Windy City Media Group Frontpage News


home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2021-12-08



Tangible Things immerses visitors in African culture
by Gretchen Rachel Hammond

This article shared 698 times since Mon Feb 6, 2017
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

To stop at the unassuming storefront and walk through the doors of Tangible Things is to immediately allow all the senses to become immersed in a wealth of African culture, a beautiful myriad of spirituality and an epicenter of free expression that may occasionally change in its outward display but is constant in its welcome and the knowledge to be found even browsing the extraordinary face masks, intricately crafted earthen wear, magnificently rendered artwork celebrating Black bodies, stunning jewelry fashioned from the elements, and the aroma of incense that calms as much as it enlivens.

Chances are, even before walking onto the store, customers will meet co-owner Dr. Nancy Jackson standing outside just to meet and talk with the people of Bronzeville. She embraces humanity with an exuberance matched only by her profound knowledge of the depth of its nature.

Behind the counter, Jackson's co-owner and partner, Gwen Pruitt, is hard at the business of creation, whether for an innovative project called Tangible Tees which takes any image a person chooses and transfers it to a T-shirt, finishing a lovingly detailed custom oil painting ordered by clients who want the chance to see themselves, a loved one or a friend rendered in a way that is totally unique, or turning the passionate colors and sublime images that are her art into a clock face.

Pruitt has an empathy that is prodigious and immediate. When Windy City Times arrived at Tangible Things three years after its December 2014 opening, Jackson was at a meeting, so Pruitt was on the spot. Yet she was happy to talk candidly about the lives which brought the two together in not only physical and emotional love but a labor of it.

However, she would not finish the discussion without offering a sage session during which she gently offered instruction on how to shed the tensions of an unsettling week.

"Nancy and I were working together on some projects," Pruitt said as she recalled their meeting six years ago. "She was involved with schools and I did art work in the schools and shared my knowledge and experiences with at-risk high school kids. She asked me out for dinner. I got to know her and the rest is history."

"It was really Nancy's idea to open the store," Pruitt added. "She always viewed my art as something special. I viewed her work in the same way. She's a historian who had all these pieces of African art and she wanted to showcase them and share information about them with the community. It also gave me an opportunity to share the paintings, sculptures, jewelry, stained glass and woodwork that I do."

One of the original goals of Tangible Things, transformed from the torn-out remains of a former T-shirt shop, was to partly become a community café.

"We used to have a bar up front," Pruitt said. "We were serving coffee and tea but the city came in and started threatening us. They told us that we had to have certain licensing. They let us stay open as long as we didn't serve food. Back then, I wasn't sure how we would be received but Nancy loves conversation. Even if it is freezing, she will stand outside and draw people in. So people came to hang out. We would have wine and offer classes like grant writing, painting and aromatherapy. The community has been very flexible and accepting because of the variety that we offer to them."

No matter what their heritage, sexual orientation or gender identity, that community will also find unconditional acceptance within the walls of Tangible Things.

"People can interact with us and equals," Pruitt said.

She and Jackson treasure and honor the support they have received from a neighborhood determined to aid in the success of a Black business; however, Bronzeville is a neighborhood that has changed dramatically since Pruitt's childhood.

"My mother has a big, beautiful sandstone home on 44th and Berkeley," she said. "I remember my grandma taking me on 47th Street, and all those shops and stores. As I grew up, there was a point my grandmother didn't want me sitting on the porch because she was afraid that someone would shoot me. Now there's been another transition. Just recently restaurants that wouldn't even deliver food have just started. We are in the middle of a process of a re-gentrified community."

The country around Bronzeville has shifted as well, but in a far more radical direction. Speaking by phone to Windy City Times, Jackson examined the significance of this moment in history and this year's Black History Month, in particular.

"The average people I'm talking to out here in the community are afraid of what is to come," she said. "Sixty percent are not sure where they are going to be three years from now. Forty percent are excited about the prospect of new jobs and business development."

"What started out as Black History Week is extremely significant and important not only to our store but also our neighborhood," she added. "There are so many African-American families that are involved in the cultural economy of the city of Chicago. This February, at this time, is very important because we came out of a very polarizing election. We are seeing young people getting engaged in very positive ways such as with groups like Black Lives Matter. We are seeing women galvanized. This month is an opportunity for us to shine to those who don't know us, don't believe in us, who don't view African Americans as making the great contribution that we have made, so that they can take a moment to pause and look at us and see that we are the purveyors of culture."

Tangible Things is a deliberate testament to that.

"We are trying to remind people that treasures come in all sizes, shapes and colors and all kinds of origins, locally, from the broader region and through the United States and the African continent," Jackson said. "We present these treasures and opportunities for learning that are outside of the mainstream, outside of the box or a narrow, nationalistic focus."

For more information, visit .

This article shared 698 times since Mon Feb 6, 2017
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email


Gay News

Founders First offering grants to underrepresented Chicagoland business owners
-- From a press release - CHICAGO — Founders First CDC— a national 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that empowers expansion in diverse founder-led, revenue-generating businesses—announced a second and expanded Job Creators Quest Grant ...

Gay News

Lambda Legal issues assessment of Biden-Harris administration's work for LGBTQ+, HIV communities
-- From a press release - Washington, D.C. — Lambda Legal released a new comprehensive report that assesses the Biden-Harris administration's first year with respect to its impact on the LGBTQ+ community and everyone living with HIV. While the report identifies significan ...

Gay News

Gilead: Patients received fake HIV drugs
Gilead Sciences Inc said an unauthorized network of drug distributors and suppliers sold pharmacies more than $250 million of counterfeit versions of its HIV treatments over the last two years, endangering patients, Reuters reported. The drugmaker ...

Gay News

Human Rights Campaign Foundation releases new data on the LGBTQ+ wage gap
-- From a press release - WASHINGTON — Today, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, the educational arm of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) civil rights organization, released ...

Gay News

Passing the torch: How generations of trans women approach activism, advocacy
As part of an older generation of transgender women in Chicago (including icon Gloria Allen), advocate Channyn Lynne Parker knows the work will outlast her. That's why she thinks of advocacy like a marathon, not a ...

Gay News

Plaintiff in historic Florida marriage-equality lawsuit found dead
In Florida, Jorge Diaz-Johnston was recently found dead in a Jackson County landfill, ABC News reported. Diaz-Johnston, 54, was reported missing on Jan. 3 near his workplace and police are investigating his death as a homicide, ...

Gay News

VIEWS Hoarders
One TV program that I alternately love and hate is Hoarders. The producers send a team of psychologists, organizers and laborers into a person's home and they all work (and argue) about cleaning the place up ...

Gay News

Skydeck Chicago announces Valentine's Day 'Love on The Ledge' contest
Skydeck Chicago has announced its annual "Love on The Ledge" social media contest. The event at the Willis Tower observation deck gives adventurous couples of all backgrounds the chance to tie the knot or renew their ...

Gay News

CPS canceling classes Jan. 5-7 after union votes to go virtual [UPDATE]
Classes have been canceled Jan. 5-7 in Chicago Public Schools (CPS) after the teachers union voted to refuse to appear for in-person work, The Chicago Tribune reported. Mayor Lori Lightfoot criticized the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) for ...

Gay News

SPORTS Bears top Giants 29-3; Blackhawks lose again
With their offense and defense working together, the Chicago Bears (6-10) jumped to a quick 14-0 lead and cruised to a 29-3 drubbing of the New York Giants (4-12). "They didn't let up all day," said ...

Gay News

LGBTQ travel expert Jeff Guaracino dies at 48
Philadelphia native, author and Visit Philadelphia President/CEO Jeff Guaracino died Dec. 28, following a long battle with cancer. He was 48. Guaracino worked to boost the economies of both his hometown and Atlantic City as head ...

Gay News

A look at Northalsted/Boystown bars since 2020 town hall on racism
Video below - Zola Chatman began her drag career in 2018 at a drag brunch at Kitchen 17, a local vegan restaurant. Chatman, a Black trans woman from Chicago, entered the drag world thinking she was joining a supportive ...

Gay News

LGBTQ activists raising money to help trans trailblazer Gavin Grimm
LGBTQ advocates and allies are raising money to help transgender trailblazer Gavin Grimm remain housed after a health crisis that left him unable to work, Metro Weekly reported. Grimm—whose name has become synonymous with transgender rights—rose ...

Gay News

THEATER Shattered Globe running revival of play about workplace racism
Shattered Globe Theatre (SGT) has announced a revival of Chicago writer Joel Drake Johnson's Rasheeda Speaking, directed by SGT Associate Artistic Director AmBer D. Montgomery. This comedy-turned-social thriller about workplace ...

Gay News

Filmmaker B. Danielle Watkins discusses her 'Higher Spirit'
Although lesbian filmmaker/screenwriter/author B. Danielle Watkins has now made two films about Christmas, she admitted she really doesn't like movies that center on the holiday. "My best friend and business partner, Onyx Keesha, loves them," Watkins ...


Copyright © 2022 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.






About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Advanced Search     
Windy City Queercast      Queercast Archives     
Press  Releases      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast      Blogs     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Privacy Policy     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.