Voices of a People's History
Voices of a People's History


January 25, 2011 - January 26, 2013

For Immediate Release

Sarah Macaraeg

Featuring Matt Damon and Local Talent, Benefit Performance of Dramatic Readings and Songs at Metro Announces

Hip-hop Artist Lupe Fiasco and Ameena Matthews from The Interrupters
to Join the Cast of “The People Speak, Live!” Jan. 31

The sold-out, one-night only engagement adds Grammy Award-winning Chicago native Lupe Fiasco, and Ameena Matthews, profiled in the award-winning documentary The Interrupters, to roster featuring Matt Damon with Alana Arenas and Robert Breuler of the Steppenwolf Theatre Ensemble; local poets Angela Jackson, Kevin Coval, Idris Goodwin, and the Louder Than a Bomb All-Stars; journalist Rick Kogan; civic leader Rami Nashashibi of the Inner-City Muslim Action Network; The Luna Blues Machine band; playwright Lani T. Montreal; actor Brian Quijada; avery r. young with Lamar Jorden of the Steinmenauts; Pastor Phil Jackson; and DJ Itch13

Tuesday, January 31st, 7:00 pm, Doors 6:00 pm | Metro, 3730 N. Clark, Chicago, IL 60613,www.metrochicago.com

CHICAGO, IL–Part of a new, yearlong arts and education initiative in Chicago, the benefit performance of “The People Speak, Live!” has expanded its cast to include Chicago hip-hop icon Lupe Fiasco. Featured in the documentary The People Speak which forms the basis for the live show taking place at Metro, Tuesday, January 31st, Fiasco also contributed to The People Speak soundtrack and helped premiere the film on the HISTORY™ channel in 2009 with events and interviews. Most recently, Fiasco opened his Friend of the People mixtape with the words of Howard Zinn, who’s “people’s history” is the project’s inspiration.

Composed of dramatic readings and songs of the actual words of rebels, dissenters, and visionaries from America’s past,”The People Speak, Live!” aims to bring to life the extraordinary history of ordinary people who made the United States what it is today. Explaining his support of the project to WBEZ Chicago Public Radio, Fiasco spoke of the impact the material had on him, saying, “After seeing this, and seeing all the… histories and the stories that weren’t told in the regular history books, I got to get a different view of what it means to be an American… and I was like, yo I’ll be that American. I’ll stand up for that as well.”

Ameena Matthews, whose work as a violence “interrupter” is featured in the award-winning documentary The Interrupters by Kartemquim Films will also join the cast. Kevin Coval, one of the producers of the show, discussed her involvement, saying “When I saw the film I was blown away by the intensity she brings to her work, by her ability to connect. Ameena is someone doing crucial and brave organizing work in Chicago right now, a living example of what we believe: that change comes from the dynamism and commitment of regular citizens, not from the halls of power.”

The January 31st benefit performance of “The People Speak, Live!”–its Chicago premiere–will feature readings of a fifteenth century priest documenting Columbus’ arrival in the New World; a fugitive slave’s scathing letter to a former master; the words of pathbreaking Chicago labor organizers; testimony of civil rights activists; musical performances from the songbooks of Nina Simone, Woodie Guthrie and one-time Chicagoan Sam Cooke; poetry from the earliest days of Hip-Hop; Studs Terkel’s interview with Mamie Mobley, the mother of Emmett Till; and more.

Since 2003, Voices of a People’s History—the national non-profit that runs education and performing arts programs based on primary source materials has produced more than 100 performances in 17 states with casts that have included local students, parents, civic leaders, and actors alongside celebrated artists—on stages ranging from small classrooms to the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the Sundance Film Festival.

Voices of a People’s History is producing the January 31st performance in partnership with Louder Than a Bomb: The Chicago Youth Poetry Festival. Bringing together hundreds of youth across Chicago every year, Louder Than a Bomb is the city’s famous youth spoken word program, celebrating its 12th year.

Together, the organizations have initiated a yearlong pilot project, bringing free educational material, teacher workshops, and public arts programming to classrooms and communities across Chicago. Since the Chicago Voices pilot project launched in September 2011, more than 500 Chicago educators have received the free Chicago Voices Educators Toolkit, suitable for middle and high school and introductory college classes. The toolkit includes The People Speak DVD, a preloaded USB flash drive with standards-aligned lesson plans, teaching guides, primary source material featuring Chicago history, as well as several books by Howard Zinn. A total of 1,000 educators will receive the toolkit by the project’s end this June.

In addition, the pilot project has partnered with community groups—including Jane Addams Hull-House Museum, Erie Neighborhood House, Victory Gardens Theatre, and the Occupy Chicago Education Committee—to host free screenings of the film The People Speak. These screenings will continue in the first half of this year.

Chicago Voices Coordinator Kevin Coval is available for live interviews. Chris Moore and Anthony Arnove, producers of The People Speak can be available by phone, along with Voices Executive Director Brenda Coughlin. Select performance participants, from both the film and the January 31st performance, will also be available for select interviews. If necessary, review copies of Voices of a People’s History or The People Speak can be mailed. Please direct all queries to Sarah Macaraeg at 312-315-8476 or sarah@speakonitpublicity.org. Cast photos are available at http://www.flickr.com/photos/voicesofapeopleshistory

Selected praise for the Award-winning documentary The People Speak

“Striking, exhilarating…the performances are thrilling.” –Los Angeles Times

“Works beautifully…Each passionate reading flows out of the previous one.” –Boston Globe

“A celebration in spoken word and song of those who made history from the bottom up.” –Scripps News/McClatchey Tribune

“A terrifically educational and entertaining film for all ages.” –Pittsburgh Tribune Review

“The bottom line: An excellent family choice to watch with your teenagers, The People Speak crosscuts the live readings with historical footage and is more engaging than your average American history lesson.” –News & Observer

Selected quotes from The People Speak

“Democracy does not come from the top. It comes from the bottom.” –Howard Zinn in The People Speak

“If there is no struggle there is no progress. This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did it and it never will. –Don Cheadle in The People Speak as Frederick Douglass, “The Significance of Emancipation in the West Indies” (1857)

“Then that man in back there, he says women can’t have as much rights as men, ’cause Christ wasn’t a woman. Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from!? From God and a woman. Man had nothing to do with Him.”
–Kerry Washington in The People Speak as Sojourner Truth, “Ain’t I A Woman?” (1851)

“So, I’ll be all aroun’ in the dark. I’ll be ever’where–wherever you look. Wherever they’s a fight so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there. Wherever they’s a cop beatin’ up a guy, I’ll be there. I’ll be in the way guys yell when they’re mad an’ — I’ll be in the way kids laugh when they’re hungry an’ they know supper’s ready. An’ when our folks eat the stuff they raise an’ live in the houses they build why, I’ll be there.” –Matt Damon in The People Speak as Tom Joad from John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath (1939)