Illinois Public Media News
News of the resignation of Egypt's thirty-year ruler Hosni Mubarak sent waves of excitement through the Chicago area's Muslim community as they went to afternoon prayer services Friday.
Egyptian-American worshipers at the Mosque Foundation in Bridgeview, Illinois, cried with relief as they called the change a "watershed moment" in the history of Egypt and the Middle East. "We are so proud," Raba Gomaa said during a press conference arranged by the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago (CIOGC).
Though the change in Egypt's regime was announced just hours before the service began, it was the topic of Sheikh Jamal Said's sermon.
"We would like to congratulate our brothers and sisters in Egypt," Said said. "The tyrant is gone, Elhamdulillah. The tyrant is gone."
In the women's worship space below, female congregants jubilantly greeted each other with the Arabic phrase that has become a refrain during the weeks of protest: "Tahya Masr!" ("Long Live Egypt").
The high emotions followed a period of deep despondency that set in with many Thursday, when Mubarak indicated in a speech that he had no intention of stepping down. But Karima Mohamed, who left Egypt roughly 20 years ago, said when she heard that speech she knew Mubarak's time was coming to an end. "After two minutes we know something (was going to) happen," said Mohamed. "The people (would) not accept it because he tried to play a game on the people, but the people over there, they're more smarter than what he did."
Others at the service said they believe the change in Egypt will ripple through the rest of the Middle East.
"There's 22 Arabic-speaking countries," CIOGC President Dr. Zaher Sahloul said. "Two of them are right now free: Tunisia and Egypt. Twenty are left."
Oussama Jamal, Vice President of the Mosque Foundation, expressed similar hopes that the developments in Egypt won't stop at that country's borders.
"We hope it is a cold, and everybody will catch it soon," he said.
Many of the Egyptian-Americans said they are confident that their countrymen will successfully steer through the transition period to a peaceful and fair democracy, and they're looking forward to helping in any way they can.
"In ten years you can see you can see Egypt not less than Europe or America," Mohamed said. "It will be in the top again, insh'Allah.
An Illinois lawmaker is pushing to raise the state's minimum wage to more than $10 an hour -- higher than anywhere else in the United States.
The Chicago Sun-Times reports that Democratic Sen. Kimberly Lightford of Maywood has introduced legislation to raise the minimum wage by 50 cents plus the rate of inflation every year until it reaches the point where it's equivalent to what $1.60 an hour was in 1968. Today, that would mean an hourly wage of $10.03.
Lightford said she wants to make sure the working poor aren't ignored or forgotten.
But opponents say the proposal could cause businesses to move to other states -- especially if it comes after a recent corporate income tax increase.
Abraham Lincoln delivered his farewell address in Springfield 150 years ago as he was about to leave for Washington, D.C., and three months later, the first shots of the Civil War were fired.
To mark the anniversary of the start of the war, communities from all over the country simultaneously read the former president's farewell address on Friday in an attempt to break the Guinness Book of World Record for simultaneous reading of a single document. The reigning world record was set in 2006 when more than 223,000 people read from "Charlotte's Web."
The Guinness Book of World Records requires the reading to last five minutes, so people had to recite the brief speech three times. Don Owen, the assistant superintendent for Urbana School District 116, was among the nearly 50 people who participated in the mass reading at the Urbana City Building. Owen, who showed up with his two children, said the speech revealed a lot about Lincoln's presidency.
"He knew that even before the Civil War started that he was going to be a president remembered for either saving or destroying the union," Owen said. "That kind of intelligence and forethought is amazing for any president."
Organizers say it will be several weeks before they know if they broke the record
Meanwhile, Urbana is looking forward to more Lincoln events. City planner Rebecca Bird said in the next couple of months, the city will release a podcast outlining sites with connections to Lincoln.
A University of Illinois professor who formerly lived in Egypt says the sudden departure of Hosni Mubarak will now mean patience on the part of people there to see what kind of government develops.
Sociology and Middle East studies professor Asef Bayat said this quick transition of Mubarak handing power to the military didn't allow for another power to shadow the president, or form some type of alternative governing body.
"One has to really wait and see how the negotiations will start, and whether or not the army would be willing to really move the country into a democracy after a transitional period, and step back and remain as a kind of neutral body," Bayat said.
Bayat said there has been a large expectation of a 'honeymoon' with Mubarak's resignation. But he said in recent weeks, there has been a realization among Egypt's people that Mubarak's departure alone isn't enough. Bayat said he is now seeing a lot of banners calling for the entire regime to step down.
"While the slogans by and large focused on his (Mubarak's) departure, now I have seen a lot of banners and slogans basically saying that the regime should go, and that's a big, big difference from the past," he said.
Bayet said Egypt should look beyond any operators of power who revolved around Mubarek and his type of parliament. He also said there's a lack of coordination between different organs of power, and that was evident when the chief of the Egyptian army showed support for Mubarak following the Thursday address, just before he would announce he was stepping down.
It's Black History Month, and Al Letson, who's the host of NPR's State of the Re:Union, recently finished a documentary honoring the life of someone who he calls the most important civil rights figure with very little name recognition. Bayard Rustin was involved in the freedom rides, he served as the chief architect of the March on Washington, and by the end of his life, he became influential in the gay rights movement.
Al Letson was in Champaign this week to talk about Rustin's legacy, and he spoke with Illinois Public Media's Sean Powers.
(Photo courtesy of Warren Leffler)
A longtime advocate for the rights of disabled people says he's 'humbled and proud' to be named to the list of Lincoln Academy Laureates.
Tim Nugent founded the University of Illinois' Division of Disability Resources and Educational Services in 1948, and has since developed standards for handicapped accessibility. Nugent's ideas started with building ramps for injured World War II veterans. He was teaching health education at the U of I's former campus in Galesburg when it closed in 1949.
With no plans to transfer disabled students to Urbana, Nugent said that prompted rallies on the campus and in Springfield. He compares the effort to what African-Americans have gone through in this country.
"It wasn't until recently that they had full privileges," Nugent said. "And they were going through the same thing. It's a natural phenomenon when you bring out something new or different. People question it, people challenge it. And that's what proves its merit."
Nugent says he's worked with many Lincoln laureates, including Urbana native and film critic Roger Ebert, and is happy to be joining their ranks. He'll receive Order of Lincoln award in April 16th ceremonies at the U of I's Krannert Center for the Performing Arts along with five other people, including Flex-N-Gate Corporation President Shahid Khan.
(Photo courtesy of the University of Illinois)
Illinois senators haven't quite given up hope of voting on Gov. Pat Quinn's nominee to head the state police.
An aide to Senate President John Cullerton initially said Thursday there was no way to hold a confirmation hearing before time ran out and nominee Jonathon Monken officially got the job.
But Rikeesha Phelon later said Senate leaders had begun considering a hearing next Wednesday, the last day possible.
Nominees are automatically confirmed if the Senate doesn't hold a vote within 60 session days. The deadline was also complicated by the fact that Monken was nominated during a legislative session that ended last month.
Monken is 31 and has no law enforcement experience, but he has served as acting director of state police for nearly two years.
If you read the newspaper comics pages, you may have noticed the decline of the story strip. In January, "Brenda Starr, Reporter" disappeared from the comics pages, some 70 years after its creation by the late Dale Messick.
Its syndicator, Tribune Media Services, decided to end the strip, rather than replace Mary Schmich, the Chicago Tribune columnist who decided to leave "Brenda Starr" after writing it for 25 years (her collaborator for the past 15 years was artist June Brigman).
Schmich said she hopes Brenda Starr returns some day, but admits there is no future for the newspaper story strip as a format. Illinois Public Media's Jim Meadows spoke with Schmich about Brenda Starr's unique position as a woman-produced comic strip about a woman reporter.
A women's prison in Decatur allows a handful of its inmates to raise their newborns while serving out their sentences. It's the only program of its kind in the state, and as Illinois Public Media's Sean Powers reports, it appears to be advancing the cause of rehabilitation and growth.
(Photo by Sean Powers/WILL)
Dozens of people have lined up to speak to Indiana lawmakers about a proposal that its sponsor says would lead to an Arizona-style crackdown on illegal immigration in the state.
Sponsor Republican Sen. Mike Delph of Carmel opened a public hearing Wednesday by saying those from other countries have an obligation to follow U.S. laws. Supporters testify that illegal immigrants have been taking jobs from Indiana residents and that the state has the right to enforce immigration laws because federal officials had failed.
Opponents outside the Senate chamber have held signs such as "Welcome to Indiana ... where you will be racially profiled."
State Attorney General Greg Zoeller earlier Wednesday expressed reservations about the proposal, saying Indiana shouldn't try to assume authority over what is a federal responsibility.
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