Event—Public Programming

The 2019 Bughouse Square Debates

Environmental Encroachment Marching Band

Environmental Encroachment Marching Band

Environmental Encroachment Marching Band

Students from Genesis Academy Summer Institute perform

Master of Ceremonies Rick Kogan kicks things off

Mayor Lori Lightfoot is greeted by Newberry President David Spadafora

Mayor Lori Lightfoot speaks about the legacy of the 1919 Chicago Race Riots

Mayor Lightfoot presents the John Peter Altgeld Freedom of Speech Award to Derrick Blakley

Charles Whitaker and Natalie Y. Moore read from original primary sources about the riots and discuss race, space, and the media in Chicago

Audience members following the discussion

A question for the speakers

One of the Youth Soapbox speakers

A heckler

The Soapbox Judges, (left to right) Jorge Mujica, Fred Sasaki, and Carolina Macias

Scott Priz, Soapbox Champion and winner of the Dill Pickle Award

At a time when political polarization is intensified by the extremes of digital discourse, the Bughouse Square Debates are a public forum where people can encounter new ideas and share their own—in person!

Join the Newberry for Chicago’s favorite free speech event! Bring your loudest heckling voice, mount the open soapbox, and exercise your First Amendment rights. Take it to the park this summer! And don’t miss the Newberry Book Fair before and/or after the Debates!


Noon: Music by Environmental Encroachment

12:45 pm: Performance by Genesis Academy Summer Institute Students

1:05 pm: Welcome and Introduction to Bughouse Square

1:10 pm: Mayor Lori Lightfoot

  • The mayor spoke about the anniversary of the Chicago 1919 Race Riots and the necessity to break down the barriers of its legacy

1:20 pm: Presentation of the 2018 John Peter Altgeld Freedom of Speech Award

  • Awarded to Derrick Blakley, longtime broadcast and print journalist, recently retired from CBS 2 Chicago.

1:35 pm: Mainstage Presentation/Discussion: The Legacies of 1919

2:30 pm: Soapbox Speeches


  • 2:30 pm – Daniel Epstein, "At Least the Witches of Salem Got a Trial"
  • 2:40 pm – Marissa Gaines, "Water, Water, Everywhere"
  • 2:50 pm – Justin Tucker, "7 Points to Improve Chicago"
  • 3 pm – Scott Priz, "Trump's Camps Are Not What We Have to Be"
  • 3:10 pm – Adam Peterson, "Moving Chicago Forward 1gb/sec at a Time"
  • 3:20 pm – Vicki White, "The Right to Read in Prison is Under Attack"


  • 2:30 pm – Rose Gomez, "Carbon Emissions Fee"
  • 2:40 pm – KASPER, "Malicious Comments versus Freedom of Speech"
  • 2:50 pm – Rita Maniotis, "Vaccine Safety: An Oxymoron"
  • 3 pm – Bill Bergman, "Our Government's Finances are a Disaster"
  • 3:10 pm – Michael Brennan, "How to Guarantee Healthcare as a Human Right"
  • 3:20 pm – Michael Burack, "Cannabis is Good for Your Money, Your Health, and Your Taxes"


  • Come one, come all! The open soapbox will be available for airing grievances and spreading good news. Just show up, sign up, and get in line!
  • Back by popular demand, the Society of Smallness will return this year to curate the open soapbox

SOAPBOX 4: YOUTH SOAPBOX, organized by students from the GCE Lab School.

  • Breana Austin, on Mental Health
  • Ella Bueno, on Immigration and Poverty
  • Maritsa J. Guerra, on Police Brutality
  • Shay Guerra, on Black and Brown Communities
  • Yemina Kebede, on Systemic Racism
  • Gimena Servin, on Injustices against Women, POC, and LGBTQ People
  • Maeve Shaffer, on Equality for LGBTQA+ People
  • Gregg Williams, On Being Black in America

3:45 pm: Dill Pickle Awarded to the Soapbox Champion, Scott Priz

Food Trucks​

  • Beaver's Coffee + Donuts
  • BBQ Boss

Information Tables

  • About two dozen local organizations and causes set up information tables in the park, with volunteers to answer questions.

Chicago 1919

This year's Main Presentation is part of Chicago 1919: Confronting the Race Riots, a year-long initiative funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, engaging in public conversations about the legacy of the most violent week in Chicago history, organized by the Newberry Library and 13 other Chicago institutions. Chicago's 1919 race riots barely register in the city’s current consciousness, yet they were a significant turning point in shaping the racial divides we see today. Chicago 1919 is guided by the belief that the 1919 race riots can serve as a lens for understanding Chicago today. Racial tensions related to policing, migration, and housing all came to a head in 1919. By reflecting on the past 100 years, Chicagoans may see how our current racial divisions evolved from the race riots, as the marginalization of African Americans in Chicago became institutionalized through increasingly sophisticated forms of discrimination. People across Chicago are invited to share in our collective reckoning with a little-known yet tremendously consequential chapter in the city’s history.

Chicago 1919: Confronting the Race Riots has been made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in these programs do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Our Youth Engagement Sponsor is Allstate. The project is made possible in part by the generous support of Edith Rasmussen Ahern and Patrick Ahern.

Learn more about the history of Bughouse Square.

The Bughouse Square Debates are supported by a grant from the Chicago Free for All Fund at the Chicago Community Trust.

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