African American Cultural Center Gets a New Building

The new African American Cultural Center on the UI campus

After 50 years of political struggle, the African American Cultural Center at the University of Illinois has a new building.

In 1969, the Black Student Association (BSA) and Black Champaign-Urbana activists, with support from white students, presented 41 demands to campus leaders.

One demand was for a Black Cultural Center that would serve the “social needs of Black students.”

The outcome: Chancellor J. W. Peltason authorized the creation of a “temporary” Black Cultural Center, as part his very own Special Educational Opportunity Program, popularly called “Project 500.” Later, Chancellor Peltason amended the mission of the Black Cultural Center to serve all students and all Champaign-Urbana Black residents. Continue reading

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After Statewide Coal Ash Victory, the Fight for the Middle Fork Continues

Protecting the integrity of our natural resources requires multigenerational vigilance, perseverance and dedication. Successes are rarely quick and easy, and generally only mark milestones in an unending quest to preserve what we hold dear. Such is the story of the mission to protect the Middle Fork of the Vermilion River, Illinois’s only National Scenic River.

Previous attempts to dam or alter the river were met with strong public opposition and ultimately failed. Today we are again in the midst of a campaign to protect the river, this time from coal ash, a toxic byproduct of decades of coal combustion for power generation at the Vermilion Power Station. The power plant closed in 2011, but Dynegy Midwest Generation, the current owner of the property, now wants to cap and leave behind 3.3 million cubic yards of ash in three unlined pits immediately adjacent to the river. The river threatens to breach the berm holding the ash and coal ash pollutants are leaking into the river. Continue reading

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Expanded Medicare for All: What It Is and What It’s Not

Perhaps you’ve seen the video: a Vietnam veteran at a Bernie Sanders rally in Carson, Nevada takes the floor and describes how he is on the point of suicide due to the high uncovered costs of treating his Huntington’s disease. Or maybe you’ve read the recent press articles and TV news reports describing how people are dying due to rationing their insulin shots. The cost of insulin has skyrocketed, from $2,864 per patient per year in 2012 to $5,705 in 2016.

These are vivid reminders of how the current state of health care delivery in the United States kills people: kills them by virtue of inaccessibility, inadequate levels of coverage, and skyrocketing drug prices, among other deficit features. Is it any wonder that in survey after survey, people name health care as their primary concern—and not just the over 30 million that have no health insurance coverage? Continue reading

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Being the Unreasonable: Educating Highly Marginalized Girls to Change the World 

SwaTaleem Logo—from a version designed by children

Seema is a 12-year-old Dalit girl from Bihar, one of the poorest states in India. In the social hierarchy, Dalits in India belong to the lowest strata, often devoid of education and job opportunities, and have compromised rights. On one hot day, rather than being in class studying, she was clinging to a pillar crying before her parents, urging them not to take her home and not to have her married. She wanted to go to school and she wanted to study.

In American middle schools, most 12-year-old girls are looking forward to high school. Most cannot picture leaving school before even starting high school, let alone being married before that time. Yet in many parts of the world, girls struggle to get an education and even go beyond secondary education. Seema is one of those, and she is not alone. Continue reading

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Anti-Austerity Protesters in Ecuador Win Some Concessions, But Unlikely to Prevent Further Unrest or Repression

The government of Ecuador reached an agreement on October 13 with leaders of the protests that had rocked the country for the previous two weeks. The deal, which included the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE), is a retreat for the government of President Lenín Moreno and a victory for the protesters.

Jubilant crowds took to the streets, chanting in celebration. But the agreement doesn’t resolve the underlying problems. Moreno is not likely to finish the remaining year and a half of his presidential term without a recurrence of serious unrest. Continue reading

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Bolton is Out! But Imperialist Aggression Against Iran is Still In

On September 10, National Security Advisor John Bolton was fired from his post at the White House. With one of the staunchest advocates for US imperialism now out of the Trump administration, some were optimistic that the warmongering and the sanctions placed on countries like China, Venezuela, Iran, and North Korea would deescalate.

These pundits were quickly disappointed, however. In the wake of a recent attack on Saudi oil fields, the Trump administration locked arms with Saudi and United Arab Emirates (UAE) officials in declaring Iran to be responsible for the attacks. Though it has failed to cite any evidence for these claims, the administration is now sending missile defense systems and 3000 US troops to Saudi Arabia and the UAE at the request of these nations. At a press conference that day, Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford refused to rule out a military strike against Iran. “Despite repeated calls from President Trump to begin diplomatic talks,” Esper said, “Iranian aggression continues to increase.” The US has maintained “great restraint” in its relations with Iran, “in the hopes the Iranian leadership would choose peace and reverse Iran’s steep decline into isolation and economic collapse.” The military assistance to Saudi Arabia and the UAE was a measure designed “to prevent further escalation,” Esper claimed. Continue reading

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An Early Gig Economy: Pro Wrestling

Wrestler and organizer David Starr at a rally for more rights and better conditions for wrestling talent

By now, almost everybody knows that professional wrestling is a “worked” sport—requiring wrestlers to advance storylines, choreograph matches and implement predetermined outcomes set by the industry’s bookers and writers. Yet the in-ring entertainment provided by these men and women can hardly be derided as “fake,” as the experiences of many wrestlers would attest. Stories of chemical dependency, early deaths, careers cut short due to injury, financial instability and more show how these workers have given their bodies to an entertainment sport that has been an incredibly imbalanced labor market.

As critiques multiply lambasting the app-based gig economy for its denial of basic worker protections, similar attention is due one of the nation’s first gig economies—professional wrestling—and the challenges that are building there against the status quo. Continue reading

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Fifth Annual Black Rose Anarchist Federation Convention Held in Urbana

 

Over a weekend in late July, delegates and officers of Black Rose/Rosa Negra Anarchist Federation (BRRN) gathered at the Channing Murray Foundation for BRRN’s Fifth Annual Convention.  Delegates came from across the country for three days of discussion, debate, decision making, internal housekeeping, and camaraderie. Though the convention itself was for BRRN members only, BRRN hosted a public event titled “Anarchism and Black Struggle” at the Independent Media Center, featuring a panel of Black anarchist organizers from Sudan, Little Rock, Miami, and Providence, followed by a comedy show featuring the comedy duo Kadeems’ Hard Koolaide.  

BRRN is a young organization, founded in 2013 by several anarchist groups with the broad goal of reviving an organized, mass, working-class-based anarchist movement in the United States. This was in contrast to some of the more individualistic, subculture “scene” orientations to anarchism that seemed overly prevalent in some areas of North America. BRRN’s membership growth is intentionally slow and steady, to better address the needs of every member; and most of us are longtime organizers in our communities.  Continue reading

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Many Successes in a Year of Existential Crises for the IMC

Residents packed Urbana City Council in support of the IMC on July 1, 2019

Congratulations! As a community, the Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center (IMC) was able to overcome the fiscal crisis that surfaced at the beginning of this year. We have each other to thank: our board members, working groups, volunteers and community members. 

Overcoming financial crisis

In February, after becoming aware that we had been spending more than we took in each month for three years, the recently elected IMC board realized its only sustainable option was to lay off staff and go back to its origins as an all-volunteer organization, until financial stability could be regained. Since then, the board and other volunteers have put in hundreds and hundreds of hours, working to fill rental vacancies, address deferred maintenance on the building, minimize general costs, and rethink our leadership structure. As a result, we are proud to say that we have been revenue-positive since March. In addition, we are now in a position to hire an Executive Director, who can work with the board on the next phase of the IMC’s growth. Stay tuned to www.ucimc.org for the announcement, and please share the word that we are hiring. Continue reading

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Is a Woman a Person?

2016 Protest at the Supreme Court against restrictive abortion laws

In a 1980 article about the proposed Human Life Amendment (HLA) to the U.S. Constitution, journalist Ellen Goodman asked, “is a woman a person?” The HLA would have granted constitutional personhood to every fertilized human ovum. Few people back then believed that legal abortion was in peril. Their complacency allowed the political debate to be dominated by the question “is a fetus a person?,” rather than that of how pregnancy affects women’s health and lives.

Since President Trump’s election, seven states have passed bans on abortion, and the Supreme Court has two new justices. For the first time in forty-six years, people are finally realizing the Court could overturn Roe v. Wade, making abortion illegal in many states.

We simply cannot rely on the Courts to protect reproductive choice. Voters have to make the issue a priority in congressional and legislative races. Even if the Supreme Court never overturns Roe v. Wade, for millions of women the damage has already been done. It can only get worse. Continue reading

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