In The News

Demfest arrives at Experimental Station

What are the issues politicians are and are not talking about? What can be learned from seasoned social change activists? How does the war in Iraq affect America? These are some of the questions members of Illinois Humanities Council’s Public Square hope will be addressed at the free, day-long “Festival of Democracy: Unleashing Radical Imaginations” from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday at the Experimental Station, 6100 S Blackstone Ave. This festival will feature live music and hip-ho poetry, as well as three panel discussion.

“This is definitely new,” said Lisa Yun Lee, who has a Ph.D. and co-founded the Public Square seven years ago. “There will be a diverse group of people performing who will bring a different audience.”

Director of the Public Square Alice Kim said she was excited about using art in the programming.

“We want to mix it up. We want to have art and culture as part of our program so that we can explore how are and social change are interconnected as well,” said Kim.

Lee said they would also be using a large project screen during the discussions to which the audience could text message comments or questions.

Speakers will include Director of Middle East Institute at Columbia University Rashid Khalidi; host of “Radio Nation” on Air America Laura Flanders; Professor of Law at Northwestern and Hyde Park resident Bernardine Dohrn; fellow Hyde Parker and founder of the Health and Medicien Policy Research Group Quentin Young; and founder of the Center of Labor Renewal Bill Fletcher. Poet and Artistic Director of Young Chicago Authors Kevin Coval will emcee the “People’s Party” portion of the festival.

While some non-profits shy away from political events, Lee said members of the Public Square feel it is important to discuss the issues that will influence the upcoming presidential election.

“We are not taking a stance or endorsing a candidate. What we are saying is ideas should be the engine to drive campaigns. How much of what you hear about in the media is [for example] how much money Hillary Clinton raised? All of us should be saying who cares how much they are raising …and having a much more vibrant exchange of ideas,” said Lee.

Kim agrees.

“There are so many issues we are facing right now at this particular moment in history. There [have] been so many [presidential] debates already, and that speaks to the desire for people to talk about how we can change things for the better,” said Kim.

Lee said they debated about where to have the festival and chose Hyde Park’s Experimental Station.

“I Think that Experimental Station, whose mission is about providing a public space where people feel comfortable in engaging in … dialogue about certain issues, social change, are and politics, is a really wonderful space for it,” said Lee.

The event is co-sponsored by the Civic Knowledge Project, the Institute for the Study of Women and Gender in the Arts and Media, Experimental Station, the Gender Studies Program at DePaul University, the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum, Columbia College Chicago’s Television Department and the Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture at the University of Chicago.

“We all need to push one another to build bridges to one another because ultimately, living in a common society, that is the work we need to do,” said Lee.

Registration is strongly recommended. For more information, call 312-422-5580 or visit