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A protest was held before the board meeting of the Housing Authority of Champaign County (HACC) on Thursday, August 23, 2012 by those questioning plans to demolish Bristol Place, a largely African American neighborhood on the North End in Champaign. This comes on the heels of the demolition of two public housing units, Dunbar Court and Joann Dorsey Homes, also largely comprised of black residents. Local authorities have ambitions of eliminating all signs of poverty, while failing to address the basic needs of those less fortunate.
After months of stalling, the city of Champaign has finally released documents about the incident on June 5, 2011 when a 20 year-old African American man, Brandon Ward, was choked in the back of a squad car by white officer Patrick Simons. While five officers have been disciplined, not one has been suspended for a single day. Nevertheless, it is a sign of the shake-up taking place in the Champaign Police Department.
The Ward case created a storm of controversy in November 2011 when Champaign city officials announced that they had seen video of a black youth being abused by police. It occurred around 2:30 a.m. at 4th and Green streets after the bars had closed. Video of the incident was anonymously leaked at the Independent Media Center website, ucimc.org, and has received nearly 15,000 hits to date.
Thanks to the passage of the Local Community Radio Act, nonprofits will soon have the chance to apply for non-commercial radio licenses in cities and towns across the country! 1000+ new channels will become available, marking the largest expansion of community radio stations in U.S. history. The time to apply is coming up fast - with an application window opening in the next 6-12 months.
Arts organizations are some of the best positioned groups to take advantage of the upcoming opportunity to start new community radio stations.
The Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center is seen as a model for how radio can be used to amplify the arts and the value of radio for arts organizations.
The national Grassroots Radio Conference is taking place this year at the Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center. The conference comes on the heels of recent legislation opening up markets for low power radio stations across the United States. On Friday, July 27, a day of panels took place about how people could set up community radio stations.
There were panels of information sharing with people telling stories of how they had successfully produced community radio in their own home towns.
There was also a poetry workshop held by local poet and host of SPEAK Cafe Aaron Ammons.
The keynote address was given by Joe Torres, co-author with Juan Gonzalez, of News for All the People: The Epic Story of Race and the American Media.
From July 26-29, the Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center will be hosting the Grassroots Radio Conference (GRC), an annual conference celebrating the vibrant and democratic medium of local, community-driven radio. Highlights include a Friday night keynote by New York Times best-selling author Joe Torres, a bus tour of UC2B, Urbana-Champaign’s new public broadband system, and a celebration of WRFU’s new radio tower that will enable the station to reach the entire Champaign-Urbana community. Registration is $125 ($75 low-income) and can be done at www.grassrootsradioconference.
It was 96° in the shade, but a large crowd came out on July 19, 2012 for a showing of union solidarity. The Campus Labor Coalition―including AFSCME, SEIU, GEO, AAP, and CFA―held a rally at the Alma Mater on the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and then marched across the quad.
The rally was partly to show support for workers in the local AFSCME union who have repeatedly been stalled by university negotiators and are still waiting for a fair contract. The university sites the state budget crisis, while top administrators go on getting paid inflated six-figure salaries. Despite several recent scandals that have forced campus leaders to resign in shame, they have been given golden parachutes by their colleagues. Those at the rally held signs that read “The U of I Isn't Broke, It's Broken!”
Last night, May 11th, Champaign-Urbana Citizens for Peace and Justice (CUCPJ) held a public forum on the jail issue. The event was a response to the County Board's current consideration of a plan to spend $20 plus million on a new jail. CUCPJ organized the event because the Jail Planning Team of the County Board has refused requests to take the issue to the public. The overflow crowd at Urbana City Council chambers listened to a series of speakers question the wisdom of spending such a huge amount of money when the county has so many other urgent needs.
On May 8, 2012, a section of East Park Street, between Second Street and Third Street, in Champaign was dedicated to Catherine Hogue, black woman activist and long time County Board member. A sign now stands at the intersection in front of the Boys and Girls Club that reads, "Honorary Catherine Hogue Way."
On Tuesday, May 1, the International Workers' Day, the Illinois Legislature's Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability will vote on whether or not to close Tamms, the supermax prison in southern Illinois. Our local Senator Michael Frerichs who will have a vote in that session has yet to declare himself on the issue.
On Tuesday, April 10 the Champaign and Urbana (Cunningham) Township meetings will have on their agendas two items to be voted on by all registered voters in attendance.
One item calls for an item to be added to the November ballot which urges representatives, from the local to national level, to endorse an Amendment which declares corporations do not have the same rights as people and states that legislation should be pursued which challenges the Citizens United Supreme Court decision by re-enacting curbs on corporate spending in elections.
Another adds to the November ballot a measure which challenges corporate enclosure of the commons by establishing laws in Champaign/Urbana which allow non-disruptive forms of free speech in areas where private business can currently prohibit it, such as private parking lots and malls.
Report back from County Board meeting on March 22, 2012
Since the proposed plans for the $20 million jail construction project landed on the Champaign County Board agenda earlier this year, the driving force behind this process has been an all-white grouping known as the Jail Space Improvement Planning Team. The team has functioned somewhat like a secret society within the board. While all subcommittees and advisory bodies of the board are supposed to be under the Open Meetings Act (and therefore open to the public and obliged to keep records/minutes of their proceedings), the leading light of the Planning Team, Board member Tom Betz, has repeatedly claimed that the team falls outside the regulations of Open Meetings. When pressed for minutes of their meetings, County Board Administrator Deb Busey claimed that the group never met and therefore had no minutes.
The Public= “Lunatic Fringe”
In the last week, documents acquired by a Freedom Of Information Act request have revealed a number of troubling communications exchanged by members of the Jail Space Improvement Project Planning Team. The Team is the Champaign County Board's primary representative to County staff on the jail issue. Among these documents are emails exchanged by County Administrator Deb Busey and County Sheriff Dan Walsh which site projected costs as well as specific numbers concerning bonds to be issued backed by the Public Safety Sales Tax.
Clearly the word is getting out that the County Board intends to spend $20 million dollars on unneeded jail cells. At each Board meeting, opposition mounts. This week, Tuesday, March 17, at the justice committee meeting of the County Board, three issues rose to the fore. First came the fallout from State’s Attorney Julia Reitz’ comment the previous week that there was no need to include a “token” minority on an all-white jail space improvement team which has the major decision-making power over any construction project. Both Aaron Ammons and Martel Miller called for Reitz to step down from that committee. They also called for further investigation into the reasons why African-Americans make up more than 50% of the county jail population.
Our Cash-Starved Social Services
It took the County Board until almost midnight on Tuesday to pass the RFP for a needs assessment concerning the county jail. This is a first step in their grand plans to spend $20 million (likely more) on building new cells at the satellite jail. The five and a half hour meeting kicked off with an hour of public participation during which a parade of individuals stood at the podium urging the Board to re-think its approach to addressing "public safety" by building more jail beds. Three themes recurred during these inputs: 1) the overwhelmingly disproportionate presence of African Americans in the jails (more than 60% in a county that is 12% Black) 2) the lack of public voice in the decision-making process, particularly on the Board's all-white Jail Space Improvement Planning team which wields the bulk of authority on the jail issue 3) that there are many, many better ways to spend $20 million dollars in Champaign County than to build new jail facilities.
People from Champaign-Urbana Citizens for Peace and Justice (CUCPJ) have been attending the County Board meetings on the proposed $20 million dollar jail construction project since January. Speakers during public comment have repeatedly pointed out to board members that the central problem with criminal justice in Champaign County is not a deteriorating building but the racial disparities in how the law is enforced. At present only 12% of county residents are African-American, yet our surveys show that typically more than 60% of those in the jail are Black. We assume that none of the board members are the kinds of Neanderthal s who believes Blacks have some special criminal gene or come from an “outlaw culture.” So if our board members don’t fall in that category, we want to know why, despite the fact that we’ve brought this up at every meeting, almost none of them want to deal with this crucial issue. Their silence on these racial disparities is deafening. They are ignoring the elephant in the room.
Save the date!
Interested in using media to transform your community? The Grassroots Radio Conference (GRC) celebrates the vibrant and democratic medium of local community-driven radio. We bring together radio operators, media artists, community activists, engineers, and ordinary citizens from across the nation to learn, discuss, brainstorm, and build. Due to last year’s historic Local Community Radio Act, the government will be issuing brand new community radio station licenses all across the country to nonprofits and their partnering community groups, including for the first time in major cities! To that end, the GRC will feature an LP-FM Clinic to help in the process of starting your own LP-FM station and helping existing stations adapt to the digital age. This year’s GRC will celebrate RFU (Radio Free Urbana) raising its new radio tower and the UC-IMC becoming an anchor institution in Urbana-Champaign’s new public broadband system. Stay tuned to grassrootsradioconference.org for more information as the conference approaches. To get involved, contact Austin at email@example.com.
Attached is the 2011 jail inspection of the Champaign County jails by criminal justice specialist Brad Bresson of the Illinois Department of Corrections. Despite claims by Sheriff Dan Walsh that the downtown jail is uninhabitable, it passed state inspection.
Another crowd of people showed up for a second week to oppose plans for expansion of the Champaign County jail. Several individuals spoke during public comment. Among them were:
Mikhail Lyubansky, who writes and teaches about restorative justice, said, "Jail is just one strategy, not the only one" to public safety and called on the County Board to look into alternatives to incarceration.
Peter Campbell of the GEO Solidarity Committee said, "To argue that we should expand a jail in order to treat prisoners better is perverse: any public official who makes this argument is trading on the lives of the most vulnerable in our community for their own political gain."
Chris Evans spoke about the history of the public safety quarter cent sales tax, passed by voters in 1998. The sales tax ought to be brought back to voters, he said.
On Feb. 21-May 15 I will be co-teaching a series of classes for caregivers of individuals with mental illness. I took this class 2 years ago and it really helped me with dealing with the brother with Asperger Syndrome.
The classes are for the CAREGIVER, not the person with mental illness. There are other classes for them.
I encourage you to send this with the poster attachment to anyone who you think might benefit from such classes. We ask for a 13 week commitment. There is a lot of material including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and the latest info on treatments for all kinds of disorders.
Please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 356-1925 if you have any questions.
We have room for a few more people in the class.
Thanks for caring about those who are caregivers,
In honor of Black History Month, the IMC will be hosting a film series celebrating African-American filmmakers. The first showing will be of the 1993 film Sankofa on Tuesday, February 14th at 6:00 PM. Admission will be $3, with all proceeds going to IMC.
The story follows Mona, a contemporary model, as she is visited by spirits lingering in the Cape Coast Castle in Ghana and travels to the past, where, as a house servant named Shola she is constantly abused by her slave masters. Nunu, an African-born field hand, and Shango, Shola's West Indian love interest, all continuously rebel against the slave system. For Nunu this means direct conflict with her son (whose father is a white man) benefiting from the system as a head slave. Inspired by Nunu and Shango's determination to defy the system, Shola finally chooses to fight back against her masters.
On June 5, 2011 Champaign police choked a 20 year old African-American man in the back seat of a squad car while he was in handcuffs. His crime? Asking why he had been stopped, roughed up, and pepper sprayed while walking in campus town.
The below report is by Belden Fields, writer for the Public i, newspaper of the Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center.