Juneteenth celebrations blossom online and throughout Iowa, Illinois

A three-day virtual festival, comedy nights, protests, family-friendly gatherings, concerts, and online events of all kinds are honoring Juneteenth like never before this year. The annual June 19 celebration, which honors the date that slavery was abolished, is receiving long overdue nationwide focus in light of the recent rash of police killings of black men. The entire state of Illinois will lower its flags to half-staff in honor of the holiday. More than 70 Chicago restaurants have joined to offer Juneteenth specials, writes Chicago Eater. Many cities, including Chicago, have…

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“The Negro Artist,” award-winning poet, opens up at 8 pm virtual reading tonight

While many of his fellow young Black men joined protests after the killing of George Floyd, Caleb “The Negro Artist” Rainey had different reactions: he felt paralyzed, catatonic, isolated, foolish and arrogant. Paralyzed and catatonic, because he felt stuck in 2011, when Eric Garner’s death by police choking was captured on video and first propelled Rainey to devote himself to improving Black lives. Isolated, because Floyd’s death made him feel as though society didn’t value his life or those of other Black men. And foolish and arrogant, because Rainey had…

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Choose from dozens of virtual, socially-distanced Pride events this year

In a year when more than 400 Pride parades and events have been forced by the coronavirus crisis to reschedule or cancel, a smorgasbord of digital and socially-distanced Pride events are still happening, both locally and nationally. A few entities, such as the Metro East Pride group in Belleville, Ill., are also still planning on holding physical Pride events sometime this year. Here’s a rundown of how you can celebrate Pride, an LGBTQ tradition built around the Stonewall uprisings in 1969 in response to police brutality: • Wed., June 3:…

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Iowa City, New York join list of Pride cancellations

Iowa City Pride has made the painful decision to cancel its 50th anniversary Pride celebration, originally scheduled for June 19 and 20. “We know this comes with many disappointments, cancelled plans and one less thing to look forward to,” said Anthony Sivanthaphanith, Iowa City Pride president, in a press release. “It breaks my heart and the board’s heart as well.” However, Sivanthaphanith said, “ultimately, the safety of all our communities is the most important…. The board looks forward to planning more events soon and some creative ways, virtually, to celebrate.”…

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“Pass that virtual blunt!”

Those of us old enough to remember “Pass that virtual blunt” on our flip phones probably have also participated in 4/20 in many ways: perhaps going over to a combustion connoisseur’s house, or using acrylic gas mask bongs, or passing around ornate glass pieces, or rolling up whether or not it could smoke. Growing up in Iowa, 4/20 was a day of driving around back roads, visiting nature, and gathering in groups.  Today, as we all adjust to the coronavirus crisis, celebrating 4/20 needs to be more solitary — and…

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Toomey brings relatable “in your face” comedy to Floodwater Friday night

Alyssa Limperis headlines tomorrow night’s showcase of Floodwater, which features more than 75 comedians over three days at five Iowa City venues. IOWA CITY – Kristen Toomey revels in defiance, isn’t really interested in being “agreeable,” and loves to connect directly with her audience. “I’m sort of trying to observe things, and not agree with anyone fully, which is really hard to navigate,” she says. “I want to come up with my own mixture of everything instead of just buying in to one side of anything.” Toomey brings her “in…

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Your Words: “He”

Due to popular demand, we are adding a new feature in The Real MainStream: “Your Words,” featuring poetry and prose submitted by our readers. Our debut poet: Coralville resident Katie James, pictured here with her son Ro. “Basically, I am a gay mom who is also raising a 13-year-old trans guy. Being the parent of a trans kid is a unique experience, but seeing your child bloom into exactly the person they were meant to be is one of the most rewarding things any parent can witness. There are so…

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‘Kinky Boots’ enlightens

ROCK ISLAND – Brett Hitchcock calls it one of the “edgiest” shows the Circa 21 Dinner Playhouse has ever put on in its 43-year history, comparable only to “The Full Monty.” “Kinky Boots,” the award-winning creation of Cyndi Lauper and Harvey Fierstein, is on stage four to five shows weekly through March 14. The story features a quartet of drag queens who join to support their leader, Lola, as she helps a shoe designer create a line of erotic footwear to save his factory. “The message of the show is…

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To step into your writer self, read your own story

I constantly have conversations with people who commend me for being a writer and within the same breath, assure me that they could never be one. Here’s a story about one of those people. A student of mine, we’ll call her June, regularly attends the weekly IC Speaks workshops at her school, and it’s undeniable–nearly contagious–how excited she is about writing and performing.  One week, she brought a friend (or more accurately, dragged her friend) into the workshop by the wrist, amidst groans and protests.  When I asked our visitor…

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Writers are pushed to write more through NaNoWriMo

At least 50,000 words written in thirty days. Such is the insanity I undertake every November, along with hundreds of thousands of people from around the world. November was NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), and according to NaNoWriMo.org, over 400,000 people participated last year in over 655 regions on six continents. I was one of them. I have participated in NaNoWriMo since November 2015. That first year, I was enormously pregnant with my youngest, who was born eight days after NaNo finished.  But I actually won. I wrote those 50,000…

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