New fellowship supports community organizations in Champaign County

Anita Say Chan
Anita Say Chan, Associate Professor

The Community Data Clinic has announced its first cohort of Community Media, Data, and Technology (CMDT) Fellows. The new program is part of the "Reparative Data and Media Initiative: Extending Racial and Research Justice in Champaign County" project, which is funded through the University's Call to Action initiative and led by Anita Say Chan, associate professor and director of the Community Data Clinic, and Katie Shumway, director of the Community Learning Lab in the School of Social Work. The fellowships provide annual funding and technical support to community organizations in Champaign County "looking to advance promising ideas to change local communities and systems."

Spring 2022 Fellows include:

  • Dawn Blackman, Garden Steward for The Randolph Street Community Garden
  • Herbert Burnett, CEO/Founder of Not on My Watch (NOMW)
  • Stephanie Burnett, Executive Director of NOMW
  • Miriam Larson, Executive Director of the Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center (UCIMC)
  • Debarah McFarland, Founder of the Dream Girls Academy

In addition to receiving $5,000 for their projects, Fellows will participate in a workshop series dedicated to supporting the media production, technology, and data management skills their projects' developments require. A public showcase of the community projects will be held at the end of the program in August 2022.

One example is NOMW's SoundBox Project, in which local youth express themselves through artistic means.

"Students will learn the ins and outs of a recording studio and have the opportunity to express themselves through music, poetry/spoken word, podcasts, and more," said Herbert Burnett. "Weekly activities will also include discussions on current events, social justice issues, racism, poverty, and violence in the community. These same subject matters will be the basis of their musical and verbal art."

The fellowship program is co-led by interdisciplinary UIUC faculty and staff across the iSchool, College of Fine and Applied Arts, College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, School of Social Work, and Grainger College of Engineering. Its community advisors network also includes community leadership from local social justice-focused organizations, including the CU Trauma and Resilience Initiative, Cunningham Township, and Champaign County Mental Health Board.

"The 2022 Community Media, Data, and Technology Fellows represent an amazing cohort of leadership in community-centered innovation focused on racial and social justice," added Chan. "Moreover, the way they approach technology and data practice—in ways that directly and concretely extend benefits for diverse neighbors and local residents—offers so many insights for campus researchers. We're grateful for their work here in East Central Illinois and for the guidance of our community advisors' network. We couldn't be prouder to bridge such connections between campus and community data practice!"