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Welcome to the February 2023 issue of NON:onLINE!
A Broken Contract
Kameron Locke
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty…,” Abraham Lincoln famously began his brief speech to a crowd in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on November 19, 1863. Was it all wishful thinking, or were his stirring words meant to conjure the rebirth of a nation that was created through violence, theft, and enslavement? Although Lincoln’s opinion on the freedom and equality of Black Americans had evolved by 1863, his proposition, “that all men are created equal,” remains an illusion. Today, as politicians revive Lincoln’s legacy in an attempt to inflate their own self-image, and our leaders, states, and individuals strive to safeguard and enshrine a neo-Confederacy of the twenty-first century, it is clear that his words have fallen on deaf ears. In all earnest, has America grasped what equality for all, this allusive ideal, truly means? Lincoln voiced a hopeful promise, yet, as Salvatore Martirano’s L’sGA suggests, this verbal contract, though inspirational, are empty words left unfulfilled.

... all men are created equal.

In the public sphere, a white, male American president voluntarily expressed the need for a unified and reborn nation, a nation where the enslavement of Black bodies was no more, and “freedom” was assured for its’ citizens. Lincoln acknowledged that this country must move beyond its gross institutionalized traditions to gain “a new birth of freedom,” to finally achieve the equality proclaimed in the preludial Declaration of Independence. Lincoln’s evolution continued up to his assassination, as subsequent writing alludes to his increased support of Black Americans’ freedom and reparations. “Freedom” was eventually restored to the enslaved Africans who were born into slavery on the soil of this young nation, yet, has the rebirth of the United States come, now seven score and twelve years after Lincoln’s address?
A century later, Salvatore Martirano responded to Lincoln’s most often quoted speech, pointedly depicting his opinion based on the state of affairs at the time. He composed and birthed his 1968 L’sGA, a visual-audio critique of Lincoln’s oration, during a period of great strife for this nation, when it was glaringly evident to him that this rebirth was arrested at a prepubescent state. The United States found itself, once again, deadlocked in battles of freedom, equality, and sacrificed lives—on all fronts—abroad with the Vietnam War and at home with the African American Civil Rights Movement. I considered some of the battles that my birth country is currently facing, such as institutionalized and systemic racism, sexual and gender identity, wealth disparity, prison reform, as I approached creating my own take on Martirano’s L’sGA. Additionally, I questioned what the Gettysburg Address means now, its relevance, and its urgency related to our current political, racial, and societal affairs.

we are still in an ongoing war for
the freedom of Black Americans

I struggle to find a balance between Lincoln’s 1863 Gettysburg Address and our ever-present reality. Black Lives Matter, a movement that began in 2013, is needed to protest that “Black lives matter”—it is a simple message, but even still, many struggle to agree with and accept this. I question, how much of “me” was included in his speech? Lincoln recited his words at a time when the United States was at war with its very existence, at a time when the humanity of Africans and their American-born descendants was finally being considered by white America. In 2020, we meet again, at the same junction. Lincoln’s speech recognized a fact he believed the United States was prepared to engage with, but he was unwilling to confront the past that generated the need for this rebirth. He advanced in his views on race, but he could not imagine the vocabulary and the emotions of Black Americans who faced unthinkable suffering at the hands of white America. To answer a question I posed earlier, America has yet to realize what equality for all means. After nearly two centuries, we are still in an ongoing war for the freedom of Black Americans to be, to do, and to live.

Kameron Locke (he/him) is L’sGA’s first commissioned artist. At the time he had just finished a degree in vocal performance at Chicago’s Roosevelt University and emigrated to Berlin. A classical singer and research-based artist, Locke expresses what he defines as the “facets of Blackness” through music, performance, and study. Currently, he is living and performing in Spain.

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[ SAVE THE DATE ] L'sGA : Lincoln's Gettysburg Address

L'sGA : Lincoln's Gettysburg Address
Illinois Tour Dates
March 4, 7pm • McLean County Museum of History
200 North Main Street, Bloomington IL 61701
wheelchair accessible
FREE, Registration Recommended
March 5, 6:30pm • Urbana Independent Media Center
202 South Broadway Ave, Urbana IL 61801
wheelchair accessible
FREE, Registration Recommended
March 12, 7pm • Elastic Arts
3429 West Diversey Ave, Chicago IL 60647
not wheelchair accessible
$15 in advance/$20 at the door
On November 19, 1863, President Lincoln spoke at the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery and described the United States as a nation “conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” As we continue to witness disproportionate brutality against Black Americans, NON:op Open Opera Works presents L’sGA : Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, a concert tour of three commissioned works by Black artists that re-interpret and re-present the Gettysburg Address and Sal Martirano’s 1967 anti-war classic, L’sGA.

Chicago Hip Hop artist and poet Kao Ra Zen, 3Arts awardee and multidisciplinary artist A.J. McClenon, and Urbana poet laureate Ja Nelle Davenport-Pleasure explore themes of liberty, oppression, patriotism, racism, and revolution. Chicago Emmy winner, actor, and playwright, Willie “Prince Roc” Round, will be featured in a new production of Martirano’s L’sGA.
Concerts take place in Bloomington at the McLean County Museum of History (March 4), Urbana at the Independent Media Center (March 5), and Chicago at Elastic Arts (March 12). The performances will be preceded by a reading of the Gettysburg Address and poet and L’sGA collaborator M.C. Holloway’s Dance Wreck. The Bloomington and Urbana programs will include a panel presentation with scholars, activists, and artists. The Urbana program will include a presentation by the Writers of Oya from their writing workshop conducted by Ja Nelle and Kao.
For more information visit the L’sGA : Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address pages on our website.
Contact for access questions.
L’sGA : Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address is partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency.

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NON:op is growing, and like many organizations coming out of the pandemic, we are growing with projects, installations, and performances. It's quite an exciting time for us! Are you savvy about one or more aspects of running a non-profit? Join our board of directors. Do you have a passion for planning engaging events and projects? Join our programming committee. For more information, contact Christophe at non [at] nonopera [dot] org. And to find out more about NON:op Open Opera Works and our initiatives visit our WEBSITE.

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Governing and Programming Board Positions
Do you believe in the work we are doing? If so, please contact non [at] nonopera [dot] org to find out how you can support NON:op as a Board member. NON:op is seeking creative, passionate, and inspired individuals to join our board of directors in one of the following roles:
Programming Committee
The programming committee meets monthly with the artistic director and is responsible for supporting current programming and devising and producing future programming and events.
Governing Committee
The governing committee is responsible for finances, governance, and legal matters in support of the organization and its programming. The governing committee meets once per quarter and is joined by members of the programming committee.

[ EXPERIENCES ] Hear Below 2023

What do you hear?? For a fifth consecutive year, NON:op Open Opera Works and Midwest Society for Acoustic Ecology team up to offer HEAR BELOW: Listening to Chicago Underground, a subterranean, site-specific soundwalk through Chicago’s Pedway system.
This year, HEAR BELOW takes place during the month of April. Led by teaching artists, HEAR BELOW is an invitation to discover what listening means to YOU in these unusual sonic spaces. Teaching artists create a guided soundwalk with in-person guided soundwalks and online tools and materials to explore and create your own route. Join us in April or year-round as we invite you to share your pedway experiences with us and contribute to the Hear Below Soundwalk Community Archive.

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SAY THEIR NAMESSAY THEIR NAMES is an online living memorial and interactive map/database honoring the humanity and stories of Black lives lost to police violence.
In 2022 NON:op developed a new database and map, worked with a team of interns from the Metropolitan Chicago Data-science Corp to write code to gather and prepare data to import into the new database and map, and continued our research back to 2013. In August and September we presented STN at the New Mission Temple Church of God in Christ in North Lawndale, Jubilee Church’s Love on the Block Block Party in South Austin, the MDW Fair at MANA Contemporary in Pilsen, and the Be the Healing Conference at the Kent College of Law.
In 2023 we welcome NEIU intern Lexus Wright-Ball “Lexie” to the SAY THEIR NAMES team. In addition to research, her role includes communications and engagement strategy. This spring we will deploy the new STN map and database, training the research team to do their work via a research portal, and a feedback survey in addition to our information form. The new map will be directly accessible from the NON:op website. We also plan to continue doing community engagement projects throughout Chicago’s most affected neighborhoods.
If you would like to contribute to the database, or if you would like to assist lead researcher, Ronald Browne, with this important research please contact stn [at] nonopera [dot] org
To find out more about SAY THEIR NAMES or to submit information to the database visit the STN webpage.
View the current SAY THEIR NAMES map.
Find out more about the Research Methodology.

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Thank You to Our Funders
MacArthur Fund for Culture, Equity, and the Arts at the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation
Thank you to our newest funder, The Drihaus Foundation. NON:op Open Opera Workds is honored to receive their generous support of our programs and mission.
Robert H. and Terri L. Cohn Family Foundation
For the fourth year, NON:op Open Opera Works has received significant support from the Robert H. and Terri L. Cohn Family Foundation. We thank them for their generous donation during these difficult times. Because of funders like the Cohn Family Foundation, NON:op can continue to produce engaging, participatory, online experiences that expand the meaning of arts and humanities and provide opportunities for all persons to participate in the arts.
Illinois Arts Council Agency
Thank you to the Illinois Arts Council Agency for their Artstour support of our L'sGA : Lincoln's Gettysburg Address project. Arts Tour funding pays three artists/teams to create and present new work in response to the Gettysburg Address and Sal Martirano's L'sGA. Concerts will take place in Bloomington at the McLean County Museum of History (March 4), Urbana at the Independent Media Center (March 5) and Chicago at Elastic Arts (March 12).
NON:op received an Action Grant from Illinois Humanities to support our SAY THEIR NAMES Project. This funding allows us to continue this important research and support the development of a new database and map.
A big thank you to the Hyde Park and Kenwood Interfaith Council for their support of our SAY THEIR NAMES Project. Our partnership with HPKIC will support community outreach.

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Board, Volunteer, Intern, and Other Opportunities
NON:op is seeking board members, volunteers, interns, participants, assistants, artists, and all who have creative ideas and who would like to work with NON:op to implement a shared vision. Please contact Christophe at non [at] nonopera [dot] org if you would like to find out more and join us as we create an alternative future.

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Thank you for taking care of each other by staying indoors and practicing social distancing.
We hope you and yours are well and staying safe as we work to create an alternative future.
Christophe, Saba, Theo, Jeanette, Ron, and all of NON:op's creatives, staff, volunteers, and interns
NON:op is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
Please consider supporting NON:op's program initiatives, creatives, and mission with a donation today.
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NON:op Open Opera Works
1357 East 57th Street #2
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