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The PO Box Collective is a 20-member creative collective & intergenerational social practice center dedicated to building Rogers Park community through radical art making, mutual aid & programming. We embrace a horizontal organization model that centers marginalized voices, confronts systems of oppression while fostering mutual growth & healing.

2020 at PO Box: Year in Review

 

The only way to survive is by taking care of one another.

 - Grace Lee Boggs 

 

It has been a tough year for so many reasons. What a powerful reminder of the importance of community to connect and support us. Through it all, PO Box Collective has held events and workshops that brought people together to reflect, connect, learn, build, create, witness, discuss, celebrate, grieve, honor, encourage, and share. Take a look...

EXHIBITIONS

 

On March 1, 2020, PO Box opened Playing in the Dark, featuring the work of multi-disciplinary artist Bill Talsma, who passed away in 2019. Laura Stemple facilitated an online storytelling workshop called All the Places I've Lived, based upon one of Talsma's iconic works.   In response to the uprisings across the country in the wake of the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Tony McDade, in June we utilized our windows to create a street-facing exhibition, Where We Are Now, featuring work curated from Justseeds Artists' Cooperative that spoke to the moment of resistance, mutual aid, and crisis. Related programming included the 2-session online workshop It's Always Right Now! Shared Analysis for Action, facilitated by Mary Zerkel. In September, we used our street-facing gallery to open the exhibit From Attica to Abolition, a collection of images curated to mark the legacy of the Attica prison uprising 49 years ago and the contemporary movement to #FreeThemAll. A companion zine was created, featuring the original 50 demands of the uprising. In November, we displayed a banner, VOTE, painted by participants in our Banner Build for the Movement workshops and accompanying artwork that encouraged those who were able to vote as a harm reduction strategy. Lastly, in December, we collaborated with the Prison + Neighborhood Arts Program, AFSC, and Justseeds to present Carving Out Rights From Inside the Prison Industrial Complex. The exhibition featured prints that drew on the UN Declaration of Human Rights, created by artists who are students of PO Box Collective member Aaron Hughes and incarcerated at Stateville prison. Our partner organizations hosted a related webinar featuring poets and musicians, a card writing party for incarcerated youth, and a car caravan to the Juvenile Temporary Detention Center in solidarity with detained youth. 

WORKSHOPS

We transitioned into a frigid 2020 reveling in the final weeks of the two-month RADICAL Printshop led by our inaugural artist-in-residence, print artist and art educator William Estrada. William held drop-in studio hours for anyone in the community interested in learning how to screen print and group screen-printing workshops. He shared his considerable talents to build the screen-printing skills and resources of PO Box members and, on February 1, brought his celebrated Chicago Neighborhood Family Portrait Project to photograph Rogers Park neighbors who came to the PO Box to help us celebrate our 1st birthday.

 

July through October, painters of all ages gathered on the PO Box patio twice monthly to take part in Banner Build for the Movement workshops led by our second artist-in-residence, Aaron Hughes. Activists and organizers from across the city were invited to submit their requests for banners for street demonstrations and other protest and educational events. We created banners for several social justice initiatives including a CPS protest, Defund the Police, and the Freedom Square 4th anniversary celebration of the occupation of Homan Square.

 

August through October, a group of folks met biweekly on Zoom for our Demilitarized U study group led by Aaron Hughes and Mary Zerkel. Through guest speakers and discussions of readings, we learned about military high schools and JROTC programs in CPS, the influence of Boeing in Chicago, connections between demilitarization and abolition, white supremacy, the Global War on Terror, and cultural resistance to militarism.


Throughout the year, friends of the PO Box generously shared their considerable skills and passions to offer a range of workshops: Jane Cope facilitated monthly Suppertime Writing Workshops where participants shared their writing and delicious food; then segued to virtual Work in Progress gatherings. Lily Be of The Stoop led a storytelling workshop where folx discovered and shaped the stories they already had inside. Diego Campos led a Dream Workshop, offering live interpretations of participants’ dreams along with tools to interpret dream syntax. Winnie Wong’s Drawn to Strangers project facilitated dialogues between community members through handmade picture postcards. Lori Upchurch, Anai Brizuela and Malik Coburn brought an ethical lens to designing sustainable human systems in their Permaculture Workshop.  Jonathan Murrary hosted Son of Osun Presents: Tarot in Times of Uncertainty--a short series of lessons on how to use tarot in difficult times to self-soothe, manifest, and empower our best selves. Closing out the year, art therapist and collective member Sophie Canadé facilitated Creating Connection, an online crafting party for participants to find solace and support through our virtual community during a season marked by isolation and vulnerability. Positive responses to the event have motivated the return of Fibers Nights, a co-crafting circle that meets online the first Monday of each month.

MUTUAL AID

 

Radical hospitality and cultural composting with the intention of assisting people in connecting to existing resources are driving principles of the PO Box Collective: to recognize and embrace plenitude and sufficiency in what’s already here to energize these possibilities. Rogers Park Food Not Bombs (RPFNB), our vital partner, exemplifies this vision with healthy food redistribution to the community sourced by unsold goods donated by Whole Foods. Pre-pandemic, they held a Potluck for Peace in the tradition of the community meals held at the PO Box throughout 2019. When stay-at-home orders prevented neighbors from coming to the space to pick up their food, RPFNB transitioned to delivering food to over 200 households every weekend with a cast of volunteers. Over the summer, PO Box became a site for the weekly redistribution of thousands of pounds of food delivered by the truckload from the USDA. In October, RPFNB suspended home deliveries and started distributing hot food and drinks, PPE, and sometimes additional services like flu shots or warm gear at Willye B. White Park every Sunday. 


PO Box responded to the pandemic by joining with Love & Protect and Moms United in a massive Mask Making for Mutual Aid effort to make masks for women in Illinois prisons and reentry programs. Seasonal clothing swaps and targeted food drives redistributed existing resources among our PO Box neighbors. And although the pandemic slowed down our plans to build an open source seed inventory, in March, Rogers Park Seed Library and the PO Box hosted a seed share with the goal of building secure, healthful and sustainable food systems. 


In May, to support these mutual aid efforts and help us hold onto our space over the long lockdown, PO Box and RPFNB launched a fundraising campaign, FEED THE PEOPLE! We opened the patio for an unforgettable **socially distanced** live music concert, Feed The People Live Music Event with the Quarantunes, with celebrated Chicago musicians James Sanders on violin, Steven Hashimoto on bass, Brad Newton on congas, Thomas Klein on guitar, and "soulkeeper" Gerald McClendon and Linda Solotaire on vocals. Audience gathered in the street to listen and dance to the music or tuned in via Facebook Live.


Over these many difficult months, we have been sustained by donations from our beloved community via PayPal, Patreon and GoFundMe – both stabilizing us and freeing us up to focus on providing art, connection, and nourishment for our neighbors. For this and so much more, we are deeply grateful.

OTHER SPECIAL EVENTS

 

Looking back nostalgically to those final days of pre-pandemic innocence in late February, we joyfully recall Love Leaps Borders, a fundraising concert hosted by PO Box and Rogers Park Solidarity Network with musical partners The Herbal Remedies and Adam Gottleib & One Love. This benefit raised funds for the legal expenses of Jose, a young man incarcerated in migrant child detention facilities in Chicago and facing deportation because of his work to organize and give testimony about his detention.

 

In October, we partnered with Kelly Hayes and Lifted Voices to create #WeGrieveTogether memorial for our neighbors, as part of the National Week of Mourning for victims of Covid-19. We lit a candle for each of our 121 Rogers Park neighbors and for all who died of coronavirus. We shared silence, stories of loved ones or neighbors, and testimonies of pandemic experiences.

 

Dia de los Muertos, Samhain, and Halloween were celebrated with an all-day into the evening event, Love and Honor for the People. Together with neighbors and passersby, we created an ofrenda on the patio to offer love, respect, and honor for loved ones who left us in 2020, for those lost to Covid-19, and for all those who died at the hands of ICE, police, prison or detention. We facilitated a peace and healing circle in Schreiber Park. Capping off the festivities, at sundown we held our 2nd annual costume march from the PO BOx to the Heartland Child Detention facility on Morse accompanied by members of Clamor & Lace Noise Brigade, Chicago’s favorite glam marching band, to show our love and solidarity to all detained children.

ONGOING EVENTS

 

The Neighborhood Memorial for Victims of Police Violence, a PO Box collaboration with Cheap Art for Freedom and Matthias Regan, launched on July 4th under the el at W. Farwell and N. Glenwood. We have been meeting every Sunday since then to wheatpaste “We Miss You” cards and photos memorializing people killed by police, create and maintain an altar, and gather with community members and passersby to recognize the profound loss of lives, honor their memory, and talk about abolition. A special highlight of our weekly gatherings was when violinist Frank Babbit played a solo concert at the memorial under the el and could be heard throughout the surrounding streets. 

 

Pre-pandemic Movie Night! featured local filmmakers in house to present their films to enthusiastic audiences: Silvia Malagrino with Burnt Oranges, recalling life in Argentina under the military dictatorship and Ronit Bezalel with 70 Acres in Chicago, telling the complicated story of Cabrini Green. Monthly screenings moved online in March with nothing lost in community feeling or engaged discussion. Featured filmmakers included Latham Zearfoss with their protest mixtape, SPEECH! SPEECH!! SPEECH!!!; two programs of experimental shorts with filmmakers from Chicago and elsewhere: Abbéy Odunlami, Katie Wood, Allison Yasukawa, Mikey Peterson, Elisa Harkins, Adam Farcus, Juan-Carlos Perez, Coral Short, Aram Atamian, Andrew Slater and Liz McCarthy; and Spinning Home Movies with South Side Home Movie Project and DJ Rae Chardonnay. In commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the UN Fourth World Conference on Women, PO Box member Salome Chasnoff screened her documentary, Beyond Beijing: The International Women’s Movement, in discussion with seven women who were involved in the film and shared their reflections: Njoki Kamau, Josina Morita, Virginia Martinez, Ranjana Bhargava, Mildred Williamson, Norma Seledon and Beth Berolzheimer.

Tortas y Talento Open Mic hosted by Collective members Fabrizzio Subia and Mariela Aranda kicked off the new year in our space.  Dedicated to centering the arts and talents of people of color, Tortas y Talento ran on a monthly basis and shifted to a virtual platform over the summer. It's currently on pause but we look forward to showcasing more local talent this year.

 

Nonfiction Read Aloud Book Club transitioned to online meetings and met weekly from March through August and then every other week since. We finished Ibram X Kendi’s How To Be An Antiracist in April, spent May through September with adrienne maree brown’s Emergent Strategy, and then started Charlene Carruthers’s Unapologetic: A Black, Queer, and Feminist Mandate for Radical Movements, which we are still reading. We also held a movie night in August, which was a lovely opportunity to see people’s physical selves (masked and distanced, of course!) Over the months our group has become very close-knit and our meetings are great sources of both social and intellectual stimulation. Everyone is welcome to join at any time!  

 

Balut Artist Salon brings together two artists to present current work in dialogue to open up the art making process. These intimate conversations depend on in-person presence so we made the decision to discontinue salons until we can be back in the space. Our only 2020 salon, in February, featured Jose Luis Benavides sharing their research into Aztalan State Park in southeastern Wisconsin and JeeYeun Lee discussing "Whose Lakefront," a participatory project that physically marks unceded native land in downtown Chicago.


Feminist Science Fiction met several times online, offering a welcomed break from covid. The group is on winter hiatus but if folx want to suggest a book, join future meet-ups, or help facilitate an upcoming online meeting, please email poboxcollective@gmail.com, subject line: Fem Sci Fi.

COMING SOON


We are overjoyed to announce the Rogers Park Mutual Aid Hub project – a collaboration between members of PO Box Collective, Rogers Park Community Response Team and Rogers Park Food Not Bombs. This project came about as a way to join existing efforts under one roof to facilitate getting aid and supplies to our neighbors. We now have a space and are hoping to be operational by mid February. We are ALWAYS looking for other groups to collaborate with us as we get up and running. Please keep an eye on our existing social media accounts or email poboxcollective@gmail.com for more information and ways you can join us! 
 

Ane yet another exciting announcement: PO Unboxed, our first ever open-call film festival to bring people together – virtually – to view and discuss new or little seen work. We want to screen your movies!!!  Submit your film here.

FESTIVAL DETAILS
• All genres + styles accepted
• Shorts + feature-length films welcome
• No submission fee
• All ages are invited to submit.
• This will be an ongoing series starting on March 26th.
• Screenings will take place on the last Friday of each month. 
• Screenings will take place virtually until further notice.

IN CLOSING

From Future Gazing: “What if care is the organizing principle of our society?” – care that is creative and tenacious, relentless and wholesome, abundant and kind; the kind of fierce love that helped us survive the pain, loss, and heartbreak of 2020. We got you, and each other, in 2021!

PO Box in the Media
 

Sending Forth Community Action: The Radical Hope of the PO Box Collective by Kerry Cardoza (NewcityArt) OCT. 8, 2019

In the News: ABC7 Highlights Neighborhood Memorial to Police Violence Victims by Jaylin Henderson (ABC7 News) July 15, 2020

Memorial for Victims of Police Violence Takes Over Rogers Park Viaduct by Joe Ward (Block Club) Aug. 4, 2020

‘Neighborhood Memorial for Victims of Police Violence’ Continues to Grow More Than a Month After its Creation by Zack Miller (Loyola Phoenix) Aug. 19, 2020

Rogers Park BLM Memorial Grows Under the Red Line by Darcel Rockett (Chicago Tribune) Dec. 30, 2020

Mural Dedicated to Victims of Police Violence Keeps Growing by Joanie Lum (Fox32 News) Jan. 8, 2021
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The PO Box Collective has always been dedicated to mutual support and radical hospitality. The need for community and connection seems greater now than ever before. All our programming is FREE including our weekly food distribution. Our cash donations have largely come to a halt with the closing of the physical space, but we must continue to pay our full rent. If you are inspired to support our ALL-VOLUNTEER efforts, please contribute to our work through PayPal (to:poboxcollective@gmail.com)Venmo (@pobox), or, even better, become a sustaining supporter on Patreon.
Our address is:
6900 N Glenwood Ave
Chicago, IL 60626

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PO Box Collective · 6900 N Glenwood Ave · Chicago, IL 60626-3412 · USA

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