About Face Theatre starts 25th season with Kickback online short play fest

CHICAGO (Nov 9, 2020) — About Face Theatre kicks off its landmark 25th season with KICKBACK, an online festival of newly commissioned short plays and performances by Black LGBTQ+ artists, inspired by the Rebuild Foundation’s collections at the Stony Island Arts Bank. Conceived and directed by About Face Theatre Associate Artistic Director Mikael Burke, this performance series examines the intersection of queerness and Blackness in the present moment, inspired by the past, and looking toward the future. This program will stream Dec. 11, 2020, through Jan. 11, 2021.

For KICKBACK, About Face has commissioned a cohort of Black LGBTQ+ artists in Chicago to create original work inspired by Rebuild’s extensive collections chronicling the diverse experiences of Black Americans. KICKBACK will feature the work of About Face Artistic Associate Paul Oakley Stovall, Robert Cornelius, Michael Turrentine, Ben Locke, Dionne Addai, Vic Wynter, Ky Baity, Keyonna Jackson, Cori Wash, ShaZa (a collaboration between Zahra Baker and Shanta Nurullah), and Rebuild Foundation resident artists Jenn Freeman and avery r. young. These artists have been granted extensive access to Rebuild’s archives and are using them to inspire original performance pieces.

Since the planning for KICKBACK began nearly a year ago, the swift escalation of events around COVID-19 and the disproportionate impact on Black people and communities in Chicago has expanded the project’s scope and essence. Furthermore, the current global uprising in support of Black lives amplifies the need for ongoing resources and spaces for expressing joy, connection, and celebration of Black culture.

“For me, KICKBACK is about living our best lives, on no one’s terms but our own,” said KICKBACK director Mikael Burke. “It’s clear that white-supremacist-America wants us gone, and they want us quiet. We are being murdered in broad daylight, on streets, in parks, on sidewalks, in our homes, for having the audacity to draw breath and enjoy our time on this earth. But we refuse to be silenced. We are beautiful and complex and glorious. And we are out here living! So, let’s turn the music up. Let’s make a scene. Let’s celebrate our queer black lives and honor our friends and loved ones who no longer can. Let’s kickback.”

KICKBACK is an innovative partnership between About Face Theatre and Rebuild Foundation, a non-profit platform for art, cultural development, and neighborhood transformation on the South Side of Chicago. The Stony Island Arts Bank at 6760 S. Stony Island Ave., is home to Rebuild Foundation’s four major collections.

Together, these archives offer a variety of insightful windows into African American art, history, and culture that will be the springboard for KICKBACK’s art. The collections are:

The Johnson Publishing Archive, which houses more than 15,000 books, periodicals, furnishings, and ephemera, including the seminal EBONY and JET Magazines that have chronicled American Black life since 1945; The Edward J. Williams Collection, consisting of over 4,000 objects of “negrobilia,” mass cultural objects and artifacts that feature stereotypical images of black people as they were frequently depicted by white people; The Frankie Knuckles Collection, the personal vinyl collection of the godfather of house music, which originated in Chicago in the 1980s; The University of Chicago Glass Lantern Slides of over 60,000 slides of art and architectural history from the Paleolithic to Modern eras, which offer the perspective of over three million years of world history KICKBACK will premiere through About Face Theatre’s website and social media channels, and will be paired with exclusive behind-the-scenes interviews and documentation of the artists’ process. This project serves as part of Rebuild Foundation’s year-long initiative to raise awareness and provide resources and sanctuary for marginalized communities impacted by the HIV/AIDS crisis, made possible by funding that Rebuild received from the 2018 (RED) Auction.


Conceived and directed by AFT Associate Artistic Director Mikael Burke

Featuring Dionne Addai, Ky Baity, Robert Cornelius, Jenn Freeman, Keyonna Jackson, Ben Locke, Paul Oakley Stovall, Michael Turrentine, Cori Wash, Vic Wynter, avery r. young, and ShaZa (a collaboration between Zahra Baker and Shanta Nurullah)


Streaming online December 12, 2020, through Jan. 12, 2021

Available to the press starting Dec. 11


KICKBACK is an online festival of original plays and performances that highlights the intersection of queerness and Blackness in all its beauty and glory. When just being alive and living your best life is an act of rebellion, it’s time to turn up the music and make some noise! About Face Theatre has commissioned a cohort of Black LGBTQ+ artists to create new works in conversation with Rebuild Foundation’s extensive collection of African- American art and cultural artifacts. This bold online performance series will be an unapologetic celebration of Black lives now and through the ages.

Led by AFT Associate Artistic Director Mikael Burke, the artists involved in the project include About Face Artistic Associate Paul Oakley Stovall, Robert Cornelius, Michael Turrentine, Ben Locke, Dionne Addai, Vic Wynter, Ky Baity, Keyonna Jackson, Cori Wash, ShaZa (a collaboration between Zahra Baker and Shanta Nurullah), and Rebuild Foundation resident artists Jenn Freeman and Avery Young. This project serves as part of Rebuild Foundation’s year-long initiative to raise awareness and provide resources and sanctuary for marginalized communities impacted by the HIV/AIDS crisis, made possible by funding that Rebuild received from the 2018 (RED) Auction.


Mikael Burke (he/him): AFT Associate Artistic Director, KICKBACK Director

Mikael is a Chicago-based director and educator, and an AFT Artistic Associate. A Princess Grace Award-winner in Theatre and Jeff Award-nominated director, Mikael’s most recently worked with Victory Gardens Theatre, Northlight Theatre, Jackalope Theatre Company, Windy City Playhouse, About Face Theatre, First Floor Theater, American Theatre Company, Chicago Dramatists, and The Story Theatre in Chicago, and regionally with Indiana Repertory Theatre, Asolo Repertory Theatre, Geva Theatre Center, and Phoenix Theatre. In addition to his work with AFT, Mikael serves as Head of the Directing Concentration of the Summer High School Training Program of the Theatre School at DePaul University, where he also serves as an adjunct faculty member. He is also an adjunct faculty member of the Chicago College of the Performing Arts at Roosevelt University. Previously, Mikael served as Associate Artistic Director of NoExit Performance in Indianapolis, IN, and was the Creative Director for Young Actors Theatre, also in Indianapolis. Recent directing credits include THE AGITATORS by Mat Smart; SUGAR IN OUR WOUNDS by Donja R. Love; AT THE WAKE OF A DEAD DRAG QUEEN by Terry Guest.

Rebuild Foundation: KICKBACK partner

Rebuild Foundation is a platform for art, cultural development, and neighborhood transformation. Our projects support artists and strengthen communities by providing free arts programming and creating new cultural amenities. Rebuild’s mission is to make art accessible by demonstrating the impact of innovative, ambitious, and entrepreneurial arts and cultural initiatives. The work is informed by three core values: black people matter, black spaces matter, and black things matter. Rebuild leverages the power and potential of communities, buildings, and objects that others have written off. Founded and led by artist Theaster Gates, Rebuild Foundation extends the social engagement of Gates’ studio practice to the South Side of Chicago and beyond.

The Stony Island Arts Bank is a hybrid gallery, media archive, library, and art center — and a home for Rebuild Foundation’s archives and collections. Designed by William Gibbons Uffendell and built in 1923, the bank at 68th Street and Stony Island Avenue was once a vibrant community savings and loan. By the eighties, the branch had closed, and the building remained vacant and deteriorating for decades. Reopened in October 2015 by artist Theaster Gates, the radically restored building serves as a space for neighborhood residents to preserve, access, reimagine and share their heritage — and a destination for artists, scholars, curators, and collectors to research and engage with South Side history. Alongside other permanent collections including Johnson Publishing Company artifacts, the Arts Bank houses the Frankie Knuckles Record Collection, over 5,000 albums including acetates, test pressings, and rare cuts owned by the Godfather of House.

About Face Theatre creates exceptional, innovative, and adventurous theatre and educational programming that advances the national dialogue on sexual and gender identity, and challenges and entertains audiences in Chicago and beyond.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Biden can have an American presidency by focusing on ‘outsiders’

The night that Joe BidenJoe Biden46 percent of voters say Trump should concede immediately: poll Michigan county reverses course, votes unanimously to certify election results GOP senator: Trump shouldn’t fire top cybersecurity official MORE was projected to win the presidency he made a promise like one he had made many times before. “I will govern as an American president,” he said. “I’ll work as hard for those who didn’t vote for me as those who did.” He outlined important policy priorities, but gaining the trust of all Americans isn’t just about the Biden policy agenda. It’s also about the Biden perspective on our problems. The left-right axis in our politics matters, but the outsiders versus insiders axis matters more.

For more than 15 years, while working for political leaders and building a startup focused on connecting diverse youth to tech opportunities, I heard Americans complain about feeling disconnected from the decision-makers and policies that promised to help them. They’ve seen manufacturing jobs disappear, low-wage service work pop up to replace them, and dug themselves deeper into debt, trying to keep up. These aren’t just Donald TrumpDonald John Trump46 percent of voters say Trump should concede immediately: poll Michigan county reverses course, votes unanimously to certify election results GOP senator: Trump shouldn’t fire top cybersecurity official MORE voters. Many of these Americans live in communities like the one where I grew up on the west side of Detroit, where presidencies have come and gone while drugs, crime and low wages stuck around decade after decade. America needs to keep these disaffected voters invested in the system and lower the risk that they’ll become enthralled by conspiracies or militant movements.

It’s Biden’s turn to try to deliver for these “outsiders,” with perhaps a less inspiring style but more pragmatic approach.


This isn’t about finding a third way, triangulating between political poles. Our politics has a third dimension and Biden must keep this outsider approach in mind when wooing Trump voters and uninspired Democrats.

Subtle nips and tucks won’t work. Trump ripped off the bandages that covered our scabby racial wounds, and his anti-immigrant prescriptions amped up our susceptibility to nativist snake oil. George Floyd’s and Breonna Taylor’s killings have only given more credibility to those who believe that a system built on the control and exploitation of Black bodies is incapable of stopping its thirst for them. 

We’re way past flowery words. Like a suitor trying to woo back a despondent lover, now is the time for Biden to make grand gestures.

The president-elect will gain credibility by balancing the influence of the wealthy and well-connected with regular folk. Workers, small business owners, people on the front lines of the justice and health care systems can help him raise the tide for all working people and power a few boats for those being left behind. In an economy where corporations don’t feel loyalty to communities or employees, workers need to be equipped to navigate the choppy seas of their careers. More portable benefits, such as universal health care, mean more agility for workers to change jobs or start businesses without fear of losing their shirts if hit by a storm.

Young people are sitting on over a trillion dollars in personal debt, and the highest proportion of that is student loans. That level of debt appears to be depressing home-buying and family creation. If conservatives don’t want free college or loan forgiveness, they need to put another plan on the table that will help lighten that load. The entire economy will benefit.


African Americans are in another lagging boat that could use a power boost. According to the Federal Reserve, despite doubling over the past 50 years, the typical Black family still has less than 15 percent of the wealth of a typical white family. Building that wealth is challenging at every level. One analysis from Patrick Bayer and Kerwin Kofi Charles reveals that, when factoring in the incarcerated and other working-age men who have dropped out of the labor force, Black men still haven’t closed the wage gap with white men. As for Black women, despite generating $44 billion in business revenue, they raise only 0.6 percent of the venture capital funds available. 

Even if American institutions want to fix this problem, there aren’t enough African Americans in decision-making roles to help. Among Fortune 500 companies, Blacks are only 3.2 percent of C-Suite executives who report to CEOs. And since the pandemic began, about 41 percent of Black-owned businesses have failed.

Joe Biden and Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisOn The Money: Trump’s controversial Fed nominee stalled | Economists warn of lag time between vaccine and recovery | Business group calls for national mask mandate, COVID-19 relief Biden, Harris briefed by national security experts amid transition obstacles Graham becomes center of Georgia storm MORE are well suited to represent these outsiders. Biden will be the first president since Ronald Reagan without an Ivy League degree. Harris will be the first vice president to graduate from a Historically Black College or University. They should stay more rooted in the political needs of Scranton families and Howard University alumni than Delaware bankers and Berkeley activists. That means prioritizing police accountability, protecting us from the coronavirus and doing whatever it takes to get more people more resources, faster. For most outsiders, outcomes matter more than ideology.

Jamal Simmons is a Democratic campaign strategist, CBS News analyst and hosts #ThisisFYI on Instagram and Facebook. Follow him on Twitter @JamalSimmons.

Giving thanks for identity, family, and community

… the origins and source of racism rather than studying the … of white people's racism. It's been … that simple. Black people, including African Americans, are so much more complex … of mother Africa. I am African American — descendent of the slaves … RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News

Professors discuss institutional and gendered Islamophobia

… of Leeds spoke with African American Studies Prof. Barnor Hesse … as a form of racism, rather than religious discrimination … commonly recognized forms of racism, Islamophobia stems from prejudice … merely justifications for the racism against non-White people … RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News