Chicago…full of surprises!

Chicago greeted me with it’s coldest winter in 50 years, thankfully I was prepared- my ‘no playing’ Dr Martins showed no mercy against the 9 inches of snow. Encased in my purple duffle coat, my shawl refusing entry to the hostile conditions, I was sufficiently armored.
On arrival, my first port of call was to find a toilet to dispel the bottels of water that i had been drinking on the flight. I was met with a quirk piece of technology in the ladies; a toilet seat that had a plastic cover that replaced itself. The clear instructions advised me to wave my hand in front of a green button, then, tho my amazement the plastic cover (a little like a plastic bag) rotated. Usually in public toilets i place sheets of toilet paper onto the seat before placing my delicate self onto the seat. If the toilet is offensive I levitate over the seat. No need for that here!

Chicago Toilets
I navigated my way from O’Hare airport to my hotel Chicago Essex Inn on South Michigan avenue using the very efficient Chicago subway.
The security at the airport seemed to think my shea shower gel and apricot facial scrub had potential to cause harm and were confiscated- what was i going to do, have a ferocious facial scrub on the plane??? So I went out looking for replacements and for hot meal after Miss Flora and the rest of my baggage team were put to rest.
Early Saturday Morning I met up with 2nd Servas host, Kathy who invited me to go along to an event at the Pritzker Museum. I met Kathy at the venue as it is occupies the same road as my hotel. The event was unveiling a painting by Kay Smith. she was commissioned to paint a piece that commemorated the Tuskegee Airmen in WWII. I have particular interest in this topic as for the past 18 months I have been working on a documentary about Black Servicemen in WWII as part of the Nottingham Black Archive Heritage Lottery funded project “No Tears For Me My Mother’. The Tuskegee Airmen were a fleet of Black pilots who served in the American air force in WWII, largely unrecognised and unknown by the wider American public. As well as the painting being unveiled, a short documentary was screened about the process Kay Smith under took and interviews with a few ex Tuskegee pilots. I approached the film maker and the Pritzker Museum Events Manager to inform them of the project I had been working on. To my delight they asked if the Nottingham black Archive film could be donated to the museum and vise versa. The Nottingham Roosevelt Travel Scholarship (the reason why I’m able to be traveling America for 3 months) encourages it’s scholars to connect with industries that they are involved in and to promote Nottingham in the process and I really feel by connecting with Pritzker museum and sharing our resources would be one way for me to do this.

Black Ex Service from ioney smallhorne on Vimeo.

Artist Kay Smith and film maker Steve? at the Pritzker Military Museum

Artist Kay Smith and film maker Steve? at the Pritzker Military Museum

Kay Smith with her painting commemorating the Tuskegee Aircrew

Kay Smith with her painting commemorating the Tuskegee Aircrew

Kay Smith at Milliatary Museum

Later that same evening Kathy invites me to the DePaul University Theatre to watch a play, ‘A Free Man Of Colour’ byJohn Guare. A play set in New Orleans, Louisiana 1801 and cleverly intertwines many historical personalities and events such as the story f Hernando De Soto, Le Code Noir, Toussaint Louverture’s sugar revolt, France and Spain fighting to control the state. It was a fascinating play, but at 3 hours I found it a tad long. Jet lag mixe with a dark warm theatre could only have one result. Yes i ashamedly fell asleep, I felt so bad as I was sitting in the front row. It had no reflection on the play whatsoever and was purely down to sheer exhaustion.
Kathy, my Servas host is an amazing woman, a marathon runner, cyclist & film editor she is deeply embedded into the community and frequently appears in local news advocating cycling in the city, for various charities & carrots. Kathy has the most impressive collection of carrot themed things in her kitchen.
Kathy Schebert with Suzi

Sunday, visited her friend Barbara car crash victim. Barbara was left unable to talk, walk and has limited control over her body. She does however have control over her thoughts and uses an alphabet board to communicate; pointing to letters on the board to spell out what she has to say. I was interested to meet her as i have a good friend, poet Maresa MacKieth who also uses alphabet board to communicate. Last year I translated one of Maresa’s poems into a short film and Kathy wanted me to show Barbara, with the hope that it may inspire her to also write. Barbara was delighted to learn of Maresa and said that she would think about writing.

Hands from ioney smallhorne on Vimeo.

After visiting Barbara Kathy took me to the a The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, which has a beautiful tropical butterfly garden. You are invited to walk through the garden and meet butterflies of all sizes, colours & breeds who flutter freely- it was a magical experience.

The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

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While walking through the garden I received a phone call from Peter Kahn, a spoken word educator who works at Oak Park River Forest High school. I met him last year through Deborah Stevenson, the founder of Mouthy Poets. Peter mentions that there is a poetry event later that evening and invites me along. I accept the offer, Peter and informs me that I am actually the headline act. Surprised, confused, amazed, horrified and excited I agree to doing the gig. I find out that the gig is actually at the famous Green Mills, the home of slam poetry infamous for being Al Capones hang out. The gig is at 7pm so i had a few hours to gather my thoughts and poems.

Kathy then invited me to join her and her cyclist friends a a balaclava making party, which happens to be 5 minutes away from Green Mills. Kathy’s friends some how find the most ugly fleecy fabric (a lot of it donated) and make balaclavas with the intention of giving them away free to homeless and cyclists or anyone who needs to keep warm in these severe conditions. Having basic sewing machine skills I was soon put to work and made about 20 balaclavas before heading to Green Mills, where I meet Peter.
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a wild balaclava making party in Chicago!

a wild balaclava making party in Chicago!

I take to the stage at about 7:45 after the open mic set. My nerves do kick in and prevent me from performing to my best, luckily I had a very supportive audience and get through a 15 minute set.


Black Ex- Service Personnel & Their Families In WWII


WWII Community Capsule

I’m currently working with Nottingham Black Archive to produce a documentary highlighting the efforts & achievements of Black service personnel who served in WWII.
Press release flier

Mr Powe ex-servicemen who served in the RAF in WWII

Mr Powe ex-servicemen who served in the RAF in WWII

The film will be interviewing WWII Ex Sevice Personnel and their families revealing untold stories and providing a richer and fuller picture of life of that time.
The finished documentary will be screened at various locations in East Midlands and also be available as part of a school learning resource.

Journey’s To Nottingham

Nottingham is now home to many people whom originate form various parts of the world and Nottingham Black Archive thought it was time to begin to document these stories, experiences and lessons for future generations. and commissioned me to produce a series of short documentaries entitled Journey’s To Nottingham
The first film focuses on Alain Job, originally from Cameroon but found himself in Nottingham after political turbulence in his native land.
This film (and the others that are planned) will be apart of NBA’s interactive learning resource that is available to hire. The learning resource also encompasses is a three panel exhibition with photographs from the West Indian immigrants of 1960’s, a talk form an elder who will share their experience and answer questions on their journey.

NBA premiered the film at the New Arts Exchange on the 8th November where it was warmly received.

If you are a community organisation that would like to hire the Journey’s To Nottingham interative exhibition please contact the Nottingham Black Archive team at

Nottingham Black Archive: Intergenerational Project Pt1

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