Left Justified: Coffee Talks once a week

I have committed to put together another series of Coffee Talks starting this Monday, Aug. 30. That’s not easy. It’s not easy to come up with almost 40 programs on a weekly basis. I can empathize with ministers who run churches and have to come up with something new once a week. Well, maybe they don’t have to come up with something absolutely new.

These Monday night programs are mainly sponsored by Rockford Peace & Justice Action Committee, which is a collection of concerned peace activists, environmentalists and other “do-gooders.” Rockford Urban Ministries, whom I work for, co-sponsors and allows me to spend precious time setting them up. The Unitarian Universalist Church of Rockford gives me the key to their building and allows up to 150 folks to traipse through their fellowship hall. All this so we can help educate the community of Rockford on vital issues of the day.

And what thanks do I get? Well, really, I get a lot of thanks because people appreciate getting information from those on the front lines. And the kick-off to this series is no exception.

The first Coffee Talk of the season presents the duo “Singing in Baghdad,” featuring Cameron Powers and Kristina Sophia, to be held this Monday, Aug. 30, beginning at 7:30 p.m. These unique performers use the medium of music to communicate the message of world peace. Cameron and Kristina were playing Arabic music on the streets of Iraq, Egypt, Jordan, Syria and the West Bank before, during and after the war!

No kidding. I found out about this group the usual way: e-mail from some flounder. Or, really, an e-mail from other peace groups saying “Hey, you should see this group!” The next thing I do is make sure we can pay for it. And that means, if I can just pass the hat, they are in! Most Coffee Talkers are local or regional folks with good stories to tell or information to share.

But to kick the season off (no Coffee Talks were held over summer) “Singing in Baghdad” fit the bill.

This talented duo is touring America and has presented their photographs and Arabic music and stories to at least 60 audiences since their trip to Baghdad in April. They have now returned from Egypt, where they sang for 60,000 Egyptians in the Cairo Stadium. They were the only non-Egyptians sharing the stage.

How were Cameron and Kristina received in the Arab world? What is it really like on the streets of the Middle East? Find out as Cameron and Kristina present music, images and stories with their songs in Arabic and a slide show presentation. For two hours, audiences are transported to another world where music bridges the gaps between two vastly different cultures.

The program is free and open to the public, but a freewill offering will be taken for the performers. They travel around in an RV. Proceeds help to cover their touring expenses, and interest is growing as they design additional tours throughout America.

This will be the kick-off program of the weekly Coffee Talks. Sponsored at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Rockford, 4848 Turner St. (just west of Rockford College, four blocks north and east of Alpine and East State streets), the program is presented by the Rockford Peace and Justice Action Committee. Coffee Talks are presented every Monday night at 7:30 p.m. The coffee served, by the way, is organically grown, fair traded and provided free, though one pound bags are for sale (from a company called, get this: Peace Coffee! The discussions are free and open to everyone, and all are invited to participate.

For more information, call me, Stanley Campbell at (815) 964-7111. Info on “Singing in Baghdad” can be found on the Internet at www.musicalmissions.com.

Stanley Campbell is executive director of Rockford Urban Ministries and spokesman for Rockford Peace & Justice.

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