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New American Welcome Center coming to C-U

Last month, in response to the new administration's executive order on immigration, Champaign mayor Deb Feinen released a statement voicing her support for immigrants in the City of Champaign. The City of Urbana is one of four sanctuary cities in the state of Illinois. Now the University of Illinois YMCA, already a champion for diversity and immigration advocacy, is establishing a New American Welcome Center here in Champaign-Urbana, with an impressive list of local leaders on the advisory committee. There will be a news conference in the YMCA board room at 3pm this afternoon detailing the program. See the full press release below.

New American Welcome Center coming to C-U
Community Leaders Join University YMCA Initiative

The University YMCA was recently selected to be one of six YMCAs in the United States to develop a New American Welcome Center (NAWC) in 2017. Launched in 2016 by YMCA of the USA, the New American Welcome Centers are designed to help immigrants fully integrate into American society and prepare receiving communities to be welcoming and inclusive.

In support of the Y’s cause to strengthen communities, NAWCs foster an environment that encourages newcomer integration and community cohesion. NAWCs accomplish this by scaling sustainable newcomer inclusion programs through a blend of direct and referral services, engaging community partners and leading community bridge-building efforts that connect new immigrants and the receiving communities. In addition to Champaign-Urbana, the Y’s NAWCs serve communities in Boston (MA), Charlotte (NC), Columbus (OH), Houston (TX), Long Beach (CA), Los Angeles (CA), Minneapolis-St. Paul (MN), New York (NY), Portland (ME), Seattle (WA), and Snohomish County (WA).

In an effort to engage key community stakeholders, the University Y has recruited a broad cross section of community leaders including elected officials, public and private sector institutions, immigrant and religious leaders as well as non-profits working with local immigrant communities to serve on the NAWC’s Advisory Board (see attached list).

WHAT: News Conference announcing University Y’s New American Welcome Center

WHO: University YMCA and community leaders including:
Mayor Deborah Feinen and Mayor Laurel Prussing
State Representative Carol Ammons
State Senator Scott Bennett
Associate Chancellor Assata Zerai
and other members of Advisory Committee (see list)
WHEN: Monday, March 27, 2017 at 3:00 PM

WHERE: Board Room of the University YMCA (2nd floor)
1001 S. Wright Street, Champaign, Illinois

For more information, contact Megan Flowers at 251-209-2615 or Mike Doyle 217-766-4115.

New American Welcome Center Advisory Committee Members
Partial List --3/20/17

* Scott Bennett, State Senator

* Carol Ammons, State Representative

* Pius Weibel, Board Chair, Champaign County

* Deb Feinen, Mayor, City of Champaign

* Laurel Prussing, Mayor, City of Urbana

* Dr. Assata Zerai, Associate Chancellor, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

* Don Owen, Superintendent, Urbana School District

* Julie Pryde, Health Administrator, C-U Public Health District

* Joe Omo-Osagie, Board Member, Champaign County Mental Health Board

* Jen White, President, Champaign Federation of Teachers, Local 1925

* Craig Rost, Executive Director, Champaign County Economic Development Corp.

* Laura Bliell, Associate Director, UI research Park

* Mauricio Salinas, Owner, El Oasis

* Luis Cuza, St. Patrick Catholic Church, C-U FAIR

* Ousmane Sawadogo, Imam, Central Illinois Mosque & Islamic Center

* Bob Rasmus, Pastor, St. Matthew Lutheran

* Alan Cook, Sinai Temple Rabbi, Interfaith Alliance of Champaign County

* Koeli Goel, Board of Trustees, Hindu Temple & Cultural Society of Central Illinois

* Ricardo Diaz, Board Member, University YMCA

* Bob Kirby, ESL Program, First Presbyterian Church

* Rebekah Niblock, Attorney, The Immigration Project

* Thomas Mbongo, Community Leader, Congolese Community

* Amanda Harris, ELA Coordinator, Urbana Adult Education

* Lucia Maldonado, Board Member, C-U Immigration Forum

* Anh Ha Ho, Co-Director, East Central Illinois Refugee & Mutual Assistance Center

* Antonio Juarez, Community Leader, Mayan/Guatemalan Community


* Confirmed as NAWC Advisory Committee Member

Please note: Meetings with other community stakeholders are scheduled and additional invitations are expected to be extended in the coming weeks.


Champaign County electronic recycling event taking place on May 20th

The City of Champaign, City of Urbana, Champaign County Regional Planning Commission and the Village of Savoy are teaming up for another electronic recycling program for selected Champaign County residents.

The event will take place May 20th at Parkland College, and online registration opens up on Monday, April 3rd. Registration can be done at

For more information in regards to what items will be accepted and registration details, check out a description and flyer below:

Champaign County will be utilizing an online registration system again for this event.  We did this for the Oct '16 event & it proved to be very successful!  Residents' wait times went from 3+ hours to only 1-3 minutes.  The details of the registration are on the flyer (the registration does not open until Mon, April 3rd).  Residents will be able to pick a 15-minute time slot (for the morning of Sat, May 20th) to drop off their unwanted electronics.  

After residents register, they will receive a postcard in the mail 5-7 days prior to the event, which they will need to bring with them as entry into the event.  This event is weather permitting; there is no rain make-up day.  Items will be accepted from residents only; items will not be accepted from commercial businesses, property managers/owners, school districts, or non-profits.  

There is a 2 TV limit per postcard & a 10-item total limit; see this list for accepted & non-accepted items:

In between electronic collection events, there are local recyclers that will accept old electronics (besides CRT tube TV's) for drop off throughout the year:


Ebertfest announces five new films; new special guests

Here you have it, folks - the 2017 iteration of EbertFest (or as it is formally known, Roger Ebert's Film Festival) has announced five new films and special guests. This comes on the heels of last week's announcement that Isabelle Huppert and Norman Lear will be appearing in Champaign for the festival.

The five films added include: 

Hair (1979), To Sleep With Anger (1990), Mind/Game: The Unquiet Journey of Chamique Holdsclaw (2015), Hysteria (2011), and Variete´ (1925).

For more info about each film, and to see who the special guests will be, check out the full press release below:


19th Annual Roger Ebert’s Film Festival to take place April 19-23, 2017 in Champaign, IL

CHAMPAIGN, ILL – March 23, 2017 – The 19th Annual Roger Ebert’s Film Festival co-founded and hosted by Chaz Ebert, also known as ‘Ebertfest,’ announced today that the beloved 1979 musical HAIR will open the 2017 festival—screening on 35mm from a new print on loan from Michael Moore and the UCLA Film Archive. The festival announces today an additional four films—and special guests including director Charles Burnett, special guest Robert Townsend, director Rick Goldsmith, former WNBA star Chamique Holdsclaw, director Tanya Wexler and actor Hugh Dancy. The festival will additionally include a performance by the Alloy Orchestra as accompaniment to a rarely-screened silent film.

These films will accompany previously announced screenings of ELLE and NORMAN LEAR: JUST ANOTHER VERSION OF YOU with special guests Oscar® nominee Isabelle Huppert (ELLE) and Emmy Award winner Norman Lear in attendance for Q&As following their screenings. The remaining selections of the carefully curated 12 film lineup and more festival guests will be announced at a later date.

“When Roger took his ‘leave of presence’ on April 4, 2013, he carefully chose the films for Ebertfest that year and uncharacteristically even dictated the order in which they were to be shown,” said Chaz Ebert. “I can tell you without reservation that he would be overjoyed at this lineup of films and talent, especially in this chaotic world in which we find ourselves. We will celebrate so many things at the festival, but especially the humanity that we will find on the screen and in each other.”

HAIR (1979) – Opening Night Film

Directed by Milos Forman, 121 mins, 35MM

Special Guest Michael Hausman, Assistant Director in attendance

Milos Forman’s critically acclaimed HAIR is the film adaption to the provocative Broadway musical of the same name that explores the hippie movement of the late 1960s. The film focuses on Claude, a Midwestern farm boy who travels to New York to join the army and fight in the Vietnam War. However, while in Central Park he meets a group of hippies and discovers the ideals of freedom, drugs and his first love Sheila. HAIR is an anti-war story full of hippie tenderness, psychedelic fantasies, and successful musical numbers.

Roger Ebert gave HAIR a four star review. In his review, he said “I walked into Hair with the gravest doubts that this artifact of 1960s social shock would transfer to our current, sleepier times. In the 1960s we went to angry musicals; now we line up for "La Cage aux Folles." My doubts disappeared with the surge and bold authority of the first musical statement: This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius! So maybe it isn't, really, and maybe the sun set on that particular age back around the time they pinched the Watergate burglars. But Milos Forman's "Hair" opens with such confidence and joy, moves so swiftly and sustains itself so well that I wonder why I had any doubts. "Hair" is, amazingly, not a period piece but a freshly conceived and staged memory of the tribulations of the mid-sixties.”


Directed by Charles Burnett, 102 mins, 4K DCP

Special Guests Charles Burnett, Director and Robert Townsend – to lead on-stage Q&A

TO SLEEP WITH ANGER, starring Danny Glover and Mary Alice, is the story of a middle-class black family in Los Angeles whose life is disturbed by the arrival of an old friend from the South. What starts out as a charming reminder of their past becomes quite threatening as the strained household heads towards an inevitable conflict.

In his 4 out of 4 star review, Chuck Bowen says that TO SLEEP WITH ANGER is “another neglected masterpiece of African-American cinema, along with NOTHING BUT A MAN, GANJA & HESS, LOSING GROUND, DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST and others that have been restored and re-released in a limited handful of theaters over the last few years” and that “Burnett sketches the details of the lives of Gideon and his family, bridging theatrical dialogue, portentous omens, and presentational acting with a grace that's so masterful as to appear effortless, capturing enough life and subtext for several films.”


Directed by Rick Goldsmith, 56 mins, Blu-ray

Special Guests Rick Goldsmith, Director and Chamique Holdsclaw

This film is sponsored by the Alliance for Inclusion and Respect, an organization that embodies the four principles this year’s EbertFest is dedicated to - the principles of empathy, compassion, kindness and forgiveness—principles Roger believed cinema could generate.

Recruited from the rough-edged courts of New York City by Coach Pat Summitt for the University of Tennessee’s Lady Vols, Chamique Holdsclaw was hailed as the “female Michael Jordan,” impressing crowds with her artistry, athleticism and drive. A three-time NCAA champ and Number One draft pick in the WNBA, Holdsclaw seemed destined for a spectacular professional career—until her long-suppressed battle with mental disorders emerged to derail her career and threaten her life.

MIND/GAME intimately chronicles Holdsclaw’s athletic accomplishments and personal setbacks, and her decision, despite public stigma, to become an outspoken mental health advocate. Still, she would face dramatic, unexpected challenges to her own recovery. The film, narrated by Glenn Close, tells a powerful story of courage, struggle, and redemption.

In his review, Matt Fagerholm called MIND/GAME “an inspiring portrait of an extraordinary female warrior” and said that “The open-ended quality of the film’s ending is entirely appropriate since Ms Holdsclaw’s story is far from over. I cannot wait for the sequel.”


Directed by Tanya Wexler, 100 mins, DCP

Special Guests Tanya Wexler, Director and Hugh Dancy, Actor

HYSTERIA, starring Academy Award® nominees Maggie Gyllenhaal and Hugh Dancy, is a lighthearted romantic comedy that tells the surprising story of the birth of the electro-mechanical vibrator at the very peak of Victorian prudishness.

Roger gave HYSTERIA a 3 star review. In his review, Roger said, “Tanya Wexler's quietly saucy "Hysteria" takes place in London at a time when medical authorities didn't know the word for or the concept of "orgasm," and apparently many women never experienced them. His treatments consisted of modestly covering a patient's private regions with a little tent, reaching delicately beneath it and using digital stimulation to effect a cure. How he hit upon this method must be attributed to sheer genius.” And continued, “One of the pleasures of Wexler's third feature is how elegantly it sets its story in the period. The costumes, the sets, the locations and the behavior are all flawless, and the British characters in the screenplay by Stephen Dyer and Jonah Lisa Dyer are all masters of never quite saying what they mean.”

VARIETÉ (1925)

Directed by Ewald Andre Dupont, 72 mins, DCP

Silent Film with musical accompaniment by Alloy Orchestra

Directed by Ewald Andre Dupont, VARIETÉ is a silent German film filled with jealousy, obsession and murder, set against the backdrop of the circus. The film is based on the novel Der Eid des Stephan Huller by Felix Hollaender.

Critic Richard Neupert said, “VARIETÉ remains Dupont’s most fascinating work… Ewald André Dupont offers a splendid example of both German and European film style of the mid-1920s.” Neupert further stated, “Dupont is now considered one of the great cinematic figures of the 1920s, helping usher in the era of the European auteur-director.”

Ebertfest is a special event held in collaboration with the College of Media at the University of Illinois and will take place April 19-23, 2017 in Champaign, IL at the Virginia Theatre. Major filmmakers, stars, historians, critics and film-lovers from all over the world come to experience this annual celebration that includes films from lists Roger drew up over the first 15 years of the festival, as well as others selected by Chaz Ebert and Festival Director Nate Kohn based on Roger’s established criteria for an Ebertfest film.

Festival passes are available for $150, plus processing, and for the first time, festival-goers will receive a discount when they purchase a four-pack priced at $510 instead of $600, or 15 percent off. Additionally, a small number of U. of I. student passes will be made available priced at $100 each.

Tickets for individual movies will be available April 1. Admission is $15 for adults and $13 for students and seniors. All passes can be purchased through, or at the Virginia Theater box office, 203 W. Park Ave., Champaign, 217-356-9063.

For additional information, please visit


Dates for DoCha Chamber Music Festival 2017 announced

This year’s dates for the eighth iteration of Champaign’s DoCha chamber music festival have been solidified. DoCha will occur over the weekend of March 31 - April 2 at the Orpheum Children’s Science Museum Theater.

The distinguished festival will feature a lineup of acclaimed local and visiting musicians from the chamber music field, including several faculty members from the University of Illinois. All events are free and open to the public.

See the full press release below for a breakdown of the daily itinerary and other information. Find out more about DoCha here.








March 31 - April 2, 2017

Champaign, IL—DoCha, downtown Champaign’s premiere free music festival, announces its eighth season, March 31 – April 2, 2017. The beautiful and historic Orpheum Theater will once again serve as DoCha’s venue for the 2017 festival. DoCha will transform this former vaudeville theatre into a cabaret-style, live music venue. Guests will be welcome to enjoy food and drinks at tables set up inside the theatre while listening to great live chamber music in an intimate and stylish setting. All events continue to be free and open to the public.

Committed to the idea that music can and should be enjoyed by all people, DoCha’s festival events will be fun-spirited, informal, engaging, collaborative, and educational. Tables and chairs will be set cabaret style around a centrally-placed stage allowing guests to experience the live music performances up close while enjoying food and beverages that will be sold at each evening event. The event is casual and we extend an open invitation to the entire  community to join us for a relaxing evening of world-class music.

The festival will feature some of Champaign’s own world-class, internationally acclaimed musicians, scholars, and music educators as well gifted young musicians in unique artistic collaborations both within and outside the chamber music genre.

Highlights for 2017

• Young People’s Concert on Saturday, April 1 at 1 p.m at the Orpheum Children’s Science Museum featuring Finding Forms, Composer-in-training Wolfgang Amadeus Schmutzinberry has been commissioned to write some music for the local Pickle Parade. But, before he marches off, he needs to learn how to combine different melodies in clever patterns to create musical forms such as ternary, rondo, and theme and variations. Featuring Rami Vamos & Natalie Monterastelli. This program is Family friendly and open to the public!

• Gourmet savory and sweet snack plates prepared by Pekara Bakery and Bistro and wines* and other beverages will be sold by art mart at the venue.

*Pending issuance of State and local permits


All events are free and open to the public. All events will take place at the Orpheum Children’s Science Museum Theater in downtown Champaign: 346 North Neil, Champaign, IL 61820.

Friday, March 31st

7 p.m. Jazzissimo, featuring jazz greats Larry Gray and Jim Pugh, this duo will be joined by friends for an evening sure to entertain. Come enjoy original works and jazz standards by these world-class artists.

* Open to people of all ages.
Saturday, April 1st
1 p.m. Young People’s Concert: Finding Forms, a comical and educational musical. Family friendly and open to the public. Composer-in-training Wolfgang Amadeus Schmutzinberry has been commissioned to write some music for the local Pickle Parade. But, before he marches off, he needs to learn how to combine different melodies in clever patterns to create musical forms such as ternary, rondo, and theme and variations. Featuring Rami Vamos and Natalie Monterastelli.
7 p.m. La Grande Bellezza, String orchestra Camerata Illinois with guest soloists Stefan Milenkovich, Dmity Kouzov, Megan Freivogel, Daniel McDonough and Michael Cameron performing masterpieces by Vivaldi, Bottessini, Puccini, Wolf and more. Please join us for an evening abundant in string virtuosity!
* Open to people of all ages.
Sunday, April 2nd
5 p.m. Bohemian Rhapsodies, A celebration of works by bohemian composers Dvorak, Muczynski, and songs by Tchaikovsky performed by Yvonne Redman, Julia Fedoseeva, Dmitry Kouzov, Stefan Milenkovich and the Meliora Trio. * Open to people of all ages.
DoCha’s 2017 festival is made possible in part by the generosity of community partners and individuals including the Orpheum Children’s Science Museum, Barham Benefit Group, Sullivan-Parkhill Imports, Koester & Bradley, LLP, BodyWork Associates, Dixon Graphics, Adams Outdoor Advertising, Pursuit Institute, Darrell Hoemann Photography, Class Act, Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, University of Illinois School of Music and the College of Fine and Applied Arts.
About DoCha
DoCha creates chamber music-based experiences for all people that engage all of the senses. Committed to the idea that chamber music can and should be enjoyed by everyone, DoCha is fun, engaging, collaborative, educational, and its performances are free. DoCha began as a collective effort among University of Illinois faculty, students, community members, and friends to experiment with new and adventurous ways to present chamber music for the 21st century.
For more information about the festival, visit

Parkland College hosting 20th annual Cultures Fair on March 30th

From the press release:

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Enjoy music, food, and cultures from around the globe during Parkland College's 20th annual Cultures Fair on Thursday, March 30 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Student Union (U wing).

The event is free and open to the public.

This year's fair features musical performances by the Congolese band Bomoyi; Super Mazumzum, a brass and rhythm band playing classic and contemporary African music; a traditional Japanese tea ceremony from UIUC's Japan House; and Los Guapos, an instrumental quartet playing folk and popular music traditions of Latin America.

A jerk chicken lunch will be sold, with proceeds benefiting the International Student Scholarship at Parkland College. Parkland student clubs will also be on hand with fun activities such as henna tattoos. Lastly, there will be a lecture by Professor Hua Qin from China related to air quality in that country.

Cultures Fair 2017 is sponsored by the Center for Global Studies, through support of the U.S. Department of Education's Title VI NRC program; the Centers for Latin American and Caribbean Studies and African Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; as well as the Division of Arts and Sciences at Parkland College.

Come enjoy fantastic cultural activities and celebrate the rich diversity of global cultures that are part of our community here in Champaign-Urbana! Students from all cultures are welcome and appreciated at Parkland College. For more information, contact Parkland Humanities Professor Amber Landis at 217/353-2190 or


NIT preview: Illinois at UCF

#2 Illinois at #4 UCF
6 pm

It would be a lot cooler to be writing about #2 Illinois at #1 Illinois State today, but the Redbirds blew a 13-point halftime lead and UCF has a point guard who knows how to draw fouls from next to nothing. So, Illinois is flying to Orlando today rather than bussing to Normal and a lot of the shine on this game is gone.

About UCF, for one, their coach has been here before. Johnny Dawkins won two NIT championships while coach at Stanford, and that may be like the Monopoly "$10 for second prize in a beauty contest" but it's not nothing. As for the team, Tacko Fall (amazing name) was the AAC defensive player of the year, which is a feat in a conference including SMU, Cincy, and Houston (all 20-game winners, as are the Knights). At 7'6" (!), Fall has a great advantage over, well, everyone and he also boasts a mind-boggling 8'4" wingspan. Good luck to Mav Morgan, Michael Finke, Leron Black and anyone else shooting over this dude.

Like Fall, the Knights make their money on defense, with the nation's 5th best scoring defense (20th adjusted defensive efficiency according to KenPom; Illini are 36th). On offense UCF doesn't quite match up to Illinois, but they got the chance to host thanks to a conflict at State Farm Center, which gives them a bit of a boost (Vegas has Illini as underdogs). Illinois is the only top-3 seed left in the NIT, but the team is certainly playing more for personal pride than to justify their seeding; I'm fairly certain Malcolm Hill and Tracy Abrams want to keep their careers going.

My prediction: UCF are the toughest opponent the Illini will have seen in the tournament, but I think they can squeak by the Knights.


The Land Connection announces Indiegogo campaign for Champaign Farmers’ Market

For those of you who enjoy The Land Connection's Downtown Champaign farmers market in the summer, here is your opportunity to give back. They have just launched an Indiegogo campaign to offer more family friend convening and learning spaces at the market this year.

For more info, including how to donate, check out the press release below:

In preparation for the May 16 kickoff of the Champaign Farmers’ Market, The Land Connection has launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds and offer more family-oriented community convening and learning spaces at the Market.

As the Champaign Farmers’ Market enters its critical third season, The Land Connection and local farmers will continue to increase access to fresh, nutritious, locally grown food in a part of town that has very few options for buying groceries. The Champaign Farmers’ Market makes local food more accessible to Downtown Champaign and the surrounding neighborhoods and more affordable for struggling families, through the SNAP doubling program. The Market also provides more sales opportunities for local farmers, which in turn boosts the local economy.

The crowdfunding campaign is designed to meet four pressing needs:

  1. Bring fresh, nutritious, locally grown food to downtown Champaign and make it more accessible to the whole community,
  2. Help consumers learn about the nutritional value of locally-sourced foods, and how to store and prepare these products,
  3. Improve the economic viability of small and mid-sized farms in Illinois, and
  4. Provide a space in downtown Champaign that is not only dedicated to providing local food, but also a fun and safe place for families, farmers, and the community to gather. 

The fundraiser will help The Land Connection purchase supplies and equipment, make sure the Champaign-Urbana community knows about the market and our programs, and have trained staff available to serve our vendors and market patrons. Through these purchases, The Land Connection will continue their work creating a space in the heart of downtown Champaign on Tuesday afternoons that welcomes our community and promotes health, happiness, and well-being.

The campaign runs until April 21. Donations can be made via Generosity by Indiegogo at:

About The Land Connection:

The Land Connection is a nonprofit that trains farmers in resilient, restorative farming techniques; informs the public about the sources of our food and why that matters; and works to protect and enhance farmland so that we, and generations to come, will have clean air and water, fertile soil, and healthy, delicious food.


Sarah Simeziane (Farmers’ Market Manager, The Land Connection)
206 North Randolph Street, Suite 400
Champaign, IL 61820


Rapper Reuben X releases new single and video

Former C-U resident and hip-hop artist Reuben X has released a new single and video. Entitled “BIG DREAM$,” the song’s title establishes the artist’s larger than life personality off the bat, and its accompanying video drives that point home. As a Chicago transplant, the title of Reuben’s track says it all about the young artist’s intention to take his music to the city and go full-tilt. Reuben is planning a tour that will find him in C-U this summer, and intends to release an album in the near future.

Part of Reuben’s confidence and drive came from his frequent visits to Mike Ingram’s Open Mic sessions, which were then held at Cowboy Monkey. C-U’s longest running open mic encourages local musicians to grow their talent, many of whom are then willing to take the next step in their career.

Stream Reuben’s video below, and catch the Open Mic at its new location inside Canopy Club every Monday at 8 p.m.