2021 was the deadliest year in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. Record levels of gun violence ended 27 lives including a police officer, and sent shockwaves throughout the community of 129,000, home of the flagship – University of Illinois.
Illinois Public Media took the lead in addressing this crisis by launching an innovative, and interactive quarterly series entitled: NEWS, BREWS & BEATZ. A space for diverse voices to engage in breakthrough conversations regarding what Champaign-Urbana is doing to combat gun violence.
Assistant Corporate Support Director Jill Clements and News Director Reginald Hardwick partnered with the City of Champaign Community Coalition (an umbrella agency of social services and non-profit organizations), who assisted with assembling a panel of phenomenal African American professionals to address different aspects that relate to what Champaign-Urbana is doing to help reduce gun violence including:
Series #1: Mental health and trauma services available to individuals and families
Series #2: Successful non-traditional programs for youth and teens including; (The HipHop Express-Double Dutch Recording Bus, and Midnight Basketball League)
Series #3: Safe spaces and support needed for elementary, middle School and high school students
Series #4: Navigating the daily challenges of peer pressure and social media, along with addressing the lack of access and opportunities for African American males in our community
This provocative series and conversations take place in the heart of downtown Champaign at Pour Bros. Craft Taproom. Hosted by News Director Reginald Hardwick and Tracy Parsons, Facilitator of the Champaign County Community Coalition, and also featuring a socially conscious entertainment line-up including; a spoken word artist, DJ, and speed painter.
The live audience can text their questions directly to Reginald Hardwick, while the online audience can “chat” their questions, which are monitored by IPM staff, and forwarded to Hardwick as well.
These standing room only events, averaging over 100-125 guests (per series), feature hard-hitting, riveting conversations intended to educate, inspire and activate a community into action. Not only does NEWS, BREWS & BEATZ attract the hard to reach, but highly sought after African American audience, it also continues to assemble its core NPR listening audience too – all together under one roof. Exactly what public media is designed to do!!