Chicago’s longest-running storytelling collective, 2nd Story, is expanding its groundbreaking CultureBuilds program with the announcement of two virtual “pay-what-you-feel” public program, a special Pride Month event, Find Your Family in partnership with Lawrence Hall and Brave Space Alliance on June 17 at 6:00 p.m. CT, featuring a true, original story by teller Chris Thoren. Registration is required at culturebuilds.com/events. Both programs take place via Zoom and begin with a storytelling performance followed by a moderated panel discussion with social justice leaders.
Launched in January 2020 with the mission of empowering businesses, schools, and not-for-profits to accomplish deeper connections through transformative narrative, CultureBuilds has recently partnered with Chicago-based executive communications and advancement firm Guerrero Media to present The Power of Storytelling to Disrupt the Status Quo on May 19, which includes a performance by 2nd Story Company Member Khanisha Foster, who reveals the myriad ways her racial identity has intersected with the choices she has made (or that were forced onto her) over the course of her acting career. Foster’s moving performance will be used as an entry point to explore how one can leverage a single story to shake up biases, interrupt assumptions, and push against the status quo. A post-performance discussion will take place with Amanda Delheimer, 2nd Story Artistic Director and Dr. S. Simmons, Co-Founder of Simmons Counseling and Consulting Services.
The impetus of The Power of Storytelling to Disrupt the Status Quo was sparked by Guerrero Media’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion professional development experience with CultureBuilds in 2020 when Guerrero Media’s full staff of 60 explored concepts of social location and intersectionality.
“Everyone in the world is culturally dunking on one another over right and wrong instead of listening, first and foremost, before engaging in conversation,” said Kyle Evangelista, President of Guerrero Media. “CultureBuilds is the solution to this issue. Our Equity, Diversity and Inclusion experience with CultureBuilds so beautifully provided our staff a space to listen, engage, and reflect—we wanted to help create that same experience for the general public, it is something the world so deeply needs right now.”
During its Pride Month event, Find Your Family, on June 17, CultureBuilds will present a story and conversation around the theme of care and chosen family in the queer community, in partnership with Lawrence Hall, an organization that supports abused and neglected youth in Chicago, and Brave Space Alliance, a vehicle to empower and elevate queer and trans voices, particularly those belonging to people of color. The event is curated as a joy-filled experience that includes storytelling performance, and conversations that celebrate the many ways that the queer community can build and find their own chosen family. The event will be hosted by Sheree L. Greer, text-based artist and educator, and will include a performance by featured storyteller Chris Thoren, who will recount discovering her transfemme gender identity and how fashion helped bring that into light. The event will end with a panel discussion that includes Jae Rice, Director of Communications at Brave Space Alliance, and Evelyn Zatkoff, Clinical Services Manager at Lawrence Hall.
About Khanisha Foster
As a 2017 Fox Fellow, Khanisha Foster (she/her/hers) completed a two-year study of the multiracial voice and code-switching on page, stage, and screen. Her writing, along with her life experience of being the daughter of a Black Panther father and a mother whose family invented Bubble Wrap, landed her a writing gig with K&L Productions (Kay Cannon & Laverne McKinnon). She has also written for Probably Monsters, the video game company founded by the creators of Halo and Destiny, and the story game Episodes by Pocket Gems. Her solo show Joy Rebel, directed by Obie Award winner Lou Bellamy, received critical acclaim and was chosen as a DC Metro Staff favorite for 2019. Foster was a featured storyteller on NPR’s The Dinner Party. Along with Lena Waithe, she was named one of 18 Black Women We Think Are Phenomenal by Mater Mea Magazine. Foster’s film acting debut, Chicago Boricua, was an official selection of the Tribeca Film Festival. Foster hosted and produced the podcast How I Wrote That, where she interviewed the top women writing for tv and film.
About Dr. S. Simmons
“Black, trans*genderqueer, educator, advocate, spouse, friend, and Beyonce fan” all describe Dr. S. Simmons (he/him/his). S is originally from Chicago Heights, IL and received his B.S. and M.S. in Psychology from Iowa State University, and PhD in Higher Education from Loyola University Chicago. Dr. S is currently Assistant Professor at University of Chicago’s Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice, and over the course of his career, has held several positions within higher education including Admissions Counselor, Pre-Collegiate Program Coordinator for gifted and talented students and students of color, Educational Program Specialist for the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Program, and assistant director and interim director of a Gender and Sexuality Center. In all of S's roles, he has provided leadership and guidance on diversity, inclusion, and equity efforts within and across departments.
Sheree L. Greer
Sheree L. Greer (she/her/hers) is a text-based artist living in Tampa, Florida. In 2014, she founded The Kitchen Table Literary Arts Center to showcase and support the work of Black women and women of color writers and is the author of two novels, “Let the Lover Be” and “A Return to Arms.” Sheree is a VONA/VOICES alum, Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice grantee, Yaddo fellow, and Ragdale Artist House Rubin Fellow. Her essay, "Bars" published in Fourth Genre Magazine, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize and notably named in Best American Essays 2019, and her latest essay, "None of this is Bullshit" was published at The Rumpus and featured as a best of 2020 editors' pick.
About Chris Thoren
Chris Thoren (she/her/hers) has worked in storytelling, directing, and community-building since 2011. She is currently the Marketing & Community Relations Manager at Tree House Humane Society, in addition to her work as a freelance director, storyteller, and facilitator. She is a graduate of the 2020 Opera America Leadership Intensive, following her work as General Manager of Strategy & Communications at Chicago Opera Theater. She's served on directing teams at 2nd Story, Writer's Theatre, the House Theatre of Chicago, and more. She lives in Albany Park with her wife and two pets. Chris received her Bachelor of Arts from Loyola University Chicago in 2013.
About Jae Rice
Jae Rice (they/them/theirs; he/him/his) is a trans-masculine public figure fighting for the liberation of oppressed communities on a daily basis. Rice is a DJ, cultural curator, Director of Communications for Brave Space Alliance, composer, and overall practitioner of freedom and intentional justice. Their background in political science and intercultural communication combines with their dedication to the advancement of all Black LGBTQIA+ folks to perpetuate real-time, and on the ground societal shifts, advancements, and growth. Rice has spent several years creating safe spaces in Chicago that center all Black LGBTQIA+ Womxn, Femmes, and AFABS, and is now also devoted to creating and maintaining brave spaces as well.
About 2nd Story and Culture Builds
2nd Story, Chicago’s oldest storytelling organization, exists to fulfill its vision of living in a world driven by empathy. The organization’s work is rooted in the belief that sharing true, personal stories can change the world, and its mission is to create spaces where people can share and deeply listen to one another’s stories. 2nd Story’s work is activated by its Core Values: Craft, Courage, and Inclusion, and is ‘Art with a Purpose.’ Since its founding in 1999, 2nd Story has found meaningful, authentic ways to engage in local and national conversations via its stories.
Launched in January 2020, CultureBuilds, a suite of 2nd Story’s groundbreaking training programs, was created to empower businesses, schools, and not-for-profits to accomplish deeper connections with one another through transformative narrative. CultureBuilds offers a suite of employee training options from equity, diversity and inclusion training to team building, live entertainment, and workshops for students and teachers. In the past 12 months, the program has been hired by more than 25 international companies.