Chi Lives: Bean Soup Times tastes a little like Onion | Calendar | Chicago Reader

Chi Lives: Bean Soup Times tastes a little like Onion 

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Exclusive: "Father R. Kelly? Cardinal Persuades Singer to Enter Priesthood....Believes Kelly could lift moral standards of wayward priests by persuading them to take advantage of drunk teenage girls instead of sober young boys."

News brief: "[W]hite people from across the country gathered in the rubble of Robert Taylor Homes to reminisce on their past drug buy experiences and to urge the Chicago officials to reconsider redevelopment plans. 'This plan will destroy a great source of recreational drugs for entire white suburban families,' said event organizer Derek Pincha. 'My friend Nasty Dawg here has served not only me, but my mother, sister, several aunts and even my dear old grannie. We can't let this institution die without a fight.'"

No, it's not the Onion but an Afrocentric variant with a similarly edible name. Cooked up by 32-year-old publisher Toure Muhammad, Bean Soup Times is named for a popular Nation of Islam dish packed with garlic, onions, green peppers, and navy beans. "It's something that has a nice mixture of different things that come together for a pleasing taste," says Muhammad, a Nation member since he was 19. His satire is the slim paper's backbone, but the Times also offers interviews with celebrities like Halle Berry, creative writing, and music, restaurant, book, and movie reviews written by Muhammad and friends.

A former reporter for the Nation's newspaper the Final Call, Muhammad is currently the communications director for the National Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice, based at the Edgewater Presbyterian Church, at Bryn Mawr and Kenmore. He made the move to PR because he thought he could better serve the black community by getting information out to the mainstream press. He started Bean Soup Times for similar reasons, wanting to combine his love of writing and comedy with social commentary that speaks to all. "I'm tired of seeing pain and suffering," he says. "I yearn for every individual to have freedom, justice, and equality."

Born last year as a newsletter E-mailed to friends (and now on-line at www.beansouptimes.com), the paper has grown rapidly. Since December Muhammad's published four issues on paper, and plans to do two more by the end of the year; it's distributed free at libraries, stores, and restaurants as well as Afrocentric Bookstore, the Cultural Bookstore, and Borders on State. Muhammad says he has sunk about $2,000 of his own money into the paper and that the costs of the current 12-page issue were completely covered by advertising sales.

Last summer the Web site caught the attention of Stephanie Gadlin Shakur, founder and director of a black writers group called Nommo Gathering. She thought Muhammad's satire had potential and invited him into the collective to help write a sketch comedy revue under the auspices of the Second City Training Center. All the writers received full scholarships for the one-year workshop, the center's first all-black writing program. The resulting hour-long show, which opens this weekend, includes a sketch based on a Bean Soup piece speculating on the Second Coming: "Jesus Returns as a Black Man," read the headline, "Gets Arrested by Police."

NomMo Remote Control premieres at 8 PM August 3 at Donny's Skybox Studio, Piper's Alley, 1608 N. Wells, and runs Saturdays through August 24. Tickets are $8, $5 for students; for reservations and information call 312-337-3992.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Marty Perez.

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