Teen Boys Participate in Black History Month Celebrations

On Sunday, February 24th the ‘Roots of Rhythm’ performed in the staged production of “The Old African.” The production was part of the 14th Annual African American History Celebration featuring African and ballet dancers, gospels signers, and professional story tellers. The drum team provided ambiance and sound effects for the story, drumming for the dancers and rhythmic support for the singers.
Performing in this production was a new direction for the young men. It demanded more orchestrated rhythmic precision and on cue sound effects central to the story telling, as well as timed rhythmic support for both African and ballet dancers.
The hour long performance played to a full house of participating audience members who part took in the dancing Celebration.
The young men also exhibited their art work and Peace themed t-shirt at the event.
Roots of Rhythm perform at Gale Academy
On Friday February 22nd The Roots of Rhythm performed for Gale Academy students, who were learning about the shared history of the drum, the basic understanding and language of the drum, and drumming performance.
If you are interested in engaging the ‘Roots of Rhythm’ team for a performance, please contact Dan McNeil at dan@familymatterschicago.org or at 773-465-6011 ext. 122. The young men have performed at outdoor community events, weddings, religious services, benefits, and private parties

Anthony Davis: A Family Matters Alum Following His Life Flow Through Art

Anthony Davis was introduced to Family Matters in 2001, when he was 11 years old. He connected to the organization, with chalk in hand, via a mural project that a staff member was facilitating at Gale Academy.

“I remember that,” he says flashing a smile. “I walked around the neighborhood with chalk the entire summer. I always knew I loved art. Being at Family Matters and working with Eric and Jesus [teaching artists who partnered with the Teen Boys Programs] gave me the foundation and structure to put my ideas and love of art into a form. Watching those guys helped me to see that I could make art a part of my life forever. That mural is still there.”
Today Anthony, 22, is a student at Truman College studying art. He values learning classic forms; his personal style is inspired by the abstract lettering and freedom reflected in graffiti art.
Anthony recently returned to paint the organization’s logo on the front door.  During the project, Dan McNeil, the Director of the Teen Boys Programs, introduced the young artist to a director at Cease Fire (a national organization focused on eliminating street violence). Impressed with what he saw, the Cease Fire representative commissioned Anthony to design the organization’s peace logo. As a result, his work will be featured on hundreds of Cease Fire T-shirts across the city.
Anthony recalls fondly his years in the Teen Boys Programs. He laughs as he reflects upon his experience drumming. “Not many of us liked drumming at first. As our technique improved, we enjoyed it and we began to understand what Dan was trying to teach us. Drumming is like life – it takes practice and work. If you stick with it, you eventually find a natural flow and sometimes people will appreciate what you create.”
The portraits he painted while at Family Matters still hang on the walls of the basement space (affectionately named “the roots”) that is home to the Teen Boys Programs. Anthony says he left his artwork because he wanted to inspire the guys who came after him. “I learned how to paint at Family Matters. I also learned about the importance of being positive and making good choices. I realize now that being surrounded by positive influences has made all the difference in my life.”  
He recalls friends, one in particular, whose life took a critical turn. “We were a lot alike. He was smart. He loved art. He did well in school. He came from a loving family. He was a really good guy. The difference was that he didn’t have the benefit of people who were there to keep him focused on positive activities. He didn’t have adults who could support him in finding his way out of the negative vibes that can follow you on the streets.”
Anthony plans to be a graphic designer. He wants to make his art affordable and accessible to everyone. He says his life mantra is simple: “I stay positive in everything I do. No matter what comes along, or how low things may seem, I know I can find a way to climb.” 

2012 Photo Program – Fun Times at the Park

The Teen Boys decided to enjoy the beautiful March weather and made a trip to Baker Park in Evanston. Enrique of the Photo Program captured all the action!

Ample light gave Enrique the ability to use a fast shutter speed and snap some stop-motion action shots. Here he captured one of the Teen Boys zooming along on his Hi-Tide Wiggleboard….
….Exhausted from wiggling, he took a second to relax and hang around. Enrique moved in to capture the portrait.
Here, Enrique tilted the camera and captured Glenford making a move to the basket, racing past the defender!
Rather than getting in front of the drummers and clicking the shutter, Enrique found an interesting view and framed the shot through the playground equipment.
Looking for something different, Enrique turned the camera toward the sky and captured this silhouette of the tree.

Roots of Rhythm Provide Rythmic Treat for O.N.E. Celebration

On January 19th, the Family Matters young men’s drum team “Roots of Rhythm” performed to a packed audience of O.N.E. community organizations at the United Church of Rogers Park. The audience members showed their rhythmic appreciation with feet tapping, chair dancing, and some spontaneous dancing by the little ones. This was the first or second public performance for most of the young men, and it provided quite a boost to their self esteem. The performance closed with a standing ovation for the young men’s efforts.

Please check out a short video of the performance, along with a few pictures captured by a member of Family Matters’ burgeoning photo program.

2012 Photo Program – A Trip to Montrose Harbor

Participants of the photo program bundled up and headed out during a cold evening to visit Montrose Harbor. It was an initial experiment in shooting outside in a low light environment. Please read more to see how it turned out!

Shooting handheld in low light- Shooting at night requires photographers to use slow shutters speeds. For this picture, the film sensor was exposed for one full second. Holding the camera very tight to his face for stability, which reduces shake or blur in pictures, the photographer was able to grab this photo of Enrique holding up the moon with his hand. 
Photographing the Chicago skyline at night- Using a telephoto lens and mounting the camera on a tripod, Glenford was able to capture this night shot of the Willis Tower and surrounding buildings. The sensor was exposed for thirty seconds. The top left part of the picture captures an intermittent blinking light from an airplane descending toward Midway Airport (click on the picture for a closer look!). The slow shutter speed also gives the lake a calm and smooth look.
Painting with light- Near the end of the trip, Enrique experimented with the camera and came up with this unique photograph. He left the sensor exposed for one second and moved the camera around during the exposure instead of holding it still. He used the streetlights along Montrose Harbor to paint these wild light streaks on the sensor.

2011 Hunger Banquet

November and December are months filled with excitement as we look forward to holiday celebrations that often include bountiful meals. This time is also marked by hunger awareness and charity. During December, the Teen Boys, Teen Girls and Family Connections programs came together to host an Oxfam Hunger Banquet—an event at which children, teens and their families could learn about hunger and poverty issues. “This event allows organizers and participants alike to experience firsthand how our decisions affect others in the world, and brings to life the inequalities in our world” –Oxfam. Each program prepared its group through activities and discussions about poverty during the week preceding the banquet.

Close to 40 participants attended the banquet. As they entered the room, participants drew a ticket from a basket. The tickets assigned them to high-, middle-, or low-income tiers based on the latest statistics on the number of people living in poverty. Each income level received a corresponding meal and seating. The 15% in the high-income tier were served pasta, salad and juice, and seated at tables with tablecloths, silverware and water. The 35% in the middle-income section were served rice and beans and a cup of water and seated in chairs around the room. The 50% in the low-income tier sat on the floor and were served small portions of rice and shared glasses of water. Each ticket had a unique story describing the situation of a specific person at that income level. First reactions included comments around the fairness of drawing tickets and the desire to sit at the table with the high-income diners. Some of the high-income participants celebrated their luck; others sat quietly observing everyone else.
Before the participants started to eat, we shared current facts regarding hunger and poverty around the world. We also dramatized how an opportunity or war or economic instability could affect a person’s economic well being. At random, we choose three people from the low-income tier, telling them that, with help of a program, they had the opportunity to attend school. This allowed them to move up to the middle-income tier. Then we choose participants from the middle-income tier and told them that their country was affected by economic instability or war and that they were now part of the low-income tier. Finally, all participants were invited to enjoy their meals.

After the meal, we had a discussion about the participants’ experiences. We asked the following questions: Do you think it’s fair that the world is divided into these tiers? Do you think that people who got the big meal need to share with others? Do you think people in the low-income group are there because they don’t work hard? Why do you think people in the low-income group are there?
Responses were varied and included “ things are not fair in the world” and “the world is divided this way.” Some participants said that people were born into unequal situations. Those on the low-income tier said those in the high-income tier needed to share their meal. Others said that low-income people did not have enough opportunities to get out of poverty. At the end of the event the participants were encouraged to learn more about hunger and to do something in their community to create change. 

2012 Photo Program – Beginning with Portraits

The 2012 photo program began with a focus on portraits. After a brief setup of the equipment in our exciting new studio (pictured above), each participant had an opportunity to frame and direct the subject, manipulate  artificial lighting, and edit the images. Please read more for a review of some basic concepts we focused on, along with a few examples of our work and a brief explanation of each shot.

Photo by Enrique
Expressions- As each participant took over the camera and worked toward framing the image, they were encouraged to direct the subject in how to pose. Here Glenford takes a cue to get comfortable and look away from the camera for a few seconds while Enrique clicks the shutter.
Photo by Alex
Lighting- After getting the lighting how he wanted it, Alex decided to get front and center and capture this image. Enrique placed a large circular diffuser (shown in the title image on the floor) in front of the 350w continuous studio light to soften the shadows cast by Glenford onto the backdrop.
Photo by Glenford
Distance- The participants were encouraged to try shooting from different distances. In the above image, Glenford decided to have some fun and get close to the subject. Noticing this, the subject decided to crack a smile.
Photo by Enrique
Angles- Glenford decided to do a quarter turn on the stool away from the camera. Enrique found this interesting and decided to capture the image. A very serious expression by Glenford is reflected in the editing.


Family Matters members Mike Glasser and Thomas “Bud” Sanders are heavily involved in the North of Howard dance group 808s (eight-oh-eights), an exciting youth-led program in the Chicago community. To learn more about the program, check out their promotional video.