(A sidebar about Christian Care's August 6 "Walk the Walk" event can be found here.)
A celebration of survival in the face of seemingly unbearable hardship, August 7's Quad City Phoenix Festival - taking place in Rock Island's Schwiebert Riverfront Park - will find local performers, artists, self-defense instructors, and guest speakers raising funds for area shelters, halfway houses, and domestic-violence awareness programs. And as the phoenix is a mythological bird that famously rises from the ashes to become a newer and stronger version of its previous self, the festival's name, says organizer Emily Jawoisz, is perfectly apt.
"I wanted to make a difference," says Jawoisz, a 22-year-old local musician who says she endured both domestic violence and homelessness before the age of 21. "And so I wanted to make this event an opportunity for people to see that there are resources you can take advantage of when you're in a sad and dangerous place. That you're not alone, and that going through this kind of experience doesn't have to hinder you. ... You can either let the world beat you down and keep you down, or you can try to make the best of the situation - to use it as something to propel you forward and better your situation."
Born in Dallas but a resident of Rock Island for the past two decades, Jawoisz got married at age 19 - "a really bad decision on my part" - and then left the unhealthy relationship, despite not having a place to live. "And I was taking classes [at Black Hawk College] at the time," she says, "and it's real hard to study when you don't know where your next meal and your next shower are going to come from."
Thankfully for Jawoisz, however, she was able to find some relief through area social-service organizations. Before moving in with friend (and guitarist for Jawoisz's EmJay ensemble) Anthony Lloyd and his family last summer, she found temporary residence with Davenport's Humility of Mary Housing, Inc. And in Rock Island, she says, "Project NOW had me on a waiting list for Rapid Re-Housing, which was an emergency program for homeless moms and families."
With money saved from her receptionist job at Moline's Child & Family Psychology Center, and after a seven-month wait on Project NOW's Rapid Re-Housing Program list, Jawoisz moved into her new Rock Island home this past February. Her experiences, though, left her wanting to inspire others who found themselves enduring similarly trying circumstances.
"You know, I've always had my music to get me through," says Jawoisz, who began playing piano at age eight and writing songs at 12. "But some people don't have that. Some people are artists. Some people dance. So this [the Quad City Phoenix Festival] is kind of an expression of survival through the arts. Showing people that you can use the arts as a way to work through the pain and the grief and the feelings that come with having been in an abusive situation."
The idea for the festival, Jawoisz recalls, was an impromptu one, as was the choice of the Rock Island location.
"When I was staying with Anthony last summer," she says, "Schwiebert Park opened up, and one day we were like, 'Let's go jam down there,' because they actually have a set-up where you can plug in your instruments. So we sat there and we were playing and writing music, and I just looked around and said, 'You know what? I want to have a concert here. Wait. You know what? I want to have a festival here.' And he goes, 'You're not going to have a festival here.' And I said, 'Watch.'"
Jawoisz laughs. "And I thought about what I wanted to advocate for," and she realized that area shelters and domestic-violence awareness programs "just kind of seemed natural. I know that when I felt helpless, there were a lot of resources I wish I could have taken advantage of, but didn't know about them, or heard about them too late."
As a 21-year-old unfamiliar with the process of putting a festival together, Jawoisz found immediate assistance through Black Hawk College's Kim Armstrong, the school's assistant dean of student support services.
"It was so overwhelming," Jawoisz continues, "but she just gave me these assignments, like, 'This is what you've got to do first ... .' So I called up the park and presented the idea. And then I had to submit an application to rent the park out that had to go through a board, and then had to be approved. Once it was approved, then we could start preparing for the event."
And as Jawoisz discovered, that's when the hard work really began. "I decided against having liquor at the festival, because alcohol causes a lot of violence in relationships, so we didn't need a liquor license. And apparently I don't have to worry about a sound ordinance, because it's over by seven o'clock on a Sunday. But there's event insurance, and you want the vendors to have food licenses, and they have to have licenses in the state of Illinois, and there's promotion ... ."
What Jawoisz needed was outside help in readying the project and covering its planned $4,000 budget, and as she realized, "There was a big part of me that was nervous about allowing other people to help me, because over the last three years, I've learned to be a pretty self-supporting individual. But there was so much I just couldn't take care of myself."
She found her preparatory aid through both friends and staffers at area social-service organizations, and found financial assistance through local businesses; several area chapters of Royal Neighbors of America, Inc. contributed $100 each, says Jawoisz, and Alcoa Davenport Works made a $500 donation.
"It's been a lot of phone calls to a lot of different people," Jawoisz says of the promotional and fundraising processes, "and a lot of following up. Talking to people about helping with an event, everybody initially says, 'Yeah, I want to do that,' but then they'll forget about it, or won't call you back, or something. So you have to be persistent. You might be annoying, but at least they're not forgetting you."
Meanwhile, a number of area performers and instructors will be assisting the Quad City Phoenix Festival on-site. Among the musicians scheduled to play Schwiebert Riverfront Park are Jordan Danielsen, Ellis Kell, Avian Swarm, MC Ion, the Toby Brown Band, Chicago's Kitchen Blues Survival Band, and Jawoisz's own EmJay. There are dance performances scheduled with the hoofers of QC Social Dancing and the Imani Dancers, a dramatic performance of Healing Waters, children's activities with members of the Quad City Clown Troupe, and self-defense presentations for adult women and children, led by the instructors of Morrow's Martial Arts. ("Kids can participate in that and be little Ninja Turtles," says Jawoisz with a laugh.)
In addition to food, beverage, and merchandise vendors, the event will feature domestic-violence information booths and, as Jawoisz says, "guest speakers who have experienced the same kinds of things that I've experienced." And with supplies donated by Dick Blick Art Materials, the festival will showcase what Jawoisz calls "the survivor's wall" - a large canvas on which attendees can paint, and which the Figge Art Museum has plans to display.
"It really warms me to see so many people pushing for this," says Jawoisz of the Quad City Phoenix Festival. "It really warms me. I mean, since I started working on the project, I've lost sleep over it, I'm pretty sure I've been late to almost all my classes because I've been e-mailing people and talking to people about it ... . But it's been worth it.
"I honestly didn't think it would get this far," she adds. "Because who wakes up one day and says, 'I want to have a festival,' and then sticks with it, and makes it a reality? But you can't give up. And, I mean, I feel like I can tackle anything at this point."
The Quad City Phoenix Festival takes place in Rock Island's Schwiebert Riverfront Park from noon to 7 p.m. on Sunday, August 7. Admission is free, though donations are encouraged, and more information is available by visiting QCPhoenixFestival.com or calling Emily Jawoisz at (309)292-6380.
Christian Care Hosts "Walk the Walk," August 6 at Sunset Park
Held on the same weekend as the Quad City Phoenix Festival, another fundraiser for domestic-violence awareness will take place in Christian Care's Second-Annual "Walk the Walk" event, held in Rock Island's Sunset Park on August 6. Last year's event saw nearly 250 attendees for its day of family-themed activities, and Christian Care's Ann Ring - the grants and funding coordinator for the Rock Island-based domestic-violence shelter and rescue mission - says that her organization is happy, this year, for the area's two-day focus on the subject. "They're having their event on Sunday," says Ring of the Pheonix Festival, "we're having ours on Saturday, and so it's a whole weekend of domestic-violence awareness and raising money for domestic-violence funds."
Christian Care's "Walk the Walk" - promoted as an event designed "to De 'Feet' Domestic Violence" - begins with a leisurely, noncompetitive, 10 a.m. walk through a section of the park that Ring says "is not quite a mile. So if you do the walk, turn around and come back, it's just under two miles - just a nice little stroll." With live music in the park performed by Jon Laira and Bob Kuhns, "Walk the Walk" will continue post-walk from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., hours during which attendees can purchase items from the event's cake walk, bake sale, lunch station, and arts and crafts tables.
Among the day's scheduled activities are self-defense demonstrations with Jan Butler, a master instructor with the Korean martial-arts center Kuk Sool of Davenport, and participation in the "Hands Are Not for Hitting" children's art project. "Kids are going to be able to use paint and impress their little hands into a cotton sheet," says Ring, "and create this huge mural that we're going to be using in future programs."
Yet children will also be able to enjoy face-painting, a bean-bag toss, and a "duck-pond pull" for prizes, while a strolling magician performs for kids throughout the early afternoon. Adults, meanwhile, can participate in trivia competitions, bid in a silent auction - with items including a day cruise aboard the Celebration Belle and a domestic-violence awareness statue courtesy of Isabel Bloom - and enjoy some relaxation in the sinful-sounding Chair Massage Station. Says Ring with a laugh, "We could all use one at any given time, couldn't we?"
For more information on the Second-Annual "Walk the Walk" Fundraiser, contact Christian Care at (309)788-2273 or visit ChristianCareQC.org.