Aurora’s poet laureate is making sure that poetry is in clear view in the city’s downtown.  

Karen-Fullett Christensen was at the starting line ready to take off after her appointment. But before she could get into a stride the pandemic swooped in like a whirlwind.  

“So, all the great plans that I had of things I wanted to do related to the poet laureate position really had to be put on hold with the exception of the Aurora Poet Laureate Facebook page,” she said, “and then everything that we're doing with A-Town Poetics.”  

Pec Playhouse Theatre

February’s near-record winter weather took its toll this week on the home of a northern Illinois community theater. Pec Playhouse Theatre in Pecatonica announced Friday that the roof of the auditorium in its building collapsed Wednesday under the weight of accumulated ice and snow. No one was injured.

Along with the roof, most of the auditorium's lighting and heating systems came down into the seating area. 

Jennifer Rea.

Welcome to WNIJ's Poetically Yours. This segment showcases poems by northern Illinois poets. Today's poem is by Jennifer Rea.

Perspective: What Is Blue?

Feb 26, 2021

We are all aware of the color blue, but what’s going on in our brains to make us conscious of the color blue?

So far, scientists don’t know. But let’s flash forward in hope and assume that by the year 2100 they figure it out. Awareness of the color blue is the result of a specific electro-chemical process in the cerebellum called LB2019c.

But there’s still a problem. When I see the color blue, I think of my Aunt Gwenelda, who loved the color. You, on the other hand, think of how depressed you’ve been. Yet that same LB2019c mechanism stimulated our awareness of blue.


  Illinois has given more than two million vaccinations. But Black residents are less likely to get the shots than their white peers, according to Illinois Department of Public Health data. As of Feb. 22, 4% of Sangamon County’s vaccine doses have gone to Black residents, who make up 13% of the county’s population, according to census numbers.

Sessions from Studio A - Mark Walters (Kram)

Feb 25, 2021

Paralysis by Analysis is the new album out now from DeKalb artist Mark Walters, also known as Kram. Join us for this week's show featuring music from that album and more, performed live in WNIJ's Studio A. We'll also talk with Mark Walters about his background, inspirations, and about writing and producing Paralysis by Analysis.

Illinois U.S Representative Cheri Bustos says it’s imperative that the U.S. House pass the next COVID-19 relief package.

The bill is known as the American Rescue Plan and will provide various forms of aid. Bustos said this includes funding for cities to address deficits and immediate need.

"Towns like Peoria having to not fill Fire Department jobs. In Rockford, they weren’t able to purchase new fire and police vehicles."  

Golden Apple

In special ed, teachers usually work with fewer students, and the relationships they build -- not only with kids but also their parents -- can become very close. The school year has been especially challenging with COVID-19 restrictions, but Maddi Bodine has kept forging those bonds -- even online or through plexiglass. She’s a pre-K special ed teacher at Kingston Elementary.

Perspective: Energy Problems

Feb 25, 2021

When the storm descended on Texas beginning on Valentine’s Day, many people turned on their heat only to discover that they had no power, some for as long as 50 hours. People died. Homes and businesses suffered great damage, and water supplies are still not fully restored for many.

A disastrous combination of factors turned this weather event into a dire emergency for millions when the extreme cold caused the electrical grid in Texas to come very close to total collapse.

Two Jefferson High School students in Rockford have advanced in a virtual nationwide spoken word competition.

Raeanna Tremethick and Emma Carmona have moved on to the Poetry Out Loud virtual state competition. 

The contest showcases the talents of high school performance poets across the nation. The students present poems from established poets. 

Connie Kuntz

Many people consider the Chicago Portage to be the transportation link that spurred the growth of Chicago. Some call it the "Birthplace of Chicago" or even "Chicago's Plymouth Rock." Whatever you call it, the Byron Forest Preserve is hosting a free Zoom lecture about the portage's history dating back to the Ice Age. Paula Bryant is an archaeologist with Illinois State Survey Archaeology and she will lead the lecture. 

The DeKalb Public Library, the League of Women Voters of DeKalb County and WNIJ invite you to a virtual, public Mayoral Forum where candidates for the City of DeKalb Mayor will have the opportunity to speak. The virtual event takes place Saturday, March 6 at 6pm. Visit this page at that time to view the forum.

This forum will feature Mayoral candidates Cohen Barnes and Carolyn Morris. Susan Greenwood of the League of Women Voters of Naperville will moderate. We'll also take your questions for the candidates - please submit them below.

Perspective: Rethinking Reparations

Feb 24, 2021
Wesley Tingey / Unsplash

It is not possible to overstate the evil inflicted by the United States upon African Americans and their ancestors. The depravity of slavery, Jim Crow Era lynchings, rapes, and intimidation, continued economic warfare and a criminal justice system designed to control citizens of color with brutality. Just a partial list.  Yet proclaiming, “All men are created equal!”

A volunteer organization that supports teachers in Winnebago and Boone counties came up with a unique way to raise money.

Jennifer Stark is executive director of the Golden Apple Foundation of Rockford. She said the foundation’s teachers came up with the idea of doing a talent show. The viewing is free but those interested in voting are asked to make a donation.  

Perspective: The Dream Keepers

Feb 23, 2021
Elsa Glover

To mark Black History month, Mrs. Shershen’s 8th grade choir at Harter Middle School is exploring Langston Hughes’ poem, “The Dream Keeper” through song.  Its beautiful melody wrapped around my heart.  More so, the poetry mesmerized me. 

Bring me all of your dreams,

You dreamer,

Bring me all of your

Heart melodies

That I may wrap them

In a blue cloud-cloth

Away from the too-rough fingers

Of the world.

A coronavirus mass-vaccination center opens Tuesday  in Rockford at the site of the old K-Mart on Sandy Hollow Road.

Members of the Illinois National Guard will be on hand to administer COVID-19 vaccines as they are allocated. Illinois Emergency Management Agency Director Alicia Tate Nadeau, at a press conference covered by WREX, said this is part of a greater state effort to roll out vaccinations.

“We have a long way to go to get everyone vaccinated, but this site is just one example of how we’re going to close that gap and get [the] vaccine to the most needed.”

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed into law a massive criminal justice overhaul. Critics are already lining up. 


Rockford-area Republican Sen. Dave Syverson said he sympathizes with the opponents of the measure, and referred to it as a “blatant anti-police bill.” 

"Well, certainly I'm disappointed that bill was signed and not vetoed, or even amendatorily vetoed. There are some things in there that make sense. Problem is that the major things that are in there clearly are going to tie the hands of law enforcement."

Spencer Tritt

More and more Illinois school districts are offering in-person options as COVID-19 positivity rates continue to drop. 70% of students are now in a hybrid learning format. But many parents are turning to their school districts to ask for more in-person time.

Northern Illinois University

Domestic protests continue against the military coup in Myanmar. A Northern Illinois University professor hopes they will lead to a democratic transition.

For decades, the southeast Asian nation of Myanmar was controlled by a military junta. This regime held free elections in 1990. That’s when democratic activist Aung San Suu Kyi’s party won a majority of seats. But the military didn’t cede power for nearly two more decades. 

Courtesy of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum

William H. Bissell was Illinois’ 11th governor, elected in 1856 and endorsed by Abraham Lincoln. He is known for many Illinois firsts: first Catholic governor, first Republican governor  -- the party was only two years old at the time of his election -- and first governor to die in office.

What Illinois Can Learn From The Texas Energy Crisis

Feb 22, 2021
Capitol News Illinois

 When parts of Texas’ independent power grid went offline this week due to unusually extreme cold weather in the south, the amount of expected energy production lost was equivalent to the amount of electricity used to keep the lights on in the entire state of Illinois.

During the winter weather months, Illinois uses about 20 gigawatts to produce the energy needed at peak times of the day, Andrew Barbeau, president of Midwest-based consulting firm the Accelerate Group and spokesperson for the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition said in an interview.

Perspective: A Nation On A Desperate Edge

Feb 22, 2021

It is the desperation, fear, and hatred in their faces that follows me. The pained shouts. The hand-to-hand barbarian combat. The use of blunt objects and murder weapons that were at hand. January 6th leaves me with troubling questions like a family member after a suicide.

What drives people to a desperate edge? Why does a person embrace lies over truth? How does a person turn the flag he claims to revere into a weapon?

Rockford Park Distric

Rockford Park District doesn't want you to wear your heart on your sleeve. They want you to hang it on a tree! It's part of their 2021 Winter Flurry initiative called "We Love Our Parks." That's when kids (and their families and friends) create colorful stained-glass hearts and hang them on designated trees throughout the city.

Laura Gibbs-Green is the communications manager for the park district. She said they are distributing free kits throughout the community and that the kits are a great way for families to create art, get outside and have fun.

City of DeKalb

A former DeKalb mayor and long-time community activist died Sunday. Bessie Chronopoulos was 72. 

She was a teacher in Genoa-Kingston schools for more than 35 years and served on DeKalb City Council for decades before she was elected mayor in 1997. After serving one term, Chronopoulos stayed involved in politics as a fixture at city council meetings, a prolific author of “letters to the editor,” and as a voting rights advocate.  

Welcome to WNIJ's Poetically Yours. This segment showcases poems by northern Illinois poets. Today's poet is Bear Wolf. 

Wolf is a Shawnee Gypsy Jew social justice humanist who lost count of his tattoos somewhere around 20. This world makes no sense to him, so he makes music and poetry. His talks about a brighter tomorrow in his poem "Breath of Fresh Air, Sigh of Relief.'"

Listening to NPR today

Feels like once again

Finding my way

I have to say it's nearly miraculous

Hearing stories of inspiration and hope

The coldest, snowiest, most miserable time of year means one thing for many of the hardiest folk in Wisconsin – time to drag your ice auger and a bucket of shiners out onto the nearest lake.


In certain areas, like St. Louis, the COVID-19 vaccine is in such short supply and demand is so high that people have looked to other locations to get their shots.  They've even taken to the road, driving three hours or more.  While the daytrip has paid off for some, it also raises ethical questions. 

A well-known sportswriter has a new book, telling the personal story of his grandson, who died from substance abuse.  And a deported veteran has been returned to Illinois -- for his burial. 

Those stories and more on this episode of Statewide.

This week's lineup:

Spectrum School

On a new episode of Teachers' Lounge: Mary Beth Cunat! She’s the principal at Spectrum Progressive School in Rockford. Talking to Mary Beth is like taking a free master’s degree class in education. We went in-depth about what it means to be a “progressive school,” her lengthy career in education including her time at Chicago Public Schools, teaching working with her family at Spectrum as well as her love of animals (specifically we both love otters and talk about that for a while. Don’t miss it!)

Perspective: Give Marmite A Chance!

Feb 19, 2021

Since we cannot go on vacations, my wife decided to explore new ways to be adventurous and, on a whim, she brought home a small jar of Marmite.

We knew that this substance is popular in the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand. But we also had heard other things about it. A colleague of ours had spent months in Australia with his cousins, who, in his words, "loved that stuff," and his opinion of it was quite low. Then, again, he also hated mayonnaise.

Local businesses have struggled to stay afloat during the pandemic. Seventeen percent of U.S. restaurants have closed due to COVID-19. They’ve swung from closed, to open with restrictions, to closed again -- and some have operated in spite of mitigation rules, potentially putting customers and employees at risk for the virus.