, beliefs around potential, and blinds us to how things really are or how they could be. We project our greatest fears when we succumb to the negative ways we are conditioned to react.

How can we start to overcome insecurity and strengthen ourselves?

According to author Leo Babauta, we can begin with a small dose of courage: “A bit of courage. Just in small doses, to start with, but it means a willingness to set aside all the distractions for a little bit, and just focus on what you’re struggling with.”

By observing and seeing, we can catch the early moments we allow our insecurities in. Pay attention to when you are being driven by insecurity and notice what exactly makes you contract. The secret is that the path out can be found in the patterns we have repeated thousands of times.

Ignite a small dose of your courage and fiercely protect its flame. Commit to breaking one limiting belief at a time. With good work and focus, you’ll soon be able to spread your wings and fly higher.

Our Louisville chapter chose this month’s exploration of Insecure, Rachael Sinclair illustrated the theme, and it’s presented globally by WordPress.com.

We’ve started something new and we’re really excited about it.

FieldTrips are meetups to interact, learn and collaborate in an effort to level-up your creative life.

Built on top of our 20,000 monthly attendees at CreativeMornings  talks, FieldTrips are designed and organized by amazing individuals and organizations from within our community. They are offered in the same  spirit of generosity that has powered CreativeMornings events for the  past decade.

From  coffee breaks to workshops and yoga to talks, CreativeMornings Chicago extends its platform and welcomes you to host Virtual Field Trips. If you have something creative to share, we encourage you. Apply! Let’s continue to inspire each other and reconnect.

Apply to Host a Local FieldTrip.

#Illustration above by Monica Rief. #creativemornigs