The school year is winding down, the warm days are becoming more frequent, and people in power are systematically chipping away at our rights with each passing day. And with that, here are my offerings for digging into C-U culture this month.

Find ways to support reproductive justice

It’s truly difficult for me to think about any other things this week, as the devastating, though not shocking, news about the leaked Supreme Court draft opinion obliterating Roe v. Wade is dominating my brain. It should be dominating all of our brains. We are fortunate that we live in a state that will uphold reproductive justice no matter what the Supreme Court rules (please vote for those people who will continue to do so), but as we’ve learned, nothing is sacred. In addition, while Illinois has few restrictions regarding abortion, that doesn’t mean it is readily accessible throughout the state. Last year we examined what sort of access we have in C-U, and it’s not great. You can receive a medical abortion up to 11 weeks, but there are no surgical options. The nearest location to obtain a surgical abortion is Springfield. Beyond that, most abortion providers are concentrated in the Chicago area. Not great. Especially when Planned Parenthood of Illinois expects an influx of 20,000 to 30,000 patients per year if Illinois becomes a “safe haven” for abortion care. Planned Parenthood of Illinois is trying to raise more funding to be able to add more facilities and telehealth medical abortion options. If you are inclined to donate, or support them through volunteer work or activism, check out their website. Midwest Access Coaltion aids people who are traveling, from, or within the Midwest to obtain an abortion.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Toast Taylor Street

Three of my favorite things to do in the summer are listen to live music outside, drink and dine outside, and shop outside. Toast To Taylor Street combines all of these things into one event, and this time it’s happening the first Saturday of each month, May through October! The newly named Toast to Taylor Street Downtown Block Party Series is an outdoor market and music fest all rolled into one, celebrating all that Downtown Champaign has to offer. The first installment is May 7th from 2 to 8 p.m. The weather looks like it’s going to be perfect, so make your way downtown, do a little shopping, enjoy some eats and drinks on one of the many patios in the area, and hear some great local bands. Can’t make it this month? You have five more chances.

Photo from Facebook event page.

Learn to forage

Did you know that there are all sorts of native plants around these parts that you can safely eat? If you’d like to gain some knowledge of forageable plants, whether out of curiosity or survival in the woods sort of reasons, Delight Flower Farm can help. Ok so they don’t really claim to be able to help you survive in the wilds of Illinois, but you will definitely come away with interesting information. You’ll learn what edible weeds and native food plants are out there, and how to safely incorporate these natural items in your cooking and eating. After a presentation you’ll get some hands-on practice. The workshop is May 14th from 1 to 2:30 p.m., and it’s $25. Sign up on the Delight Flower Farm website.

Photo from Illinois Athletics website.

Watch tennis

The University of Illinois is hosting the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Tennis Championships May 19-28, which is pretty awesome. The first portion of the week, May 19-22, will be the team championship, with the remainder of the dates dedicated to individual bracket play. Tickets range from an all session ticket for $108, to $58 for either all team or all individual sessions, to $17 for a specific group of matches (i.e. men’s quarterfinals, women’s finals, etc.) Tennis is a great game to watch, and what an opportunity this is to see it live and in person. It’s dramatic, fast-paced, and in this setting you’ll get to see the best of the best college players. Olivier Stuart of Illinois will be playing in the men's singles tournament.

Photo by Julie McClure.

Go see the peonies

We wait for the Sakura at Japan House to bloom in April, in May we watch for the peonies at Allerton. Their renowned peony garden is going to be blooming soon, and it's a must see. Like the Sakura, peony blooms are fleeting. Once they are beginning to bloom, you need to zip on over there to catch a glimpse. Go a few times, because they bloom in phases. They also have fun names like Cheddar Surprise, Fairy’s Petticoat, Auntie Sherry, and Kansas Spiffy. Allerton is having a garden dedication on May 26th at 5:30 p.m. if you want to mingle and enjoy some drinks and snacks along with the flowers. 

Top photo from Wikipedia Commons.