By WILL ATWATER
For The News-Gazette
The sound of explosives and automatic machine gun fire spilling from the TV doesn't seem to bother a snoring 2-year-old D'aizit, who sleeps at one end of the couch.
Q: Have you ever formally studied art?
A: No. I started officially making art in 2005. Before that I was a physicist. I majored in physics. I never studied art the way you Americans do.
Q: Do you still work as a physicist?
A: No, I quit forever. The best way for me to fit as an immigrant into a new culture is through art. That's natural to me.
CHAMPAIGN – Local men, young and old, are invited to participate in a town hall meeting "for males and about males" in Champaign.
The meeting, organized by the local Peer Ambassadors, is set for 6 p.m. Monday at the Champaign Public Library, 200 W. Green St., in the Robeson Pavilion.
Peer Ambassadors is an outreach program through the Champaign County Mental Health Center, for African-American youths ages 15 through 20 who reach out to their peers for education, peer counseling and leadership.
DANVILLE – Nearly three years ago, Bonnie Derrickson-Beecher stood at her granddaughter's grave and made a promise: The people who were responsible for fatally shooting her and two other people on Danville's east side would be found and brought to justice.
Today, she planned to return to the grave to mark the three-year anniversary of the murders, which remain unsolved.
"I'll tell her, 'I'm sorry. I'm still trying,'" she said softly, breaking into tears.
SPRINGFIELD – State Rep. Bill Black continued to marvel Wednesday at the response to his legislation, approved by the House on Monday, that would allow cash-strapped school districts to move to a four-day school week.
"I've never seen so much fuss in my life over a bill a school superintendent asked me to introduce," the Danville Republican said.
His bill, which now heads to the Senate after an 81-21 vote in the House, was requested by Mark Janesky, superintendent of the 500-student Jamaica school district in rural Vermilion County.
CHAMPAIGN – Maybe it was karma.
Just days after Kathy Darr bought plane tickets for a long-awaited trip to Japan with her son, she got an e-mail seeking host families for Japanese exchange students this summer.
Her first thought: Wow, what a coincidence. And then: No way.
After all, she's a single mom, with a small townhouse and a day job. Not necessarily ideal for an exchange student.
But she was intrigued, so she called for more information about the program.
CHAMPAIGN – The Champaign-Urbana metropolitan area grew faster than all but one metropolitan area in Illinois, new population estimates from the Census Bureau show.
Meanwhile, the Danville metropolitan area was the fastest-shrinking in the state, according to estimates released this week.
The Champaign-Urbana area – which includes Champaign, Ford and Piatt counties – had 226,132 residents as of July 1, 2009, up from 223,998 a year earlier, the bureau said.
URBANA – People young and old dressed in ball gowns or armor and children dressed as their favorite fairy tale characters will again gather for a ball in Urbana.
Hosted for the third year by the Urbana Free Library, the Fairy Tale Ball is set for 6 to 9 p.m. April 9 at the library.
Kathy Wicks, associate director of the library, said more than 1,000 people have attended the event each of the first two years.
"Last year, we had more than 1,200 people over three hours," Wicks said.
The Champaign-Urbana Schools Foundation will celebrate the accomplishments of two alumni at its sixth Annual Distinguished Alumni Luncheon on April 30.
The luncheon honors Scott Anderson, Champaign Central High School Class of 1977, and Stephen Van Arsdell, Urbana High School Class of 1968.
Roxann Bossenbroek of the foundation called both men "very accomplished."
The foundation noted that "Anderson's commitment to Champaign's public schools and his pro-bono dental work in the community and volunteer work in Malawi is impressive.