By Brian Munoz, for The Southern Illinoisan

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Chastity Mays, a community member and march organizer, speaks to the crowd of roughly 50 people on Thursday, June 18, 2020, during a demonstration outside of Carbondale Community High School in Carbondale. Organizers called on the school to remove the resource officer from the campus and change their discipline practices which were found to disproportionally affect Black students.

CARBONDALE — Black students were found to be disproportionately disciplined at Carbondale Community High School when compared to their peers, according to an analysis by The Southern Illinoisan looking at school and federal discipline data.

In school districts across the country, Black and Hispanic students are more likely, on average, to be suspended and expelled, according to a ProPublica database. A 2018 study conducted by the U.S. Government Accountability Office said “implicit racial bias was the likely cause of these continuing disparities.”

The disparities in discipline against Black students at CCHS are detailed…


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Kristen Dietz, a commercial loan officer from Desoto, reacts while feeding “Piggy Smalls” on Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2020, at SIU Credit Union in Carbondale, Ill. Dietz’s husband purchased a piggy-gram from the SIT Service Dog group to surprise her for Valentine’s Day. “He’s really good with surprises — just very out of the box,” Dietz said. “I never thought in a million years a pig would come through.”

CARBONDALE — Kristen Dietz, a commercial loan offer at SIU Credit Union, knows her husband Tyler is particularly good with surprises but “never in a million years thought” a squealing piglet would come through the doors of her office to celebrate Valentine’s Day.

Coworkers gathered in Dietz’s office as Daniel Bradley, SIT Service Dogs client services manager, donned in a Kermit the Frog mask, held “Piggy Smalls,” a therapy piglet who was rescued from a hoarding situation by him and his wife.


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Karina Herrera, a baker at La Unica Panaderia, decorates a Rosca de Reyes with a sugar frosting, while bakery owner Daris Herrera prepares dried fruit to place on the pastry on Sunday, Jan. 5, 2020, at the bakery in Carbondale.

By Brian Munoz for The Southern Illinoisian

CARBONDALE — Frost lingers on car windows as the glow of streetlights illuminate a quiet Carbondale West Main Street. The sound of a nearby locomotive rumbles the ground as Daris Herrera adjusts her apron as the clock inches towards 6 A.M.

Herrera runs “La Unica” Bakery alongside her sister Karina, her brother-in-law Oscar and their family friend Domingo. She opened her bakery nine years ago, nearly to the date, in hopes of providing something different to the bakery scene in southern Illinois.

Herrera said when she and her family arrived in southern Illinois…


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Chris Koehler, of St. Louis, Missouri, rides a bicycle decorated as a giraffe while dressed up as Popeye the Sailor on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2019, during the annual Popeye Picnic and Parade in Chester, Illinois. This year marks the centennial celebration since “Thimble Theater,” E.C. Segar’s original comic strip which later featured Popeye, was published. Koehler is a member of the St. Louis-based “Banana Bike Brigade” group describe themselves as “a group of St. Louis artists dedicated to the art of the parade and the nurturing of the creative child in everyone.”

CHESTER, Ill. — Debbie Brooks has been a Popeye fan since she was a child, even when faced with the unimaginable — being kidnapped at the age of five.

In 1961, Brooks carried the sailor’s bravery in hand when she was abducted from a park in Long Beach, California, after going to play with some neighborhood friends.

Brooks said the girls she was with ran to tell their parents about what had happened which led to a police search for her. Soon after, they found she had escaped.

“They found me crying and carrying my socks and shoes,” Brooks said…


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By Brian Munoz | @BrianMMunoz

MISSION, South Dakota — Half a dozen elementary school children gather on the stoop of an Ace Hardware store, bikes in hand, as older students and family members line the storefront.

There aren’t shopping malls here, nor theaters. When you ask locals what people do around town, many hesitate and respond with a shrug.

Chatter about the new school year and about the evening’s festivities spills out on the streets while the smell of sizzling meats on a nearby grill fills the air.

Tonia Marshall and her 17-year-old daughter Tianni Arrow drove over 40 miles…

Brian Munoz

Brian Munoz is a freelance multimedia journalist based in southern Illinois who tells stories out of the Midwest. He also enjoys playing classical trombone.

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