Rachel Otwell

Reporter & Assistant News Editor

Rachel's reports focus on the arts, community & diverse culture. 

She's a graduate of the Public Affairs Reporting Program at the University of Illinois Springfield, and while obtaining that degree she spent a legislative session covering news for Illinois Public Radio with a focus on fracking. Rachel also holds degrees in Liberal & Integrative Studies, Women & Gender Studies and African-American Studies. She's tutored Rwandan refugees in Ohio, volunteered at a Kenyan orphanage,  served as an activities assistant at a nursing home and volunteered at an elephant sanctuary in Thailand. 

Rachel started a career in public media in 2011 when she interned for the National Public Radio program Tell Me More with Michel Martin in Washington, D.C. Her reports have also appeared on NPR's Weekend Edition, NPR's All Things Considered, NPR's Morning Edition, WorkingNow.org, and 51%.

Facebook / law360.org

It's well known that the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign once used the depiction of a Native American chief as a symbol for its sports teams. The school retired Chief Illiniwek about a decade ago. But that hasn’t stopped some fans from using the likeness or even portraying the Chief. A new court filing alleges copyright infringement.

Rachel Otwell

As we near the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination, the Sangamon County Metro 4-H Program recognized him with a "Selma Re-Enactment March." Students marched from Chamberlain Park to the Old State Capitol in Springfield.

Rachel Otwell

Led by students, the "March for our Lives" effort made its way across the nation and here in Illinois over the weekend. Hundreds of people gathered outside the state capitol building in Springfield on Saturday before marching downtown.

Blake Wood

The nation's oldest civil rights organization, the NAACP, and Illinois police officials announced Thursday an agreed upon resolution they say took years to hash out. The "affirmation of shared principles" was inspired in part by the death of Michael Brown, who was shot and killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014.

Rachel Otwell

Springfield’s oldest arts organization continues to grow. A recent visit to the Enos Park neighborhood was indicative of new efforts and collaborations.

Clare Frachey/PCASA

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and this year's theme is "Embrace Your Voice." Many survivors of sexual assault have done just that over the past several months, due in part to the #MeToo movement. 

Wednesday, some students from Springfield-area schools will leave class and stand in a common area on school grounds for 17 minutes - one minute to honor each of the lives lost in the mass shooting at a Parkland, Florida high school. It's part of a national push led by young people for stricter gun laws.

courtesy

Each year florists from across the region apply to be part of Art In Bloom, an event at the Saint Louis Art Museum. Winners are chosen and given artworks at random, which they are then charged with interpreting through floral arrangements.

Rachel Otwell

Student activists from Parkland, Florida, have toured the country speaking out about gun violence after a gunman killed 17 people at their school in February. They recently made a stop in Chicago and their cause has inspired students all over the country, including in the Springfield area.

Rachel Otwell, Daisy Contreras, Sam Dunklau / NPR Illinois

 

Big changes to Illinois' gun laws don't happen often. But a growing movement across the country appears to be resonating in the state's General Assembly.

Rachel Otwell

Hundreds of people descended on the statehouse Wednesday to urge legislators pass stricter gun regulations. Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense has chapters across the country; it was founded in 2012 as a response to the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary.

Lou Fine for Fox Feature Syndicate / http://comicbookplus.com/?dlid=16369

Google searches for the term "toxic masculinity" reached their peak following the mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida earlier in February, according to the search engine's analytics.

Social scientists and psychologists use the concept to explain why men are more prone to violence, for instance. But there are also real-world, negative consequences for men who might feel pressured to maintain the social status quo when it comes to presenting their gender identity.

Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois

A new panel will look at how to curb sexual harassment and abuse of campaign workers. It follows scrutiny of the Democratic Party of Illinois.

courtesy

Since 2016, Marc Nelson has used his artwork to draw attention to the people, often children, affected by the Syrian civil war. He's connected his students with children there through artwork and messages sent via social media, namely Twitter.

www.facebook.com/theIIP/

An Illinois man was found "not guilty” today for an arson case dating back to 1995. Bill Amor already spent 22 years in prison for a crime he says he didn’t commit.

Rachel Otwell / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

The #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, as well as the 2016 election, have sparked renewed passion for electing women to office in Illinois.

chicagotribune.com

House Speaker Michael Madigan fired a staffer that a young woman who was working on campaigns says sexually harassed her. That's led to some debate over whether or not her claims were adequately addressed in the first place. 

Terry Farmer

For decades, women have been battling to break through the “glass ceilings” in their chosen fields. To the Front is an NPR Illinois series where we talk with female and nonbinary people about the way their identity intersects with their art and work. 

Rachel Otwell / NPR Illinois

Republican Governor Bruce Rauner likely considered the upcoming election while crafting the State of the State Address he gave Wednesday. There's a host of Democratic candidates vying to unseat him - and a single Republican who says she wants to get him out the way during the primary this March. They too are sticking to campaign points.

amazon.com

A former white supremacist is coming to Springfield to talk about his shift from racial hate to "rational love." Joseph Pearce is Tolkien & Lewis Chair in Literary Studies at Holy Apostles College & Seminary and Senior Editor at the Augustine Institute. 

courtesy

Republican Governor Bruce Rauner presents his State of the State address in Springfield on Wednesday. Those who watch it might notice one color in particular being worn by many of those in attendance. We spoke with Chicago consultant and activist, Becky Carroll, about why:

flyer designed by event organizer, Kristin Walker

Since October, the viral spreading of #MeToo - a campaign that actually started much earlier with Tamara Burke - has led to more public discussion around issues of sexual assault, harassment and violence.

Jeff Putney

President Donald Trump’s administration has been in power for a year now. “State of Trump” is our series discussing what’s changed in Illinois, and what might be ahead

courtesy/icirr.org

Trump campaigned on building a wall between the border of Mexico and the U.S. While it appears he's willing to scale back that effort, targeting immigrants who do not have protected status remains near the top of his agenda. 

Rachel Otwell

Over the weekend, hundreds of people gathered outside the capitol for an activist event that organizers called a "Women's March to the Polls." It was the second year the city took part with others across the country in rallying and marching for women's rights.

Rachel Otwell

Today in Springfield what appeared to be several hundred people gathered around the Lincoln statue outside the State Capitol building to rally and march for women's rights. It's the second year for such a gathering, and organizers say it will continue to be an annual event through Donald Trump's presidency. 

flickr / user: Benson Kua

President Donald Trump’s administration has been in power for a year now. “State of Trump” is our series discussing what’s changed in the state, and what might be ahead.

CAROLINA HIDALGO | ST. LOUIS PUBLIC RADIO

Stephen Houldsworth began a life in activism and community organizing decades ago, during the AIDS crisis. He was part of movements in New York and other major cities, and now calls St. Louis home. NPR Illinois previously spoke with him during a visit to Springfield to perform his original one-man show, "Protests & Punk Shows While Making Other Plans: Musings of a Grumpy Old Gay Man."

courtesy

Hinduism is known as the oldest religion still being practiced, and it's one of the most popular in the world.

courtesy

Across the country, it appears that a cultural sea change is taking place. Sexism that has long been inherent in society is getting acknowledged perhaps more than ever, in large part due to the #MeToo movement and activist women who have organized as a result of the 2016 presidential election. It’s unclear what lasting effects might take hold.

Pages