My Happy Place Part V: Helping Others | Chaz’s Journal

My Happy Place Part V: Helping Others | Chaz’s Journal


Rashada Dawan, actor and founder of Karaoke for Peace

My #happyplace used to be telling stories on stage. As an actress and singer I had the privilege of traveling all over the world performing in “The Lion King” and other plays and musicals, but while on tour I kept hearing so much sad news about gun violence in Chicago and particularly in my neighborhood on the Southside of Chicago. I came home and kept hearing the same and knew I wanted to be part of the solution. I didn’t have a lot of money but I could donate my time and talent. I took cardboard boxes and paper and pasted them on foam board to make signs. I copied sheets with lyrics to songs, and I went to the areas where there had been the most gun violence and set up my Karaoke for Peace stand. I wanted to reach out through song and compassion to inspire peace. Part of my performance was done in collaboration with a memorial for a policeman who was killed. And what I found is that lots of people wanted the same thing, to come together for peace. Some sang with me, some wanted hugs, some shed tears. But in the coming together we found a shared humanity, and for at least those brief moments, peace. 

To be honest, the coronavirus pandemic and quarantine sent me into the process of grieving. We were in the middle of a production of “Intimate Apparel” which was to be featured at the Northlight Theater in April, and we had to stop abruptly after the dress rehearsal. I cried after I left the stage with my theater family. However, amidst acknowledging my aching heart, I am grateful to say that I have also found another happy place: in my home and in my community! As a proud South Shore resident, time has been given to me to help bring healing to my neighbors and to my home as a mother to my two daughters. I love being present to help my teenager stumble through her teens and to watch my 3-year-old discover the lyrics to “Let It Go” from Disney’s Frozen and “How Far I’ll Go” from Disney’s “Moana”. So, I’m learning that happy places can be in more than one place and for that, I am grateful. 

Courtesy of the Greater Chicago Food Depository.


Our contributors’ contribution to the Greater Chicago Food Depository

For my birthday this year, I am making a donation to the Greater Chicago Food Depository, a gift that had been made possible by the generosity of some of our contributors at When I say contributors I mean not only our regular film critics and writers, but freelancers from other sites such as Quinn Hough from Vague Visages, Muslim Chaplain Omer M. Mozaffar, and our Assistant Editor Nell Minow, to name a few. It also includes those who have gone through the Ebert Fellowship programs, the Far Flung Correspondents from other countries, the women who contribute to Women Writers Week and so many more. I am sure they will be embarrassed for me to mention their generous acts, but they touched my heart with their generosity. And they allowed me to choose a charity. Some donated the money in honor of the late Chadwick Boseman and his charitable acts. Others did it just because.


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