Judith Valente

News Reporter

After traveling the country for PBS-TV for the past 15 years, Judy Valente was looking for a new challenge. She is delighted to have found one WGLT as a member of the GLT news team, allowing her to grow here in Normal where she is planted. Judy is also an award-winning poet and the author of two poetry collections. She recently completed a memoir of her regular visits to Mount St. Scholastica, a Benedictine monastery in Atchison, Kansas, called "Atchison Blue: A Search for Silence, a Spiritual Home and a Living Faith." She is often invited to speak on how to slow down and live a more contemplative life.

In her free time, this New Jersey native likes to traverse the Illinois prairie and is a member of the Illinois Master Naturalist program. She enjoys theater, especially Broadway musicals and Heartland Theater's 10-Minute Play Festival. She is also a lay associate of the monastery in Atchison, having taken vows to live out the monastic values of listening, humility, hospitality, simplicity and stability in her life as a married woman – and as a professional writer and journalist.

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Cristian Jaramillo / WGLT

Illinois Senator Dick Durbin greeted about 500 central Illinois residents at a town hall meeting in Bloomington Friday with the words, "There was good news from Washington today."

Durbin was referring to the failure of the U.S. House to pass a Republican-backed replacement for the Affordable Care Act.

Cristian Jaramillo / WGLT

On a recent Friday evening at the Herb Eaton Gallery, Sara Quah stepped onto a stage to do what loves and feels most comfortable doing - singing the songs she composes.

Black Lives Matter

Editor's Note: This post includes updated information, 

 The case of a 10-year-old handcuffed by Bloomington police, whose photograph caused controversy on social media, has been resolved for the time being. 

A spokesman for Black Lives Matter said an agreement was reached which allows the 10-year-old to  complete the community service he was supposed to perform in connection with a 2016 charge of destruction of government property.

Black Lives Matter

Note: This post has been revised to reflect new developments.

The mother of a 10-year-old boy who was handcuffed by Bloomington police and photographed in an image that went viral on social media last week is speaking out about the incident.

Anntionnetta Simmons said her son suffers from attention deficit disorder. He was charged last week in West Bloomington with disorderly conduct. His mother said the charge is the result of a misunderstanding.

Community Players

Perhaps the most familiar opening notes of any American show come from composer Leonard Bernstein’s classic score for the musical, West Side Story.

With lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, the show premiered on Broadway in  1957  and followed the rivalry between ethnic New York teens and young immigrant Puerto Ricans.

The show's opening lines, "Hey brown boy, this is our street ... swim back to where you came from," demonstrate perhaps just how little we’ve progressed as a nation since then.

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When the sole clergy abuse survivor on an international papal commission resigned in protest recently, citing resistance by Vatican officials to reform, the protest didn’t surprise Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke.

Sangamon Auditorium

Before the People vrs O.J. Simpson became known as "the trial of the century," there were the trials of Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly, two fictional  characters based on real-life murderesses in the Broadway musical Chicago.

With a score by John Kander and Fred Ebb, the show evokes the boozy, sexy, smoke-filled jazz clubs of Chicago in the 1920s. It is on stage Monday and Tuesday this week at Springfield's Sangamon Auditorium.

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You might have noticed your female colleagues wearing red clothing today. Or perhaps they didn't show up at the office at all.

It's all part of the International Women's Day celebration, held each year on March 8. The day has special significance this year as women across the world try to maintain the momentum unleashed during the women's marches on Washington and other cities across the globe last January.

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Illinois State University is not officially a "sanctuary campus," but plans to remain a safe haven for undocumented students.

That's according to education administration Professor Beth Hatt and Latin American studies Director Maura Toro-Morn. The two are co-founders of CAUSA, the Committee Assisting Undocumented Student Achievement.

ISU Center for the Performing Arts

 With the record-breaking popularity of the Broadway musical Hamilton, revivals of another show about the founding of America were sure to follow.

The musical 1776, on stage at Illinois State University's Center for the Performing Arts, tells the story of some of the other founding fathers -- those who signed the Declaration of Independence.

Director Lori Adams said the struggles to bridge division and reach compromise that the show depicts mirror many of the same challenges facing America today.

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Bloomington-Normal continues to absorb the sad news of the sudden passing of Tina Salamone, director of the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts.

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Bloomington has lost one of its most ardent advocates for the arts.

Tina Salamone, director of the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts, died of a sudden heart attack on Sunday afternoon and was pronounced dead at Bro-Menn Hospital, McLean County coroner Kathleen Davis confirmed.

Alisdare Hickson/Creative Commons

"Even though I don't have documents, this is my country and I will do whatever to defend it," said a 30-year-old undocumented immigrant who wants to be called Victor because he fears being deported under new Trump administration policies.

Judith Valente

By the time Jenn Carrillo crossed into the U.S. illegally from Mexico,  her family had already tried for years to to obtain legal status.

The family's original petition was filed in 1996. That application is still pending.

"We still haven't heard back from that petition. I can look it up and track it and see where it is in the stack," Carrillo, who came here at age 10, said on GLT's Sound Ideas.

"For a lot of us, there is no legal remedy."

Jim Larrison

To deal with severe over-crowding in Illinois prisons, a bi-partisan governor's commission has issued recommendations that, if adopted, would represent the most sweeping changes to criminal sentencing laws in decades.

Gary Jones

One of Dorothy Day's favorite quotes comes from one of her best-loved authors, Dostoyevsky. "The world will be saved by beauty."

Michigan State University

It all began over a glass of wine at dinner. A friend of Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha told the Flint, Michigan pediatrician that she suspected there was something fundamentally wrong with that city's drinking water. 

Judith Valente

Sporting a life-size photograph that asked "Where's Rodney?" about a hundred demonstrators gathered outside Republican Rep. Rodney Davis' district office in Normal to urge the congressman to speak out against much of the Trump administration's agenda.

Judith Valente/GLT News

As a teenager, Robert McLaughlin would go to the public library in the small town in upstate New York where he grew up and check out the cast albums of Broadway musicals. 

One of those musicals was Stephen Sondheim's "Company" from 1970. 

"I knew his name from "West Side Story," but I didn't know this musical, "Company." It started with all these voices overlapping, calling out the name of the main character. I'd never heard anything like that. It was one of those moments when your heart goes whoo. And I was hooked from then on."

Now McLaughlin has a new book out that looks at the artist and the man, called "Stephen Sondheim and the Reinvention of the American Musical." 

Illinois State University

Illinois State University creative writing professor Gabriel Gudding specializes is crossing literary genres.

His work often mixes poetry with essay, memoir, history and even scientific research. He wrote one collection of poems as a notebook chronicling his frequent road trips between Illinois and Rhode Island to visit his daughter.

Gudding also isn't afraid to take on complex subjects. His most recent book is Literature for Nonhumans, which explores the often regrettable relationship between humans and the animal and plant worlds.

Singer-songwriter Carrie Newcomer is perhaps to the Midwest what Bruce Springsteen is the the New Jersey shore.

Her lyrics evoke not only a landscape, but a Midwestern sensibility of neighborliness and an appreciation for tradition, common sense and the land.

Her rich alto voice, acoustic guitar work and knack for capturing the sacred in the ordinary have delighted Twin City audiences for decades.

Community Players

Before there was Broadway hit "The Book of Mormon" and the popular Disney film "Frozen," composer-lyricist Robert Lopez collaborated on an odd hybrid of a show  in a theater workshop that used both puppets and actors.

U.S. Coast Guard/Flickr

They produce one of the most distinctive and pleasing sounds to the ear. The mellifluous tones of hand bells and chimes are a regular part of the music ministry at many churches, like Wesley United Methodist Church in Bloomington.

Emma Shores/WGLT

Traffic stops in Normal have increased dramatically since the police department began a policy requiring officers to have a minimum off two contacts with citizens during each shift.

Police made 19,637 traffic stops last year compared to 12,961 in 2014 -- an increase of 51 percent.

That amounts to an additional 21 stops a day, according to Illinois State University Criminal Justice Professor Michael Gizzi, who analyzed the traffic stop data.

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A charismatic populist candidate for president promotes a platform to create prosperity and restore America to greatness. Sound like today's headlines?

It's the plot premise for Sinclair Lewis' 1935 novel, It Can't Happen Here.

Things did not turn out well for the America that elected Lewis' fictional candidate, Buzz Windrip.  He quickly outlaws dissent, dilutes Congress' power by dividing the nation into administrative districts led by businessmen, and establishes a Gestapo-like police force called The Minute Men.

Mindfulness, meditation, non-violence, non-attachment. These are all key practices of Buddhism.

In fact, Buddhism has been described as a practice rather than a religion.

In Bloomington- Normal, there are are not Buddhist temples where people can go to practice their faith in community. But individuals manage to practice the principles of the faith on their own, said Illinois State University Professor Pruthikrai Mahatanankoon.

Bill B/Flickr

Republican candidates for local offices are struggling with how to respond to their party's presidential candidate's treatment of women. 

Darron Birgenheier, Flickr

Millions of women have taken to Twitter in recent days to describe their experiences of unwanted sexual advances after Republican presidential candidate Donald J. Trump's boasted that he used his celebrity status to grope and kiss beautiful young women.

Sangamon Auditorium

In 2007, a low budget sleeper film called "Once" about a Dublin street singer and a Czech woman who begin to write songs together gained a cult following.

In 2012, "Once" was first staged as a Broadway musical, and won the Tony Award for Best Musical. It was an unusual film and musical in that there's very little plot and character development.

The show's popularity stems from its staple of pop-style songs. "Once" is coming to Springfield's Sangamon Auditorium this Sunday, October 10

Judith Valente

Democrat Hillary Clinton was elected president Tuesday -- at Normal Community High School, that is.

The student body voted in a mock election sponsored by the McLean County League of Women Voters. The League is attempting to encourage 18-year-old first time voters to register before the election. 

The students chose Clinton over Republican challenger Donald Trump by 44 percent to 39 percent. Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson received about 10 percent of the vote.

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