“Bah, humbug” isn’t usually part of 1st Ward Alderman Daniel La Spata’s vocabulary, but he made an exception on Monday. The Logan Square-area leader hosted a reading of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” on Dec. 14 alongside other local progressive leaders in a fundraiser supporting the alderman. La Spata, playing Ebenezer Scrooge and Mr. Fezziwig, also welcomed fellow progressive Logan leaders Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, 35th Ward alderman, and Will Guzzardi, state representative for Illinois House District 39.
Other players included Rossana Rodriguez Sanchez, alderman of the nearby 33rd Ward, along with fellow members of the City Council’s progressive caucus Jeanette Taylor, Michael Rodríguez, Byron Sigcho-Lopez, Andre Vasquez and Matt Martin. State Sen. Robert Peters, Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson, Ab Weeks of SOUL (Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation) and Marta Popadiak of The People’s Lobby also joined. La Spata’s wife, Alicia Locher, rounded out the cast.
The progressive leaders, normally found pushing for things like community-based zoning, police reform and affordable housing, came togther to perform on Zoom for donors. Proceeds from tickets, sold in tiers ranging from $25 (“General Audience”) to $500 (“Sponsor of Christmas Future”), went to support Alderman La Spata.
The 1st ward leader introduced the reading by comparing Chicago to Dickens’ 19th-century London. “We are a city that is shaped by trauma and loss and grief. The person that Ebenezer Scrooge is he did not become overnight. He was someone who was shaped by loss and profound loneliness. And this has an effect on who we are.”
La Spata went on to compare some of Scrooge’s more un-progressive quotes to the perspectives of leaders today. “He was a person who was shaped by capitalist systems that define us by our worth and our earning potential. And certainly, in this script, when Scrooge says, ‘Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?’ these are lines that, even if they were written 130 years ago, they are just as fresh today. You hear these words in the halls of power in this city today.”
We are the ghosts this city needs. We are those who are calling Chicago to a crisis of conscience.First Ward Alderman Daniel La Spata
The alderman compared the progressive cast members to the ghosts that haunt Scrooge and turn him into a kinder, more caring man. “We are the ghosts this city needs. We are those who are calling Chicago to a crisis of conscience.” La Spata called for a city that lived out systemic justice and reform for all rather than participating in random acts of kindness like Scrooge performed after his visitations.
La Spata also shared his appreciation for 1st ward residents. “I am incredibly heartened by the team around me and the generosity of our neighbors who have been able to feed hundreds of seniors over this past Thanksgiving season.” He said he was proud of achieving eviction-protection rules and praised advocates, including Aldermen Sigcho-Lopez and Michael Rodríguez, for their work on environmental justice and sustainability. La Spata also highlighted Guzzardi’s advocacy for lifting Illinois’ rent-control ban.
“Everyone here I could point to because I know the work of a more just Chicago does not happen in one ward or one caucus,” La Spata said. “It takes the leadership of all of us and all the levels of government that we represent.”
La Spata played Scrooge, he said, because “he could not force the indignity on my colleagues speaking some of the lines that Ebenezer Scrooge puts forth.”
Screenshot: Scott Jauch
La Spata: Ebenezer Scrooge, Mr. Fezziwig
Guzzardi: Mr. Jeeves
Weeks: Tiny Tim
Martin: Bob Cratchit
Peters: Old Joe
Popadiak: Mrs. Cratchit
Rodriguez Sanchez,: Ghost of Christmas Past:
Sigcho-Lopez: Fred Hollowell
Taylor: Ghost of Christmas Future
Johnson: Mr. Howell
Rosa: Jacob Marley
Rodríguez: Ghost of Christmas Present
Alicia Locher: Belle
Featured photo: La Spata and Guzzardi (Photo: Tom Vlodek)