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Virtual Reading and Conversation: Chicago Drives



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West Coast 1987 Web

West Coast, 1987

Jo Ractliffe. © Jo Ractliffe. Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg

Join authors Natalie Y. Moore, avery r. young, Michael Zapata, Rachel “Raych” Jackson, and filmmaker Amir George, as they take us on a virtual tour of Chicago neighborhoods. Through live readings and conversation, they reflect on urgent social issues facing our city. 

This program is presented on the occasion of the exhibition Jo Ractliffe: DRIVES. A South African photographer who started her practice in the mid-1980s, Ractliffe’s work often operates indirectly, using allegory and landscape to explore the political situation of her country. 

The program opens with excerpts of a pre-recorded conversation between Ractliffe and Matthew Witkovsky, Richard and Ellen Sandor Chair and Curator of Photography and Media and Vice President for Strategic Art Initiatives. Following this conversation, Moore, young, Zapata, and Jackson consider Ractliffe’s practice through a local lens. Exploring communities such as Englewood, West Garfield Park, Humboldt Park, and Bronzeville they present readings that engage our current time and place.

The program includes a series of short films depicting the different Chicago neighborhoods, filmed and produced by filmmaker Amir George.

About the Artists

Photograph of an African American woman, reporter Natalie Moore, with softly curled dark hair, smiling subtly into the camera.

Natalie Y. Moore
As WBEZ’s South Side Bureau reporter, Natalie Y. Moore covers segregation and inequality. Her enterprise reporting has tackled race, housing, economic development, food injustice, and violence.

Moore’s work has been broadcast on the BBC, Marketplace, and NPR’s Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition. She is the author of The South Side: A Portrait of Chicago and American Segregation, winner of the 2016 Chicago Review of Books award for nonfiction and a Buzzfeed best nonfiction book of 2016. She is also co-author of The Almighty Black P Stone Nation: The Rise, Fall, and Resurgence of an American Gang and Deconstructing Tyrone: A New Look at Black Masculinity in the Hip-Hop Generation. Natalie writes a monthly column for the Chicago Sun-Times. Her work has been published in Essence, Ebony, the Chicago Reporter, Bitch, In These Times, the Chicago Tribune, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Guardian. In 2017 the Chicago Reader named her best journalist and In These Times gave her the Voice of Progressive Journalism Award. In 2018, she received an honorary doctorate from Adler University. Moore frequently collaborates with Chicago artist Amanda Williams.


avery r. young
Interdisciplinary artist avery r. young is also an award-winning teaching artist who has been an Arts and Public Life Artist-In-Residence at the University of Chicago.

In the foreword of his most recent book neckbone: visual verses (Northwestern University Press), Theaster Gates called him “one of our greatest living street poets … one of the most important thinkers on the Black experience.” Black Grooves referred to his most recent album tubman. (FPE Records) as “brilliant” and “supremely funky.” Young’s poems and essays have been published in Cecil McDonald’s In The Company of Black, The BreakBeat Poets, The Golden Shovel Anthology: New Poems Honoring Gwendolyn Brooks, AIMPrint, and other anthologies. His album booker t. soltreyne: a race rekkid engages matters of race, gender, and sexuality in America during the Obama era. Avery’s work in performance, visual text, and sound design has been featured in theatre festivals, notably the Hip Hop Theatre Festival, and in several exhibitions, including at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, and the American Jazz Museum. He is the featured vocalist on flutist Nicole Mitchell’s Mandorla Awakening (FPE Records) and is one of four directors of the Floating Museum. He also co-mentors the Rebirth Youth Poetry Ensemble and performs with his band, de deacon board.

Mzapata 77 Color

Michael Zapata
Zapata is a founding editor of the award-winning MAKE: A Literary Magazine. He is the recipient of an Illinois Arts Council Award for Fiction, the City of Chicago DCASE Individual Artist Program award, and a Pushcart nomination.

His debut novel. The Lost Book of Adana Moreau, was described by Chicago Magazine as “a gorgeous, heartbreaking examination of exile, diaspora, and family that spans multiple narratives across space and time.” As an educator, he taught literature and writing in high schools servicing dropout students. He is a graduate of the University of Iowa and has lived in New Orleans, Italy, and Ecuador. He currently lives in Chicago with his family.

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Rachel “Raych” Jackson
Rachel “Raych” Jackson
 is a writer, educator and performer. While teaching third and fourth grade in Chicago Public Schools, Jackson competed on numerous national poetry teams and individual competitions.

Her poems have gained over 2 million views on YouTube, and she is the 2017 National Underground Poetry Individual Competition champion and a 2017 Pink Door fellow. Jackson recently voiced ‘DJ Raych’ in the Jackbox game, Mad Verse City, and voices Tiffany in Battu, an upcoming animated musical featuring hip-hop and hiplet. Her latest play, Emotions & Bots, premiered at the Woerdz Festival in Lucerne, Switzerland, and she wrote a room dedicated to Chicago for 29Rooms’ first installment in Chicago, through Refinery 29. She co-created and co-hosts Big Kid Slam, a monthly poetry show in Chicago, and her work been published by many—including Poetry Magazine, The Rumpus, The Shallow Ends, and Washington Square Review. Her debut collection, EVEN THE SAINTS AUDITION, which was recently published through Button Poetry, won Best New Poetry Collection by a Chicagoan from the Chicago Reader in fall 2019. Jackson currently lives in Chicago.

Amir George

Amir George is an award winning filmmaker based in Chicago. George is a film programmer at True/False Film Fest and cofounder of the touring film series Black Radical Imagination. 

As an artist, George creates spiritual stories, juxtaposing sound and image into an experience of non-linear perception. George’s films have screened at institutions and film festivals including Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, Anthology Film Archives, Glasgow School of Art, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Ann Arbor Film Festival, Trinidad and Tobago International Film Festival, BlackStar Film Festival, and Camden International Film Festival, among others.

We recommend using a laptop or desktop computer, and downloading the latest version of Zoom to enjoy this program.

If you have any questions about virtual programming please reach out to

For questions related to accessibility accommodations, please email


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