IPM Features

Playing news, information, and music in the Black community


Written by Reginald Hardwick

After the murder of George Floyd, there was a racial reckoning in America, including the media. It would have been easy to put up a ‘Black Lives Matter’ statement and pledge to ‘work on’ diversity. But at Illinois Public Media, we went a step further: creating an audio service that amplifies the voices and the culture of Black communities in central Illinois.

I am Reginald Hardwick, News and Public Affairs Director at Illinois Public Media. Over the past 18 months, I have collaborated with other talented people at IPM to create a first-of-its-kind new radio station, Illinois Soul. It will air 24 hours a day on WILL-FM 101.1 within the city limits of Champaign-Urbana. For people with high-definition radios, it can be heard on WILL-FM 90.9 HD2 from Champaign west to Sangamon Counties. There is also a live stream at IllinoisSoul.org.

As the person who sets the tone of coverage for our radio newscasts, our news site IPMnewsroom.org, and our daily talk show ‘The 21st Show,’ at the heart of our coverage is accuracy, timeliness, fairness, and representation of many communities. You hear and read it in our stories now– whether we’re reporting on Black fathers being active in their children’s education in Garden Hills, a popular Congolese artist performing at Lincoln Square Mall, probing why more than 50 percent of drivers stopped by police in Champaign-Urbana are Black, or showing how African Americans in Danville are restoring greenery to make their neighborhood more sustainable. 

Illinois Soul will take that a step further with the creation of a new weekly magazine, airing Saturdays at 10 a.m. and Tuesdays at 7 p.m. The program will feature interviews with central Illinoisans about issues affecting the Black communities. Our first guest on February 2 will be University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Chancellor Robert Jones. Tune in and you will also hear in-depth reporting about education, business, and recreation with information to empower you. Listeners will also hear Tinisha Spain talk to local mental health experts to help get to the heart of problems and solutions that afflict our communities. In addition, we will invite you to call in and as the old Chaka Kahn and Rufus hit says, “Tell me something good!”

The segments on mental health and “Tell me something good” are a direct answer to what we heard in many listening sessions and surveys... Black people in central Illinois are craving discussions about emotional well-being for themselves and their families. And that they want to hear ‘good things’ about Black communities because of so much overwhelming and destructive news about them. A national poll concurs. Pew Research says 63 percent of Black Americans feel they are displayed more negatively in media than any other ethnic or racial group. 

I arrived in Champaign-Urbana a few months before the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, Black people have told me they wished they had a source for truthful news about our community plus music to help us relax and enjoy life in Central Illinois. With Illinois Soul, we hope you will find a home on the radio.