Illinois Public Media launches Black focused music and news audio service: Illinois Soul FM 101.1

IPM News Director Reginald Hardwick interviews Urbana Police Chief Larry D. Boone for Illinois Soul's new public affairs program, Dialogue.

IPM News Director Reginald Hardwick interviews Urbana Police Chief Larry D. Boone for Illinois Soul's new public affairs program, Dialogue. DJ Roach/Illinois Public Media

URBANA - On the first day of February and Black History Month, Illinois Public Media expanded its commitment to serving all communities.

Illinois Soul is on the air in Champaign-Urbana on WILL-FM 101.1 and WILL-FM 90.9 HD2. Click here for the programming schedule and a live stream of the station.

The station started at 6:00 a.m. with a simulcast of NPR's Morning Edition, America's most-listened to radio news program. Local newscasts hosted by Kimberly Schofield are also part of the new daily lineup.

At 9:00 a.m., the station switched to a daytime music format featuring R&B. On this first day, the debut of Illinois Soul included a 15-minute program featuring a proclamation read by Champaign mayor Deborah Frank Feinen and Urbana Diana Wolfe Marlin. The mayors jointly declared February 1, 2024 'Illinois Soul' day in both cities.

The debut program also featured interviews with Minnie Pearson, president of the NAACP Champaign County Branch, and Tracy Parsons, Community Coalition Facilitator, about the importance of local Black media. Both serve as members of a Community Advisory Board for Illinois Soul.

"I believe we're building something unique and special here in Champaign and Champaign County and at the University of Illinois that can be duplicated, replicated across the country," said Parsons. "Not often enough do we have media that is about, for, and contributes to African American education, communication, and more importantly, values our voice."

"This is a really sound, good way to give the Black community more of a voice, helping us to express ourselves culturally in every other way, even the churches," said Pearson.

The debut segment also featured University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Chancellor Robert J. Jones explaining his three favorite R&B artists. For 30 years, Jones was a part of the Grammy-award winning "Sounds of Blackness" while he lived in Minneapolis. And it is his favorite group.

"The music that we performed was transformative. It was 'about message' music. It was about getting people to be more inspirational and aspirational," said Jones, who made his comments during an interview for Illinois Soul's new weekly public affairs program, Dialogue. The program, including Jones, will air Saturday, February 3 at 11:00 a.m. and again, Tuesday, February 6. 

The visionaries for Illinois Soul are Jill Clements, associate director of corporate support at Illinois Public Media, as well as Reginald Hardwick, news and public affairs director. 

Clements, who is a Champaign native and a veteran of media, said this is the right time to target Black audiences. Champaign's last Black newspaper folded in 2007. The last Black radio station, WBCP-AM, lost its license in 2020 after its owner passed away.

"The need is great. The desert is there. This is part of our mission to engage and inspire all communities," said Clements.

"It's a way for this community to be seen, heard, and celebrated. So we look forward to doing that 24-7."