Monday, September 28, 2015

#BeCauseY: Meet Nate Lawrence

It was Quad Day, that hot summer Sunday in August right before the fall semester at the U of I and firstyear student Nate Lawrence was looking to get involved with an environmental group to cultivate his studies in environmental science. He saw the table for Students for Environmental Concerns members; he simply walked over, signed up and came to the first meeting at the Y. When Nate came to know the YMCA better, he was surprised to discover how broad, yet integrated the University YMCA is in cause-driven leadership development.

“I still don’t think I understand the full scope of the Y’s work towards its mission,” said Nate. “It’s truly immense and amazing what is accomplished here at the Y.”

In his senior year, Nate took on the role of president on the Student Board and served a liaison in the YMCA Board of Governors. About six months ago, Nate seized the opportunity to take the lead on revising the YMCA’s socially responsible investment policy for our endowment.

Nate added that it’s been a great opportunity for students who may not necessarily know the full scope of the YMCA but have been involved in some aspect to be able to engage in the YMCA as an overall cause-driven place, not just in the programming but throughout all decision making structures. “At the very least, it creates a lot of good conversation around what the University YMCA values,” said Nate. “It’s also been amazing to see how the work of students here also really shapes the values and the work the University YMCA does overall.”

At the University YMCA, student leaders are empowered to shape the life, relevance, and work towards the YMCA’s mission for better human relations and stewardship of our planet. In the case of the socially responsible investment project, we nod to the Beyond Coal campaign on the U of I campus, led by Students for Environmental Concerns, a student program of the University YMCA.

Since 2012, the Beyond Coal campaign has been extensively pushing for the University to make socially responsible investments and to divest from companies that support coal extraction. Sure, the Y’s endowment, although strong, pales in comparison to the University YMCA’s endowment, 1.8 million versus 1 billion, says Nate. Nevertheless, it is the actions of Y student leaders like Nate Lawrence who encourage the YMCA to reflect and ask, “Are we truly living the very kind of change we seek?“

Monday, September 14, 2015

#BeCauseY: Meet Amanda Hwu

Amanda Hwu had found her passion for prison justice from her experiences of writing to a man in prison, her first intimate glimpses into the inequalities and injustices within our incarceration system. She was writing to this man who was sentenced when he has 17 years old because of a charge of assault and armed robbery. This mistake that he made when he was younger meant that he will be punished until he’s older than Amanda’s parents.

The stories these men told compelled Amanda to understand why our system works this way and why penal punishment is accepted and not questioned in our society. Amanda knew that these stories needed to be heard. Her passion for social justice was ignited. In March of 2013, The Prison Justice Project was born.

Discussing mass incarceration became so important to Amanda she began to realize how it intersects with every social and environmental issue from reproductive rights to climate change to sustainable farming to immigration. “It’s all connected to the incarceration system, because that’s how we solve or not solve our problems,” she said. For Amanda the creation of the Prison Justice Project (PJP) became a way of interrogating and engaging with these complex issues.

At the time when the YMCA was accepting applications for student groups to join the Y community, then YMCA Board Chair Ellen Dahlke had learned about PJP and approached Amanda during an education justice symposium, encouraging PJP to apply. Since they’ve been at the Y, Prison Justice Project has seen immense growth and a huge amount of engagement in their programming. Included among their many accomplishments this year is the establishment of CU Succeed, a mentoring program aimed at disrupting the school to prison pipeline.

"People here at the Y believe in our growth and give you the tools to lead. This is where you get real education, real world experience that all too often the classroom does not provide."

Although saying her goodbyes have been difficult, Amanda is feeling good about moving on and continuing her education in the Master’s Program of Social Work Administration at the University of Chicago. She continues her work in prison justice and community-based alternatives to incarceration with the goal of starting a non-profit.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

[Press Release] Art at the Y presents "(In)Visible Men", Paintings by Ricardo André Lewis

Press Release
For Immediate Release
September 8, 2015

For media inquiries, contact: Megan Flowers, 
University YMCA Communications Director [, 217-337-1500]

Art at the Y presents
(In)Visible Men
Paintings by Ricardo André Lewis

On view in Murphy Gallery of the University YMCA 
from September 17, 2015 to October 31, 2015

Art @ the Y is pleased to present (In)Visible Men, paintings by Bloomington artist Ricardo André Lewis in the Murphy Gallery of the University YMCA from September 17, 2015 to October 31, 2015. 

Art @ the Y will host the opening reception of (In)Visible Men on Thursday, September 17 from 5pm to 7pm at the University YMCA, 1001 S. Wright Street, Champaign, IL. Ricardo Lewis will give a talk about his artwork during the reception at 5:30pm. Light refreshments will be served. The opening reception is a good opportunity for the Champaign-Urbana community to learn more about the artist’s work in person.

Robert II.jpg
Image above: “Robert II” by Ricardo Lewis

(In)Visible Men is a series of life-size portrait paintings focused on Black males and the attempt to bring visibility to a social group that has been historically marginalized. Since the birth of this country, Black men have appeared and disappeared from view depending upon the political, economic or entertainment needs of the dominant culture.

Ricardo André Lewis’ art is about challenging the viewer to internalize the interconnectedness between themselves and Black men. In it, Lewis is asking the viewer to pause while attempting to see Black men without a narrative or judgment; to quiet inner dialogues that have arisen from how this group has been defined. The men in his art are presented with limited visual cues that people use to make assumptions and stereotypes. Without these visual cues and backgrounds, the viewer is left with the encounter they are presented, the proximity they allow between themselves and the subjects, and their personal comfort levels arrived from the engagement.

Rick (1).jpg

About the artist: Ricardo André Lewis is an artist who has worked in higher education administration for 30 years. He received a Bachelor’s of Arts degree at Winston-Salem State University in North Carolina in 1984 and a Master’s of Science degree from Illinois State University in 1987 as well as completing 18 hours post-master’s studies in education administration at Illinois State University. Ricardo worked in university residence halls for more than 15 years in a variety of live-in and central office administrative positions. He also worked two years as director for multicultural affairs and 11 years as Associate Dean of Students.

"Painting is my journey on a path of mindfulness. As I’m painting, everything dissolves leaving only the breath and the brushstrokes." -Ricardo Lewis

About Art@theY: Some of the most profound insight, critique, and creative thinking around the issues which comprise the mission of the Y happen in and around the arts. Art @ the Y seeks to engage issues of social justice, international understanding, environmental activism, faith and cultural understanding through quality arts programming. Art @ the Y includes a revolving exhibition space in Murphy Gallery, featuring artists whose work speaks to the mission of the Y and performing arts events throughout the year. Art @ the Y is an initiative of the University YMCA. All Art at the Y events are free and open to the public.  

Murphy Gallery:
Hours: Mondays-Thursdays from 9am to 9pm
Fridays from 9am to 5pm

Location: 1001 S. Wright St., Champaign, IL
Admission: Free and open to the public

Bus Lines: Yellow, Navy, Blue, Silver, Brown, Illini
Nearby Bus Stops: Transit Plaza, Wright & Chalmers, Armory & Wright