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Celebrate Independence with Best of Africa

Featuring celebrity performers, live music, African food, and a celebration of independence, Best of Africa Food Store is hosting Festival Independence this weekend Friday, July 1st through Sunday, July 3rd. The event will be outside in the back lot behind the Urbana grocery from noon until 11 p.m. at night.

The owner Memoire Budimbu is a Congolese immigrant who has a vision to bring everyone together.

"I hope this festival brings everyone together: Asian, African, American...When I was little, I would sing Michael Jackson. I didn't know English, but I knew Michael Jackson. Because of the culture, people know reggae from Jamaica, but most do not speak Jamaican.

Maybe next time, this [festival] can happen in the big stadium at the U of I, inviting famous artists from America, Europe, Africa, Asia, everywhere in the world, just celebrating together. We can show our culture by food, by clothes, by books, by music. It's very important, especially for the next generation."

Festival Independence is a family-friendly event, and kids under 10 are free. Guests 10+ years of age can purchase a $15 ticket online here or at the door. Adult beverages, soda, and African food will be available for purchase at the event. Festival Independence has no sponsors and is hosted only by Best of Africa Food Store.

Festival Independence will host Celeo Scram, a Congolese singer and rapper, who is flying in from France to perform in addition to many other performers.

Best of Africa Food Store
208 W Griggs St
Urbana
11 a.m. to 8 p.m., daily

Top image by Alyssa Buckley.

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Mama Meta’s Canteen has a grand opening this weekend

Mama Meta's Canteen, a brand new Congolese restaurant in Champaign, will have a grand opening this Saturday, March 19th. The Black-owned restaurant will serve African-inspired, American-infused food made with ingredients sourced from Central Illinois farmers.

The menu includes plantains, samosas, beef kabobs, baked wings, kwanga, and peanut stew. The restaurant describes the food as distinctive and bold. For those unfamiliar with Congolese food, here's what the canteen's website says:

Congolese cuisine is sourced from a wide variety of crops including maize, rice, cassava, sweet potatoes, yams, peanuts, plantains, tomatoes, peas, coffee, oils, wild plants, fruits, mushrooms, honey, fish, and spices. A typical Congolese meal often consists of a starchy ingredient alongside a vegetable and meat, mostly in a stew form. You are to use the starch to form a spoon for scooping the flavor-packed bits of meat and veggies. Most of the starches consist of a fermented bread made from the cassava root called Kwanga. Beef, chicken, fish, goat, and occasionally smoked meats, are the primary source of protein. Dishes are often paired with stewed green vegetables like cassava leaves, okra, or sweet potato leaves, just to name a few. What Lauren can admire the most about the cuisine compared to the American diet, dishes are typically low in sugar. Dessert is as simple as a fried dough ball with peanut butter sauce for a sweet and savory treat, or some plantains.

This Saturday, try some Congolese bites from 1 to 4 p.m. at 2302 W John Street in Champaign. Mama Meta's Canteen operates as a ghost kitchen which means that the food is to-go only. Diners can place orders online and select curbside pickup or delivery.

Mama Meta's Canteen also serves food during the week with days and hours updated week-to-week on their Facebook page. In the future, the canteen will launch a catering menu. 

Mama Meta's Canteen
2302 W John St
Champaign
W 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Sa 1 to 4 p.m.
Su 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Top image from Mama Meta's Canteen Facebook page.

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Dick Butkus wants a super burrito from Maize

Dick Butkus, THE Dick Butkus of the Chicago Bears and famous sports commentator, tweeted that he wants a super burrito from Maize. 

Here's his tweet after the U of I earned their Big Ten Title:

Butkus was a linebacker and center for the U of I football team in the 60s. He led the team to a Rose Bowl victory in 1963, and the next year, he was named college football's Lineman of the Year. And now, in 2022, he wants a bite of our delicious C-U food scene — and I hope he gets that Maize burrito.

Want to read more about Maize? Check out our review of Maize's brunch, our interview with Adam Lopez, and how Maize was featured in 2014 on the search for America's best burrito.

Maize Mexican Grill
60 E Green St
Champaign
11 a.m. to 9 p.m., daily

Maize at The Station
100 N Chesnut St
Champaign
M-Sa 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Su 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Top image by Matthew Macomber.

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C-U ex-pat Jonathan Hettinger's article hits front page of USA Today

Former Editor-in-Chief at The Daily Illini and after thatreporter at The News-Gazette, C-U ex-pat journalist Jonathan Hettinger's work graced the front page of USA Today today. You might recognize Hettinger's byline over at Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting, as he continues to do work through their publication in addition to writing about the environment for Montana Free Press.

Hettinger's piece, "Popular flea collar linked to almost 1,700 pet deaths. The EPA has issued no warning.", was published both online and in good ole print form. Read the story, which I just linked for you in the previous sentence, and check out his tweets about it below.

Nice work, Jonathan.

Top image from Hettinger's Twitter.

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Watch out for this piece of misinformation floating around locally, says C-U COVID Vaccine Outreach

There is a lot of misinformation out there in the world, especially when it comes to COVID-19 and the vaccine rollout. It seems that there is some misinformation circulating locally from an unnamed doctor out of LeRoy, which I'm not saying is this doctor I posted about last year, but it definitely could be him. I'll leave that up for you to decide, connecting the dots and whatnot. You've made it this far, so I think you're doing great.

Champaign-Urbana COVID Vaccine Outreach made this post earlier today, pointing out how a video "produced by a local independent physician out of LeRoy questioning the efficacy of the Pfizer vaccine because a patient of his produced positive antibodies for a COVID antibody based rapid test measuring the IgM antibodies" has drawn a red flag from them. Here's a link they shared as well, as well as a link to the facts about the Pfizer vaccine direct from the source.

The video is out there, and I'm not going to link to it here as to limit its spread, but let this act as a reminder that if you're curious or have questions about the efficacy of the vaccine, or antibody tests, or things of the like relating to COVID-19, you should contact Champaign-Urbana Public Health District, Carle, Illinois Department of Public Health, or one of the others the outreach crew has listed in their post.

Top image from Pixabay.

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Rep. Mary Miller done got ratioed for this objectively terrible tweet

Has anyone checked in on IL-15 Rep. Mary Miller today? I wonder how she is feeling after this exchange on Twitter yesterday with someone who is objectively better at Twitter than she is, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Rep. Miller decided that she was going to chime in on the blame game Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and his fellow Republicans were putting out there for why Texas is in such bad shape right now. All of this follows the winter storm that has left millions without power and water for days.

Following this AOC tweet about the New Green Deal (which hasn't even been written into any law anywhere, mind you), Rep. Miller got absolutely crushed for her retweet, which is just... incredibly bad and as AOC rightfully points out, not at all clever.

Mary, you just got ratioed, which is a pretty good look on you. As I type this SPlog, the ratio is getting even worse, so the embedded tweet will be the most up to date by comparison to the screenshot above, and it will likely continue to get more skewed as time goes on.

Also, I must point out the two periods used at the end of her tweet. Why? One period, okay, end of sentence, makes sense. Three periods makes an ellipses. But two? I can't handle this.

Oh, and we still think you should resign.

Top image from Twitter.

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Region 6, which includes Champaign County, moves to Tier 1 mitigations

Illinois Department of Public Health has announced that Region 6, which includes Champaign County and a variety of others surrounding us, will move to Tier 1 mitigations effective immediately. This means a few things, which happen to be outlined on their website with specificity here. If you're curious about Region 6's recent data, check that out here.

Here's the tweet making the announcement:

If you're curious what Tier 1 entails exactly by comparison to the other tiers, check out this tweet which lays it out clearly:

Top image from IDPH.

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Holy beef, Batman! Baldarotta’s Italian beef sammie looks so good

Located in the Lincoln Square Mall, Baldarotta's Porketta & Sicilian Sausage makes bomb sandwiches like this meaty, delicious-looking Italian beef.

On Facebook, Baldarotta's shared more details about how they make the sandwich:

THIS is how WE make Italian Beef!

Bottom round beef roasted with a variety of cherry peppers, pepperoncini, banana peppers, and San Marzano tomatoes. Then, we slice it thin and mix it back with all of those roasted veggies and au jus.

Load that beef into a 8" French roll, top it with our shredded cheese blend of mozzarella, smoked provolone, white cheddar, and asiago. Next, we toast our sandwich until the bread is toasted and our cheese is melted and slightly browned. Served with 6 oz. of au jus on the side for plenty of heavy dipping action.

MANGIA F-ING MANGIA.

Check out this review Zoe wrote last year about Baldarotta's if you're wanting to know what else looks good on the menu.

Baldarotta's Porketta & Sicilian Sausage
300 S Broadway Ave
Urbana
T-F 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Sa 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Su noon to 3 p.m.

Top image from Baldarotta's Porketta & Sicilian Sausage's Facebook page.

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IL-15 Rep. Mary Miller on Capitol Hill: “Hitler was right on one thing”

Illinois 15th District Representative Mary Miller was sworn into Congress just three days ago following her victory against Erika Weaver in November's general election. Like many of her boot-licking pro-Trump Republican colleagues who refuse to accept the results of the 2020 Presidential Election — yet accept their own victories in the same election — she's joined her fellow sycophants by claiming the election was a fraud, and that she would object to the certification of the electoral college votes today.

So, today, she's on Capitol Hill, speaking to a group of pro-Trump folks who have gathered, wherein she decided to reference Adolf Hitler.

As you'll hear in the video below, Rep. Miller took the mic and said this (emphasis mine):

If we win a few elections, we’re still going to be losing unless we win the hearts and minds of our children. This is the battle. Hitler was right on one thing. He said, ‘Whoever has the youth has the future.’”

Usually I'd say "I can't believe I have to say this", but this comes to no surprise that I have to say:

[largest, deepest sigh imaginable] No, Hitler did not do one thing right. Giving Hitler any positive credit for anything is the incorrect answer. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

It brings me to think of a few things right off the bat:

  1. I'm sorry, but you couldn't think of anyone else to reference when attempting to focus on the concept that the youth is the future? Not a one? Literally choose anyone else and you have a better chance of not fucking this up.
  2. This is a frightening reality that Rep. Miller, or whomever wrote the speech she just read, decided that referencing Hilter to this group of spectators would be considered "knowing your audience".

To top it all off, here's a video of protestors storming the Capitol, and if you look, you can see a Nazi flag in the mix. Perhaps she does know her audience after all.

Top image from Mary Miller's Facebook page.

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Public Art League is merging with 40 North

The Public Art League (PAL), a non-profit in C-U that installs and promotes public art in the community, has announced they will be merging with 40 North. Per their email blast, which you can read below, PAL will now receive "financial and operational governance" from 40 North.

From the Public Art League's email:

Dear Friend of the Public Art League,

To say 2020 was a challenging year is an understatement. So many disruptions and changes to our urban lifestyle and experience!

Although the Public Art League was compelled to take a low-profile like so many others in the community, we were able to continue advancing the PAL mission with the installation of two new sculptures located in the Carle at The Fields, and, the renewal of leases for other existing sculptures.

Sadly, the strong winds of change were too much for Flamenco Revisited at Porter Family Park in Champaign. Damage to the sculpture required returning it to the artist thus ending its run in a prominent corner of southwest Champaign.

As we emerge from these turbulent times, the power of the arts to lift our spirits and spark new beginnings has never been more potent. And so it is with excitement that I announce a new partnership between 40 North and the Public Art League.

Beginning in 2021, 40 North will provide financial and operational governance for the Public Art League. I believe combining these operational synergies under 40 North’s Board of Directors will continue advancing public art in our community. This collaboration will prove true the adage that we are stronger together than when we are apart.

I am grateful for all the support you have given over these past eleven years. And I hope you are excited for the years ahead. I know that with your continued support, together, PAL and 40 North will put art on every corner!

Very truly yours,

David B. Wilcoxen, President

Public Art League

Top image of Craig Snyder's "Tip-See" by Anna Longworth.

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Chancellor Robert Jones “identified as potential pick” for Biden’s Secretary of Education

President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris have been very busy putting together their staff as they approach inauguration on January 20th. A few C-U connects have already been announced — Reema Dodin as Deputy Director of the White House Office of Legislative Affairs and Jonathan Coppess for the USDA transition team — and today came another potential addition.

College of Education at the University of Illinois tweeted this earlier today, mentioning that Chancellor Robert Jones and Freeman Hrabowski III (U of I alum) "have been identified as potential picks for President elect Joe Biden's new U.S. Secretary of Education." At the time of publishing, I have not found any other announcements corroberating this information, and U of I's Twitter seems void of this new as well. Here is where you can read about other potential picks via EdWeek.

Ultimately, this is some pretty potentially big news, especially in regards to Chancellor Jones (with all due respect to Hrabowski!), as he is a key figure in the community.

The best part about this whole thing? Getting to imagine life beyond the current person who holds this role at the White House: Betsy DeVos.

Top image from U of I's Twitter.