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Event Thu Jan 19 2012

The People Speak, Live!

6648343549_530538526d_m.jpgIt started in 1980, when historian Howard Zinn (who died in 2010) published A People's History of the United States, in response to what he saw as a skewed view of how the nation's life unfolded. That book inspired the award-winning documentary The People Speak, which featured Matt Damon reading John Steinbeck; Bob Dylan performing Woody Guthrie; Marisa Tomei describing the 1937 Flint sit-down strike; Morgan Freeman and Don Cheadle performing the words of Frederick Douglass; and John Legend reading Muhammad Ali.

Chicago poet Kevin Coval remembers finding Zinn's book in his high school library. "I was looking for anything counter to the stories in history classes," he said, having gotten the impression that there is truth to the saying that history is written by the winners — or those with deep pockets.

Damon will be coming to Chicago's Metro on January 31 to headline the Chicago premiere of "The People Speak, Live!", a benefit performance which will also include members of the Steppenwolf Theatre Ensemble; local poets Angela Jackson, Kevin Coval, Idris Goodwin; journalist Rick Kogan; civic leader Rami Nashashibi of the Inner-City Muslim Action Network; the Luna Blues Machine band; playwright Lani Montreal; and actor Brian Quijada — among others.

For Coval, a event like this is important because it offers something most people haven't heard: the narratives of working people, who have had to cope with history and its "grand inequities" in their everyday lives. "This is unlike any other event on Chicago's cultural calendar."

Playwright Idris Goodwin, who will be one of the performers at the Chicago event, is proud to do so. "Many of the people featured in the show are the reason I have rights. I'm in debt to those people."

The January 31 performance 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 path-breaking Chicago labor organizers; testimony of civil rights activists; musical performances from the songbooks of 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.


Tuesday, Jan. 31
7pm, doors 6pm
Metro, 3730 N. Clark
$11 advance GA/$14 at the door/$24 seated/$99 premium for two

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