Category Archives: Voices of Color

The Case for Reparations: Champaign County

According to the Descendants Truth and Reconciliation Foundation, Black people in America own 10 cents of wealth for every dollar a white person owns, have lower life expectancies and higher unemployment, will earn $1 million less during their lifetimes, are … Continue reading

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What is the Radical Black Church?

How Do We Define the “Black” Church? In some sense, the Black Church can be readily defined by its music, style of preaching and sounds. Yet these are only surface definitions—it is so much more. The Black Church was born … Continue reading

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Criminology Mixology

Criminalization, abolition, and prison reform have long been third-rail issues in America. The only benefit to this impasse of ideologies is the mountain of research that has been collected in the interim. Those of us in camp reality, camp humanity, … Continue reading

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The Prison Economy from the Inside

Nineteen-year-old Shamar Betts of Urbana had no previous criminal record when he was arrested for “inciting a riot” via a Facebook post he wrote after witnessing the video of George Floyd’s murder in 2020. He was sentenced to three years … Continue reading

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Black History: Is This Really 2024?

I am a mother of three sons and a grandmother of 83 years of age. This incident happened on Wednesday, January 31, in the middle of the afternoon. I was going to visit a friend and on the way, I … Continue reading

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At the Feds

Shamar Betts had no previous criminal record but was sentenced to three years in federal prison for “inciting a riot” through a Facebook post he wrote after witnessing the video of George Floyd’s murder in 2020. He was also made … Continue reading

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FirstFollowers: Using Participatory Action Research to Make Change in Our Community

FirstFollowers has a tradition of doing participatory action research at Champaign-Urbana Days, the premier outdoor summer event aimed primarily at the Black community. Participatory Action Research (often called PAR) aims to gather data and information, not just for publication but … Continue reading

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Diesel Therapy

The odyssey of Urbana resident Shamar Betts continues. Betts was arrested for authoring a Facebook post at age 19 in the wake of the George Floyd murder in 2020. He was sentenced to four years in federal prison and charged … Continue reading

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Donald Trump v. Shamar Betts

I, Shamar Betts, incited a riot through a Facebook post encouraging my people to join alongside the rest of the world in an attempt to express our feelings on the tragic death of George Floyd in May of 2020. Although … Continue reading

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Juneteenth Freedom Day

Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19 that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with … Continue reading

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Juneteenth 2022 at Randolph Street Garden

Seitu Ken Jones, a multidisciplinary artist who believes in the power of public art to link the past and present, spent 2020–21 as a visiting artist at the UIUC Center for Advanced Study. He returned this past June to work … Continue reading

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Reckless Law, Shameless Order: Behind the Scenes

  One afternoon in April of 2021 Faranak Miraftab called me to ask if I was interested in holding an art workshop with formerly incarcerated artists in continuation of the “IDENSCITY,” a conceptual art space that I had been developing … Continue reading

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A Conversation with Urbana Poet Laureate Ashanti Files

The Public i recently talked to Urbana Poet Laureate Ashanti Files Please tell our readers a little about yourself. “I am a wife, mother, and registered nurse. I currently work in mental health and addiction services. I enjoy reading, writing … Continue reading

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The Ubuntu Project and the Need for a Progressive Shift in Policing

Ubuntu is a term that originated with the Zulu people and roughly translates to “humanity” in English. The term emerged as a political concept following apartheid’s disintegration in South Africa. Now a collective of local community members, scholars, clergy, and … Continue reading

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Moving to End Anti-AAPI Hate

Despite May having been the month to celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage, the preceding year saw the increase of violence and hate towards Asians and Asian Americans that ranged from attacks on Asian and Asian American elders … Continue reading

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Slightly Out of Focus: A Review of One Night in Miami and Judas and the Black Messiah

For more than 70 years and over a century, respectively, television and cinema have presented demeaning images of Black people. And for equally as long, African Americans have responded with boycotts, pickets and alternative visions that “depict[ed] our men and … Continue reading

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Supporting Women, Girls and Families: An Interview with Stephanie Cockrell

Women are praised for being pillars of strength in their families and communities, but this same strength might lead them to be overlooked when designing services to meet the needs of a community. Women also need therapeutic activities that help … Continue reading

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Black Art Politicized: A Discussion with Leslie Smith

I had the amazing opportunity to interview Leslie Smith, a board member of the Urbana–Champaign Independent Media Center (UCIMC) and the founder of Black Voices Theater Production. As someone who grew up in a household with a father who is … Continue reading

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Stop Asian Hate: A Local Perspective

The March 16, 2021 shootings in Atlanta, resulting in the tragic deaths of eight people, six of whom were Asian women, have raised awareness of anti-Asian violence, misogyny, and hatred in this country. In this unprecedented time when global viruses … Continue reading

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“It’s Scary Having a Fifteen-Year-Old Son”: Community Voices on Gun Violence in C-U

In the midst of the global pandemic, Champaign-Urbana has its own local epidemic: gun violence. As of July 20, police had received 95 reports in 2020 of shooting incidents in Champaign alone. This is more than double the total for … Continue reading

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