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Friday 12/11 - Thursday 12/17

DECEMBER

By Cara Jepsen

11 FRIDAY The shiny black helmetlike masks worn by African Mende women during female initiation rituals are loaded with meaning: the downcast eyes symbolize spirituality, the high forehead represents good fortune or intelligence, the small mouth indicates an aversion to gossip, the smooth skin denotes youth, and the elaborately braided hair stands for close ties between women. The women's dances provide the foundation for Muntu Dance Theatre's new offering from former National Dance Theatre of Liberia artistic director Nimley Napla, Echoes of Liberian Culture--Village of So-So Women. The piece will be performed with Mickey Davison's Juba Jig at a production called Ancient Echoes Calling. Tonight's concert performance will be followed by a benefit gala that includes dinner, dancing, and the presentation of an award to Geraldine de Haas of Jazz Unites. The festivities start at 7:30 at Kennedy-King College, 6800 S. Wentworth. All seats for tonight's performance are $50; other shows this weekend are $15 to $17. Call 773-602-1135 for tickets and information, or see the dance listings in Section Two.

12 SATURDAY Reducing clutter, creating low-cost entertainment options, planning for early retirement, and working less and playing more were some of the hot topics at last month's meeting of Voluntary Simplicity-Chicago. "It's about your expenses," said one member. "If you make $100,000 and spend it, you're still poor." In other words, they're in favor of forgoing things like designer coffee, restaurants, and luxury items if it means a more relaxed lifestyle. Today the group will continue its quest to make do with less at its free December meeting, which starts at 9 AM at 711 W. Monroe. Call 708-339-4132 for more.

13 SUNDAY There's a lot of money to be made in jail--as long as you're not inside. Billions of public dollars are being funneled into building prisons. Inmates, most of them African-American, often work in exchange for minuscule wages and a chance to reduce their sentences. Critics compare the phenomenon to slavery, since someone else is profiting and inmates who refuse to work usually lose privileges. Today Cheryl Graves from the Northwestern University Legal Clinic's Child and Family Justice Center will join the National Coalition Against Racism and Political Oppression's Josephine Wyatt to discuss Blacks and the Prison Industrial Complex. The free event is from 2 to 4 at the Carter G. Woodson Regional Library, 9525 S. Halsted (312-747-6969).

14 MONDAY At today's Sacred Pampering Seminar, Debrena Jackson Gandy, author of Sacred Pampering Principles: An African-American Woman's Guide to Self-Care and Inner Renewal, will reveal such long-hidden secrets as how to turn your bath into a spa and how to make massage oil out of stuff in your kitchen. She'll also discuss holistic methods to combat what she calls "dis-ease"--a common affliction of women on the fast track. The daylong event includes a continental breakfast, lunch, two presentations, and plenty of networking opportunities. It's from 9 to 3 at Van Cleef Salon, 56 W. Huron, and costs $99 (part of pampering includes splurging). Or you could borrow her book from the library and spend the day reading it in the tub--er, spa. Call 773-874-7884 to reserve a spot.

15 TUESDAY Back in grade school the music classes were divided between those of us who mouthed the words and our enablers--the students who actually sang. Many of the same carols we tortured our parents with at the annual concert will be covered tonight at the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra's free community sing-along. But this should sound a lot better, since the chorus will be planted with church, synagogue, and community-group choir members. It starts at 7:30 in the Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress. The free tickets must be picked up in advance at the auditorium's box office; call 312-902-1500.

16 WEDNESDAY The Chicago Bar Association has been putting on its clever holiday musicals for the past 75 years. The annual high jinks have included a caricature of Jane Byrne singing "Don't Cry for Me Chicago," the 1972 send-up "Daleyman" (sung to "The Candy Man"), and a 1977 number called "Let a Woman in Your Firm," apparently a novel idea at the time. Lawyers of both sexes will be out tonight for this year's retrospective, Gagtime, which in addition to the back patting includes stinging slaps at Viagra and social security as well as the required jabs at the White House. The show opens tonight at 8 (and runs through Sunday) at DePaul University's Merle Reskin Theatre, 60 E. Balbo. Admission is $50; a package that includes a preshow dinner at 6 is $85, which benefits Metropolitan Family Services. Call 312-554-2000 to reserve tickets.

17 THURSDAY The 1952 Roadmaster Luxury Liner was the Fleetwood Brougham of bicycles. The comfortable state-of-the-art cruiser boasted chrome-plated wheels, a bullet-shaped headlight, and a taillight that did double duty as a brake light. The fancy extras were the idea of designer Brook Stevens, who was one of the first people to talk about planned obsolescence--in his words, "better, more desirable products each season so customers can't resist upgrading." Innumerable landfills later, Brunswick Bicycles has resurrected the smooth-riding cycle. This time around it goes for $3,000. But the lucky person who wins the raffle at tonight's Chicagoland Bicycle Federation's holiday party will have paid something a lot closer to the original asking price. The festivities are from 4:30 to 8:30 at Grace Place, 637 S. Dearborn. Admission is free; raffle tickets are $5. Call 312-427-3325 for more.

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