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Dozens from Illinois Campaign for Prison Phone Justice, CU Immigration Forum, CU Citizens for Peace and Justice, Citizens with Conviction and other groups working for social justice in Champaign Urbana, gathered for an all-day workshop to learn media production.
In the IMC's newly created computer training classroom, participants used Audacity, free audio production software, to make short audio pieces.
DJ BJ showed people the ropes using the board in the WRFU 104.5 FM studio. Participants tried their hand speaking on air, then walked outside to view the 100 foot radio tower which broadcasted their message to all of Urbana, Champaign, and Savoy - all with 100 watts, or the power of a lightbulb.
As a grassroots movement working to address racial, gender, and economic injustices produced by our local criminal justice system, we have made one of our main efforts in recent years the prevention of new jail construction and the mass-incarceration mindset that goes along with it. Our ongoing effort has had remarkable success, thanks in great part to the tireless work and vision of fellow CUCPJ member James Kilgore.
In February 2014, a local right wing newspaper launched an attack against Dr. Kilgore, reporting as if it was news on his criminal background and political activities in the 1970s and questioning whether the University of Illinois―where he currently teaches―should employ him. Although in March a spokesperson for the University made a statement in support of Dr. Kilgore, in April in a private meeting with the University provost, James was informed without explanation that the University would not approve any future employment contracts with him.
A series of May Day events is taking place May 3 to May 14 celebrating the life of legendary folk singer, banjo player, and political activist Pete Seeger, who passed away in January. After a flyer for the event was circulated, my friend Barbara Kessel emailed me about her recollection of Pete Seeger’s 1958 visit to the University of Illinois when he was banned from performing on campus during the red scare. The incident is a reminder of how widespread the blacklist was, even reaching this Midwestern college town. As the civil rights movement was gaining momentum and “the sixties” were just around the corner, Barbara recalled a “new world” opened up to her that night.
By James Kilgore, Champaign-Urbana Citizens for Peace and Justice
When we began our campaign to stop jail construction in Champaign County in early 2012, I thought we were doomed. The grand plan to spend $20 million on this project seemed like a done deaI. The Sheriff was driving the initiative; the leading lights in the County Board seemed to think jail construction was the only prudent course. Yet, nearly two years later we have a very different scenario. The 2014 budget for Champaign County doesn’t include a single cent for jail construction. In fact, the county has allocated more than $200,000 in new money for social programs aimed at keeping people out of jail. In a county of slightly more than 200,000 residents, this is an important start.
How did this happen? The answer is simple- a campaign of ordinary people, led by a core from the Champaign-Urbana Citizens for Peace and Justice (CUCPJ), turned the situation around. This campaign is proof that action by people at the grassroots level can make a difference.
On Tuesday, October 1, 2013, Carol Ammons announced her candidacy for the 103rd District of the Illinois House of Representatives. The seat has become open since Naomi Jakobsson announced her retirement. Ammons has a long track record as a local service provider and community organizer. She is co-founder of CU Citizens for Peace and Justice. She has served on the Champaign County Board and is currently a member of the Urbana City Council. She recently resigned as Operations Manager of the Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center.
Below is a speech she gave in front of the Lincoln statue in Carle Park in Urbana.
Darrell Cannon, survivor of police torture, wrongful conviction, and 24 years in prison spoke to large crowds at the Independent Media Center and University YMCA today. Mr. Cannon was tortured by Chicago police in 1983 and then again though nine years of solitary confinement in Tamms prison. He fought continuously for his innocence, finally succeeding in 2008. His civil suit against the City of Chicago is still pending.
Mr. Cannon shared the horrific details of his torture, pausing to tap his cheek for strength and comfort. He was captured by three Chicago police detectives who cracked his front teeth with the barrel of a shotgun - they shoved it in his mouth and pretended to fire. They hung him by handcuffs, wrenching his shoulders. After each of these events he refused to confess to the murder they accused him of. Then they shocked his genitals with a taser electroshock stun gun. He finally confessed. It was this forced confession, without proof or witnesses, that was used to put him away for life.
After a campaign by CU Citizens for Peace and Justice in 2005, Champaign County ended its phone contract that gouged local inmates and their families while providing a financial kick back to the county. You can read about this historic victory in the IMC archives. 8 years later, the Federal Communications Commission has taken similar action to reduce barriers to prisoners connecting with loved ones. As an anchor in the Media Action Grassroots Network which has led the national campaign for Prison Phone Justice, UCIMC would like to recognize all the hard work of Steven Renderos and the Center for Media Justice, Prison Legal News, and Working Narratives. Here is the press release from Center for Media Justice.