Goodbye, Ms. Franklin

Aretha Franklin’s musical talents were legion. Incomparable singer that she was, it is hardly surprising that multiple critics have identified her as the greatest voice in popular music of the 20th century. Labeled the “Queen of Soul,” she was in actuality a renaissance woman of many genres, from jazz to opera. Although sometimes underrated, she was also acknowledged to be a superb pianist and musical arranger. And let’s not forget how songs like “Respect” became de facto anthems of the civil rights and feminist movements of the day.

What is too often overlooked is the behind-the-scenes role that Ms. Franklin played in directly supporting the civil rights movement. Her father was Clarence L. Franklin, a famous Detroit-based preacher, civil rights activist and close friend of Dr. Martin Luther King. One of his most notable ventures into the activist arena was to organize the 1963 Detroit Walk to Freedom. Continue reading

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A Bad Year Turned Good? Lessons of Setbacks and Victories

Jennifer Hanner, a first-year teacher from Harts, W.Va., center, holds a sign, outside the state Senate chambers at the Capitol in Charleston, West Virginia. Teachers statewide went on strike on February 22, 2018 over pay and benefits.
Photo by John Raby/AP/REX/Shutterstock (9435169b)

Labor Day has come and gone. It is always a great day for celebrating the history and contributions of American workers and the achievements of the country’s labor unions. In the wake of the holiday, however, an assessment of labor’s fortunes and future is in order, especially in the context of ongoing legislative and legal attacks, as well as of the Trump administration’s rollbacks of worker rights and benefits.

The list of setbacks is long. The current administration, for example, has cut funding for the National Labor Relations Board, further stymying this agency’s ability to protect labor rights under current law. It has issued an executive order making it easier to fire federal employees, by reducing the length of the appeals process. Obama-era rules to extend overtime pay to a larger number of workers have also been undone. Continue reading

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Hiroshima 1945 and the Threat of Nuclear Catastrophe

“The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking, and thus we drift toward unparalleled catastrophe.” – Albert Einstein, 1946.

“To hell with these maniacs.” – Premier Nikita Khrushchev, talking about his military advisors during the Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962.

“The nuclear bomb, does that bother you? I just want you to think big Henry, for Christsakes.”– President Richard Nixon to Henry Kissinger, discussing how to respond to a North Vietnamese military offensive, 1972.

“They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen …”– Donald Trump, addressing the North Korean leadership in August, 2017.

“War deprived us of our happy lives,” and “war should not be repeated.”–  Kasaoka-San, Hibakusha, June 10, 2018.

In June, I travelled to Hiroshima, Japan, with two friends. We stayed at the World Friendship Center, an organization established to promote world peace in the aftermath of the first use of the atomic bomb on a civilian population. The US dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 and on Nagasaki two days later. The Center has a small guest house and is currently run by two long-time Urbana folks, Dannie Otto and Barb Shenk, who are in the middle of their two-year volunteer engagement. Continue reading

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Fight for the ERA in Champaign-Urbana

Sometimes we are lucky enough to be part of history, to fight for a cause that we believe in strongly. I was among many other local women who had that privilege some forty years ago, when Illinois was at the center of the fight for ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA).

Although many people don’t realize it, the United States Constitution does not guarantee women equal justice under the law.  The Equal Rights Amendment was introduced in Congress in 1922 to address that omission. It was reintroduced every year from 1923 to 1972, and finally passed Congress in 1972. Hopes were high that ratification would be swiftly accomplished before the seven-year deadline. Within the first year twenty-two states ratified, but progress then slowed, and by 1978 we were three states short of the 38 needed by 1979. This is when I, along with a small group of women, became involved by reconvening a local branch of the National Organization for Women (NOW). We worked on a variety of feminist issues, but ERA passage was a major focus. Continue reading

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The Perverse Effects of the Death Penalty

At the outset, let me note that I oppose the use of the death penalty in all circumstances.  It has no proven deterrent value; it does not save money; and given exonerations in recent years, it has not proven infallible.  Its sole justification is in vengeance—eye for eye, tooth for tooth, limb for limb, etc.  Before us now is the tragic disappearance of Chinese scholar Yingying Zhang. Charged in her disappearance is one Brendt Christensen. Incontrovertible evidence exists that she got into Mr. Christensen’s automobile on June 9, 2017 and has not been seen since.  Christensen was arrested days later and charged in her disappearance. Continue reading
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New Philosophy of Government and Entitlement Programs

I would like to propose that the first function of central governments around the world should be to print or otherwise issue and distribute enough money, new or de novo money (usually called “base” money), to all of their legal residents to a) assure that their basic needs for income security, health and education are satisfied, and thus b) position them to work in the productive economy and civil society to advance their own private needs/wants and those of others. This base money would be issued in the form of entitlement grants distributed to the bank accounts of individual recipients themselves or those of institutions (e.g., schools or public health insurance programs) operating on their behalf. These grants would be guaranteed to all human beings by their sovereign central governments “by right” or, over time, by a world-wide governmental body like the United Nations, empowered to issue and distribute such money in either a) the relevant sovereign currencies of its member nations or b) an international currency.

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Artist Spotlight: Mark Enslin

A column curated by staff of the Urbana Public Arts Program

Composer, performer, activist and teacher, Mark Enslin studied music at Webster College and has a doctorate in music composition from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. At the University of Illinois. Mark taught in Unit One, a living/learning program, offering courses such as Music in Protest, the Art of Acting as Audience, and the Performers Workshop Ensemble. Enslin has held teaching residencies at the Federal University of Bahia in Brazil and the Youth Factory for Alternative Culture in Seoul, South Korea. He is a Founder and Instructor in the School for Designing a Society in Urbana.

Jacob Barton performing a piece Mark wrote for him for one-person band called “Safety Nets II.”

For this issue, Public Arts Intern Samantha Schrage met with Mark to learn more about his artistic process.

Tell me a little about yourself and your past creative work. Continue reading

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My 1968: Exodus and Recovery

(Photos of  Joe Miller as sailor, his anti-war button, and 1968 anti-war rallies in Chicago)

After six years and ten months on active duty, I was discharged from the Navy on February 3, 1968. I was excited and apprehensive about this drastic, but welcome, change.

Two years earlier, I had reported to the base Administrative Office, Helicopter Training Squadron Eight (HT-8), at Ellyson Field, near Pensacola, Florida. My wife and daughter were with me, and we knew I was getting out in two years. HT-8 produced Navy and Marine helicopter pilots, a good number of whom went off to war in Vietnam. Most of the instructors already had flying experience in and around Vietnam.

In January, 1967, I was promoted, and there was new pressure to reenlist. “Gee, Joe, you only need to put in thirteen more years and you can retire at age 38.” I made it very clear that I was not interested.

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The 1968 Revolt in France: A Fifty-Year Retrospective

The rue Gay Lussac, in the Latin Quarter, after the confrontation between the students and the police.

In early June, 1968, I witnessed the second round of the student and worker revolt of May and June, but I had been studying student politics in France since 1963. I can only give a sketchy account of the revolt and what led up to it in this short article. For greater detail, the reader might consult my book Student Politics in France, and my essay “The Revolution Betrayed: The French Student Revolt of May-June 1968” in S. M. Lipset and P. G. Altbach, Students in Revolt.

 What initially began as a student revolt against the banning of political activity and visits by the opposite sex in dorms rooms in the newly created campus at Nanterre, just outside of Paris, eventuated in barricades and violent street battles with the police and then in a general strike in which between nine and ten million workers walked off the job and brought the country to a halt. For many of the students, the goal went from liberalization of the hierarchical university to overthrowing the government of President De Gaulle.

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The Chancellor’s Massmail on Free Speech Who Is It Talking About?

Returning from a meeting of the American Association of Universities (AAU), Chancellor Jones shared a joint statement that was crafted at the meeting in regard to free speech on campus. The statement starts out by saying that people whose views are deemed by some members of the campus community to be “odious” and “disgraceful” should be allowed to express those viewpoints “free of disruption, intimidation, and violence.” It seems like the message is about how to handle a visit from someone like the white nationalist Richard Spencer. It seems to be saying that we should let Richard Spencer speak and not disrupt the event or use violence to prevent it from happening. The point is that we should not let our repulsion at Richard Spencer’s racist views turn us against the principle of free speech. We don’t have to go to his speech and we certainly don’t have to give him an open-minded hearing, but we shouldn’t shout him down or use violence to prevent him from coming to campus. Fair enough.

But is this really what the Chancellor’s message is saying? Continue reading

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