A Gay in the Life: Carla Therese Bruni

CarlaTBruni-JLWatkins2014Carla Therese Bruni is the type of woman who wants to “make the rest of the world fall completely in love with, and become stewards of, vintage architecture, intangible histories and sustainable places.” She strives diligently towards that goal in everything she does.

Bruni often takes the time to learn about the histories of our local area, gaining a greater understanding of the ways we live today. “I love history,” said Bruni, “understanding where I’m from. It’s a way of understanding the world.”

Bruni was born and raised in the Chicago’s northwest suburbs, the middle of three children. After moving to the city, she became disheartened watching building after building being torn down, materials destroyed. She decided that she wanted to do something about it.

Bruni learned more about how she could do something creative and constructive surrounding the destruction of buildings in Chicago at the School of the Art Institute Chicago ( SAIC ), where she received her masters in historic preservation. Now, she uses those skills to teach, restore and run a community repair clinic in the Edgewater neighborhood.

“Through Community Glue Workshop, we run these clinics where people can fix stuff for free,” said Bruni. By ‘stuff’, Bruni means items ranging from lamps to toasters and clothing. “I work with craftsmen and groups who need a few tools to do some really cool stuff. You can start a deconstruction company with a few hundred dollars in tools,” she said. And, she helps to make that happen.ERW doorknobs photo

Her deconstruction work also creates jobs, like where she works part time with Evanston Rebuilding Warehouse. The salvage warehouse is a place even artists go to repurpose materials for use. “Hands-on work is good for the soul,” said Bruni. Aside from her hands-on approach, she also teaches within organizations like SAIC from time-to-time, Neighborhood Housing Services and the Bungalow Initiative.

Bruni’s work not only satisfies her need to rebuild, teach, learn and explore histories through historic preservation; there’s a job creation component as well. “If you demolish a building, you’re using one guy, the wrecking ball guy,” Bruni said. “Whereas, if you’re deconstructing a building, you employ about six to eight more people, and up to 12 people for historic preservation.”

Bruni is not the sort of lesbian who is all work and no play. She lets her hair down on road trips to the Deep South, poetry writing, listening to jazz and brass bands and through sculpting. Her ideal outing would be learning to swing dance or weld. She could also make herself comfortable in a writing on her blog, or kicking back to watch dramatic thrillers, folkstreams.net or old Kung Fu movies.

erw2-Pic-CourtesyBruniWhen she’s not helping with reconstruction efforts in New Orleans or restoration projects in Idaho and Washington, Bruni’s writes about all things sustainable and restorative. Her musings can be found on her blog at http://www.toolmade.org .


Age: 37

Neighborhood: Edgewater

Hobbies: Theater, Origami, sculpture, dive bars, biking with friends

Favorite movies: To Kill A Mockingbird, Mommie Dearest, Poltergeist, French and Saunders, The Color Purple and the 1973 version of Jesus Christ, Superstar

Panel addresses education for LGBTQ youth

Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Janean L. Watkins


Tim’m West Photo by Ross Forman

Teach for America ( TFA ) hosted a Chicago National Conversation Series Event “The State of Education in LGBTQ America” Nov. 12 at the Center on Halsted. Tim’m West, managing director of TFA’s LGBTQ Initiative, hosted the program.

TFA works in partnership with communities and stakeholders to expand educational opportunities for impoverished children. They are one of many organizations invested in ensuring education equity for LGBTQ youth in schools.

Special guest to the panel, Jonathan “Yoni” Pizer, the LGBT liaison for U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley, discussed the need for more LGBTQ and allied educators shaping and promoting an affirming school culture for LGBTQ youth.

Also in attendance were Avi Bowie, LMSW and director of youth programs at Center on Halsted, and Carla “C.C.” Carter, Ph.D. and teacher trainer in the areas of brain-based learning, multiple intelligences and teaching to diverse learners.

Others in attendance were former CPS student Terry Dudley who is at third year psychology major, LGBT counselor and activist Dr. Claudia Mosier, and educational consultant for Edney Educational Consultant, LLC., Bryan Edney.

On Nov. 13, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network ( GLSEN ) released data from its National School Climate Survey, which studied the experiences of middle and high school LGBTQ youth across the country. The findings showcase experiences that are deserving of a second look and solutions.

One major area of note was hostile school environments for LGBTQ students, which they have found are having a direct affect on students’ mental health and academic success.

“We believe that an equal and excellent education means that schools embrace and support all students with the dignity and respect they deserve, including those who identify as LGBTQ,” said West.

A TFA press release detailed why they are working with groups like GLSEN and The Trevor Project: “TFA believes that great teachers come from all backgrounds, but teachers who share the backgrounds and experiences of students can have an additional impact in and outside the classroom … according to a 2013 survey, more than 850 corps members self-identified as LGBTQ.”

Dr. Joseph G. Kosciw, GLSEN’s Chief Research & Strategy Officer said, “Our research tells us that policymakers and education leaders in these 29 states must do more to create safer and more affirming schools for LGBT students.”

According to GLSEN’s Illinois snapshot, “Students also heard anti-LGBT language from school staff. 25 percent regularly heard staff make negative remarks about someone’s gender expression, and 17 percent regularly heard school staff make homophobic remarks.”

After the discussion at Center on Halsted, West, the panelists and working groups of community members created recommendations for improvements to school and community climate, which fell into five categories.

In addressing the seven in 10 students who were verbally harassed for their sexual orientation, the first set of recommendations fell under Culture and Climate. These included points like developing a comprehensive list of unacceptable language, accountability and restorative justice for student violators, as well as the promotion of judgment-free zones across school culture.

Next, they proposed Direct Student Support, which suggests workshops for parents, alumni mentorship and a change in the language used to classify LGBT youth. This change could be as simple as moving into the use of the terms Rainbow Children or Indigo Kids.

The group made suggestions for Family and Community, as well, which included reaching out to religious leaders.

Finally, the group tackled recommendations under Teacher Preparation and Policy and Advocacy, which endorses mandatory courses on LGBTQ history and LGBTQ-inclusive mandatory training on dealing with bullying and suicide prevention. They also advocate for the creation of accountability measures to lessen the chances that policies created in Chicago are not only rhetorical, but produce safety and equity in schools.

“There are no broad-sweeping directives from TFA, understanding that we are just one player, among many, seeking to ensure educational equity conversations are LGBTQ-inclusive,” said West. “The point isn’t to go into communities with answers and directives, but with questions that enable and empower diverse players to decide how they might work together to create change.”

I’ll have photography on exhibit – come check it out!

Come check out my work, have pancakes and booze!

***ANYONE INTERESTED IN SUBMITTING ART please follow the link below.


After the success of the 1st three shows, LA’s FAMOUS UNDERGROUND ART SHOW has made a home in CHICAGO!!!


ONLY $5 COVER – 21+ EVENT!!! – 8PM-2AM!!!

2109 South State Street
Chicago, IL 60616

To get a taste of the event please connect with us on any one of our social media platforms!


CHICAGO FB PAGE: Pancakes & Booze Art Show – Chicago

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A Gay in the Life: Marcy Rae Henry

By Janean L. Watkins, for Windy City Times

Marcy Rae Henry

Like Marcy Rae Henry’s hometown of Pueblo, Colo. during its infancy – her life is an epicenter of activity. She is constantly growing, learning and traveling for many miles to find her slice of the American Dream.  Henry is a professor of Humanities and Fine Arts at Harold Washington College. She is also the author of the book “CTA Chronicles” and many other short stories featured in publications like The Garland Review and The Advocate.

She has travelled extensively, even spending two years living in the Himalayas of India, but her voyage into the world of literature started well before then. Her writing began with journaling for her English teacher and escalated to writing poetry in Science class and erasing the text in word bubbles in comics, replacing them with her own vulgar dialogue, during middle school.

She wrote on many topics – things like heartbreak and sensuality, all the while growing to hone her skills in the art of storytelling.

“My abuelita [grandmother] was the best storyteller I ever met. She would drag out a story for days, weeks, even years for a conclusion. She told me her stories and I became the receptacle.” She shares this with readers in her upcoming book, “Cumbia Therapy”. “I’ve got one more chapter to go. I feel like now is the right time to release her stories.”

MRHenry 2The stories are told from the perspective of the twenty-something narrator, Emily, as she deals with heartbreak over a woman.  “It’s an intergenerational, non-linear story that focuses on four generations of women, starting in Mexico during the Revolution,” said Henry.

She shares this passion for writing on a more personal level with her students at Harold Washington College downtown where, she says, the students are the best part of the job. “I have an awful lot of respect and admiration for a lot of them who are non-traditional; who continue their intellectual journey despite tremendous hardship,” she said.

It’s not very often that a professor can show students how to live life to the fullest by example alone. After graduating from the University of New Mexico with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science, Henry deferred her acceptance to Columbia Law to travel the world. After three years, she finally made the decision to forego a law degree to pursue a Master’s in art, instead. It was this path that eventually led to teaching.

When she isn’t playing music, seeing the latest Indie film or finding mischief with her very large and diverse group of friends – Marcy Henry writes. She tells the stories that, oftentimes, go untold. She provides valuable lessons about body positivity and activism. She does her part in the effort to entertain and educate tomorrow’s leaders.

“I love to encourage people to be authentic. Find an authentic voice and use that voice to bring positivity, progress and curiosity into the world. Look at the things that unite us and be supportive of each other,” said Henry.

The Stats:

Name: Marcy Rae Henry

Age: 42

Neighborhood: Ravenswood Manor

Hobbies: Reading, writing, biking, playing music, traveling, cooking, making mischief

Instruments Played: piano, clarinet and guitar

Job Title: Associate Professor of Humanities and Fine Art

Relationship Status: Dating

Favorite Books:The Lover” by Marguerite Duras, “Nightwood” by Djuna Barnes, “The Hour of the Star” by Clarice Lispector and the short stories of Silvina Ocampo.

Favorite Films: “Prospero’s Books”, “Aimee and Jaguar”, “La Cienega”.

Little-known Fact: Had three motorcycle accidents in her life – the last was while driving up Machhapuchhre in Nepal with a former Tibetan monk sitting behind her. After they caught their breath, she asked him if he could drive them home and he refused saying he only knew how to drive a yak.

Thinking of moving to Chicago?

Thinking of moving to Chicago? Here’s what you need to know
By Janean L. Watkins, for Montway
(Photo by Janean L. Watkins)

Chicago is known as a veritable Mecca for the world traveler. With its sprawling skyscrapers, miles of lakefront property, elaborate biking and running paths and lavish landscapes, many find themselves enthralled with the ‘hustle-bustle’ of Chicago’s culture. However, if you plan to move to the Windy City there are a few things to know before you pack your bags and head for the Midwest.

Your first virtual stop should be the Chicago Chamber of Commerce. On January 30th 2013 the CCC released its annual Public Policy Legislative Report.  This document is packed with everything you need to know; from political climate, to understanding new tax codes and business initiatives – it’s a great resources guide for anyone that is considering making their move to Chicago.

Illinois drivers are also receiving some unprecedentedly progressive legislation moves. Senate Bill 957, a Driver’s License for Undocumented Residents was passed in January this year. This is good news not only for the undocumented worker but all of us who travel over Illinois highways as it improves drivers’ safety and increases the number of motorists who are insurable.

According to the Chamber’s report, “This bill permits undocumented immigrants living in Illinois to apply for a temporary driver’s license. Additionally, all licensees would be required to pass driving safety courses to qualify and be required to purchase vehicle insurance.”

(Photo by Janean L. Watkins)

Not only is Chicago a hub of diversity, Chicago neighborhoods portray as much. One click on the Chicago Neighborhood and City Guide’s website should assist you in knowing just where you want to live. Need a relocation specialist? How about a reputable moving company? This guide has all of that and so much more, including tips to get that big move well underway.

Additionally, Chicago boasts prime real-estate and move-in ready apartments. This could be a great time to invest in the home that you’ve always wanted. The Chicago Neighborhood guide will allow you to create an account, and then magically peruse the current listings for sales within Chicago’s metropolitan area.

Remember those lavish aforementioned landscapes? The Chicago Park District’s website boasts that Chicago has “more than 8,100 acres of green space, 580 parks, 71 state of the art fitness centers within the parks, 50 natural areas, 26 miles of lakefront access, 16 historic lagoons, 10 museums, and 2 world class conservatories.”

This is perfect for the active family or those looking to immerse themselves within the cultural and festive areas of Chicago communities. Now might be the time to leave your inner couch potato behind.

Speaking of family, whether you have one or are looking to start one in the future, everyone should consider access to public education when making any move. Within Chicago, all schools are not created equal; neighborhood and accessibility go hand-in-hand when attempting to navigate the Chicago Public Schools system.

Chicago Public Schools website is a “must visit” when making your decision. Here you’ll want to check the report card for each school, and neighborhood. You’ll also want to know each schools application process.

With a reasonably easy to navigate site at your disposal, you will have the ability to do your homework. Chicago has 472 elementary schools, 106 high schools, 96 Charter Schools, and 7 contract schools. The key is to avoid becoming overwhelmed by the numbers; information is just a click away.

Finally, for a move with relative ease, one must understand Chicago’s rapid transportation system which is more commonly known as the CTA or Chicago Transit Authority. Who says that you have to move around the city only using the highways and byways? The CTA operates 24 hours a day and is the one of the largest mass transit systems in the nation.

Currently, CTA President, Forrest Claypool, is looking to upgrade the rail cars on the transit system, going to a new 7000 series that is expected to be delivered by the year 2016. In a recent CTA press release, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said, “Having world-class public transportation is essential for any world-class city.”

It goes without saying that Chicago is indeed a world class city, using these quick and easy resources, you are well on your way to enjoying all that Chicago has to offer.


Chicago’s 105th Annual Auto Show, 2013

By Janean L. Watkins, for Montway.com

Chicago’s 105th annual Auto Show of 2013 was a week of dreams for many. From stylish concept cars to entertaining interactive activities – the show was filled with excitement from beginning to end. Fun was the purpose, according to organizers who wrote in the literature for the show, “Shows don’t last more than a century by being boring and stale.”

The auto show’s rich history dates back to 1901, when the show was only eight days long and was called the National Auto Exhibit. The exhibit was held at the Chicago Coliseum; for a mere $.50 for Chicago residents to come to 15th and Wabash for a show.

Show manager Samuel Miles, also known as the ‘Father of the Modern Auto Show’, made sure that no stone went unturned to produce his a wide selection of “modern” automotive innovation. Today’s shows seem to follow that mission.

The Padilla family travelled from a Chicago suburb to see the show for the first time. “We just came in and he’s so excited,” said Maria Padilla of her son Antonio. The nine-year-old youth found his, ‘dream car’ in the new, 2014 Ford Mustang V6. Antonio shows that you’re never too young to look for your first car, as he claimed the grabber blue show stopper – just one of many customized cars on the floor.

The ten day long exhibition got off to a great start with well wishes from Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel and Secretary of State, Jesse White. While all three public figures made note of the Chicago Auto Show’s long standing history they also wrote about the different entities that are positively affected by a show of this magnitude.

Gov. Quinn paid homage to the cornerstones of the automotive industry saying, “the hard working men and women in the Illinois automotive industry laboring in cities such as Chicago, Bloomington-Normal, and Belvidere are at the front lines of American ingenuity and innovation.”

The auto simulator queue for the Ford Fiesta was filled with teens who were anxious to test their driving skills. “It’s our third year [coming to the show], it’s cool to see all the new cars,” said Isabelle of Itasca, IL. She was there with her sister and expressed excitement at their chance at having a virtual driving experience without the need for a license.

Another heavy hitter was Lexus, who showcased their new LF-LC Concept. Toyota, Jeep, Dodge and Chrysler provided hands-on fun with test tracks where exhibit-goers had the chance to drive the newest vehicles over various road conditions.

Jeep even provided a brightly colored mini-track with motorized children’s Jeeps for practicing driving skills at the ripe old age of six and a half.

From concept cars to electric vehicles, the 105th Auto Show provided a way for everyone to find their own slice of automotive enjoyment.

Check out the slideshow to see what you missed!

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