Category: Word

In solidarity

At the very heart of Smile Politely is a yearning for social justice, for change. 

Today, the live performance industry is taking the day off to honor and rest in the names of Ahmaud Arbery, Breona Taylor, and George Floyd, and the millions that have come before them. 

We try to be a comprehensive culture magazine, but one of the cornerstones of our identity is previewing, covering, and reviewing the live performances that take place in Champaign-Urbana. Our work with PYGMALION — which is also owned/operated by the same parent company as Smile Politely — intersects the industry that supports it, and that executes daily to make sure that it is on stage, and that it is able to be seen. If it’s theater, or jazz, or metal, dance or aerial performance arts, you name it — if it’s comedic by nature, or if it’s not — we want to know about it, and we want you to know about it. 

It is no secret that the live performance space has been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic, and that is currently on display through absence inside and outside the walls of the venues we cherish in C-U. 

In solidarity with them, and in recognition of the amazing artistic achievements that African Americans have given this nation, and in partnership with National Independent Venue Association (NIVA), an organization of 1800+ venues and promoters that are trying to preserve independent live performance, and all of the people who work to make them tangible and important, we are not publishing any new content today. We are going to pause, take detailed note of what is ahead of us, and try to learn more about what’s come before this; after what’s just happened this past week, it is more clear than ever that the work is not done. 

If you’d like to read or see more about our current position, you can do so here, and here, and here

— Seth Fein, Publisher


There’s a protest happening at the courthouse today

The nation is hurting, and our community is hurting. If you want to lend your voice and your physical presence in protest of the murder of George Floyd and countless others, there is a protest happening today at the Champaign County Courthouse beginning at 3 p.m., which will eventually make it's way to the Champaign Police station. 

The protest was scheduled before the events of the past 24 hours, and is still scheduled to take place. From the Facebook event:

This is peaceful protest in the name of justice for George Floyd, the latest victim of police brutality and racial injustice in America.

George Floyd was an African-American man who died on May 25, 2020, after Derek Chauvin, a white Minneapolis police officer, knelt on Floyd's neck for at least seven minutes while Floyd was handcuffed, lying face down on the road, and pleading for his life.

Please join us in solidarity with our neighbors in Springfield, IL. We need to let our local authorities know that we will not stand for this. NO JUSTICE, NO PEACE. Bring signs and your loudest voice, please respect social distancing during this PEACEFUL protest. Safety is still important.

We encourage you to be safe and mindful. Showing up somewhere in person is not possible for everyone. Today we will be sharing more ways to get involved. 

Photo by Jeff Putney.


Attend a webinar about COVID-19 and incarceration

The highly contagious nature of the coronavirus has made large gatherings of people nearly impossible. We know that COVID-19 has affected black communities at a much higher rate than any other group, and we know that prisons are crowded, and that black people are imprisioned at a much higher rate than any other group. 

Parole Illinois, Mamas Activating Movements for Abolitions and Solidarity (MAMAS), Chicago Votes, Chicago Torture Justice Center, and BPI Chicago are sponsoring a webinar “A People’s Tribunal: COVID-19 and the Crisis of Death by Incarceration” on Thursday, June 4th from 3 to 4:30 p.m. Register here

Additional information is available on the Facebook event page.

A webinar will be held on Thursday, June 4, 2020, from 3:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., titled, “A People’s Tribunal: COVID-19 and the Crisis of Death by Incarceration.” This public hearing will address the harsh realities people incarcerated in Illinois prisons are facing under the COVID-19 pandemic and offer immediate and long-term solutions.

As the state moves towards re-opening, the pandemic has had a devastating impact in prisons and communities of color―and the crisis is not going away any time soon. It underscores what has been true all along―public health and humanity demands a justice system that prepares people for a healthy return to their communities. We are inviting legislators and public officials to attend because there is an urgent need for policy makers to hear straight from those who are directly impacted.

Joseph Dole, Co-founder and Policy Director of Parole Illinois, who is incarcerated inside Stateville, says, “It is high time to stop playing politics with people's lives. COVID-19 has made it undeniable that there are thousands of people incarcerated in Illinois who pose no threat to society. Political calculations are putting many vulnerable people at risk of dying in prison. Are politicians’ careers more important than people’s lives?”

Eric Blackmon, Community Educator-in-Residence at the Pozen Center Human Rights Lab, University of Chicago, states, “It's great that the people who have the power and are enacting the laws, and those that have been greatly affected and marginalized by some of these laws, are finally sharing ideas and working together to change the system for the better.” 

The state is now making some attempts to contain the threat of disease by releasing people who are elderly and vulnerable, and people who pose little risk to public safety. Today, only a relatively small number of people have been released who were not already scheduled to end their sentences. With no regular mechanisms for review and release, we cannot act quickly enough to free the thousands of people who remain needless victims of COVID-19.

Passage of the bill SB3233: Earned Discretionary Release, sponsored by Senators Celina Villanueva  and Robert Peters, will provide guidelines for fair and responsible release of people from our vastly overcrowded prisons.

Public health and humanity demands that Illinois prisons shift their focus from warehousing people to preparing them for safe return to their communities. This includes mechanisms to review and release people when they are ready to rejoin society. This is a necessary step to preparing for expected waves of the pandemic in the future.

This event is co-sponsored by: Parole Illinois, Mamas Activating Movements for Abolitions and Solidarity (MAMAS), Chicago Votes, Chicago Torture Justice Center, BPI Chicago.

Endorsed by: Chicago Community Bond Fund, Uptown People’s Law Center, Black and Pink: Chicago, Illinois Coalition of Higher Education in Prisons, Freedom to Learn, Chicago 400 Alliance, Liberation Library, Protect I-111, BPI, Institute on Public Safety and Social Justice, The University of Chicago Bridge Writing Workshop.

#CrisisOfIncarceration #PrisonsAreThePandemic #DecarcerateCOVID #ParoleIllinois #StopTheSpread

Top image from the Facebook event page.


Japan House Shares kicks off on May 31st

Japan House is launching a new online series, Japan House Shares, on May 31st at 4 p.m. The first installment will feature Omusubi, a Japanese snack. Director Jennifer Gunji-Ballsrud will share the food's history, and then will make several varieties. There will also be a craft project to try. 

You can find the series on YouTube

Image from Facebook event page. 


Don’t miss the Art in a Time of Quarantine virtual show

Chambanamoms, Krannert Art Museum, the Urbana Arts and Culture Program, Museum of the Grand Prairie, and KOOP Adventure Play invited K-12 students to submit artwork and the stories behind their artwork during the month of May, and now those pieces will be featured in a virtual show.

The show will debut on the Museum of the Grand Prairie Facebook page on June 4th at 4 p.m., and will then be posted to YouTube

Image from Facebook event page. 


NuMed is selling bandanas to raise money for COVID-19 relief

As an essential business, NuMed dispensary in Urbana has continued to provide services to their customers throughout this time of sheltering in place. Now, they are going a step beyond to support the community.

They are selling bandana-style face masks for $5 each, and 100% of sales will go to the Champaign County COVID-19 Relief Fund, established by Community Foundation of East Central Illinois and Champaign County United Way. The fund, which we've shared about a few times, supports organizations in our community that are helping those most affected by the pandemic. 

NuMed is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The first two hours are reserved for medical patients. 

Photo from Illinois News Joint website. 


Champaign County COVID-19 Relief Fund received a $250,000 grant

Last week, the Champaign County COVID-19 Relief Fund, established by Community Foundation of East Central Illinois and Champaign County United Way, received a $250,000 grant from the Illinois COVID-19 Response Fund. 

The money will be distributed to 17 local organizations that are helping those in our community who have been most affected by the pandemic: 


$43,000 to 7 organizations to support regional food pantry services and food for homebound seniors.

General Assistance

$104,000 to 6 organizations to provide emergency financial aid to people, with a focus on communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

Housing & Shelter

$103,000 to 4 organizations to provide socially-distanced emergency shelter and mortgage assistance.

You can find out more about the fund, and donate, here

Image from Community Foundation of East Central Illinois Facebook page. 


El Paraiso is opening in Broadway Food Hall Thursday

Broadway Food Hall is adding another food option beginning Thursday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. El Paraiso, a Latin American restaurant, will be open for business from Wednesday through Saturday going forward.

They are not currently doing online ordering, but you can call 312-971-7149 or walk in to place your order. There is no menu posted yet, but you can check out their Facebook page to get an idea of what they will be offering. 

Photo from Broadway Food Hall Facebook page. 


CU Woodshop is permanently closing

Sad news has been released by CU Woodshop Supply, stating that they will be permanently closing. Here's the statement from their website:

CU Woodshop Supply will be Closing its Business

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, CU Woodshop Supply, Inc, has been closed to the public since April 1, 2020.  We are sorry to report that we will not open again for normal business but will soon close permanently.

We do still have a lot of inventory, including used tools and machinery in our DreamShop.  Once it is safe to temporarily open the store again, we will have a liquidation sale.  Advance announcements will be sent via email and will be posted on our website when we have projected dates for the sale.

If you recently placed an order with us, that order will be honored as soon as possible if we can get delivery from our suppliers.  Many deliveries have been delayed.  If we cannot fill your order, we will refund any payments made. If you have a CU Woodshop Gift Certificate, please hold onto it until our liquidation sale.  Those who have paid for a class that was cancelled will soon receive refunds.

As our store is currently closed, we cannot answer the telephone or return phone calls.  We will try to respond to email sent to as best we can.  Please bear with us during these difficult times.  Please do not contact us regarding the liquidation sale as we have no details at this time.

Thank you to all our customers and friends who have supported our local woodworking store for these past 10 years.  It has been our pleasure and our privilege to serve you.  We are sorry to say goodbye to the many friends we have made in the woodworking community in East Central Illinois and beyond.


Dennis Coleman

President, CU Woodshop Supply, Inc.

Top image from CU Woodshop's Facebook page.


Smile Politely seeking Arts writers

Arts in C-U look a little different right now, but there is still a scene to dig into. Whether it's visual or performance art, literature or film, C-U has always nurtured a vibrant arts community, and this is your opportunity to be a part of it. 

We're looking for some writers for this particular section, and in order for this to really work, you must have at least a mild grasp what's happening locally, and preferably a grasp on art as a whole as well. In these days where in-person shows and performances are on hold, our arts sections is taking the time to focus on virtual events, individual artists and performers, literature, and more. 

If this sounds like something you're interested in, fire an email off to


Champaign County ReStore will open June 2nd

Champaign County ReStore will be opening for limited hours beginning Tuesday, June 2nd. They are planning to be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Here's what they had to say on their Facebook page:

These are only temporary hours and we ask that you please be patient with us during these hours as we are still working with a very limited staff. Masks will be mandatory for all staff and customers while inside. Our drop-off & pickup procedures will stay the same, at this time we cannot help load/unload items. Hand sanitizer will be available at the front door, donation door, and front counter. A handwashing sink is available on the second floor. Frequently touched surfaces will be sanitized often and carts/shopping baskets will be sanitized after each use. Several signs have been hung to remind customers of social distancing and our checkout line will be marked with 6ft indicators.

Photo from Champaign County ReStore Facebook page.