WSIU Series Explores Region's People, Stories and Issues
WSIU Public Broadcasting, based at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois, turns the spotlight on the unique people, places, events, and issues of its five-state service region in the weekly half-hour television series WSIU InFocus.
Co-hosted by Southern Illinois residents George Norwood and Roz Rice and broadcast on Friday nights at 7:30pm, WSIU InFocus explores interesting stories from topical areas such as the arts and education, family and community, regional history, cultural identity, and news and public affairs.
In the spring of 2011, WSIU InFocus produced a half-hour interview with original Freedom Riders Genevieve Houghton of Carbondale, Ill. and Tom Armstrong of Naperville, Ill. as part of the station's promotion and outreach efforts surrounding the national broadcast of the American Experience documentary Freedom Riders. Both Houghton and Armstrong were featured in the national documentary. Houghton narrowly escaped with her life when angry mobs firebombed her bus in Anniston, Alabama on the first attempt to integrate interstate bus stations in the South. Armstrong was arrested in Mississippi when he and other college students tried to join subsequent rides.
Working in partnership with the Illinois Humanities Council, the Varsity Center for the Arts in Carbondale, and the African American Museum of Southern Illinois, WSIU co-hosted a standing-room-only public screening of American Experience: Freedom Riders in the Varsity Center's theater and in an overflow room with a TV monitor. The screening was followed by a discussion with the audience moderated by Rev. Rick Jackson, pastor of Bethel AME Church in Carbondale and a respected community leader and activist. Houghton and Armstrong answered questions from the audience and shared their experiences and insights as civil rights activists in the 1960s. Over 200 people of all races and ethnicities, from middle-school aged children to seniors, attended the screening and participated in a powerful community dialogue about racism, discrimination, and social activism at both the local and national levels..
WSIU Radio also produced an interview with Genevieve Houghton as part of its local Morning Conversations series, which aired a few days prior to the public film screening. Listen to the interview.
During the 2011-12 academic year, Carbondale Community High School added the American Experience: Freedom Riders documentary to their curriculum on the U.S. Civil Rights era and will host several screenings of the film in history classes. WSIU will provide teachers with copies of the WSIU InFocus episode featuring Houghton and Armstrong, so that students can learn more about our nation's history from the original Freedom Riders' personal stories.