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Sylvia Ewing

Non-profit education executive, television personality and radio producer Sylvia Michelle Ewing was born in Erie, Pennsylvania on March 21, 1957 to Linwood Anthony Dennard a gospel music producer, and Louise Miller, a homemaker. She was raised by Louise Miller and her step father Milton Miller. She graduated from Technical Memorial Vocational High School in 1975.

Ewing came to Chicago, Illinois in 1977 and co-founded City Life, a free magazine for African Americans. During the 80s, she was active in the Anti-apartheid movement in Chicago and worked for the Mozambique Support Network In 1991, she became host of the "On-Target" radio series on Chicago's WVON-AM. Since 1994, Ewing has worked as an on-air host for Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) Chicago affiliate WTTW's pledge drive segments, and has done voice-overs for the station's programs and special projects. In 1999, she became a producer for WTTW's television program Chicago Tonight and served as producer for the Chicago Public Radio's WBEZ program Eight Forty-Eight from 2004 to 2006 and director of cultural relations of Steppenwolf Theater Company's Traffic Series for the 2007 - 2008 season. In 2008, she served as the Deputy Director and in 2010, became the Director of External Affairs for the Illinois Network of Charter Schools. Ewing also teaches media literacy and journalism classes as an adjunct professor at Columbia College Chicago and has written for Chicago Parent Magazine, the Chicago Sun-Times and N'DIGO Magazine.

Ewing has received the Award of Excellence from the Chicago Association of Black Journalists, the Peter Lisagor Award, the Edward R. Murrow Award, the Public News Directors, Inc. Award and has been nominated for three local Emmys. She has served on the board of directors for several organizations including the Association of Women Journalists, the Illinois College Access Network, and the Chicago Committee for Urban Opportunity and the Community Justice for Youth Institute. Ewing was the president of the Young Chicago Authors Board of Directors home of the Louder than a Bomb youth poetry festival and the co-creator of the concept for the Right to Succeed education organization. She is a certified meditation teacher and has practiced yoga since she was nineteen. Ewing lives in Chicago, Illinois and has two adult children Eve and Matthew.

Sylvia Ewing was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on January 19, 2012.

Accession Number

A2012.013

Sex

Female

Interview Date

1/19/2012

Last Name

Ewing

Maker Category
Marital Status

Single

Schools

Central High School

Search Occupation Category
Speakers Bureau

Yes

Speakers Bureau Availability

Any

First Name

Sylvia

Birth City, State, Country

Erie, Pennsylvania

HM ID

EWI03

Speakers Bureau Preferred Audience

Media, Education, and Meditation

Speakers Bureau Honorarium

No

Favorite Season

Summer

Sponsor

Herb and Sheran Wilkins Media Makers

State

Pennsylvania

Favorite Vacation Destination

Rio Caliente, Mexico

Favorite Quote

Just be happy.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

3/21/1957

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Pizza

Short Description

Television personality and radio producer Sylvia Ewing (1957 - ) An award-winning journalist, non-profit executive and teacher, Sylvia Ewing (1957 - ) has been a producer for Chicago Public Media and host of WTTW pledge drives.

Employment

Illinois Network of Charter Schools

Steppenwolf Theatre Company

Chicago Public Television Network

Chicago Public Radio, WBEZ

Columbia College

Main Sponsor
Favorite Color

Purple

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Sylvia Ewing's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Sylvia Ewing lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Sylvia Ewing describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Sylvia Ewing talks about her mother's life in Erie, Pennsylvania

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Sylvia Ewing describes meeting her biological father for the first time, and his family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Sylvia Ewing talks about her father's family and his career as a record producer

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Sylvia Ewing talks about her stepfather, Milton Miller, and his influence on her life

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Sylvia Ewing talks about how her mother and stepfather met, their courtship, and their getting married

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Sylvia Ewing talks about her likeness to her parents, her stepfather, and their influence on her life

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Sylvia Ewing describes the neighborhood where she grew up in Erie, Pennsylvania

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Sylvia Ewing talks about her siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Sylvia Ewing describes her earliest childhood memories

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Sylvia Ewing describes the sights, sounds and smells of growing up in Erie, Pennsylvania

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Sylvia Ewing talks about attending elementary school in Erie, Pennsylvania, and her relationship with her younger sisters

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Sylvia Ewing talks about starting school in Erie, Pennsylvania, and her relationship with her younger sisters

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Sylvia Ewing describes her experience in middle school

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Sylvia Ewing talks about the City of Erie, Pennsylvania, and her mother's choosing her high school

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Sylvia Ewing describes her experience in high school and her interest in art, production and marketing

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Sylvia Ewing talks about her high school classes and extracurricular activities

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Sylvia Ewing talks about graduating from a vocational high school in 1975, and her interest in commercial art

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Sylvia Ewing talks about her interest in television and the news while growing up

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Sylvia Ewing recalls Dr. Martin Luther King's assassination and learning about Malcolm X

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Sylvia Ewing talks about spending a year in Florida after graduating from high school

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Sylvia Ewing shares her views on religion and spirituality

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Sylvia Ewing describes her decision to move to Chicago, Illinois, in the late 1970s

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Sylvia Ewing describes her early life in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Sylvia Ewing talks about working at City Life Magazine and the Chicago Fashion Associates, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Sylvia Ewing talks about working at City Life Magazine and the Chicago Fashion Associates, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Sylvia Ewing talks about her involvement in the anti-Apartheid movement and the Mozambique Support Network

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Sylvia Ewing talks about her involvement in the Mozambique Support Network, and freelancing after the birth of her daughter

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Sylvia Ewing talks about her former husband and his work

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Sylvia Ewing talks about her experience organizing a conference on Namibia in the 1980s in Chicago

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Sylvia Ewing talks about Oprah Winfrey's early days in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Sylvia Ewing describes her experience at WVON Radio in Chicago, Illinois, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Sylvia Ewing describes her experience at WVON Radio in Chicago, Illinois, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Sylvia Ewing describes her experience at Channel 11, WTTW Radio in Chicago, Illinois, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Sylvia Ewing describes her experience at Channel 11, WTTW in Chicago, Illinois, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Sylvia Ewing talks about her experience on 'Chicago Tonight' on WTTW

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Sylvia Ewing talks about her career between 1994 and 2000

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Sylvia Ewing talks about Barack Obama being featured on WTTW's 'Chicago Tonight' in 2000

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Sylvia Ewing talks about her work at WBEZ Radio and at WTTW Channel 11

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Sylvia Ewing talks about her decision to transition from a career in media to one in education

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Sylvia Ewing talks about the Peter Lisagor Award for Broadcast Journalism and the Edward R. Murrow Award

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Sylvia Ewing talks about her work at Steppenwolf Theatre Company, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Sylvia Ewing talks about her work at Steppenwolf Theatre Company, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Sylvia Ewing talks about her work at Steppenwolf Theatre Company, pt. 3

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Sylvia Ewing reflects upon the importance of cultural theatre in the black community

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Sylvia Ewing talks about leaving the staff of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools in 2007 to work at Steppenwolf Theatre Company, and returning in 2008

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Sylvia Ewing talks about the importance of charter schools, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Sylvia Ewing talks about the importance of charter schools, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Sylvia Ewing talks about her mentor and journalist John Callaway

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Sylvia Ewing talks about the role of meditation in her life

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Sylvia Ewing describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Sylvia Ewing reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Sylvia Ewing talks about what she would have done differently in her career

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Sylvia Ewing provides advice to young journalists

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Sylvia Ewing talks about her family

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Sylvia Ewing talks about her interest in teaching

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Sylvia Ewing talks about how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Sylvia Ewing describes her photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$3

DAStory

3$8

DATitle
Sylvia Ewing talks about starting school in Erie, Pennsylvania, and her relationship with her younger sisters
Sylvia Ewing talks about working at City Life Magazine and the Chicago Fashion Associates, pt. 2
Transcript
Now did you manifest as a young person all the varied interests you have as an adult; dancing, acting, all those different things?$$I think I found my creative voice very early. I always had a strong imagination and one of the--a strong imagination, a strong sort of intuition. And, and part of my early childhood memories are--they--it worried them a little bit that I was both intuitive and you know always thinking out of the box. And I can remember someone telling my grandma [maternal; Rosa Anne Thomas], you should have that child sleep with the Bible under her bed cause she's just out there. And I think they actually for a while you know put a Bible under the mattress. I was just creative and you know a different thinker. And I also talked a lot. I spent time with grown-ups and I talked and talked and talked, talked and talked. And my mom [Louise Miller] would say I will give you a dollar if you can be quiet and I never could. And you know the same with my daughter [Eve Ewing] later on. But it's funny because then I grew up to make a living, particularly doing the you know non-scripted pledge drives where just talking is on the air and on live television is what you know helps pay the bills and what I enjoy. I always drew and had some relatives that took interest in me and, and again having those older cousins I often would take their school books. And so I had anatomy books and books to help me teach myself how to draw and teach me how to do poetry. And I would line up all of my dolls and perform and preach because you know the preacher is our first performer right, the preacher and the teacher. And so I would entertain myself that way and entertain my little cousins and my neighbors with shows and always loved to kind of design the production and be in charge and say, now this is what we're going to do whether or not others agreed with me. And I will say that one of my earliest performance play memories was with my cousins Pat and Alma Jean and we were The Supremes. And I was mad because I never got to be Diana Ross cause then some other cousin was in there too but I always had to be a back up singer and I wanted to be Diana Ross. And so then to grow up and to meet the young men from Human Nature who were--who Smokey Robinson [William Smokey Robinson, Jr.] is mentoring as they sing Motown songs and to do their "Stop in the Name of Love" and to get to do it myself was a lot of fun.$Now what was that about? Let's--we just can't drop it. We have to tell what it was about so--$$Oh. This was when people were protesting spending all of the dollars on these festivals downtown and also not having as many you know contractors and others from communities of color of the--from the black community have access to those resources. And I think Reverend [Jesse] Jackson initiated the boycott and you know it was fascinating for me because one of my draws, one of the things that drew me to Chicago [Illinois] was all of these events where we'd all get together in Grant Park. And I saw Alberta Hunter, Albertina Walker and Alberta Hunter, the blues singer, just all these people for free in the park with thousands of others, and I loved that. But I also understood that you know that the way that the Taste of Chicago or Chicago Fest was done did close the door you know to vendors that weren't connected and things like that. Or at least that's what I saw from my far remove. So I covered that but quite frankly, we were a fashion magazine. We were a lifestyle magazine. We were subliminally subversive with our message and we weren't that good. The things that I know now about just proofing and editing and a good quality product, we had far more enthusiasm and energy than we had skill in really getting the job done. But we found that the parties that we threw to both fundraise for the magazine and to kick it off and--where we brought in some of the designers that we featured in the pages and had fashion shows with them and that we took some of the kids from the, I think it was Robert Taylor Homes around Halsted, you know 63rd and Halsted and around Englewood, where we took the kids from the CHA [Chicago Housing Authority] who had tremendous skill and tremendous interest and taught them the discipline of runway modeling, that was our success. So we backed into from City Life Magazine something that we called Chicago Fashion Associates. And in our heyday, we were featured in 'The Defender'. Warner Saunders covered us on Channel 5. A couple of the kids that modeled for us were twins and they got a contract with one of the gum companies to do an ad campaign.$$Doublemint.$$I think it was Doublemint.$$Wrigley, yeah?$$We had some folks go on to one of the height of success of the day which was the Ebony Fashion Fair, so it was really fun and exciting. But we used modeling and fashion as a way to give young people something to do every Saturday and something that would expand their horizons above you know quite often the poverty and you know violence that they encountered in their daily life and in their home community and it was really a fun time. I have to say though that we later had a bit of a split because I found that my interest in working with youth and giving voice to young people was really blossoming and that to me that was really the focus. And that the modeling and the fashion was just a hook to get them in and encourage them to go to college and encourage them to you know have high aspirations and high standards for themselves. And for my partner, he wanted to make some money you know cause it was--we were in his office or in an office above his family's furniture store. And so we kind of split when he started a modeling school and then our paths really diverged. He later went on to an entirely different type of business.$$This is Howard Shenault?$$Yeah.$$Okay.$$You know I don't know if I should say it, he had an escort company. I mean he went all the way into a different direction. So he went into a different direction and I kind of went into a different direction of more service and wanting to give voice to young people.