Monday, November 19, 2012

Weston beatboxer Scott Jackson crowned Canadian champ

Canada has a new beatbox champion. 

After two years of coming in second, Weston resident Scott Jackson was crowned the winner of the Freedom of Beats 2012 Canadian Beatbox Championships. 

Held Nov. 10 at The Mod Club downtown, 16 finalists made up of Canada’s finest beatboxers battled it out, with Jackson beating two-time defending champ Terry Im, who performs under moniker KRNFX.
Judged on originality, technical skill, creativity, battle tactics and crowd response, Jackson clinched first place and was awarded $500 cash, a trophy and the chance to represent Canada at the World Beatbox Championships to be held next year in Germany. 

“It was a tough battle,” Jackson said. “I beat the guy in the semis that won first for two years. It feels amazing to finally win. I can’t put it into words. To beat (KRNFX) in the semis is almost bigger than winning.” 

The friendly rivalry between Jackson and KRNFX, who retired from competition after the championships, has not only been played out at beatbox events but in front of television cameras as both men were two of 12 finalists on Canada’s Got Talent in the spring. 

“Scott Jackson has taken his rightful spot as the 2012 Canadian Beatbox Champion,” said Gary Goudini, host and director of Beatbox Canada. “A well deserved win over the toughest top 16 beatboxers in Canada to date. As an inspiration to us all, this hometown hero shares his passion selflessly, making beatbox music for all to enjoy. A true people’s champ.” 

Jackson’s path to beatboxing a decade ago wasn’t planned. Bedridden for months with a virus in high school, Jackson dabbled in beatboxing after hearing small snippets from beatboxers Doug E. Fresh and Miz Markie to help pass the time. But as time wore on, his skills evolved and it soon became a passion that would lead to winning competitions and turning his art into a full-time job. 

“It’s funny how stuff works out,” he said. “I took a negative and made it into a positive.” 

In 2008, Jackson won the very first competition he entered to become the Scribble Jam Beatbox champion. He was then invited to participate in the World Beatbox Championships, working as a busker downtown to hone his skills and raise funds for the trip. 

While he didn’t do as well has he had hoped, Jackson gained valuable experience, he said. 

And that experienced showed, as Jackson continued to dominate in almost every beatbox competition he entered. 

“Beatboxing really is like a family,” he said. “Right away that person is my brother or sister. At the World Championships in Germany I met people from all over the world and we had an instant connection. Music is an international language.” 

Having won the Canadian Beatbox Championships and a slew of other competitions, Jackson, 25, is now wrestling with the idea of retiring from battling. 

“It’s a question that’s been circling in my mind,” he said. “I may want to defend my title, I’m not sure. I don’t know if there is much more I need to prove in Canada. I want to give opportunity to some of the younger guys to make a name.” 

While he decides, Jackson plans to keep busy with an upcoming battle in Switzerland and many school appearances, having performed at some 1,000 schools across Canada in three years, where he speaks about bullying, following your dreams and equality. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Obama celebrates win at rally

A cavernous hall at McCormick Place filled with deafening cheers late Tuesday night as President Barack Obama was re-elected for a second term, launching a wild celebration among thousands of his supporters.
The nervous anticipation that marked much of the evening quickly melted as Obama's victory became clear. People in the crowd danced, hugged and high-fived as election results streamed in over huge television screens flanking the stage where Obama would speak. "Twist and Shout" blared over the loudspeakers, and Julie Lawrenz, 42, twisted nearly to the ground.

"I'm just really happy," said Lawrenz, of Chicago. "And I'm happy it's over quickly."

The timing of the announcement came as a surprise, with many in the crowd having been prepared to wait all night without a declaration of victory. As the win was announced, supporters screamed and hugged one another, waving American flags and snapping cell photos of the jumbo TV screens.

Actress Vivica A. Fox, walking away after finishing a television interview, froze in her tracks and began to cry. Mayor Rahm Emanuel strode past her, grinning, on his way backstage. Reporters jumped on tables to get a better look at it all.

Just moments before the race was called, two Chicago friends stood clutching each other's hands and anxiously watching the screen. When it flashed the word "elected," both erupted in jubilant yells, pulling nearby strangers into hugs. "That one time, I went to sleep thinking one thing and woke up to learn that George Bush had won," said Laverne Parker, a substitute teacher from Lisle. "I was going to stay up all night to make sure. ... But this is better."

Though the venue for Obama's Tuesday night election-results viewing party lacked the spectacle of 2008's sprawling event in Grant Park, revelers made the most of it. Many said they wanted to be part of history. Personally invested in the campaign, Sylvia Williams, 80, and Mary Austin, 82, missed their usual night with the Classy Divas bowling league for an opportunity to hear the president speak at McCormick Place.
"I'm on top of the world," said Williams, of Markham, who spent weeks working to get out the vote for Obama.

"This is history all over again," said Austin, who lives in Harvey.

Planners never expected the rally to equal what took place in 2008, when an estimated 240,000 people streamed into Grant Park to see a victorious Obama speak. His campaign chose to remain indoors this year, where the crowd was limited to a few thousand supporters. For Obama supporters who got a ticket, the change in venue mattered only a little.

"I miss the skyline and ambience of the city," said Craig Porter, a union official who attended the Grant Park rally in 2008. "But here, I guess it's OK. I like it because we are here all together."

Shortly before Obama's win was official, Emanuel said the results showed the breadth of Obama's support.
"Everybody talks about the president's coalition, heavily in the sense of minorities and women," Emanuel said. "Iowa, heavily white, heavily old, and yet he's going to, it looks like, if trends continue, win Iowa. I think everybody should step back with what they think about, what they're saying, and take a look at really what's going on."

When the doors opened around 7:30 p.m., people rushed into the hall, snapping pictures of themselves and the Obama campaign signs that covered the walls.

Janice Haywood, who was in Grant Park in 2008, arrived at McCormick Place with her 5-year-old daughter more than six hours before supporters were allowed to enter.

"My heart didn't start pumping until all the people started coming in," said Haywood, clutching toys and a laptop that she had used to entertain her daughter in the hours before the doors opened.

Having a black president has been important for both of her children, said Haywood, who also is African-American and has an 8-year-old son.

"It is so important for my kids to see the president," said Haywood, 43, of Bolingbrook. "(They) look through the presidents at school and now (they) can see someone who looks like them."

Bridget Turner, 41, of Homewood said she and her children attended Obama's election night rally at Grant Park in 2008, and they all volunteered for his 2012 campaign. She donated money to the campaign, made phone calls and canvassed neighborhoods on the president's behalf.

"I can say I had a hand in history," she said. "I'm very excited about that."

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn described Obama's re-election campaign as distinctly different from the 2008 "movement campaign" four years ago: "The president inspired, literally, hundreds of thousands of volunteers all across America to take on the super PACS and show what grass-roots democracy is all about."

Quinn added that another four years of Obama — whom he described as a supporter of the middle class — would be good for Illinois. "The president has been very good to Illinois from day one," Quinn said. "The president rode to our rescue."

Genise Smith-Watkins, of Matteson, said she began her day shortly after sunrise, loading volunteers on a bus to canvass Iowa and arranging phone calls in the president's south suburban campaign office. She left around 1 p.m. to head to McCormick Place, confident she had done all she could to help her candidate win.
"I feel good. I feel good about the president winning and I feel good about my contribution."