Press Release


Local nonprofit expands weekly civic conversations at neighborhood coffeehouses

CHICAGO– In order to further its guiding vision of encouraging participatory democracy The Public Square at the Illinois Humanities Council (IHC) will expand its Café Society program by launching a 7th discussion group in the month of April 2005. As a reflection of its commitment to making programs accessible to all communities in Chicago, this Café Society will take place in Pilsen at Café Mestizo, 2123 S. Ashland Ave., and will be facilitated in Spanish. The first Spanish language Café Society conversation will be held on Tuesday, March 29 from 7:00-8:00 p.m.

While new coffeehouses seem to appear daily, the role of the café in fostering debate and action is hardly new. "The coffeehouse has a long history as a site for public debate and the exchange of ideas," Barbara Ransby, board chair of The Public Square at the IHC and a historian by training, points out.

Café Society discussions are open to anyone interested in talking about issues in the media and their relevance to the community. Topics are posted on each weekend. The conversations are led by trained facilitators who keep the action lively but friendly.

Café Society locations and times:

  • Tuesday

    7-8 p.m., Café Mestizo, 2123 S. Ashland Ave.,

    7:30-8:30 p.m., Intelligentsia Coffee, 3123 N. Broadway St.
  • Wednesday

    7-8 p.m., Buzz Café, at the Oak Park Public Library, 834 Lake St., Oak Park

    7- 8 p.m., Pause, 1107 W. Berwyn Ave. (and Broadway)
  • Thursday

    7-8 p.m., Caffe De Luca, 1721 N. Damen Ave.

    7-8 p.m., Valois, 1518 E. 53rd St.
  • Friday

    5-6 p.m., Ron’s Barber Shop, 6041 W. North Ave., Oak Park

More About Café Society

The Cafe Society Project began in October 2002 at four area coffee shops. This project fosters a more robust civil society, more cohesive and interactive communities, greater media literacy and a more informed and engaged citizenry through weekly coffee shop conversations about contemporary social issues. Current media reports (along with ample doses of caffeine) serve as stimulants for the conversations. The idea is to cross boundaries of class, race, ideology, and background to facilitate meaningful discussions about the underlying historical and philosophical issues implicated in topics in the news. The Café Society project taps the growing coffee culture in Chicago as a vehicle to promote conversations between strangers (a cornerstone of democratic practice) about relevant social issues, with a focus on the theme of citizenship, broadly defined, and critically examined. Recent topics for discussion have included: "Outsourcing America"; "To Live or Die: The Assault Weapons Ban"; "Prostitution in Chicago"; "What is an American?"; and "Gay Marriage."

About The Public Square at the Illinois Humanities Council

The Public Square at the IHC fosters debate, dialogue, and exchange of ideas about cultural, social and political issues with an emphasis on social justice. Programs promote participatory democracy by creating space for public conversations.

More information about The Public Square at the IHC and Café Society is available at


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