Report for America

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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.”  

Jennifer Rea.

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

https://docs.google.com/document/d/18MRGuv8fzF3Fn5r54r07xkFlElTnCky_DlaqAtLwxHY/edit

Black History Month is coming to a close and WNIJ wants to recognize a Rockford jazz singer and educator who some say is creating a solid legacy in the city.  

 

Dorothy Paige-Turner can be described as sort of --well-- a renaissance woman.  

In addition to singing and being a retired teacher, she writes books, poetry and plays, leads a number of youth art initiatives, speaks French and has received many awards for her work throughout the years. She was also inducted into the Rockford Fine Arts Coalition 2020 Hall of Fame.

https://www.poetryoutloud.org/

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. 

http://www.goldenappleofrockford.com/Announcements-News/talent-announcment-monday.html

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.  

http://www.senatordavesyverson.com

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."

https://joejencks.com/home/?page=home

Musicians across the world have had to accept performing without a live audience. One DeKalb folk musician has adapted to this and is still able to make a living doing what he loves.

Joe Jencks grew up in Rockford. He is the youngest of seven children. He said his family was always surrounded by music.  

Beloit International Film Festival.

Drive-in movie theaters were very popular several decades ago, but the pandemic has caused interest in them to rise again. A Beloit film group is taking this movie experience to the parking lot.

The Beloit International Film Festival has a 10-day virtual festival starting Feb. 19 but some films will show outside at the Ironworks campus parking area.  

Greg Gerard is the executive director of the film festival. He said the festival wants to help diminish the community’s hunger for outside entertainment.  

Connie Kuntz

National Poetry Month isn’t until April but some Rockford high school students are preparing now for an upcoming spoken word showdown. 

Poetry Out Loud is a competition that takes place for high school students across the country. This year young poets at Jefferson High School are participating.  

Photo by Northern Illinois University - Pick Museum of Anthropology.

George Floyd’s death ignited protests and conversations around race relations last year. But racial tensions have existed for many years in America. A traveling exhibition featuring racist imagery has landed at Northern Illinois University. The goal is to inspire more discussions.  

Aunt Jemima on a pancake box, board games, books and other racist items are some of the objects that can be seen in the “Hateful Things” exhibition at NIU’s Pick Museum of Anthropology.

Connie Kuntz

Welcome to this week's Poetically Yours. Poetically Yours showcases poems by northern Illinois poets. This week's episode features Christopher D. Sims. 

Sims is from the West Side of Rockford and first shared his poetic gifts onstage at Haskell Elementary School thanks to Dorothy Paige-Turner. 

Provided by Marcos Lara.

The pandemic has hammered the art industry’s finances. The effect was felt across the field according to a report by Americans for the Arts. But one Rockford artist couple found ways to keep each other going after their main sources of income temporarily disappeared.  

Beloit International Film Festival.

An organization that celebrates filmmakers is kicking off its flagship event in a slightly different way this year.

The Beloit International Film Festival is celebrating its 16th season with an outside, drive-thru Reveal Party. 

This event normally takes place indoors, but the pandemic prevented that from happening. 

Greg Gerard is the executive director of the film festival. He explained what people can expect. 

Provided by Paige Monet.

Welcome to this week's Poetically Yours. Poetically Yours showcases works by northern Illinois poets. This week we share a poem by Paige Monet Wright of FourPoets, OneMic. 

Wright was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia but moved to Illinois at the age of 14. She and her older sister were raised mainly by their mother.

Wright is a sophomore at Northern Illinois University studying biological sciences. She says she wants to be a pediatrician so that she can help children stay healthy and safe. 

Illinois Department of Human Services

More than $4 million in grants have been given to state organizations to promote racial healing. And some northern Illinois groups are sharing how they’re putting those funds to use.

The Illinois Department of Human Services and The Chicago Community Trust are helping some state institutions with a Healing Illinois Grant. 

Grace Hou is the secretary of the Illinois Department of Human Services.  

Joe Tallman

A Rockford resident is one of 25 finalists in a beer can design contest.

Illustrator and graphic designer Joe Tallman said he grew up looking at imagery for Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer. 

“My grandpa, he had a little bar -- I want to say he had like some glassware and coasters and stuff like that,” Tallman said. “So even before I probably knew what exactly it was, I remember like seeing the logo.” 

Tallman said he normally doesn’t participate in design contests.

Rockford Church Offers Shelter Alternative

Feb 3, 2021
SecondFirst Church

Some homeless individuals choose not to stay at traditional overnight shelters. With the help of a grant, a Rockford church is giving these people a safe and warm alternative.

The Rockford Overnight Café at the SecondFirst Church started accepting guests Jan. 18. Rebecca White Newgren is the pastor of the church. She said some homeless people with mental illnesses are not comfortable in all spaces.   

Last week a record number of women were sworn into leadership roles at Rockford United Labor. 

 

 

Sara Dorner, a local labor representative for AFSCME Council 31, made history by being elected the first female president of Rockford United Labor. But she says women aren’t new to the picket line. 

 

“We've always been here, this is nothing new. We're just happy you're seeing us now,” said Dorner. 

 

https://auroradowntown.org/

A recent gateway mural project in the city of Aurora sparked a lot of dialogue last year. The nonprofit organization that commissioned the mural used that experience to come up with the theme for another development.  

“Aurora Unity” is the title for an upcoming gateway mural that will be located on the near East Side of the city. The exact location will be shared at a later date. People will be able to view it as they approach downtown.    

Stellantis

 

Workers at the Belvidere Assembly Plant are eligible for COVID-19 vaccines beginning this week. 

In Boone County, workers at the Stellantis -- formerly Fiat-Chrysler -- assembly plant -- can now get their shots. Kevin Logan is the President of UAW 1268. He says the vaccines are a good sign. 

 

Poetically Yours - Ep. 26 - Photo-inspired Poem

Jan 29, 2021
Provided by Cheryl Sheinman.

Welcome to WNIJ's Poetically Yours. Poetically Yours showcases poets from northern Illinois. This week's poem is by Cheryl Sheinman. 

Sheinman is a teacher and dialogue facilitator. Being a graduate of Jungian and archetypal psychology, she writes about bringing consciousness to our social landscape via pieces on voice, justice, trauma, death and dying, gun violence and authentic dialogue.

Lindsay Lamb

Lawyers representing some of the families who lost relatives after a COVID-19 outbreak at the LaSalle Veterans’ Home are preparing to file a lawsuit.

Lindsay Lamb’s grandfather, Richard Cieski Sr., died in November. He was one of more than 30 residents at the home to contract COVID-19 and die from the outbreak there. Lamb says she was close to her grandfather.

“He was, we always laughed, he was a big schmoozer. He was a big flirt. He was a big family man, his family was everything to him. His wife was everything to him,” said Lamb. 

Paramount Theatre

A northern Illinois performance theater gives marginalized voices a chance to be heard with its new project.

 

The “Inception Project” presents virtual readings hosted by Aurora’s Paramount Theatre. It’s made possible with the help of a Healing Illinois grant. 

Paul-Jordan Jansen, the artistic associate for the project, said the grant helps put a spotlight on work done by artists of color.

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Pandemic living has inspired the theme for an annual statewide art contest.

The student contest is sponsored by the Illinois State Board of Education and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.  

Heather Nice is the library and museum's education director. She said the theme “Art Surrounds Us” encompasses how some people are using art as a relief during COVID-19.

https://www.ywcanwil.org/

An organization with the goal to empower women and eliminate racism has added new members to its board.

Nicole Radford and Tammie Stanley are the newest board members of the YWCA Northwestern Illinois

Karen Brown, board chairperson, said all members are leaders in their fields. 

“They are all volunteers in the community. They all have a desire to give back,” she said. “And they truly have a passion for the work and the mission that the YWCA Northwestern Illinois has.” 

https://www.newgenresartspace.com/drawing-as-sound

Some Rockford high school students were pushed out of their usual creative territories in efforts to design something unique.  

The annual tally of people who are homeless in the Rockford region is going to be more challenging this year. That’s due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

 

 

Rockford city officials and partner agencies are gearing up for the "point-in-time count." The survey of people experiencing homelessness takes place once a year over a 24-hour period. The PIT covers Winnebago, Boone and DeKalb counties.

Angie Walker is a housing advocate with the City of Rockford. She says the coronavirus adds a level of difficulty. 

Yvonne Boose

Like most cities across the country, Aurora's local businesses were hit hard by the pandemic. A nonprofit group is partnering with a social space to create revenue opportunities for area vendors.  

Art and Market Aurora is a new indoor market coming to the City.  

Local Nonprofit Aurora Downtown worked with community venue Society 57, 101 S. River Street, to make this possible. 

https://www.staterepwest.com/

Illinois lawmakers passed sweeping changes to the state’s criminal justice system.  

 

 

The Illinois House followed the state Senate to approve a stripped down set of reforms from the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus. It includes changes to police certification, the use of force and the cash bail system. The bill now goes to Governor J.B. Pritzker.

The original package drew early opposition from members of law enforcement including Winnebago County Sheriff Gary Caruana. 

 

https://www.facebook.com/BlackDoctor.org/

Vaccinations for COVID-19 are underway in Illinois, but not everyone is eager to take the shot. A recent virtual town hall meeting answered questions and tackled concerns for the Black community.

“Making It Plain: What Black America Needs to Know About COVID-19 and Vaccines” was moderated by health experts, faith leaders and several organizations. The event was hosted by the Black Coalition Against COVID-19. 

Some may ask why a conversation was needed specifically for the Black community. 

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