On May 22, about 265 people - family members, passersby, very old friends & brand new friends - gathered at the Claudia Cassidy Theater at the beautiful Chicago Cultural Center to watch the first film in the Belonging in the USA series, a story of the effervescent storyteller, Michael D. McCarty.
The long line of attendees filtered into the open space near the theater, munching on delicious dosa from The Art of Dosa, filling out their reflection question sheets which probed for some reflection about freedom and their personal stories, and mingling with new faces, the filmmaker, Arielle, and the subject of the film itself, Michael. It was a packed house - full of laughter, introspection, and most importantly --new, authentic connections.
After the film, Arielle and her panel of special guests, Michael & his daughter, Carla, and the subject of the third Belonging film, Lourdes, and her daughter, Mari, were led by emcee, investigative reporter, Maria Ines Zamudio in a discussion about their experiences making the films and their personal moments of clarity and purpose. The audience got to hear about poignant moments, like when Carla's 8th grade students began to understand why they should believe in their futures and when Mari expressed pride in her Japanese heritage to her grandmother, who had been born in a Japanese internment camp. These were just two of the countless reflections about finding belonging and recognizing the synchronicity of events that lead us to where we are today.
The evening was full of these moments - strangers telling stories to one another and finding comradery in both shared experiences and divergent experiences; neighbors and acquaintances coming together for an open conversation about humanity and purpose; and old friends reconnecting over the energy in the room after Michael's story. It was an amazing night, and we hope to see you at the next one!