CARBONDALE — There’s a saying around Southern Illinois University: Once a Saluki, always a Saluki.
While it is true for many alumni of the university, no group embodies that motto more than the Alumni Band Group.
Alumni of the Marching Salukis have attended homecoming celebrations for years. Mike Hanes, director emeritus of bands, said they began walking on the field with the band sometime in the mid-1980s. The Alumni Band Group organized as an official part of the SIU Alumni Association in 1980.
Eden Thorne of Tallahassee, who helped organize the group, said the band would hang on the side of the field.
“We found out we got funding if we registered with the alumni association,” Thorne said.
Thorne believes Mike Hanes is the big draw. Many alumni said they would follow him wherever he wanted to go.
“You will never have an idea how gratifying it is to see how you all have been touched by this organization. It keeps me young,” Hanes told the group at Saturday morning alumni band practice.
For many, the marching band was life-changing.
Joseph Campbell of Woodstock, was a new high school senior in Coulterville about 20 years ago. He received a hand-signed letter from Hanes inviting him to join the Marching Salukis. That letter included a phone number to call for more information. He called, and Hanes answered.
Campbell said there is no part of his life that has not been touched by his years in the Marching Salukis.
“I don’t feel like I’d be the man I am today or done the things I’ve done, if not for marching band,” Campbell said.
He credits Hanes and the passion he has for directing for most of that.
“I still get chills playing the Alma Mater,” Campbell said.
For many alumni band members, the Marching Salukis was — and still is — a family. For others, like Jim and Vicki Beers, Marlon and Dawn Dominguez and Sharon Holland, the marching band really is a family affair.
Jim Beers of Chester met his wife, Vicki, walking out of the band banquet in 1979. He struck up a conversation, and they began dating.
“We haven’t been separated since,” he said.
Marlon and Dawn Dominguez participated as members of the alumni band. Daughters Tracy and Julie are current Marching Salukis.
“In a couple years we will have four Marching Salukis,” Dawn Dominguez said.
Holland, of Flora, wasn’t the only member of her family to march with the Saluki band. Her sister Debbie and brother Greg and Mike also were Marching Salukis.
“We had six siblings attend and graduate from SIU,” Holland said.
Hanes pointed out one “new” old face in the alumni band crowd, Bob Menstrina. Menestrina marched with the band from 1963 to 1967 under directors Don Kennedy and Hanes. He was a Marching Saluki when Hanes started his career at SIU.
“Don recruited me at a high school music competition,” Menestrina said. “This is my first time back for band.”
Menestrina lives in Rockfield, Kentucky.
The current director of athletic bands at SIU School of Music, which includes the Marching Salukis, is George Brozak.
“We look forward to every year to the alumni. They bring a lot of excitement and enthusiasm back every year,” Brozak said.
Christopher Morehouse, director of bands for SIU School of Music, thanked the alumni for their participation in homecoming.
“It is good have them join us every year and great to see so many people come back year after year,” Morehouse said.
CARBONDALE — Three Southern Illinois University cheerleaders say they faced a barrage of threatening comments on social media after they took a knee in protest of police brutality during the national anthem at a Saluki football game last month.
In an interview last week, Alaysia Brandy, Ariahn Hunt and Czarina Tinker said they were startled by the vitriol that followed their decision to kneel during the anthem at the Sept. 30 SIU vs. University of Northern Iowa game in Saluki Stadium.
On Saturday, during the national anthem before the Salukis' Homecoming game against Illinois State, the cheerleaders knelt again. The reaction was mixed Saturday, with some fans yelling at the cheerleaders to stand up. Others praised the cheerleaders. There was also a group in the student section at Saluki Stadium who stood with their fists raised during the anthem.
Last year, former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the national anthem to protest social injustice and police mistreatment of black Americans, and the practice has caught on among professional football players. President Donald Trump has condemned the protests on Twitter.
Comments on posts linking to a Daily Egyptian article about the Saluki cheerleeders' protest included death and rape threats, they said.
“Just the extent of how disrespectful some of the comments got was really astonishing, and there’s the fact that we live down the street from some of these people — these people go to our school,” said Hunt, a psychology major from Chicago.
Brandy, who is studying biological sciences and is also from Chicago, agreed that while some people have expressed support, many of the responses have been unsettling.
“These people know our faces and names now. And we’re getting death threats and sexual assault threats, and being called the N-word so many times,” Brandy said.
Benjamin Newman, director of the SIU Department Public Safety and chief of police, said in a statement that the department began an investigation of the reported threats as soon as it learned of them.
“Investigators met individually with students reporting the threats and reviewed a number of social media accounts. The investigation found that none of the members of the squad were the subject of direct threats, and no other credible threats have been identified,” Newman said.
The investigation is ongoing and officials will “continue to monitor social media sites and other outlets to identify and respond to potential threats,” he said.
The three students, all sophomores, said they have been relying on each other for support. They check in frequently to make sure the others are doing OK emotionally.
“I was taken aback by reading those words. … These are adults. I know we say we’re adults, but we’re all 19. These are (people) in their 40s who speak this way about children,” Brandy said.
When Brandy first brought up the idea of taking a knee ahead of the Sept. 30 game, Hunt and Tinker were immediately onboard. The three of them are the only African-American cheerleaders on the team.
“I was like, ‘You just read my mind,’” Hunt said.
Tinker, who is from Nashville, Tennessee, and studies radio, television and digital media with a concentration in sports media, said she felt a need to take a stand against racial injustice.
“… Police brutality is something that’s been going on for a long time, and nothing has been done, and I feel like it’s very important for me to at least be getting my voice out there, to say, ‘Hey, this has been happening and nothing’s changing,’” Tinker said.
“I think we all agreed that we have a public face and we have a voice on this campus, so we all have participated in protests before, but this is one of the greatest ways that we could be seen and make it known and make it a big deal,” Hunt said.
Before they walked out onto the field on Sept. 30, they prepared themselves for a range of possible outcomes, from getting yelled at to getting kicked off the field.
“I was so nervous. My heart was beating so hard,” Brandy said. “I actually told the girl behind me — because we do a ripple-off into the National Anthem and putting our hand over our heart — I whispered to her, ‘No matter what I do, just keep rippling!’ And she was like, ‘Oh, you’ll be fine. Just follow the person in front of you.’ And I’m like, ‘Oh … she doesn’t know.’”
Hunt said an administrator in the athletic department told them that the department received complaint calls during the national anthem and that some people canceled their tickets immediately.
Director of Athletics Tommy Bell denied that account; he said one person had requested a refund for their ticket to the Family Weekend game.
“Since the game, I’d estimate I’ve received about 20 or so calls or emails related to the national anthem, but no requests to cancel tickets,” Bell said in an email, adding that the complaints he’d received about the protest were “extremely respectful.”
At morning workouts the next day, other members of the squad avoided them, the young women said.
“You could feel the tension,” Tinker said.
The squad discussed the issue at a meeting during the next practice. The meeting lasted three hours, they said.
“At the end, we got through to a lot of people, which kind of made us feel good, like they understand us … but at the end, we kept repeating ourselves, and we weren’t giving them the answer that they wanted,” Hunt said.
“Which was to stand,” Brandy said.
In a statement provided to The Southern, SIUC Chancellor Carlo Montemagno said the university supports students’ right to free speech.
“SIU Carbondale encourages all members of its community to respect the flag and our national anthem,” he said. “We also understand that these two important symbols stand for one of our most important Constitutional rights: freedom of speech. The university must ensure that all members of the community have the right to express their views safely and peacefully, whether or not others agree with those views or the means being used to express them.
“As an educational institution, we can help students find constructive ways to engage the campus in dialog about issues of importance. I have invited the cheerleaders to think about ways students can work with us to help build programming about racial inequalities that will contribute to awareness and understanding. I look forward to their input.”
Bell echoed the sentiment.
“We respect the flag and our national anthem and hope that all those who represent us do so, as well. We also respect our students’ right to free speech. Since the national discussion about the anthem protests began, we’ve engaged our coaches, student-athletes and administrative staff in on-going dialogue about how best to address this controversial topic. I’m extremely proud of our approach. While we have individuals who are sympathetic to one side or the other, I believe we are united in our respect for this country and the opportunities we’ve been afforded,” Bell said.
Brandy said that since the publication of the Daily Egyptian article, she’s found herself having the same argument with people over and over again.
“They’re just like, ‘Your protest has nothing to do with the flag,’ but it has everything to do with the flag. The flag is a representation of America. It shows that we stand, we’re the land of equality and liberty — but we’re not free, we’re not equal. We’re treated as less than, still. It’s 2017, and for you to sing this National Anthem and to actually mean these words, we want it to be true,” Brandy said.
“We’ve gotten, ‘You guys aren’t being discriminated against. You guys are on the cheerleading team. You guys have all of this money. You have all of these opportunities.’ Or, ‘If you guys are protesting, why don’t you protest black-on-black crime back in Chicago?’” Hunt said.
“And we do,” Brandy responded. “Please note this now, we tell our community that we can’t matter until we treat each other as such. We still have this slave mentality, we still judge each other on our skin shades, like, ‘Oh, you’re light-skinned, you’re dark-skinned, so who’s better.’ We’re still fighting against each other, and we still tell the community we have to come together for people to see us as a united front. We tell our community that all the time. But the people saying this are the Caucasians — you’re not a part of our community, so you wouldn’t hear us saying this to our community. What you hear is what you need to fix.”
Brandy, Hunt and Tinker said they have no plans to discontinue their protest for the foreseeable future.
“People are making it seem like we’re acting out. We’re on our knees, we’re not saying anything, we’re just kneeling. It’s a peaceful protest,” Tinker said.
“We’re not going against any race. We’re not going against our country. We’re going against what has been happening to us,” Hunt said.
“We did not take a knee because we don’t support America. We took a knee because America does not support us,” Brandy said.
She added that she hopes that Saluki fans who have been posting negative comments make good on their promises to stop attending games — she said she'll feel safer that way.
Asked if she was intimidated by the backlash, Brandy replied, “We’re aware. But they’re not going to scare us.”
Officials say a preventative drug now offered by the Jackson County Health Department has the potential to virtually eliminate new cases of HIV in the region within a generation.
Pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, is a once-a-day pill that, when used consistently, can prevent at-risk people from getting infected with HIV.
Helped by a $20,000 state grant, the health department will open a “one-stop shop” clinic next month that offers client navigation for PrEP services, including education, medication access, referral to PrEP-friendly providers and enrollment into medication assistance programs, said Paula Clark, director of HIV services with the Jackson County Health Department.
“(PrEP) has been utilized for probably three or four years in bigger cities. When it recently became more widely available, insurance companies and Medicaid started to cover it, and we just felt like it’s the right thing to do, that we really needed to try to do this,” Clark said.
CDC recommends PrEP to anyone with "ongoing high risk for acquiring HIV infection." Groups that might benefit from the drug include HIV-negative people with HIV-positive partners, HIV-negative women who have an HIV-positive partner and want to ensure a healthy pregnancy, men who have sex with men and who engage in unprotected sex, injection drug users and anyone with syphilis or rectal STDs.
“We case-manage HIV-positive persons and we cover the lower 19 counties, so that’s roughly Mount Vernon down to Cairo, and we have a lot of couples where one’s positive and one’s negative, so this is a great treatment for them,” Clark said.
The health department held a training in June to educate providers on the drug; 25 local clinicians agreed to partner with them and provide PrEP. Since then, the health department has begun referring clients out to get care. Clark estimated that about a dozen of her clients are now currently on PrEP.
JCHD case-manages about 170 people who are HIV positive and offers those clients viral suppression, which drastically reduces transmission rates and enables them to stay healthy and live to old age.
“So when you put these two things together, if you have someone who’s HIV-positive but they’re virally suppressed, and then you have the negative person that’s just on PrEP, it’s just a near-zero chance. The researchers will say, ‘Zero chance, I repeat, zero chance of transmission when one is virally suppressed and one is on PrEP,’” Clark said.
A new statewide promotion called “Getting to Zero” provides a framework to totally eliminate HIV in Illinois.
“They are feeling like, in the next 10 years, if we could increase the PrEP uptake up to at least 40 percent of those people who are at risk taking PrEP, and that if we can increase viral suppression, those two things together will equal zero new cases,” Clark said.
Nationwide, anywhere from 35 to 45 percent of HIV-positive people are virally suppressed, Clark said. Of the clinic’s 170 clients, 93 percent are virally suppressed.
“That’s because our case managers are on it. They’re really educating them and keeping on the clients and letting them know how important it is to take their meds and how much good health they are going to gain by practicing good treatment adherence,” she said.
Regional HIV rates are difficult to pin down, but the health department has seen a steady increase of HIV cases, Clark said. It currently has a record-high caseload.
“We normally see anywhere from 12 to 24 (new) cases each year in our area … that is a lot of new cases for us,” Clark said.
Jackson County Health Department’s HIV-positive clients range from people in their young teens to a patient in her 80s.
“They’re coming in younger, and they’re coming in a lot more sick, which means people aren’t being tested regularly like they should be,” Clark said. “If they test regularly and catch it early, we can get them into viral suppression and healthier a lot quicker — it takes a real toll on the body.”
“We’re reaching out to those who have tested negative for HIV and who we think would be good candidates for it, and then we’re also contacting the partners of our HIV-positive clients,” Clark said.
Clark said HIV is behavior-related, just like the most causes of death. She compared PrEP to prescribing medication to people who make unhealthy choices.
“So this is really no different than if you go into the doctor and the doctor says, ‘Hey, you’ve got high blood pressure, you’re overweight. I need you to start limiting your trips to McDonald’s and I need you to get off the couch and exercise a little bit.’ … And you come back in and you haven’t lost any weight and your blood pressure’s still really high, and you’re like, ‘Well, I couldn’t make those changes. I really just don’t want to do that.’ And he’ll say, ‘We’re going to have to put you on blood pressure medication and cholesterol medication or you’re going to have a stroke.’ It’s a pill to help prevent a disease, just like those are pills to help prevent a disease,” Clark said.
CDC recommends regular HIV testing for people who are continually putting themselves at risk.
“I’ve been doing HIV for 25 years. This is the most exciting thing that has happened as far as prevention in the life of it. We still don’t have a cure, but we have a chance to get near zero chance of transmission,” Clark said.
For more information about PrEP or about HIV testing, call 618-684-3143 ext. 155.