Category: Word

The Unitarian Universalist church is installing a COVID memorial

The Unitarian Universalist Church of Urbana-Champaign is installing "Open Hearts: A COVID Memorial" on their grounds Tuesday, January 19th. There will be a small dedication ceremony, with remarks from Champaign-Urbana Public Health Administrator Julie Pryde, Urbana Mayor Diane Marlin, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Chancellor Robert Jones, Champaign Mayor Deb Feinen, and UUCUC member Julie Laut and blessing from Reverend Caplow and Reverend Sally Fritsche.

From their website:

Nearly 375,000 people in the U.S. have died from the COVID-19 virus to date. With hospitalizations and deaths at an all-time high, that number will continue to grow. By the time vaccines allow us to return to some normalcy, each of us will have been touched personally in some way by this unimaginable loss of life. Our grieving has been compounded by the lack of compassionate leadership at the federal level and the inability to mourn our losses together. The Open Hearts memorial will provide a unique opportunity to draw our community together in a time when we feel too often disconnected.

Tuesday has also been designated a National Day of Mourning by the Biden Administration. The church will ring their bell at 4:30 p.m. in honor of the event. 

Those who of have lost someone to COVID in Champaign County, can email to have a heart will be personalized in their honor.

Top photo from UUCUC website.


Unit 4 is asking for feedback on superintendent candidates

Yesterday, the three superintendent candidates for Unit 4 gave presentations to the community. If you missed it, a recording of those presentations is available here.

The district is encouraging community members to offer their impressions of each candidate by filling out a feedback form. The form will remain open through Sunday.

The candidates will have final interviews with the Board on Tuesday, the 19th, then the selection will be made at a Board meeting on January 21st. 

Photo by Jessica Hammie.


C-U Public Health has more vaccine clinics scheduled for next week

From the press release:

The Champaign-Urbana Public Health District (CUPHD), in partnership with Carle
Health, OSF HealthCare, Christie Clinic, Promise Healthcare, and the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign will be hosting additional community-based COVID-19 vaccination clinics for Champaign County residents. The upcoming clinics will be held January 19-22, 2021 from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. by appointment only.

Next week’s clinics will serve anyone 75 years of age or older that did not previously receive a vaccine plus is expanding to include individuals age 65-74 with underlying health conditions- cancer, chronic kidney disease, COPD, heart disease, obesity, sickle cell disease, diabetes, smoking, and immune-compromised due to organ transplant.

Written documentation from the individual’s Primary Care Physician will not be required.

The clinics will be held at the iHotel. Appointments can be made online or by calling (217) 239-7877. Online is preferred. 

Top photo from CUPHD Facebook page.


Is that ice in your veins or just your white supremacy showing?

In a since-deleted Tweet, yesterday the University of Illinois wrestling program shared a photo of players in which one player, who appears to be Zac Braunagel*, prominently flashes a well known white power symbol. A quick peek at the public posts, likes, and follows on his social media pages shows content from far-right sources.

Braunagel must be suspended for his action. The photographer, photo editor, public relations and communications/media team for Illini Athletics need to be investigated for their complicity in this matter.

Screenshot of Illini Wrestling team. Six white men are pictured. The man two over from the right side is flashing a white power symbol. Screenshot from Twitter.Screenshot from Twitter.

The U of I is an institution that likes to pride itself on it's "pre-eminent" status, but as we've seen time and time again, it has failed to provide inclusive and safe enviornments for non-white, non-Christian people. 

Allowing known white supremacists to flaunt their hatred under the literal banner of the university is disgusting.

In an email to a U of I professor shared with Smile Politely, Robin Kaler, Associate Chancellor for Public Affairs states:

The Athletics Department pulled it as soon as they learned the meaning. They also spoke to the student, who says he didn’t know it was an offensive sign and the gesturehas [sic] a meaning in the athletics world of being cool under pressure, “ice in your veins.” He expressed remorse that it meant something hateful.

The image was taken several months ago, and the designer who used it today also didn’t understand the significance of it. I admit, I had never heard of it myself.

We are so grateful that you pointed it out, and I am especially grateful that you directed us to the Hate on Display Database. I shared it this evening with all Chief Communications Officers across the university, and I know it will bea [sic] valuable resource to us all.

This response is simply not enough. Braunagel is lying; a simple scan of his social media will confirm that he knew exactly what he was doing. That the U of I claims ignorance of this particular gesture and the American Defamation League's Hate on Display Database is ridiculous, especially given the amount of anti-Semitism and racism that's been exhibited on campus in the last few years.

This type of ignorance is not accetable from a "pre-eminent" institution. Perhaps the entire administration and staff need more diversity and inclusion training. Perhaps they simply need to pay closer attention to what is going on the world, and the ways that manifests on campus.

Finally, shame on the rest of those student athletes for enabling this sort of behavior. If Braunagel felt confident enough to do this during a photo shoot and share these sentiments on social media, you better believe he spouts this garbage behind closed doors.

Top image screenshot from Twitter.

Editor's note: A previous version of this article named Danny Braunagel as the wrestler flashing the white power symbol. A photo tag on Twitter indicates it is his twin brother, Zac Braunagel. We apologize for this error.


Rev. Dr. William J Barber II to speak at MLK Advocacy for Justice celebration this Sunday

From the press release:

2021 Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration to Reflect on Positions of Conscience

The Rev. Dr. William J Barber II to speak as part of the MLK Advocacy for Justice Virtual Celebration, Sunday, January 17 at 3:00 pm. 

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – Two longstanding Champaign County committees, Martin Luther King, Jr. Countywide Committee and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Advocacy for Justice Committee, Inc. unite this year to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. for the 2021 Annual Countywide Celebration. This year’s theme is “Rising Together: Facing the Challenges of Tomorrow Today.” 

Highlighting the 2021 event will be an address by the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, President & Senior Lecturer of Repairers of the Breach and Co-Chair of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call For Moral Revival. Rev. Barber will be the keynote speaker during this year’s Annual Countywide Celebration on Sunday, January 17 at 3:00 pm. He will speak to the Champaign-Urbana and Rantoul community live from his office in Goldsboro, North Carolina.

During a year defined by COVID-19, the pandemic has directed a new light on the persistent and insidious twin crisis of systemic racism and generationally embedded racial disparities afflicting our society. This year’s celebration is also a common and shared call to action for everyone in the community to commit to the hard work necessary to end racism and social injustice. 

 “In a year when our entire county has come together to face the challenges of COVID-19 with a level of collaboration and cooperation that is unmatched in our nation, it is so very appropriate that we honor the life, spirit and hope of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in this single celebration of unity as well,” said Chancellor Robert J. Jones. “And it is extremely exciting that this milestone event will be further elevated by the participation of the Rev. Dr. Barber – one of the leading voices for equality and social justice in our nation today.” 

The program will also include an awards presentation to community organizations and leaders from across Champaign County for their commitment to humanitarianism and community service. The program will also recognize the Advocacy for Social Justice MLK Jr. Scholarship recipients from Champaign and Urbana school districts. More information about this virtual event is at A link to watch the Sunday, January 17 celebration event will be posted on this page and is open to the public.

This year’s University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign celebration of the life and work of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. will feature nearly three weeks of presentations, activities, and discussions reflecting on what it means to speak from a position of conscience. This year’s events are inspired by a quote from a speech by Dr. King on February 6, 1968: “There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular.” Highlights include a discussion with Joy Ann Williamson-Lott, author of Black Power on Campus, The University of Illinois, 1965-1975, a presentation by David Northern, CEO, Champaign County, Housing Authority of Champaign County, and MLK Creative Writing Contest.

Due to current COVID-19 social distancing requirements, this year’s events will be virtual and open to all through online platforms. A full calendar of events is available at Pre-registration may be required to receive links to some events. 

About the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II 

The Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II is the President & Senior Lecturer of Repairers of the Breach, Co-Chair of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call For Moral Revival; Bishop with The Fellowship of Affirming Ministries; Visiting Professor at Union Theological Seminary; Pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church, Disciples of Christ in Goldsboro, North Carolina, and the author of four books: We Are Called To Be A Movement; Revive Us Again: Vision and Action in Moral Organizing; The Third Reconstruction: Moral Mondays, Fusion Politics, and The Rise of a New Justice Movement; and Forward Together: A Moral Message For The Nation. 

Rev. Dr. Barber is also the architect of the Moral Movement, which began with weekly Moral Monday protests at the North Carolina General Assembly in 2013 and recently relaunched again online in August 2020 under the banner of the Poor People's Campaign. In 2018, Rev. Dr. Barber helped relaunch the Poor People's Campaign, which was begun by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968, starting with an historic wave of protests in state capitals and in Washington, D.C., calling for a moral agenda and a moral budget to address the five interlocking injustices of systemic racism, systemic poverty, the war economy and militarism, ecological devastation, and the false moral narrative of Christian nationalism. There are currently 45 state coordinating committees across the country, mobilizing around the Poor People's Jubilee Platform and We Must Do M.O.R.E. (mobilize, organize, register, and educate people for a movement that votes). 

On June 20, some 2.5 million tuned in on Facebook alone for the campaign's Mass Poor People's Assembly & Moral March on Washington, which originally was scheduled as an in-person event but switched to digital because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Thousands of others watched and listened on C-SPAN and other media.  

A highly sought after speaker, Rev. Dr. Barber has given keynote addresses at hundreds of national and state conferences, including the 2016 Democratic National Convention. He has spoken to a wide variety of audiences including national unions, fraternities and sororities, motorcycle organizations, drug dealer redemption conferences, women’s groups, economic policy groups, voting rights advocates, LGBTQ equality and justice groups, environmental and criminal justice groups, small organizing committees of domestic workers, fast food workers, and national gatherings of Christians, Muslims, Jews, and other people of faith. 


Rev. Dr. Barber served as president of the North Carolina NAACP, the largest state conference in the South, from 2006 - 2017 and currently sits on the National NAACP Board of Directors. A former Mel King Fellow at MIT, he is currently Visiting Professor of Public Theology and Activism at Union Theological Seminary and is a Senior Fellow at Auburn Seminary. Rev. Dr. Barber is regularly featured in media outlets such as MSNBC, CNN, New York Times, Washington Post, and The Nation Magazine, among others. He is the 2015 recipient of the Puffin Award and the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Award, a 2018 MacArthur Foundation genius award recipient, and he is one of the 2019 recipients of the North Carolina Award, the state’s highest civilian honor. 

Top image from the press release.


Fleurish is now accepting pre-orders for Valentine’s Day

Yes, Valentine's Day. Time seems to keep marching on, while somehow also standing still. 

Things are a bit dark right now, but I guarantee that flowers from Fleurish will bring a little brightness to someone's world. Sarah is masterful at constructing a bouquet that is perfect for the recipient. Just call 217-607-0015, let her know your price point, and she will help put something lovely together for your loved one. Don't have a Valentine? Send one to yourself. You deserve it.

Top photo by Julie McClure.


You can share your favorite hobby with others thanks to the new Urbana hobby webinar series

Hobby Webinars, a new series co-sponsored by the Urbana Arts and Culture Program and the Urbana Park District will "explore our friends and neighbors' hobbies and also share our own." These Zoom-based meetings will take place on Tuesday evenings, starting in February. 

Informational poster for Hobby Webinar series. Courtesy of the Urbana Park District
Image from the Urbana Park District

To register your choice of hobby to share or learn, email

Top image from the Urbana Park District


Get your cocktails to go at Bentley’s

Last month, Bentley's started selling cocktails and cocktail-infusion kits. You must order your Bentley's favorites ahead of time, and then pick them up to bring home and enjoy from the comfort of your couch.

In addition to Bentley's infused cocktails, you can also order other types of booze and cigarettes. It's almost one-stop shopping for your favorite vices. (If only Bentley's sold baked goods and other sugary delights!)

Bentley's Pub
curbside takeout 4 to 11 p.m. daily

Top image from Bentley's Facebook page.


Have you visited The Burgersmith yet?

The Burgersmith is a new food truck in C-U, dishing up — you guessed it — burgers. The truck is typically parked in near Tatman's on Mattis Avenue in Champaign and Long's Garage on Main Street in Urbana, but specific locations are posted on the food truck's Facebook page.

The smash burgers look great; there are also sandwiches and sides on the menu.

Photo of menu at The Burgersmith food truck. Various burgers, sandwiches, and sides range from $3.50 to $8.50. Photo from The Burgersmith's Facebook page. Photo from The Burgersmith's Facebook page.

Top image from The Burgersmith Facebook page.


Champaign County has a new forest preserve

The Champaign County Forest Preserve District recently added Heron View Forest Preserve, which is situated along the Sangamon River between Lake of the Woods and Sangamon River Forest Preserve. 

It is currently surrounded by private property, but CCFPD is working on providing a public access road this year. Eventually, they would like to offer hiking and paddling opportunities. 

From the press release:

As the name suggests, great blue herons are plentiful at the site, with dozens of
nests grouped in some large sycamore trees along the river. A majority of the site
is bottomland forest, and Virginia bluebells are abundant in the spring. The
remaining upland forest area has a good canopy of oak and hickory trees, but the
understory needs restoration due to invasion by non-native shrubs like bush
honeysuckle, privet, and Japanese barberry. The purchase grant included nearly
$10,000 to kick-start that management over the next year.

Floodplain forests like that found at Heron View help to regulate flood peaks by
acting as a sponge that stores water during high volume, and releases water to help
maintain flow during drier periods. The forest also removes sediments and
nutrients from the river, which improves water quality. The combination of these
ecosystem services, wildlife habitat, and recreation opportunities made the
property addition a natural fit for the Champaign County Forest Preserve District.

Top photo provided by CCFPD.


Early voting begins Thursday in Champaign County

Thursday, January 14th, is when early voting will begin for the consolidated primary in Champaign County. Both Champaign and Urbana have contested races on the ballot:

Champaign- Township Supervisor

Urbana- Mayor, City Clerk, Alderman in Wards 1, 2, 3, 5, and 7.

You can cast your in person early vote at Brookens Administrative Center during these times:

January 14 - February 19, Monday-Friday 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Saturday, February 20 - 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Sunday, February 21 - 1 to 5 p.m.
Monday, February 22 - 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Primary election day is February 23rd.

You can find out more about the candidates on the Champaign County Voters Alliance website, and find voting information on the Champaign County Clerk's website.

Top image from Facebook event page.


Smile Politely seeking Culture writers

Our culture section attempts to capture the essence of C-U. We write about the people, places, and events that make this community a pretty awesome place to live. That looks a little different right now, but there's still a lot to cover. 

We're looking for some writers for this particular section, and in order for this to really work, you must have at least a mild grasp on the world outside of Champaign-Urbana, yet also be able to keep up with what's happening locally, and preferably be able to tie the two together.

This section is great because we can cover a bit of anything and everything, and whether you are more of a niche writer or one that is open to a wide swath of topics, this could be a place for you.

If this sounds like something you're interested in, fire an email off to

Photo from Paign To Peace.