Sun Spots Preview: Got To-Do It Early!!!


Just hangin' around!

Got To-Do It Early:  Galas Galore!! 

There are so many fabulous black-tie/gala To-Dos coming up that I could not help but give you a run-down of my wishlist from the Got To-Do It Early page!  It's fun to get dressed up and enjoy a festive evening out.  The buzz of excitement is often both audible and palpable, particularly when the evening includes a special performance - like Al Jarreau or Lizt Alfonso Dance Cuba!  We've got plenty to choose from here - the spectacular, the divine, the sublime and galas that incorporate dance, live music, art, theater, history, fashion and film.

Galas are also a whole lotta fun when you share a group table with friends - or strangers!  You're welcome to comment below and let us know which of these To-Dos gets you excited - and maybe there will be enough excited people to share a table!  (I've got to break out my calculator for this one . . . )

October 8:  6th Annual Vive la Hispanidad - This To-Do is not be one of those stuffy, no dancing affairs. Claro que no - this is gonna be una fiesta con a lovely venue, comida sabrosa and festive attitudes! Vive la Hispanidad is a Hispanic Heritage Month celebration that takes place at the lovely Galleria Marchetti, where you'll find live entertainment, food stations with a wide variety of "sizzling" cuisine from several Chicago-area restaurants, cocktails and art displays.  And, dancing to the Latin beat!  Tables seem to be primarily reserved for sponsors, with additional, limited general seating.  A portion of the proceeds from this To-Do will benefit The Resurrection Project’s “La Casa,” an initiative that aims to provide local college students access to housing. 

Attire:  Festive Cocktail would do the trick! 
Price: $75 (if you heeded my advise and purchased by September 24th); otherwise, $100 (includes food and drinks).

Saturday, October 9, 2010:  CIFF/Black Perspectives Tribute: Forest Whitaker

Presented as part of the Chicago International Film Festival, Black Perspectives focuses on film from the African diaspora.  Each year, Black Perspectives kicks off with a Tribute to a noted producer, actor or writer.  This is the first year that I'm aware of that CIFF has provided a low-cost option to attend the Film/Tribute portion of the program only. Don't do it though! Go ahead and spend another $45 and enjoy what is typically a very cool post-Tribute reception. The reception is normally pretty lavish, with a celebratory atmosphere and is well-worth the cost! As in the past couple of years, the Tribute will take place in the Chase Auditorium, but the reception follows a few (walkable) blocks away at The Wit.  

Attire:  For this To-Do,  cocktail attire would be appropriate.  In the past, the reception has pretty much been an on-your-feet affair, with limited seating available - so plan your footwear ahead! 
Price: $40, Tribute only; $85, Tribute and AfterParty.


Harry Lennix Hosts

October 16, 2010:  Chicago Defender Newsmakers Awards & Scholarship Gala 

This year, the Chicago Defender celebrates is 105th Anniversary at its annual Gala!  Look forward to some serious celebrating with host Harry Lennix and a live preview performance by Black Ensemble Theatre!  The awards program recognizes "world-class citizens who display the highest level of leadership, whose commitment to excellence is empowering, and whose achievements are unparalleled."  This year's awardees include Barbara Allen, producer of the recently released documentary DuSable to Obama:  Chicago's Black Metropolis, and Lifetime Achievement Awardee, Muhammed Ali! This To-Do includes a cocktail reception, sit-down dinner with assigned seating and live entertainment to accompany your dance moves following the awards program!

Attire:  Cocktail or Black-Tie
Price:  $200 


The Birthday Party

October 22, 2010:  LAC Honors Dr. Margaret Burroughs with the Legends and Legacy Award  

The Leadership Advisory Committee (LAC) of The Art Institute of Chicago "provides counsel, new perspectives, and support to the museum on all matters relating to the engagement and advancement of African Americans in the life of the institution."  This year the LAC honors Dr. Margaret Burroughs as the  second recipient of the Legends and Legacy Award.  At 93, Dr. Burroughs has a rich history in Chicago, credited with establishing the DuSable Museum in 1961.  The evening begins with a program recognizing Dr. Burroughs contributions and concludes with a reception in the Modern Wing.

Cocktail or Black Tie! 

Designs by 71Jules

 October 24, 2010:  Sexy & Sustainable: The Vert Couture Eco-Fashion Show & Charity Benefit

Looking for something a little different?  Well, in what is only its second year, Vert Couture is destined to be über cool!  Verte Couture closes out Chicago Fashion Focus Week with this unique "eco-fashion" show.  "From conscious fashions to sustainable snacks and cocktails in the VIP lounge to eco-gift bags, Vert Couture [brings] sexy to sustainability." 

Karyn Calabrese

Purchase VIP tickets and enjoy a pre-fashion show reception with tasty hors' d'ouevres by Karyn's On Green.  (Karyn is the vivacious, 61 year-old owner of a growing vegan franchise of raw and cooked cuisine, health, beauty and spa products!  I could go on and on about her, but let it suffice to say that she can make vegan bacon out of mushrooms that taste better than the real thing!  Yes.  The woman is bad!)  VIP tickets also gives you access to preferred seating (otherwise, I believe it's standing room only) during the fashion show, which takes place at the 80,000 square foot, LEED-certified, Mercedes Benz of Chicago showroom.

The fashion show will feature head-to-toe (yes, shoes, too!) looks by a variety of eco-fashion designers, including several local ones.  You'll have an opportunity to pre-purchase designs from the designers Spring/Summer collections.

There are far too many layers of coolness to this To-Do for me to detail in this post, so do be sure to click through the headline link for a whole bunch of links to sites of participants and cool stuff like the video below! 

Attire:  Something from hemp or tie-dyed?  :=)  I suggest mixing it up and wearing something a little eclectic! 
: General - $35, Advance, $50, Door; VIP - $75, Advance, $100, Door 


Lizt Alfonso Dance Cuba

October 29, 2010:  A Night in Havana Gala Benefit f/ Lizt Alfonso Dance Cuba 

Here's another T0-Do that holds the promise of a magical evening.  The Gala begins with a cocktail reception, followed by dinner at the Palmer House Hilton.  Then, brace yourself for an exciting performance by Lizt Alfonso Dance Cuba!  The electric and sultry performance combines "flamenco, ballet and contemporary dance with Spanish and Afro-Cuban rhythms" and the live band is the perfect companion!  Live Cuban music and dance?!?! This is gonna be smokin' - and I am neither jokin' nor tokin'! Take a look at the video preview and see (and hear!) for yourself!

The evening continues with a Dessert Party in the theatre lobby.  Sounds good to me!  So, who's down to go in for a table for ten?

Attire:  At this price, it must be Black Tie!
Price: Gala, $500-750; Performance only, $30-69



November 6, 2010:  Chicago Urban League Golden Fellowship Dinner 

 Two words:  Al Jarreau!!!!  Okay, two more (and the ampersand is a symbol, not a word):  Glitz & Glamour.  Okay, for real, just one more:  Go! 

This Gala is truly an elegant To-Do, worthy of breaking out your finest black-tie gear!   From the cocktail reception, to the dinner, to the after party with dessert bar, the Chicago Urban League pulls out all the stops!  This year should be better than ever with a live performance by Al Jarreau - worth the price of admission by himself!!!  Toward the end of July, Al was in intensive care in France because of possible fatique and difficulty adjusting to the altitude in the Alps.  The 70-year-old had to cancel a few tour dates, so it's good to see that he's recovered and I'm sure the performance will be amazing!

Attire: Black Tie
Price: $500-600 

Melba Moore

November 20, 2010:  Commit: An Evening with the HistoryMakers

The Chicago HistoryMakers are also celebrating an anniversary - their tenth!  Celebrities will be in full effect with Common, Susan Taylor, Khephra Burns, Denyce Graves, Nikki Giovanni, Gwen Ifill, and Cathy Hughes.  Prepare to be delighted with musical performances by BeBe Winans and Melba Moore! 

"The HistoryMakers is single largest archival collection of its kind in the world.  [Its] goal is to complete 5,000 interviews of both well-known and unsung African American HistoryMakers.  In doing so, [they seek] to include the stories of individual African Americans along with those of African American organizations, events, movements and periods of time that are significant to the African American community."

The theme for this To-Do is COMMIT, with the HistoryMakers urging attendees to COMMIT their time, resources and dollars to helping the HistoryMakers increase their collection of African-American testimony and history.  If you'd like to COMMIT to attending, share your comments below and maybe we'll get a group table together!

Attire:  Black Tie
: $500 

There you have it!  For a mere $2,400 you can schmooze, rub elbows, check out some art, dance, theater, fashion, live music and more!  Want to get more out of your Black-Tie party?  Let us know which of these To-Dos you plan to attend and we'll share the experience!  Whether or not you attend some or all, be sure to stay tuned to Sun Spots 'cuz I'll be sharing the full experience in words and photos!

Soleil's To-Dos




Sun Spots: UniverSoul Circus

[caption id="attachment_740" align="alignleft" width="163"]Soleil! Just hanging around![/caption]

A Magical Autumn In Washington Park

The early Autumn of 2001 was, to me, unusually cool.  But, despite 12 years of living in Chicago, I never quite understood what to expect from the weather in that time of year.  I got home early one Friday evening, put on some fuzzy, cozy pjs, grabbed a bottle of wine and snuggled into bed for “video night.”  However, after a couple of hours, I realized that I was being distracted by continuous music coming from the park.  I wondered: was a radio station sponsoring an old school party in the park?  I’d hear a DJ talking, music would blare and people would cheer like mad!

Finally, at about 10pm, curiosity got the better of me and I started making calls.  First, my cousin Brian:  “Cuz – what’s goin’ on in the park?”  He didn’t know.  Neither did the next three people I called.  So, I got out of bed, changed into some jeans, a teeshirt, a turtleneck, a sweater, a jacket, scarf and hat!  With my cell phone in hand – I headed out.  I called my girl Chrystal and told her:  “if you don’t hear from me in an hour, tell the police that I was headed into the park.”  With that, I walked toward the music.

The first thing that struck me was the weather.  It was as if the night belonged to a different day!  What was a very cool early evening had transformed into an incredibly balmy night.  Combined with the bottle of cabernet fresh in my system, it all felt quite surreal.  A Michael Jackson song began to play as I was simultaneously sucked into the darkness while moving closer to the light.  I saw that I was nearing a structure and as my eyes moved upward, they fell upon the words “UniverSoul Circus!!!”

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="193"]UniverSoul Circle Not exactly the vision I saw, but it sure would have been magical![/caption]

With childlike glee (for real, no joke) and a huge grin spread across my face (those who know me know how I can get), I moved closer to the entrance and the mammoth tent that transformed an ordinary parking lot and ball field into a place of magic and excitement!  I caught the eye of a security guy – me, this tall, radiant (let me tell ya, the sun was shining brightly on this particular night!) black woman, emerging from the misty darkness and grinning like a kid!  He generously ushered me ringside to catch the end of the show.  As MJ climbed toward a passionate crescendo, I watched with sheer delight as an 8-9 year-old boy and girl strength/contortionist combo finished an amazing performance!

I ask you – where else but Chicago?!?!  Man, I love this city!

Soleil’s To-Dos

(In 2013 UniverSoul Circus runs from September 18th through October 6th in Washington Park and October 10 - 20 in Union Park.)

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="450"] Me, Godkids and Cousins[/caption]

Sun Spots: Artistically Linked


Get Linked! 

If you ever feel like your artistic juices are running low, or you need to find the proper inspiration to nurture your inner child, or you’re looking for someone to provide you or your organization with creative services, Artistically Linked may be just the To-Do for you!  Artistically Linked, the brainchild of Onjalee LaShay and John Swain, is a creative arts networking series that occurs on the third Tuesday of each month and caters to all artists: visual artists, fashion & jewelry designers, photographers, models, musicians, vocalists, dj’s, graphic designers, poets, videographers, actors, writers and comedians throughout the Chicagoland area.   

Each month, Artistically Linked features five people from a variety of artistic backgrounds.  During the program segment, each featured artist shares information about their creative endeavors and their personal journey.  You are equally likely to find yourself moved to tears, laughter and/or creative action!  Vendors are present to sell or share their creative and/or artistic wares, cocktails flow, food is available keep the grumpies at bay and Swank Society keeps the music right. 

Artistically Linked roams from one artistic venue to another.  On July 27th, Jennifer Bridgeforth (one of the featured artists) welcomed us to her lovely exhibition space – the Phoenix Gallery.  The gallery, which is also available for special events, occupies two levels in the Halsted art gallery district, at 1829 South Halsted Street.  The white walls and light hardwood floors gives the main level a very open, airy feeling.  This open feeling is punctuated by the wall of glass at the back of the gallery that opens onto an unexpected and unbelievably lush, beautiful courtyard!  It is truly an oasis!  Be sure to stop by for a visit during the next Second Friday Gallery Walkaround!  July also featured William Kurk, musical performer and songwriter, Iccha Devi Rah (a/k/a – The Reluctant Vegetarian), culinary artist; Tonya Patton, author; and, yours truly! 

As with the majority of the events posted on the Soleil’s To-Dos calendar, Artistically Linked draws a mature audience.  There is no VIP bottle service, no lines around the block and no need to tell grown folk to dress appropriately.  Artistically Linked rides that perfect balance between well-attended and not overly-crowded; is attended generally by ages between mid-20s and late-50s; and, while predominately African-American, is definitely diverse.  Artistically Linked is a free To-Do and the next installment will be on Tuesday, August 31st from 6-9pm.  Now, that you’ve got an idea what to expect, you’ve got no excuse not To-Do it! 





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Sun Spots: Concerts In the Parks w/ Michael Manson

Just hangin' around!

Doin’ It In the Park – Oh, Yeah! 

I hope that by now you’re aware of some of the great outdoor live music venues and series that I’ve shared with you either through Sun Spots and/or Soleil’s To-Dos.  But, in addition to the larger summer series, there are still a few live music concerts taking place at parks throughout the City of Chicago, courtesy of the Chicago Park District Concerts In the Parks series! 

Michael Manson

Concerts In the Parks features primarily local, but also national acts.  I recently enjoyed national recording artist Michael Manson at Midway Plaisance Park.  Plenty of people made it out for this performance and clearly had a good time!  Impromptu dance floors erupted in several areas as folks couldn’t resist the opportunity to get their stepping on – and it was a lovely sight to see.  

In the winter, Midway Plaisance is home to an outdoor skating rink.  But, come summer festival season, this park in the University of Chicago/Hyde Park neighborhood is abuzz with soccer, Frisbees, concerts and movies!  On this particular summer evening, the skating rink was converted into a seating rink for the enthusiastic concert-goers.  While lots of seating (folding chairs) was provided, a lot of folks came equipped with their “chair in a sack.”  Young, old, black, white and everyone in between had a great time together at this neighborhood concert, sponsored by the Black McDonald’s Operators Association.  

Concerts In the Parks provides a free opportunity to gather with friends and family in a no-fuss setting with ample parking.  Generally speaking, Concerts In the Parks are laid back enough to provide time for you to get home from work, change into something relaxing, gather up some food and drink, head back out and still have plenty of room to have a seat.  Whether in the official seating area or flanking the stage on the lawn well within earshot of the music – enjoy the concert your way!  

This is about the time of the year that we begin to face how quickly summer passes, but it’s not too late to partake in the Concerts In the Parks series!  At Soleil’s To-Dos, you’ll find that we’ve included listings for the more culturally diverse performances.  The series comes to an end on August 31st, so, now is a good time to stop thinking about it – it’s time To-Do it! 

Soleil's To-Dos




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Sun Spots: War with Peace at Celebrate Hyde Park

Just hangin' around!


(2011 Update: Saturday features Roy Ayers Sunday features War!)

Making Peace and Enjoying War

Me thinks the Inaugural "Celebrate Hyde Park" drew a larger crowd than anticipated!  I got there just as War was taking the stage and 53rd Street was packed with people funneling down to the stage at Blackstone!   Marketing for this To-Do seems to have been done the old-fashioned way - maybe a couple of radio spots and locally posted fliers.  When I first got word of it (by mouth), I thought "War?  Hunh?"  But, I quickly changed that tune to "War - HUH:  what is it good for?"  It was good for an absolutely peaceful, beautiful, Sunday afternoon!

Tons of people were at this free To-Do that featured Hyde Park Restaurants and local musicians throughout this lovely Sunday afternoon.  No fences were up, no tickets collected - just people enjoying War favorites.  No fights, no pushing, young, old, rich and poor gathered and the air was truly festive!  Folks were just happy! 

The enthusiasm for War was infectious, and War did not disappoint!  The band was tight, the vocals on point, the performance energetic and the songs took me back to the day!  Despite the passage of time, War's songs were clearly unforgettable as the crowd joined in the singing (with and without invitation) - take a listen to the video below.

My guess:  Next year they move to a larger venue! 

Soleil's To-Dos