Justin Cunningham and Essence Smith Break Down SocialWorks’ A Night At The Museum
Written by Vocalo Radio on December 16, 2022
As Chicago nonprofit SocialWorks gears up for its fourth annual Night at the Museum event at the Museum of Science and Industry, co-founder Justin Cunningham and director of operations and communications Essence Smith stopped by the Vocalo studios to talk about the event and about new developments on the horizon…
Co-founded by Grammy Award-winning musician Chance the Rapper and Chicago activist Justin Cunningham, SocialWorks is a non-profit which aims to empower kids through the arts, education and civic engagement. Through their initiatives, including OpenMike, Warmest Winter and Kids of the Kingdom, SocialWorks focuses on education, mental health, homelessness and the arts.
In support of the Warmest Winter initiative, which aims to provide relief for individuals experiencing homelessness, SocialWorks’ annual A Night at the Museum is a winter celebration at the Museum of Science and Industry on Dec. 16 — and a winter clothes donation drive. The event organizers invite attendees to bring donation items including coats, scarves, gloves, toys and hygiene items, which will later be sorted, counted and distributed by SocialWorks to those in need beginning in January.
“Sometimes… when you hear about giving back to… those experiencing homelessness… you see it stop right after Christmas,” Essence Smith, director of operations and communications at SocialWorks, told Vocalo mornings host Bekoe. “We believe that people need support all year round.”
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Every year, A Night at the Museum brings together Chicagoans from all over the city — and volunteers from neighboring cities — to lend a helping hand. Smith notes the event’s core volunteer group consists of around 200 people.
“We definitely have the city with us when we do large-scale productions like this,” she explained. “Even smaller-scale productions, we can’t do this without volunteers and the people.”
At this year’s event, the SocialWorks team will also be conducting the soft launch of their new web-based application “My State of Mind,” which will provide access to their online My State of Mind Guidebook. The Guidebook was co-created by organizations, individuals and practitioners including SocialWorks, the Illinois Department of Human Services, the Chicago Department of Public Health and the Juvenile Protective Association with the intention of collecting mental health services, educational services and more to best serve the Chicagoland community. The web app intends to allow users opportunities to connect with practitioners and access other mental health resources.
“We want to make mental health accessibility something that you can attain and we want to reimagine it,” said SocialWorks co-founder Justin Cunningham.
Sitting with Bekoe in the Vocalo studio, Smith and Cunningham discuss SocialWorks’ initiatives and what attendees can expect from the Dec. 16 event.
Photo by Morgan Ciocca, Vocalo Radio / Chicago Public Media.
A Night at the Museum is set to be jam-packed with giveaways, performances, food vendors and activities the whole family can enjoy. Justin Cunningham and Essence Smith stopped by the Vocalo studios this week to sit down with mornings host Bekoe to discuss what A Night at the Museum is all about; stream their conversation on Spotify above.
This year’s A Night at the Museum will take place Friday, Dec. 16 at 6 p.m. Tickets are still available on SocialWorks’ website.
Learn more about A Night at the Museum and SocialWorks by following the organization on Instagram or visiting their website.
Interview produced and edited by Bekoe, which originally aired live on Mornings With Bekoe on Tuesday, Dec. 13
Introduction written by Joshua X. Miller and Morgan Ciocca
Photography by Morgan Ciocca
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