One City. One Dream. One Chicago.

In response to recent anti-immigrant sentiment expressed and embodied by our current President, Rahm Emanuel and the city of Chicago have launched a “One Chicago” campaign, to showcase a unified voice across all of our residents, citizens or not. Unity, equality, and inclusion, that’s what this city is all about. Below are a few featured stories from the campaign.

Alpana Singh

Alpana Singh is one of my favorite Indian American celebrities in Chicago.

Alpana is a Master Sommelier and entrepreneur. She moved to America from Fiji with her family when she was three years old, and at age 23 she moved to Chicago to run the wine program at Everest. Now she owns three restaurants and believes that her story could not have happened in any other city. (caption from 

Retaj Abedat

I wanted to share Retaj’s story because the reason for most immigration is to secure a better future for the children. I know that’s the driving force for my parents and I want to do what I can to ensure that more children are given the same opportunities that I was.

Retaj is a student living in Kedzie. She recently moved to Chicago with her family as a Syrian refugee looking for safety and a better education. She loves school, learning ballet and wants to be a surgical doctor when she grows up. (caption from 

Peoples Music School

Chicago is a city known for it’s music. Be it the Blues, to House, to Kanye and Chance, we definitely leave our mark on culture. The Peoples Music School seeks to ensure everyone has affordable access to music and a chance to pursue their passion.

The People’s Music School was founded by Rita Simo, a pianist from the Dominican Republic whose education at Juilliard inspired her to teach music to American students for free. The school started in Uptown in 1976 and has expanded to four different programs across Chicago. Reflecting Chicago’s diverse ethnic makeup, there are over 20 languages spoken by the families of the 600 young musicians who attend classes. (caption from

“Three million Chicagoans. Three million stories. Three million reasons to stand together.”


Desi Theater in Chicago

Living in Chicago, I’m lucky enough that we have the talent, space, patrons, and interest to cultivate South Asian arts. One of the most special artistic outlets we have is Rasaka Theater Company, a Desi theater company that performs “South Asian stories” by “South Asian artists”.

Rasaka Theater Company Logo
Rasaka Theater Company Logo

I first learned about Rasaka back in 2011 when I went to watch their production of Gruesome Playground Injuries, a play by Rajiv Joseph, starring Mouzam Makkar (who later went on to act on such TV shows as The ExorcistVampire Diaries, and upcoming Chicago Justice). I was serving on the associate board of a local non-profit and helped sell tickets to the play as a fundraiser. Ever the one to celebrate South Asians making the American experience their own, I was so excited to see a medium that isn’t the most mainstream art, being showcased and accessible. Hence why I am choosing to write about them now.

Rasaka was founded in 2003 by a group of South Asian artists who were looking to put on a production and worked together to bring their gifts to the community. Check out their mission statement:

Rasaka Theatre Company is based in Chicago and is the Midwest’s first South Asian American ensemble. Our goal is to increase diversity among artists and audience by engaging and illuminating the South Asian American experience. We are particularly dedicated to providing a platform for the artistic expression of South Asian artists.

Our vision encompasses the production of theatrical projects – newly created, adapted and already established. We aim to broaden, strengthen and enrich the experience of the theatre going audience thereby enhancing the local, regional, national and international reputation of Chicago theatre.

“Rasa” means the essence or inspiration of a work of art, and adding “ka” behind a word makes it “of” that, as in “of the essence of art.”  Rasaka’s goal is to increase diversity among artists and audience by engaging and illuminating the South Asian American experience, with particular dedication to providing a platform for the artistic expression of South Asian artists.

If you’re interested in supporting their mission, I encourage you to check out some of their productions. They are currently running a play based on Anton Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya adapted by Lavina Jadhwani. It’s playing at the Edge Theater in Uptown thru February 3rd and you can buy tickets here.

Vanya (or, 'That's Live!')
Vanya (or, ‘That’s Life!’) Pictured from L to R: Puja Mohindra, Richard Costes, Rom Barkhordar, & Tiffany Renee Johnson
“Anton Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya continues to be one of the greatest and continually relevant of plays – concerned with family relationships, broken hearts, and the rampant disappointment of midlife crisis. In this hilarious and sharp reinvention, there is great providence in the shattering of a teacup, time moves backwards, and our bored, sad Chekhovian friends have a tendency to lapse into singing American Indie folk tunes. What could be more Russian? Or American?”