New arts venue welcomes Columbia students

By KatherineGamby

Columbia students will soon have a new venue to express themselves in, following the opening of The Roots Room.

Roots Rock Society, an award-winning Chicago-based reggae group, is opening a new arts venue in September at 5302 N. Kimball Ave. called The Roots Room, where local Chicagoans can perform music, spoken word and poetry.

“We want to keep the live music going,” said Stann Champion, owner of Starstruck Productions and founding member of Roots Rock Society. “People are trying to push the live musicians to the side. How can you do that?”

The group, which has had three out of the five members attend Columbia, will not only feature live music at The Roots Room, but also have nights when a band’s CD is highlighted.

“It’s good that we had the opportunity to find a place of our own where we can control the vibration that’s going on,” Champion said.

The décor of the new venue will be lively but true to the culture of the African Diaspora, which is intertwined into Roots Rock Society’s music. The Roots Room will also showcase the group’s accomplishments over the years.

“We wanted to make it a museum for what we’ve done,” Champion said.

Among those accomplishments are international airplay, various music awards and humanitarian efforts, some of which will be included in The Roots Room.

“We’ll have Sundays where we’ll have food drives where the admission will be can goods and we’ll distribute [the cans] to needy people,” Champion said.

The Roots Room will hold a capacity of 75 people and feature a juice bar in compliance with being a non-alcoholic venue, so it will be age-inclusive. The venue will also be a bicycle roadhouse for cyclers to take a break and refresh themselves before arriving at their destinations.

“It’s going to be for the community and for the creative community especially,” Champion said.

Sharod Smith, Program and Manifest Musical Coordinator for Columbia, said he sees The Roots Room as a good opportunity for Columbia students to get involved in, especially for those who approach him for venues to perform at other than Big Mouth.

“It should be a pretty intimate space for folks who want to [have] a tight little intimate gathering,” he said.

Smith said he doesn’t think distance will play a role in whether students attend shows or for students who want to perform.

“We have people who travel up to Sheridan and Evanston to perform … people travel far and wide to perform as long as the venue is decent,” Smith said.

He said he is always available to help students and artists like Roots Rock Society get ahead, whether or not they are under the Columbia umbrella.

“I’m always open to assist another musician, another artist, another creative being prosper, so to speak … I’m all about unity,” Smith said.

Johnetta “Awthentik” Anderson, a sophomore television major at Columbia, practices spoken word to reach out and expose people to the way she sees the world around her.

“I talk for and to the poor people … I talk to the people in the wrong-wrong is wrong, even if you have the right clothes on,” Anderson said.

Anderson said she doesn’t have any reservations about performing at a venue like The Roots Room, even though her message is different from that of Roots Rock Society and The Roots Room.

“I’ve performed in plenty of venues like [The Roots Room] … [it’ll] be nothing,” Anderson said.

Being nervous is not an option for Anderson because she said she feels as though she can identify with any crowd she performs in front of, and The Roots Room is no exception.

“I don’t get nervous because I have a message that is so real that it’ll reach everybody,” Anderson said.

For more information on The Roots Room, contact Stann Champion via e-mail, or visit