Rachel Otwell

Rachel's reports focus on the arts, community & diverse culture. 

She's a graduate of the Public Affairs Reporting Program at the University of Illinois Springfield, and while obtaining that degree she spent a legislative session covering news for Illinois Public Radio with a focus on fracking. Rachel also holds degrees in Liberal & Integrative Studies, Women & Gender Studies and African-American Studies. She's tutored Rwandan refugees in Ohio, volunteered at a Kenyan orphanage,  served as an activities assistant at a nursing home and volunteered at an elephant sanctuary in Thailand. 

Rachel started a career in public media in 2011 when she interned for the National Public Radio program Tell Me More with Michel Martin in Washington, D.C. Her reports have also appeared on NPR's Weekend Edition, NPR's All Things Considered, NPR's Morning Edition, WorkingNow.org, and 51%.

Governor Bruce Rauner has signed an executive order he says will mean more minority-owned businesses will get government contracts. But some are skeptical about his true intentions.

Earlier this week Governor Bruce Rauner issued an amendatory veto of gun legislation and added his own ideas, including a plan to reinstate the death penalty in certain cases. It would apply to mass shooters and those who kill police officers.

A measure to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment got approval from an Illinois House committee Wednesday, in what could be the final step before it's called for a decisive vote in that chamber.  

The measure has already passed the state Senate. Opponents argue it could mandate government funded abortions and force co-ed prison populations.

Chief sponsor and Democratic representative from Skokie, Lou Lang, says two of his colleagues told him they're worried a "yes" vote could be used against them in future campaigns.

Chris Quintana covers the "culture wars" on college campuses and other news for The Chronicle of Higher Education. He was intrigued by the story of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign's one-time icon, Chief Illiniwek. Quintana visited the school and surrounding area for a story released earlier this year.

A decades-long battle for state ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment is still waging on. On Tuesday, supporters traveled from different areas of the state to urge lawmakers to act.

Jason Rosenbaum / St. Louis Public Radio

The police captain in charge of security in Ferguson, Missouri, during the aftermath of Michael Brown's death recently spoke in Springfield. Ronald Johnson's message was one of building trust.

 

 

The Papers of Abraham Lincoln project announced on Thursday a revamped website with about 5,000 legal, personal and political writings and documents associated with the nation's 16th president.

LGBTQ rights advocates have been pushing a measure they say would amend school code in a way that would be beneficial when it comes to noting the community's role in state and national history. Last week those representing groups like Equality Illinois urged lawmakers to pass the proposal, which has yet to reach a vote outside of committee.

Those in favor of a measure they say would help get an amendment closer to being added to the U.S. Constitution will head to the Statehouse to lobby for it on Tuesday.

The Equal Rights Amendment, commonly referred to as the ERA, aims to end the legal distinction between men and women, something supporters say would enhance equality when it comes to issues like equal pay. Congress approved it in 1972, and then it went to the states for ratification. 38 states had to approve it by 1982, a deadline set by Congress. It fell short by three.

In a world where "fake news" is a term known by just about anyone paying attention to current events, journalism's importance and history is increasingly being questioned. For his book released this year by the University of Illinois Press, Fred Carroll takes a look at the history of the commercial black press and how it intersected with alternative ideologies.

Right outside Oak Ridge Cemetery, the resting place of President Abraham Lincoln, is the Springfield and Central Illinois African American History Museum

One of the capital city's oldest businesses is for sale. Recycled Records in downtown Springfield has a lot more going on than just what’s in the name. Old beer signs line the walls. There’s stereo equipment, collectible toys, historical books, vintage knick-knacks and more. It’s the kind of place you could get lost in for a day.

It's well known that the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign once used the depiction of a Native American chief as a symbol for its sports teams. The school retired Chief Illiniwek about a decade ago. But that hasn’t stopped some fans from using the likeness or even portraying the Chief. A new court filing alleges copyright infringement.

Led by students, the "March for our Lives" effort made its way across the nation and here in Illinois over the weekend. Hundreds of people gathered outside the state capitol building in Springfield on Saturday before marching downtown.

The nation's oldest civil rights organization, the NAACP, and Illinois police officials announced Thursday an agreed upon resolution they say took years to hash out. The "affirmation of shared principles" was inspired in part by the death of Michael Brown, who was shot and killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014.

Wednesday, some students from Springfield-area schools will leave class and stand in a common area on school grounds for 17 minutes - one minute to honor each of the lives lost in the mass shooting at a Parkland, Florida high school. It's part of a national push led by young people for stricter gun laws.

Student activists from Parkland, Florida, have toured the country speaking out about gun violence after a gunman killed 17 people at their school in February. They recently made a stop in Chicago and their cause has inspired students all over the country, including in the Springfield area.

Hundreds of people descended on the statehouse Wednesday to urge legislators pass stricter gun regulations. Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense has chapters across the country; it was founded in 2012 as a response to the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary.

Since 2016, Marc Nelson has used his artwork to draw attention to the people, often children, affected by the Syrian civil war. He's connected his students with children there through artwork and messages sent via social media, namely Twitter.

A new panel will look at how to curb sexual harassment and abuse of campaign workers. It follows scrutiny of the Democratic Party of Illinois.

An Illinois man was found "not guilty” today for an arson case dating back to 1995. Bill Amor already spent 22 years in prison for a crime he says he didn’t commit.

Rachel Otwell / WUIS / NPR Illinois

The #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, as well as the 2016 election, have sparked renewed passion for electing women to office in Illinois.

It's a cold, slushy weeknight as about 50 people pour into the community room of a Springfield grocery store on the west end of town. They're making protest signs for the second annual Women's March. Two friends sit in a corner using cutout letters and permanent marker. Business owner Katie Dobron is writing, "Vote women in."

Republican Governor Bruce Rauner likely considered the upcoming election while crafting the state of the state address he gave Wednesday. There's a host of Democratic candidates vying to unseat him - and a single Republican who says she wants to get him out the way during the primary this March. 

In his State of the State Address Wednesday, Republican Governor Bruce Rauner talked about balancing the budget and weeding out career politicians. Some of the Democrats in attendance want to unseat him in the election this fall.

Daniel Schwen / Adapted by Peoria Public Radio / CC BY-SA 4.0 / WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner presents his state of the state address in Springfield Wednesday. Those who watch it might notice one color in particular being worn by those in attendance. Illinois Public Radio's Rachel Otwell explains. 

President Donald Trump’s administration has been in power for a year now. “State of Trump” is our series discussing what’s changed in Illinois, and what might be ahead

Trump campaigned on building a wall between the border of Mexico and the U.S. While it appears he's willing to scale back that effort, targeting immigrants who do not have protected status remains near the top of his agenda. 

President Donald Trump’s administration has been in power for a year now. “State of Trump” is our series discussing what’s changed in the state, and what might be ahead.

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Each day of session in the General Assembly starts off with a prayer from a minister or chaplain. For the first time, a Hindu will be sharing a recitation from his religion. Rajan Zed is the President of the Universal Society of Hinduism.

He's prayed before government councils and groups all over the country, including the United States Senate. He says Hinduism is misunderstood by many Americans, and seeing as it's the third largest world religion after Christianity and Islam, Zed wants to change that.

 

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