Rachel Otwell

Reporter

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%.

A video of Springfield police Officer Samuel Rosario beating up a 19 year old on the east side of Springfield has gone viral - it was captured by a body camera.

investigatinginnocence.org

Earlier this month, Quincy native Curtis Lovelace was found not guilty after the second trial that accused him of killing his first wife, Cory Lovelace. Curtis served as a prosecutor and before that played football for the U of I. His former wife was also a college grad, and a stay-at-home mom for their four children. 

investigatinginnocence.org

Curtis and Cory Lovelace were two Quincy natives who met in high school and went on to marry and have four children. Referred to as pillars of the community,  Cory's death sent shock waves throughout the small town over a decade ago.

Courtesy of Mini Kiss

This week Rachel and Scott talk to Louie Fatale of Minikiss. The tribute band is comprised of little people, Fatale plays the role of "Mini Gene."

courtesy

Robert Moore has spent over 40 years in law enforcement. The Mississippi native and veteran moved to Illinois where he began his career as a State Trooper in Rockford. He went to be appointed as a U.S. Marshal. There are fewer than 100 who serve at a time, and each one is appointed by the president.

The Scene With Poet Ian Winterbauer

Mar 16, 2017
A Jabber Publication / Pat Yaegle & Illinois Times

Ian Winterbauer says his poems deal largely with the Midwest - it's rural, poor towns and the eccentric characters therein. He says he's anti-academic, that "anyone could write poetry." Well, he certainly can.

Sarah-Ji

The Lit Review is a grass-roots podcast based in Chicago. It's headed by two young women out to educate and inspire change. 

Rachel Otwell / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

When it comes to a civically engaged life, politics is a spectator sport for much of the United States. After all, most estimates claim 40% or more of eligible voters opted out of the 2016 presidential election. Meanwhile, for many who do vote, that action is about as involved as they'll get with politics.

Rachel Otwell

A crowd of about 1,000 people gathered in Springfield at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum last Friday. They were there to hear Neil deGrasse Tyson speak.

flickr / user: Benson Kua

Illinois State University in Normal kicked off a new Queer Studies concentration, under the Women & Gender Studies department, this academic year. It's a burgeoning field, one that might not be as well understood as more traditional academic areas of study.

Native American & Indigenous Student Organization - UIUC

Chief Illiniwek was retired from being the official University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign mascot a decade ago, but he's still a large presence on the university campus. Some students say that’s not okay.

The Scene With Writer Emma Wilson

Mar 9, 2017
Rachel Otwell

This week we hear from Emma Wilson. The Springfielder co-wrote/co-directed the new short film Sarah, along with Dave Heinzel - it stars actor Stella Cole. Wilson is also a poet (recently profiled by Scott for the Illinois Times, here) and event organizer, she also has a blog about "creative recovery" called Mental Thrillness. Tune in to hear what she's up to & a sample of her poetry!

chanceraps.com

Chance the Rapper is on a mission to better fund education in the state, particularly in Chicago. The musician, who grew up on the south side of the city, has won three Grammys at the young age of 23, making him well-known outside just the hip hop world. He's been using that fame to hold Gov. Bruce Rauner's feet to the fire when it comes to the education funding issue. 

Radon Lounge

This week we preview a show at the enigmatic Radon Lounge (flyer above) - for more info, here's the event page, if you need directions, shoot a message to the group here.

courtesy / Rachel Otwell

On this episode we get to know Ari Honarvar, an Iranian-American, artist, activist and more. We also visit with visual artist Amanda Grieve at her Edinburg farmhouse, in rural Sangamon County.

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Diaz Lewis is a collaboration between Cara Megan Lewis of Kansas City, Missouri, and Alejandro Figueredo Diaz-Perera of Cuba. Their art comes from a variety of media, one particular project utilizes pillows. That will be part of what's on display at The University of Illinois Springfield Visual Arts Gallery in an exhibit called "Safe Harbor: Work by Diaz Lewis."

Rachel Otwell

African American read-ins started to be promoted by educators nationwide in 1990. The purpose is to highlight Black authors during Black History Month. Lincoln Library, Springfield's public library,  joined in this year, listen here:

Mark Seliger / lifeafterhate.org

Christian Picciolini used to be a neo-Nazi. He was raised by Italian immigrants in Blue Island, a Chicago suburb. He says he didn't grow up with hate ideologies at home, but as a teenager he wanted the community and sense of purpose white supremacists promised him. He went on to lead white supremacist bands and become a large part of the movement.

launchgood.com

This week it was discovered that over 150 headstones in a Jewish cemetery in the University City suburb of St. Louis had been vandalized. It hasn't yet been officially called a hate crime and there are no suspects in custody. There's been speculation hate was at play however, and it comes at a time the nation is reportedly seeing a surge in related crimes.

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This week we're joined by Allison Lacher & Jeff Robinson - two instrumental forces in bringing contemporary and provocative artwork to the central Illinois region. 

facebook.com/blmcu

Champaign-Urbana is the only city in Illinois, other than Chicago, to have an official chapter of the Black Lives Matter organization. Evelyn Reynolds has been heading it.

Rachel Otwell / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

Across the country, activists who say they stand in opposition to many of the Trump administration's goals are organizing. Many call themselves the 'Resistance', a nod to terminology previously used by those living under authoritarian regimes. They've been key players in the Women's March on Washington (and in other cities), which has been called one of the largest demonstrations in the U.S. 

Manipulation of the truth has long been a tool commonly used by political leaders throughout the Western world, says Peter Fritzsche, a history professor at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

I was born and raised in and near Springfield. However it wasn't until I was a freshman in college over in Ohio that I was taught the NAACP was founded as a result of the 1908 Springfield Race Riot

thirdcoastpercussion.com

This year at the Grammys - Chicago native Chance The Rapper took home multiple awards, including one for Best New Artist. But another Chicago based group took home its first win, though the category it took the Grammy for goes a little more under the radar.

Ed Wollet/Arlin Peebles

Private companies are not regulated when it comes to putting partisan or controversial content in public places. But that’s not to say they are protected from criticism when they or their employees decide to do so. One area trash company found that to be true after a photo of a bulletin board in one of its locations was shared on social media around 200 times (and counting), starting over the weekend.

ice.gov

Social media has proven an effective tool when it comes to organizing for advocates and activists. But it's also been proven effective at spreading misinformation, which now includes false warnings about immigration stings.

The Deep Hollow perform at NPR Illinois Suggs Performance Studio.
Carter Staley / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

The Deep Hollow is a Springfield band that has been performing together for three years. Last November they joined us in our Suggs Studio during the 2016 Thank You Fest to play for our donors. 

Geoff Leathers & Ellyn Thorson perform at NPR Illinois
Carter Staley / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

During our 2016 Thank You Fest at the station, we were joined by two young, emerging musicians.

Urbana Mayor Laurel Prussing is among those attending the US Conference of Mayors in Washington D.C. She says a common idea being heard is that municipalities are crucial in providing innovation and fiscal stability. In Illinois she says that's particularly true given the nearly 2-year impasse preventing a state budget.

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