Message from Montie

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The Freelance writer's blues, tax season 2010


One of my file cabinets

By now you should've gotten all of your W-2s and 1099s, and you're preparing for tax season before the deadline date of April 15, 2010. For some people, it's a time to roll in the dough and get some much needed dinero. You're dancing around your home like you're Swizz Beatz and saying, "Somebody bring me back some money please," but don't let Uncle Sam switch up the chorus on you. For others, like me who usually end up with an underpayment and have to pay the state, tax season can be a frustrating time. Even worse, I completed my taxes this weekend and owe the Feds and the state.

Here is the downside of being a freelance writer and an independent contractor. Although you do get more money up front for projects and are paid in full, you are held responsible for paying your own taxes. This could end up being pretty expensive come January for any contracted job that pays you $600 or more. But with the right recordkeeping, you can make doing your taxes a little less painful.

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Wyclef comes back to U.S., 'disgusted' by profit accusations about Yele Haiti Foundation

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Haiti's musician Wyclef Jean, left, arrives at the airport in Port-au-Prince on Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2010, the day after a 7.0-magnitude earthquake hit his country. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

I read "The Smoking Gun" report "Wyclef Jean Charity's Funny Money" in full, and although the tax issues need to be dealt with, I strongly stand by Wyclef Jean. CNN Money stated, "Experts say that lackadaisical accounting is common among non-profits and is not necessarily a red flag for suspicious behavior." The worst thing the Yele Foundation did was turn tax papers in late, but these accusations that Wyclef was trying to get over on the money end are preposterous to me.


I had a discussion on Facebook earlier today with an FB friend about the costs that go into concerts, travel, management, administrative work, etc. That money just doesn't fly out of thin air, and if someone is donating to the cause, they're donating to all of that. And just being realistic here, how much did you hear about donations to Haiti from any other artist or even news programs before last week outside of Wyclef? When selfish people like Bill Maher could've cared as much about Haiti before the earthquake as he does now, Wyclef Jean was still spending time improving the economic situation in Haiti. Even the music artists who are donating now weren't thinking about Haiti before it became the "in" event to donate to while Wyclef was. 



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Soul Vegetarian and Eternity Juice Bar restaurants re-open after passing city inspection

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Soul Vegetarian Restaurant and Eternity Juice Bar located at 205 E. 75th St.

Soul Vegetarian East and Eternity Juice Bar restaurants re-opened on Friday, Dec. 18, after being shut down on Tuesday, Dec. 15, by Mayor Daley's Dumpster Task force. On Tuesday, over 1,000 mice droppings were found by the storage area of these two restaurants.


Matt Smith, spokesman for the Department of Streets and Sanitation, confirmed that the restaurant has passed city inspection and is open for business. Mayor Daley's Dumpster Task Force is in the bureau of the Department of Streets and Sanitation's rodent control team.


"Our trash cans were open so that made it convenient for any rodents to come from there and come to our facilities," said Ahzahnyah Ben Israel, a maintenance and storage employee at Soul Vegetarian restaurant, to ChicagoNow's Message from Montie blogger. "So we had to secure all of those areas and our door spaces so that that could be prevented."


Soul Vegetarian restaurant is confident that their regular customers and new customers should not be hesitant to come back into the vegetarian restaurant.


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Soul Vegetarian East restaurant closed down for over 700 mice droppings


Blogger's Note, 1/17/10: Judging from the massive amount of visits to this blog but so few on the follow-up blog stating that Soul Vegetarian has re-opened, some are still unaware that the restaurant is back in business. Readers, please feel free to check out "Soul Vegetarian and Eternity Juice Bar restaurants re-open after passing city inspection."


Soul Vegetarian East and Eternity Juice Bar restaurants were closed late Tuesday night on Dec. 15 by Mayor Daley's Dumpster Task Force. These two restaurants were temporarily shut down due to pest control and mice infestation, including over 700 mice droppings at Soul Veg and over 300 mice droppings at Eternity Juice Bar.


The Task Force was in the area because of complaints about garbage and rodent activity. When inspectors paid a visit to the vegetarian restaurant and juice bar, over 1,000 mice droppings were found in a common storage area, and the restaurants were immediately shut down. Soul Vegetarian restaurant is located at 205 E. 75th Street and Eternity Juice Bar is located at 203 E. 75th Street.


"They will not be able to open until they've cleaned their operations from top to bottom," said Matt Smith, spokesman for the Department of Streets and Sanitation, to ChicagoNow's Message from Montie blogger. "They've [also got to] show our task force inspectors plans for revamping their housekeeping and pest control efforts and then they have to inspect and pass a very tough re-inspection."



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African-American visibility in advertising, Chicago's Commonground businessowners discuss marketing

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Ahmad Islam (left) and Sherman Wright (right) at the 40 Under 40 Honoree Reception

A commercial is a food or bathroom break for me. I usually don't pay attention to advertisements, but in the past few months I've noticed a pattern in marketing. It's not just the Walmart or McDonald's commercials. I'm seeing it in Tide, Pine Sol, Sprite, Lever 2000, Crest and the Roomplace commercials too. I'm seeing a boost in advertising visibility with African-American families, especially African-American fathers. Recently I saw an entertaining ad about relationships on the #65 bus after I left an appointment in the Chicago loop. I thought the ad was amusing and refreshing to see such a common moment in a relationship.



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Photo by Shamontiel


I wonder if advertising agencies are starting to get the hint about diversity in marketing or did President Barack Obama's family have something to do with the diversity, but either way I love it. It's nice to see multiculturalism on camera. And this year is also an important year for African-Americans in the marketing industry, including Chicago's own Commonground, owned by Sherman Wright and Ahmad Islam.


This two-team, African-American owned marketing company had their success honored this year on Crain's Chicago 2009 40 Under 40 list. I knew about their products and I saw some of their work, like the Sprite Step Off commercial, but I didn't know who the brains were behind these operations. I was delighted to be introduced to the owners of Commonground this week and talk to Wright and Islam about the change in faces, the increase in diversity in the marketing industry, and how Chicago influences the advertising and marketing industry.


Neither owner is from Chicago. Sherman Wright, a Texan who has a bachelor's degree in journalism, came to Chicago from Texas A&M for a diversity program when he was 22 years old. Ahmad Islam, who holds a master's degree in sports marketing and a bachelor's degree in business psychology, came to Chicago after traveling to various cities from his home state of Ohio.


"My family is still from the Midwest," Islam said. "Chicago is probably the only city in the Midwest that I really wanted to live in. It gave me the benefits of being close to my family, being in a city that was great from a marketing and advertising standpoint, and also being able to live the city life."



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Chicago's The New 400 Theater releases Michael Jackson's 'This Is It' but crowd numbers are mediocre


Shamontiel thinking she's "bad" (R.I.P. MJ)

I kept hearing the buzz about Michael Jackson's "This Is It," and initially I was not going to see the film. It seemed like a way for other people to get rich instead of honoring the King of Pop's final footage after 10 years of being silent. But The New 400 Theater (located at 6746 N. Sheridan in Chicago's Rogers Park) had the film, and oftentimes I have to go to more expensive and bigger theaters to see the mainstream films. Free popcorn Tuesdays. Evening films are only $7.50, and the first release was tonight at 11:00 p.m. How could I miss out on a deal like that?


I bought my ticket as soon as the theater opened today at 4:30 p.m. to beat the crowd and left an hour early to get a good parking spot in the Rogers Park area, where parking spots after 7:00 p.m. are almost pointless. I got my free popcorn and munched on it in my car before "This Is It" started, but when I went back inside, there was only a small crowd. I thought that was so strange because friends and family were telling me "This Was It" was sold out at theaters around them. I figured I was going to have to fight for a seat, but there were full rows with no one in them. What gives? Did others have the same suspicious beliefs I originally did about not supporting a film trying to get rich off of MJ's legacy, were you as surprised as I was that the film made it to The New 400 Theater, or did you just not want to go on a weeknight?


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Diamonds & Lace EventScaping presents The Makeup Bar of Chicago's official launch party


Relana, co-owner of Diamonds & Lace EventScaping


If you're a fan of BRAVO's "The Real Housewives of Atlanta," then you probably know about Atlanta's Makeup Bar parties with women being photographed and socializing while getting makeovers. Chicagoans will get to experience these "Girls Night In" events with The Makeup Bar of Chicago's official launch party on Thursday, Oct. 29, from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. The Makeup Bar of Chicago will be located at the Dream Boutique Lounge at 1750 N. Clark.


"I saw ["The Real Housewives of Atlanta"], and I loved the concept," said Relana Johnson, the Creative Director and co-owner of a Chicago wedding planning company called Diamonds & Lace EventScaping. "I saw that there were lots of inquiries about it. As an entrepreneur, I saw that this could be something fantastic to bring to Chicago instead of us being the ones that get the trend last."


Similar to the "The Real Housewives of Atlanta's" third episode of season one, women will get makeovers, take photographs and liquor will be served. However, The Makeup Bar of Chicago adds some unique activities to the event. Diamonds & Lace's event will include eight or nine licensed professional makeup artists, two or three photographers, a chocolate martini sampler provider and wine tasting provider, a tarot card reader, a "resident eyelash diva" and one henna hand artist. Other entertainment will include complimentary mini-makeup applications; a body art fashion show; samba, burlesque and Caribbean dance performances from Sensuality Training for Good Gyrrls; and complimentary appetizers. The Dream Boutique Lounge has a full bar and restaurant. Valet parking will also be provided.

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Soul Vegetarian Restaurant creates Feed the People Program campaign for 350's Oct. 24 International Day of Climate Action


BBQ delight, vegetarian macaroni and cheese, collard greens from Soul Vegetarian Restaurant

On Saturday, Oct. 24, at 1 p.m., the Feed the People Program campaign will be visiting Higgins Grammar School on 11710 S. Morgan St., on Chicago's South Side. The purpose of the event is threefold--to promote veganism by distributing free, hot vegan meals; to encourage anti-violence from dietary consumption; and to bring awareness to the environmental crisis. October 24 is also's International Day of Climate Action, with 181 countries creating 4,500 events bringing environmental awareness.


The South Side Chicago campaign with Soul Vegetarian Restaurant was created by Zarakyah Ben Ahmadiel, Chairman of RBG (Red, Black, Green) Environmental Restoration Agency, with the help of Soul Vegetarian Restaurant and the Office of Environmental Affairs for the African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem. Soul Vegetarian Restaurant is located at 205 E. 75th St.


Special appearances and performances include GOOD Music's Grammy Award winning artists Malik Yusef and J. Ivy, Chicago emcee Mikkey Halsted, music by Soul Selector DJ Lee Farmer and other poets, singers and music professionals. Ahmadiel and Fred Hampton Jr., the Chairman of Prisoners of Consciousness Committee, will be at the location supporting veganism, but there will be no speeches.

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How Urban Equities saved me from Chicago real estate nightmares


Me sitting on the front porch of my Missouri apartment in 2002

I've lived in three states within the past decade during my university years. I've gone from dorms to off-campus apartments to the south side of Chicago to the north side of Chicago, and I've had my fair share of real estate company tales.


In Missouri, my real estate company was okay, but they wanted to charge me for utility issues that had nothing to do with me and everything to do with the building being old. But the rent in Jefferson City, Missouri (Lincoln University is my alma mater) was $225 for a one-bedroom apartment in a beautiful neighborhood. No sane person is going to pass that up, especially when they know the rent prices living in bigger cities. However, I had a neighbor who blasted loud music and wanted to leave her trash on the steps instead of using the correct trash bags. We ended up in a bag throwing argument and the police were called--she was ticketed and I went back in the house to sleep. That was my one nightmare moment with neighbors.

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Carroll Care Center partners with HSUS to eliminate dogfighting in Chicago

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Tio Hardiman, anti-dogfighting advocate recruiter, stands with pit bull Brisko

 Pit bulls have a bad reputation for being aggressive, only wanting to fight and not being good pets. This is why I never desired to have one, but after visiting Chicago's west side Carroll Care Center location in early September, I had to rethink that stereotype.


While waiting to complete interviews with pit bull trainers from the Carroll Care Center, I sat in the recreation area watching the owners of 12 pit bulls focus on the dog-training lessons that lead pit bull trainer, Jeff Jenkins, taught them. Carroll Care Center partners with the Humane Society of the United States to help in eliminating dogfighting, pit bull owners learn to train their dogs to be obedient and rescued dogs are often sent to the anti-dogfighting center. Of course there were dogs who weren't from a dogfighting background who were also being trained.


Gallery sneak peek (15 images):

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Figgy presents 'Let's Create New Media in Chicago' event

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James Gustin, owner of Figgy, mimicks a model in the photograph behind him


I lived in Chicago's Edgewater neighborhood for three years, passed the building that housed Figgy just about weekly, and never once did I peek in to see what the company was about. So when I heard about the networking event tonight from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., curiosity brought me to the mysterious company underneath the Granville Red Line station. Tuesday's event had small business owners, entrepreneurs, media content creators, ad agency representatives, writers, photographers, video editors, image editing specialists and local entertainers. It was the type of event that temporary agencies would've drooled over because of all the fresh and hungry talent networking with other like-minded individuals.


The "Let's Create New Media in Chicago" event was thrown courtesy of 15-year-old company, Figgy, and I volunteered to be one of the registration people primarily to meet the talent as soon as they entered the gate. They were ready to mingle, party, eat and drink, but most of all, they wanted to know what everybody else there did in their specialty area. It was a networking event without the drawn-out speeches, PowerPoint presentations and lecture halls.  

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African-American Chicago Entrepreneurs inspire potential new business owners

On Aug. 25, I attended an annual Chicago Women's Entrepreneur networking event, courtesy of Sr. Account Executive Robert F. Wimberly II, and met so many women business owners and aspiring women business owners, including fashion experts, internship recruiters, lawyers, health experts and bank owners. When I was in college, I helped write and edit a business plan for a Chicago music company called MidWest Incorporated, and the more I talked to the owner, Phillip Cavil Sr., the more intrigued I became at owning my own business someday. And my favorite restaurant in all of Chicago is Quench!, owned by Quentin Love. I'm fascinated with those who are brave enough to branch out and start their own company--from hiring employees to finding a location to dealing with the expenses and taxes that go into owning your own business. When I meet business owners, I always stop and ask them what keeps them going and what drives them to continue in their entrepreneurships during the tough times.



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