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The ribbon cutting for a new community garden in southeast Urbana took place on a sunny Saturday afternoon, September 8, 2012. Created by the Lierman Neighborhood Action Committee, it is part of the “Let’s Move” campaign launched by First Lady Michelle Obama to create community gardens in cities across the country.
Located at Washington and Lierman, the garden is at the center of a neighborhood which has been in the local mainstream media for its stories of robberies, shootings, and drug dealing. The garden is a sign that some members of the community are beginning to take control of their own destiny.
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.