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By Cara Jepsen

Friday 16

What better city than segregated Chicago to host "Bridging the Racial Divide," the nation's first interracial forum on black reparations? Representatives from the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America and Caucasians United for Reparations and Emancipation come together tonight to discuss solutions for racial equality. There will also be an open mike for audience participation. The event runs from 5:30 to 9:30 at the Washington Park Refectory, 5331 Russell. A $5 donation is suggested. Food will be available. Call 789-0708 for more.

My late grandmother was wont to toke on a mini cheroot at the close of a good meal, much to the chagrin of the rest of the family. She wasn't alone: George Sand, Greta Garbo, and Catherine the Great were also fans of the stinky weed. Today's women have caught up; witness Mancow's Morning Madhouse cohost Irma Blanco chomping a stogie on the cover of a recent issue of Chicago Cigar Smoker Magazine. Imagine the haze tonight as Morton's of Chicago hosts a cigar dinner for women. The $95 smoke fest includes cigars, fancy liquor, and a four-course meal as well as expert advice on cigar selection and etiquette. A cocktail reception kicks off the evening at 6:30. Dinner is at 7:30 at Morton's Westchester restaurant, 22nd and Wolf, in Westchester. Call 708-562-7000 for reservations.

Stanley Crouch, an unsparing music critic and the author of last year's The All-American Skin Game, is working on an eight-part miniseries entitled Jazz: The Music, The People, The Myth and a new biography of Charlie Parker, among other things. He was involved in the avant-garde jazz scene and founded the Jazz at Lincoln Center program with Wynton Marsalis. He'll lecture at 6:30 tonight at the Chicago Jazz Ensemble's second annual Mardi Gras concert, which features William Russo conducting music by Jelly Roll Morton, Duke Ellington, and others. The music starts at 8. It happens at the University of Chicago's Mandel Hall, 1131 E. 57th. A reception follows. Tix are $20, $10 for students and seniors. Call 461-9708 for more.

Saturday 17

The men who try out for the Chicago Gay Men's Chorus 1997 calendar today should be good-looking and well built, but not necessarily able to carry a tune. Open auditions are from noon to 4 today and tomorrow at the Sheil Park field house, 3505 N. Southport. Call 561-5182 or 883-8856 for more information.

Diana Ross's Motown Cafe jacket, Byant Gumbel's NBC denim jacket, and Spike Lee's Spike's Joint jacket will be among the items auctioned off at tonight's "Night of 100 Stars," a benefit for the DuSable Museum of African-American History's new children's gallery. It's expensive ($150), but you could leave with a new jacket. It happens from 5:30 to midnight at the museum, 740 E. 56th Place. Call 947-0600 for more.

Sunday 18

Dots of flour, chalk arrows, and toilet paper mark the path for today's WinterBreak Run, sponsored by Chicago's Hash House Harriers. In this race, which is approximately four miles, "hashers," or runners, try to follow the trail created by the "hare." When the hashers are on the right track, they yell "On, On!" When they get lost, they catch their breath while the slower runners catch up. It's free, open to runners of all abilities, and starts at noon at Mother Hubbard's, 5 W. Hubbard. Postrun refreshments are available. Call 409-2337 for more.

Some call it rabbit food, others call it art. Whatever the label, today's fruit and vegetable carving demonstration by chef William London promises to be good for the psyche. Why else would it be sponsored by the Institute for Positive Mental Health? The event takes place from 3 to 6:30 today at the downtown Marriott, 540 N. Michigan. Admission is $25; proceeds benefit the institute. Call 251-5250.

"There's a direct link to Easter and why we're in business," says Jacquie Lewis of the House Rabbit Society. Since 1990 the society has rescued over 350 abandoned, abused, and neglected rabbits, which they rehabilitate in their all-volunteer network. The litter-trained bunnies are then placed in permanent homes. The society's 1996 Bunny Benefit is tonight at Second City, Etc., 1608 N. Wells. Tix are $24 in advance, $30 at the door. The cash bar reception is at 6, the performance of Farewell My CompuServe at 7. To reserve a seat or to learn about adopting, call 847-831-2691, ext. 8.

Monday 19

Finally there's a place for all those discarded, forgotten, or otherwise useless items that are too dear to throw away. "In and Out," a collaboration involving Rirkrit Tiravanija, the Resource Center, and UIC's School of Art and Design, opens today with a gallery of empty bins; viewers participate by depositing items in them or removing items from them. In the process of acquiring some new stuff gallerygoers just might learn something about surplus and demand. The exhibit runs through March 16 at the university's Gallery 400, 400 S. Peoria. The gallery's hours are 9 to 5 weekdays, noon to 4 Saturdays. A free reception takes place Wednesday, February 21, from 4 to 7. For more information, call 996-6114.

A Starbucks barista is one of the few jobs Abraham Lincoln did not hold prior to being elected the nation's 16th president. But storyteller and banjo player Dan LeMonnier can shed some light on what Abe did do. Today at 10:15 and 11 he'll be entertaining visitors with songs and stories about Lincoln's life as part of the Chicago Historical Society's President's Day celebration, which also includes the opportunity to make a stovepipe hat and to watch a Lincoln impersonator reenact some of the president's speeches. It's all free and happens at the society, Clark at North. Call 642-4600 for more.

Tuesday 20

The late Charles Bukowski called Gerald Locklin "one of the greatest undiscovered talents of our time." Be among the cognizant today when the southern California poet reads from his work at 12:15; appearing with Locklin is local poet David Starkey. It's free and takes place at the Chicago Authors Room at the Harold Washington Library Center, 400 S. State. Call 747-4700 for more.

Dorothy West was an African-American woman born at the turn of the century to a prosperous Boston family. Her autobiographical novel, The Living Is Easy, which chronicled the lives of middle-class African-Americans in Harlem during its heyday, provides the foundation for the film As I Remember It. It shows tonight at 6 at the Chicago Cultural Center theater, 78 E. Washington. Call 346-3278 for more. Admission is free.

Wednesday 21

The case of Pennsylvania death-row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal has attracted the attention of defenders of civil liberties and opponents of capital punishment throughout the world. He's also got a top-notch attorney in Leonard Weinglass, whose clients have included members of the Chicago Seven, African-American writer and activist Angela Davis, and presidential daughter Amy Carter. Weinglass and Ramona Africa, the only MOVE member to survive the 1985 firebombing of the black group's headquarters and an organizer for the International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal, are on a weeklong speaking tour of the midwest to discuss "what Jamal's case means and why he should be set free." Weinglass will be in town tomorrow and Friday, February 23. Africa makes two appearances tonight: at a gathering from 6 to 9 at Northeastern Illinois University's Center for Inner City Studies, 700 E. Oakwood (it's free but organizers will pass around a donation hat), and at a benefit at Fireside Bowl, which lasts from 8 to midnight at 2646 W. Fullerton (proceeds from the $5 admission fee go to Jamal's defense fund). Call 322-1761 for information on other speaking engagements and benefits.

The legend goes something like this: When Aliotta, Haynes, and Jeremiah debuted their 1970s tune "Lake Shore Drive" at an open mike, they forgot most of the words and were forced to improvise. The song went on to be a hit in Chicago, if nowhere else. Songwriter Ted Aliotta continued to write poetry, which he calls "a unique call to try and help humanity, which is in all of us." The "cunning linguist," as he's been called, mixes his contribution to society with electric guitar and harmonica tonight at the Guild Complex's fourth annual Musicality of Poetry Festival. It's at the Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division, at 7:30. Admission is $7, $5 for students, $3 for open mike readers. Call 278-2210.

Thursday 22

New York City performer Danny Hoch has an uncanny ability to capture the essence of the urban characters he portrays, as witnessed the success of last year's one-man show Some People. He and Chicago Tribune drama critic Richard Christiansen participate in a "Dialogue on the Art of Monologue," at 5:30 tonight at the Arts Club of Chicago, 222 W. Superior. It's free, but seating is limited. Call 787-3997 for reservations.

It seems a bit early for Around the Coyote, but the winter version of the yuppies-invade-Wicker Park art thang kicks off with tonight's ATC fashion show, "Coyote Couture." It happens at 9 at Subterranean, 2011 W. North. A live performance by the Convulsions follows. Call 384-0022 for more.

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