First United Methodist Church of DeKalb

A northern Illinois church is bringing back its free monthly Sunday dinners after they were interrupted by the pandemic.  

Vicki Boone is a volunteer at First United Methodist Church of DeKalb. She said the "R.E.A.L meal sharing food and friendship" program is bigger than a handout.  

“It stands for -- I think what we hope all churches would be at their best -- relevant, engaging, authentic and loving,” she explained.

Boone emphasized that this is at the heart of what the establishment does.  

No Foolin’: on April 1, 2007, the Illinois General Assembly passed Senate Resolution 255, designating every April 1st in Illinois as "Cheap Trick Day."

Looking For Lincoln

An international performer took an audience on a musical journey highlighting the plight of runaway slaves during a conversation series Wednesday evening.

Reggie Harris is not only an entertainer; he’s also a lecturer and cultural ambassador. During his Looking For Lincoln performance, he said slaves used singing not only as secret coding but also as inspiration. 

Spencer Tritt

A year after COVID-19 shut down schools, DeKalb high schoolers are back in the building. And in just a few days, they’ll be back a full five days a week.

“Me and my friends had this joke until we got back -- spring break never ended,” said Abby Slater, she’s a freshman at DeKalb. As she mentioned, time moves differently during the pandemic -- especially for students who had their whole education experience thrown out the window and reassembled before it hit the ground last year.

Koshu Kunii / Unsplash

As a white male in his 60s, I have many things I may need to apologize for. All my discarded plastic or all my contribution to climate change.

And then, there is my white privilege, which came with my birth. Yes, I was born a poor white male; however, I have earned more in my lifetime than many of my male African American peers, most who have worked much harder than me.

I am sorry for the system. Although I did not create it, I have silently benefitted from it.

And my apology for it will not right all the wrongs, not even just my wrongs.

Latrice Murphy Design & Photography.

Welcome to WNIJ's Poetically Yours. This segment showcases poems written by northern Illinois poets. This week features Aurora Poet Laureate Karen Fullett-Christensen.

Fullett-Christensen has been writing poetry and memory stories since high school, and credits two of her English teachers, Mr. Vespo and Mr. Brown, for their encouragement and support. She has self-published over 20 manuscripts. Her poems and creative non-fiction have appeared in a variety of print and online publications, and are available at no cost to anyone who requests copies.

  Many higher learning institutions, including community colleges, have seen a  drop in enrollment during the pandemic. While officials work to reverse that trend, some students say this has been an opportunity to re-think their future plans.  

And Illinois prisons began prohibiting in-person visits to slow the spread of COVID-19.  They have yet to change that policy.  

Those stories and more on this week's Statewide.

Our lineup:

Sen. Syverson Urges Action on Rockford Casino

Mar 26, 2021

Illinois State Senator Dave Syverson says the state’s inaction on a planned Hard Rock Casino in Rockford is putting the area at a competitive disadvantage.

Wisconsin’s governor approved a Ho-Chunk casino to go forward in Beloit, right across the state border. The General Assembly passed gaming expansion back in 2019, and the Gaming Board had a year to approve Rockford’s casino. But it’s been 19 months since that happened.

Cpl. Paul Peterson, U.S. Marine Corps.

March 29th is Vietnam War Veteran Day and while I was not deployed in Country because no female soldiers were allowed to qualify with a weapon or serve as combat soldiers, I did serve.

Graduating basic took something, not every recruit made it through -- I never thought I would. Upon graduating, I proudly wore my uniform to the airport. Holding my head high, I walked to my gate.


Initially inspired by the first wave of post-punk, The Funeral March of the Marionettes has continued to evolve their sound and release new music thoughout the band's existence. Their latest EP Solace was released in the spring of 2020 and is available on their Bandcamp page

We'll hear tracks from that EP in this episode, along with a live performance from the band recorded in Studio A. We'll also talk about their background, inspirations, and Mattel drum machines on this new edition of Sessions from Studio A!   

Juanpablo Ramirez-Franco

Healthcare workers in Rockford are calling on legislators to invest more in caregiving.



Members of SEIU in Rockford are rallying behind a proposal that would widen the current assessment scoring used to determine eligibility for home care programs. Brenda Brockman with SEIU called it a step towards restructuring long-term care options.

A Rockford art initiative that started in 2019 reemerged this year and is expanding to other cities.

Martesha Brown, the director of advancement at the Rockford Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the public mural program, CRE8IV:transformational Art, was a success two years ago. 

Perspective: The Silver Lining In Clouded Vision

Mar 24, 2021
Liam Shaw / Unsplash

I am a somewhat elderly gentleman, retired from my profession, and generally in good health -- with one exception. I am afflicted with macular degeneration, an age-related malady that leaves me, more or less, legally blind. However, I find that there are ample compensations.

Tricia Alexander

After tackling her own demons, a northern Illinois musician transitioned to helping others heal through her music and more.    

Tricia Alexander calls herself three things: a musician, a minister, and a mentor -- but music is the core of who she is. She said she started singing before she could put sentences together.

Perspective: Collective Healing

Mar 23, 2021
Finn / Unsplash

Collective trauma is the term used to describe a shared emotional response to a devastating experience. This past year presented more than its fair share of traumatizing events. From COVID-related fear and grief to horror and outrage at race-related tragedies, our collective well-being has suffered in unexpected and overwhelming ways. While there are no easy resolutions to the trauma, we can take steps to heal ourselves and our communities.

Spencer Tritt

As students begin returning in-person, one of the biggest challenges they face beyond academics is COVID-19 trauma. Yasmina Sefiane is used to talking about the significant impact trauma can take on students and their learning. She’s the program director at the NIU Center for Child Welfare & Education.

She also helps run the Educational Access Project. They have advisors across every corner of Illinois helping break down the barriers youth in foster care face to succeed in school.

Perspective: Silenced

Mar 23, 2021

“You talk too much,” my mother said, one arm on the steering wheel, the other holding the rim of the window. “People just aren’t interested.” Wind smeared hair in my face.

National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, NPG.2009.36

On March 25, 1931, Illinois, and the nation, mourned the loss of suffragist and civil rights icon Ida B. Wells. But before she became a crusader for women’s rights, Wells came to national attention as a crusader against lynchings of African Americans in the South.

Many northern Illinois institutions have put a magnifying glass on their groups’ practices for equity, diversity and inclusion. Some Rockford organizations are pledging to work together to focus on these issues.  

The Rockford Area Venues and Entertainment Authority (R.A.V.E.) and Friends of the Coronado are teaming up to ensure racial fairness at Davis Park, BMO Harris Bank Center and Coronado Performing Arts Center.   

Martesha Brown, a R.A.V.E. board member, said the organization has wanted to focus on equity, inclusion and diversity for some time.    

Perspective: Yogi's Advice For Republicans

Mar 22, 2021

The wise philosopher Yogi Berra once urged, "When you come to a fork in the road, take it!" Republicans may need to take that fork, and soon.

The party is split between Trumpists and those who long to move on. This schism may be irreconcilable because it is rooted in both policy and personality.

The personality problems are obvious. Trump's modus operandi is to attack and antagonize. Policies and opponents are caricatured for effect. Trumpists enjoy and applaud, but many others are put off and turn away--literally. They turn away from the party itself.

Photo provided by Rhonda Parsons.

Welcome to WNIJ's Poetically Yours. Poetically Yours showcases poems by northern Illinois poets. This week features Rhonda Parsons. 


On a new Teachers’ Lounge, we have an entire family of teachers --the Goekes! Karl, Stacy and Rachel join Peter to talk about their experiences as educators going through the pandemic. We talked about how in-person school “normalcy” isn’t really that normal at all.


They’re all teachers at different schools at different grade levels -- so we get a look behind the curtain at every level of education! Also, Karl even taught Rachel’s Spanish class in high school. He had other siblings and cousins too!

Claire Buchanan

Last year in mid-March, staff at WNIJ left behind studios and desks at the station for blanket forts and kitchen tables at home. Claire Buchanan brings us this reflection, one year later:

CB: Hi, I’m Claire. I’m the Morning Edition producer here at WNIJ. You’ve probably heard me on the air from time to time, but most of what I do is away from the mics. And for the past year, I’ve been doing that from my house. A full year in, I like to think I’m kind of a work from home expert. But I recently checked in with a veteran of the lifestyle to see if I have anything left to learn.

Perspective: Carve Your Day

Mar 18, 2021
Lonny Cain

My dad had visions. The kind that turn into things.

He would see things in his head -- and then make them. He was an artist.

That's what artists do. They transfer what they see onto or into something we can see. Call it a skill if you want. But it feels larger than that.

He liked to carve, but that process was different. He began with a vision but the wood itself would guide him.

Artists must work in partnership with their particular process or medium. But I think that partnership is more critical when you're carving.

Sessions from Studio A - Los Compadres del Tango

Mar 18, 2021

We have a special, unique edition of Sessions from Studio A this week, with Rockford's Los Compadres del Tango. The duo is made up of pianist Erik Olson and Jacques Saint-Cyr playing flute. This is a new genre for us in Studio A, and it was a joy to learn more about the culture and history of tango. We hope you'll learn something new as well!

Check out some behind-the-scenes video below from Los Compadres del Tango's live performance in WNIJ's Studio A. 

NIU Today

Northern Illinois University’s Board of Trustees on Thursday unanimously approved extending NIU President Lisa Freeman’s contract through Fiscal Year 2025. The trustees praised her for advancing the school’s educational mission and her leadership during the pandemic. President Freeman said she wants to build upon this success. 

“With this contract renewal," she said, "I am so enthusiastic about the opportunity to build on our positive momentum and continue to work with students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends and partners to move NIU forward.”

Perspective: Open Season On Walkers

Mar 17, 2021
adapted from Manfred Richter / Pixabay

Pedestrians are not treated well on Rockford’s roads. Especially during winter, when sidewalks go unshoveled, walking is a dangerous activity, and those poor souls without a car nor bus fare can expect to dodge daily vehicular mayhem.

Here, cars have right of way most of the time, and when designing new roads, the movement of vehicles is more important than the safety of civilians.

Two organizations from different sides of the world are collaborating to highlight a particular culture during Women’s History Month.

Womanspace of Rockford and Jhoole, a nonprofit in India, are working together for “Experience India.”

Shiraz Tata is a board member of Womanspace. She said the community has the desire to learn about other cultures.  

A new book aims to shine a greater light on the history of Irish immigrants to Illinois. 

The work is a product of two people, Northern Illinois University history professor Sean Farrell, and his former doctoral student Mathieu Billings, who now works at the University of Indianapolis. Farrell said a key motivation behind the book, and its title, was to broaden the scope by which people see “The Irish in Illinois.” 

Perspective: Voter Suppression Is Oppression

Mar 17, 2021

Recently, hundreds of new voting regulations have been proposed in state legislatures across the country, once again reigniting an old fight steeped in prejudice and racism.