MLK Luncheon Speaker Urges Citians to 'Turn Righteous Anger Into Action'

 Julia Evelsizer

The Pantagraph

Four passionate trailblazers were recognized Saturday at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. awards luncheon.

The event at the Marriott Hotel and Conference Center in Normal honored two teens and two adults from the Twin Cities while focusing on the need to stand up to injustice and spur change through action.

Appellate Justice James A. Knecht, 1996 winner of the Martin Luther King Jr. Award, spoke to a crowd of hundreds before the winners were introduced.

“Dr. King said the hottest place in hell is reserved for those who remain neutral in times of great moral conflict. We’re not here today to be neutral. We are here to turn righteous anger into action,” said Knecht.

He encouraged attendees to “cast aside fear and vote for hope.”

“Speak out, march, practice compassion and decency, revere justice and vote,” said Knecht. “Vote with your collective voices. Vote with your feet as you march with the drumbeat of social change. Fill the ballot box with your hopes and dreams of what America can be.

Mayors Chris Koos of Normal and Tari Renner of Bloomington recognized the award recipients.

Jordyn Blythe (Photo by Lewis Marien/The Pantagraph)

Jordyn Blythe (Photo by Lewis Marien/The Pantagraph)

Winners of the youth “I Have a Dream Award” were University High School senior Jordyn Blythe of Bloomington and Normal Community West High School senior Xavier Higgins of Normal.

Blythe cofounded Serve Plus One, an organization providing service activities and reflection for teens. She also volunteers at several local organizations and cofounded U High’s Black Student Union.

“To all of the youth in the room,” she said, “it is our time now. Don’t be passive. You are never too young to serve. Work to make our world better now because this is what we inherit. Be compassionate and be loving.”

At Normal West, Higgins leads the Best Buddies program to foster friendships with students with physical and intellectual disabilities. He’s also involved in the freshman mentoring program.

“I plan to major in college in computer science and bring technology to people who can’t easily access it so they can work to excel themselves in their own homes,” said Higgins.

Adult recipients were Andre Hursey of Normal and the late Lorenzo Marshall of Bloomington.

Hursey volunteers with several children’s groups in the community and recently founded the Jule Foundation, an organization that offers financial literacy, tutoring and motivational speaking opportunities for youth.

“I want to thank my mother, Gloria, for planting that seed early on and truly showing me the way of serving others in our community,” said Hursey.

Elaine Marshall of Bloomington accepted the award on behalf of her husband who passed away in August.

Lorenzo Marshall volunteered in the Twin Cities and chaired the Juneteenth celebration in Bloomington. Elaine Marshall said her husband would have been humbled to be recognized.

“I can personally attest to the energy and time Lorenzo spent helping mentor others to be their best,” said Elaine Marshall. “Reflecting back on the memories we had in the 42 years we were together really helps the healing process. This award today is something I can add to the reflection of those memories.”

Two-Day Conference to Address Trump-Era Environment, Microaggressions

The two-day Social, Ethnic, and Racial Boundaries on Campus and Community in the 21st Century, Feb. 9-10 at Illinois State University, will examine race, ethnicity, and microaggression both on campuses and communities, in light of the new political developments in the United States, both local and national.

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The gathering, beginning at 8:15 a.m. Feb. 9 and 9 a.m. Feb. 10 in the Bone Student Center's Prairie Center Room, will offer insights from international scholars, keynote speakers, and local community leaders, as well as discussion panels and roundtables dialogues and films.

The program is free and open to the public.

The Feb. 9 program is dedicated to “Race and Immigration Under the Trump Administration,” with Saturday examining “Microaggressions in Everyday Life.” Microaggressions are the everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership.

Here are highlights of the Feb. 10 itinerary:

9-10 a.m.: What is Microaggression?: How is Microaggression Different from Racism, Sexism, and Age-Segregation?
Chair: R.J. Rowley (Associate Professor of Geography, Geology, and the Environment, ISU)

Yolanda Flores Niemann (Professor of Psychology, University of North Texas)
Title: Microaggressions in the Classroom: What We’ve Learned from Student, Faculty, and Staff Responses to the Microaggressions in the Classroom (video)

Brea Banks (Assistant Professor of Psychology, ISU)
Title: Intersectionality and Microaggression

Discussion

10:10-11:10 a.m.: Sexism, the LGBTQ Community, and Microaggressions
Chair and Moderator: Tom Gerschick (Associate Professor of Sociology, ISU)

Tanya Diaz-Kozlowski (Instructional Assistant Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies, ISU)
Title: Micro-aggressions, School Climate, and Educational Equity: A Critical Praxis Approach

Roundtable:
Presenters: Dave Bentlin (President, Prairie Pride Coalition), Liv Stone (Assistant Professor of Anthropology, ISU), Jacklyn Weier (Graduate student in Anthropology, ISU), and Diane Zosky (Director of School Social Work, ISU)

Discussion

11:20 a.m.-1:20 p.m.: Lunch Banquet
Introduction: Mayuko Nakamura (Coordinator of Faculty Development, Instructional Technology and Media in Teaching, Learning, and Technology, ISU)

Keynote Address by Dr. Yolanda Flores Niemann (Professor of Psychology, University of North Texas)
Title: Subjective Experiences of Microaggressions from the Lenses of Others: Being an Ally and Developing Alliances Across and Within Demographic Groups

1:30-2:30 p.m.: The Social, Emotional, and Academic Cost of Campus Microaggressions: What Institutions of Higher Education Can Do to Promote a Positive Campus Climate for all Students.
Chair and Moderator: Lou Perez (Emeritus Professor of History, ISU)

Doris Houston (Co-director of African-American Studies, and Associate Professor of Social Work, ISU) and Rocío Rivadeneyra (Director of Honors Program)
Title: Enhancing the Campus Climate through Diversity in Curriculum: What All Students Need to Learn About Power, Privilege, and Equity in The United States

Roundtable:
Presenters: Multicultural Student Panel from ISU

Discussion

2:40-3:40 p.m.: Workshop: Aging Within a Youth-Oriented Community: Age-Segregated Programs and Places, and Potential for a Fulfilling “Third Age.”
Chair and Moderator: Maria Smith (Professor of Anthropology, ISU)
Presenters: Chris Wellin (Director of the Gerontology Program in Sociology and Anthropology, ISU); Mindy Morgan (Director of the City of Normal Activity and Recreation Center, [ARC]).

3:40-3:55 p.m.: Closing Remarks
James Stanlaw (Professor of Anthropology, ISU)

Sponsors for the conference include Illinois State University’s College of Arts and Sciences, Multi-Ethnic Cultural and Co-Curricular Programming Advisory Committee (MECCPAC), the School of Social Work, the Department of History, the Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures, the Department of Politics and Government, the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, The LGBT/Queer Studies and Services Institute, Milner Library, the Center for Teaching, Learning and Technology (CTLT), and the Harold K. Sage Fund and the Illinois State University Foundation. The event is organized by the Ethnicity and Ethnography Laboratory and Research Center (EELRC) at Illinois State University.

 

Black Lives Matter Book Club To Discuss Texas-Banned Novel

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A Texas school board superintendent has banned this month's selection for the Black Lives Matter in Bloomington-Normal Book Club.

"Hope that makes you more eager to read The Hate U Give and come out and discuss it with us on Monday, Jan 29, at the Bloomington Public Library at 7 p.m.," said Marie-Susanne Langille, a Heartland Community College instructor and book club coordinator. 

The young adult novel, by author Angie Thomas, spent a remarkable 38 weeks at the top of the New York Times’ best-seller list this year and is currently being made into a feature film starring Amandla Stenberg. Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement and the 2009 shooting of Oscar Grant, the book was released in February to massive praise, including an unprecedented eight starred reviews.

But in the city of Katy, Texas, one parent was unimpressed by Thomas’s frank portrayal of her teenage characters — and Katy Independent School District superintendent Lance Hindt appears to have flouted his district’s own policies to pull the book from shelves. The complaint dates to November 6, 2017, at a board meeting for the district; in a recording on the district website, a man who identifies himself as Anthony Downs holds a copy of The Hate U Give and says, “I did read some of the pages. I read 13 pages, and was very appalled.”

The novel follows 16-year-old Starr Carter, who moves between the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death becomes a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family.

Downs’s complaint centers on the book’s discussion of drug use and explicit language — and in the video, the school board president can be heard promising that the district’s textbook review committee would look into the situation. Had they done so, a panel of educators and administrators would have been required to read and consider the novel in its entirety before determining whether to keep it in the collection — which, it’s worth noting, already includes plenty of books that contain frank depictions of drug use (Go Ask Alice, Crank), racism (Dear Martin, All American Boys), and sexuality (Two Boys Kissing, Looking for Alaska). But some time in the intervening two weeks, Hindt reportedly made the unilateral decision to skip the review process and ban the book district-wide.

“There’s a specific policy, and it’s clear that they did not follow it, that the superintendent made a unilateral decision,” said James LaRue, director of the American Library Association Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF). “The school board has great latitude and superintendents do as well, but skipping over your own policy is something for which they should be held accountable.”

According to LaRue, those concerns are shared by librarians in the Katy school district, 19 of whom signed a letter protesting Hindt’s decision to pull the book. But despite both internal pushback and an ongoing outcry on Twitter, where Thomas began tweeting about the ban last Thursday evening, no explanation from the superintendent’s office has been forthcoming. Hindt did not respond to multiple requests for comment, which sources within the district say has been par for the course internally as well. One employee said most teachers are “saddened” by both the censorship and the superintendent’s silent treatment.

“We feel that it’s just a missed opportunity for our students to be able to have an open discussion about something that is a reality — about something that many of our students and even our faculty face,” she said. “I bought the book on my own, and we’re trying to reach out to the superintendent just to start an open dialogue. We’re not trying to demean his decision, but start a conversation.”

It remains to be seen whether Hindt’s decision will stand in the face of both internal pressure and external challenges, including the looming possibility that it runs afoul of the First Amendment. As LaRue explained, “This has gone all the way up to the Supreme Court — you can’t remove a book just because you don’t like the perspective. And what we see in the [OIF] is that people use the excuse of vulgarity to suppress the ideas being talked about.”

In the meantime, however, the ban is still in place — at the expense of any teens who might have hoped to find Thomas’s book in any of the schools’ libraries. As of Monday morning, the libraries of all 25 of Katy Independent School District’s junior high or high schools had been stripped of their copies of The Hate U Give. And while booklovers on Twitter have mobilized to flood the area’s local public libraries with additional copies, they may not be able to keep up with demand; the waiting list for the next available copy in the Harris County Public Library system is currently ten-people deep.

City Managers Raise Concerns About Welcoming Ordinances

Mike McCurdy and Charlie Schlenker

WGLT

The Bloomington and Normal city councils will likely see a draft of dual ordinances that would stop local police from working with federal immigration authorities on deportation—even if Normal’s city manager says it’s bad public policy.

Photo by Baylee Steelman/WGLT

Photo by Baylee Steelman/WGLT

Local civil rights advocates have lobbied for a so-called Welcoming City ordinance for months in the wake of President Donald Trump’s election. Nearly 300 people turned out for a recent Bloomington City Council meeting on the issue.

During a joint GLT's Sound Ideas interview alongside Bloomington Interim City Manager Steve Rasmussen, Normal City Manager Mark Peterson said he realizes undocumented immigrants might fear going to police out of worry they will be reported to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, or ICE. But he said that’s only perception.

"There is virtually no collaboration with federal immigration officials," said Peterson. "There may be a situation out there that it's in our best interest to cooperate." 

Peterson said it’s bad policy to create legislation refusing to cooperate with a federal agency. Rasmussen pointed out that any restrictive law on the books would have to be enforced. Peterson said such cooperation would have to be extremely specific about some criminal enterprise, such as human trafficking.

Peterson said he knows Mayor Chris Koos is surveying Normal Town Council members about their views on such an ordinance and expects an on-the-record expression from the council soon. Koos and Bloomington Mayor Tari Renner have talked to each other about the issue, according to the city managers.

Peterson said he is not aware of advocates for a Welcoming City ordinance approaching his staff. He said that an ordinance could be viewed as a solution in search of a problem.

"I don't support it. I think it's bad public policy to suggest that under no circumstances we won't deal with (a) federal agency," said Peterson. "I can tell you that as a matter of course we typically don't deal with immigration officials. It's rare. They don't call us. We don't call them."  

Rasmussen thinks those in favor and against a Welcoming City ordinance will both be unhappy with the end result.

"Either side is going to want it to be more stringent on their side than the other side," said Rasmussen. "That makes it very, very difficult to craft something that walks the middle ground."

Housing Inequities Still Plague Minority Communities

Judith Valente

WGLT

The president of the Illinois chapter of the NAACP says that more than 50 years after the federal Fair Housing Act was enacted, African-Americans still face housing discrimination, predatory mortgage lending practices, and other obstacles to moving into racially diverse and affluent neighborhoods.

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Speaking on GLT's Sound Ideas, Teresa Haley said African-Americans are more likely to be charged higher mortgage interest rates and higher fees for mortgage insurance as well as for credit checks.

"They are finding other ways to disguise discrimination," she said.

Haley was this year's keynote speaker at the annual Martin Luther King Day Teach-In at Illinois Wesleyan University, sponsored by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

The teach-in began with a panel discussion of housing justice.

Home ownership for African-Americans lags about 30 percent behind that of whites, according to a 2016 Harvard University study.

Black homeowners have not rebounded as quickly as whites from the 2008-2009 mortgage crisis that led to a record number of foreclosures in minority communities, the study found.

Haley blamed the decline in black home ownership on "predatory lending, people losing their jobs, foreclosures, and people doing reverse mortgages” to supplement their income needs, only to lose their homes in the long run.

She said low-income renters also face significant challenges.

Many who receive Section 8 housing vouchers are forced to live in substandard housing while landlords inflate rental prices in order to collect more from the federal government, Haley said. The cost of rent for Section 8 housing is split between the tenant and the government.

Renters are also vulnerable, she said.

“One of the challenges renters have, especially with Section 8 (federal housing vouchers), is finding quality housing. A lot of the places they place them in aren’t worth seeing.”

According to a 2017 Illinois State University/Stevenson Center study conducted for Not In Our Town: Bloomington-Normal, higher community "social vulnerability" levels are often correlated with racial diversity, old age, limited transportation, low-quality housing, and population density. The study noted public transportation, housing, and health disparities based on East or Westside residence.

Further, ISU researchers found discrimination plays out in health care, housing, employment, and policing. One study participant explained, "microaggressions affect people in the workplace and [their] overall happiness." Pertaining to housing, another said, "There are issues with housing/landlords, a lot of it can be discrimination based on economic [status], color, or orientation."

GLT investigated the state of low-income rental housing in Bloomington-Normal in a September 2017 series called Landlord v. Tenant. That series found an aging, increasingly dilapidated stock of housing in both cities.

The series also chronicled instances of landlords who repeatedly failed to make urgent repairs despite repeated pleas from tenants. Bloomington and Normal have only two housing inspectors each to monitor nearly 20,000 rental units.

Haley said many low-income tenants are forced to live in housing that “isn’t well-built or well-maintained. But the landlord at the first of the month, they’re going to get their money regardless."

There are "a lot of slum landlords out there trying to get rich off the backs of poor people," she added.

Haley said renters should document problems they have with their housing that landlords won’t address.

She recommended they report these issues to their City Council representatives, their local chapter of the NAACP and even put the information out on Facebook and other social media.

She said tenants should not withhold rent to protest living conditions because landlords can immediately file for eviction.

Haley called for stricter building codes and increased rental housing inspections.

“This is a statewide and nationwide problem,” she said of housing inequality.

Immigrant Targeting Spurs Fear Among Local Scholars

Judith Valente

WGLT

When this 21-year-old Illinois State University senior walks anywhere, he says he constantly looks around him to see if there are any law enforcement officers nearby.

“I barely do anything. I try to walk to school very carefully every single time. Even if you get into an accident and it’s not your fault, the police can still pick you up. You can be a victim of a car accident and you would the one sent back (to your home country),” he said.

The young man is one of the undocumented students currently enrolled at Illinois State. The university doesn't keep official statistics on the number of undocumented students; there is no immigration status box that has to be checked for admission. However, those who work with the immigrant student community estimate there are at least 100 at ISU.

For most of those students, the campus is one of the few safe havens they have, said Juliet Lynd, interim director of the Latin American and Latino/a Studies program.

Lynd was one of the organizers of an all-day workshop last Friday that sought to address the legal challenges and threat of deportation those students face.

The workshop at Marriott Conference Center was sponsored by CAUSA, the campus Committee to Assist Undocumented Student Achievement.

Finding Safe Haven

The ISU student came to the U.S. legally from Mexico as a 17-year-old, but his visa is no longer valid. He asked that his name not be used for fear of being reported to Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials.

Lynd said the university campus is one of the few safe havens undocumented students feel they have.

“Having a place where students can go and they know they can find somebody they can trust and get reliable advice” is one of the roles of the university, Lynd said.

“I recently heard the story of student whose parents can’t help her move to campus because they are concerned should they be pulled over on the freeway that they can run into problems,” Lynd added.

Many students experience emotional stress, she said, “Particularly in the current climate—threats of intimidation, deportation concerns, and just anxiety.”

The young man said even when his visa was still valid, “It was so hard to live” as an immigrant.

He could not obtain a driver’s license, and he feared to fill out forms for health insurance.

“When I was still in high school, one single bill that would have been $20 with insurance was like $500 my family had to pay," he said.

Lynd said despite widespread misconceptions, there are few public benefits available to undocumented immigrants.

She said financial aid isn’t available to those students, so CAUSA tries to identify scholarships and other financial resources for the students.

“For you to apply for the most basic benefits from the government, you have papers. We don’t get Social Security, we don’t get Medicaid, or stuff like that," the ISU senior said.

"You live however you can, you get a job and take whatever they pay under the table."

The student said that to obtain a student visa legally, he would have to document that he has access to $40,000 in savings.

"I don't know many middle class families that have that amount in the bank," he said.

Struggle To Survive

The student described his life as a constant struggle to survive. He said he recently was forced to move out of an apartment because his landlord learned he is undocumented.

This week, President Donald Trump and members of Congress began seeking a solution for so-called Dreamers, young people who were brought to this country illegally as children and have grown up here. They number about 800,000 nationwide.

Last year, Trump ended the Obama era policy known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which allowed those young people to remain in the country legally, saying he wanted Congress to address their status.

On Tuesday, a U.S. district judge in San Francisco issued an injunction preventing the federal government from removing the protections for childhood arrivals. However, it remains to be seen how far-reaching the ruling will be.

The ISU senior said he knows of many students who were brought here as children, and remain concerned they may be deported if their DACA status ends.

“You’ve been in this country for so long, you’ve were here since you were so little. Everything you know is this culture and this place,” the student said.

“Then all of a sudden because you don’t have a single paper, you are told you don’t have any rights … you can deported, and when you are sent back, you are sent to country that you don’t know with a language you might not even speak, with no resources.”

Lynd, of the Latin American studies program, said ISU isn’t officially a “sanctuary campus,” which refused to cooperate with immigration authories, but added, “There is a lot of good will on campus and desire to be welcoming and to take measures to show our support of our students."

"In general, the whole atmosphere at ISU is really good," the student said. "Once you get to know each person, it is easier to see all this prejudice is not founded.

The student, who is majoring in Spanish, says he was given a job by an employer who knows of his undocumented status.

"As a single income student trying to survive, I had to find a way," he said. The manager was OK with the situation and he told the owner who was OK with it as long as I am hardworking and honest."

"Access to higher education is a civil rights issue, and everybody deserves the opportunity to work," Lynd said.

The student said he doesn't know what the future will hold for him after graduation. "Getting a job will not be easy," he said. Nor does he hold out much hope he will obtain legal status any time soon.

The system is "all black or white," he said. "You either have papers or you don't."

IWU Speaker: King Would Be Disappointed By Campus

Derek Beigh

The Pantagraph

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. might be disappointed in the Bloomington university he visited twice if he were to see it today, a faculty member said Monday.

"King visited Illinois Wesleyan (University) in 1961 and 1966, and you'd be hard-pressed not to hear about this during MLK Day. ... Why do we brag about this, as an institution?" said Nicole Brown, a visiting professor in sociology. "That doesn't make any of these institutions any less anti-black. ... This institution is not that much ideologically different than it was when Dr. King was here."

Brown, a black woman, shared her perspective on race relations and feminism during a Martin Luther King Jr. Day teach-In in recognition of the holiday honoring the civil rights leader's birthday.

The campus also was the setting for the 26th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. National Holiday Gospel Festival at Presser Hall. More than a dozen groups performed music, and several performers spoke about race relations, religion and unity.

"God has blessed this program to get where it is now," said Barbara Sims-Malone, daughter of festival co-founders Corine Sims and the Rev. James Sims, pastor of Second Baptist Church in Streator, both deceased.

Yvonne Jones said the event was a celebration of their legacy and King's.

"Remember (King's) legacy of giving back," she said. "Don't forget someday to give back to others."

At the teach-in, Brown focused on a few common "white lies," including to "conflate proximity with commitment" regarding black people and other minorities.

"Academic institutions want black faces sitting in their seats, but not at their podiums. We want black feminism in our course catalogs, but not black women in our tenure lines. Detect the lie," she said. "There's no substantive investment. ... Imagine engaging institutions that actually love and appreciate black women instead of just trying to be in proximity to us."

Brown spoke to an audience of about 75 at Hansen Student Center about her "combating anti-blackness initiative" and why black people need to be encouraging but also combative about racism. Round-table discussions followed Brown's address.

She criticized the Women's March planned for Saturday on Washington, D.C., for not initially including women of color and movements like Black Lives Matter for focusing mostly on wrongs committed against men.

"Without frames that allow us to see all of a particular group ... we run the risk of misunderstanding, misremembering, misinterpreting, misdirecting," Brown said. "Black women slip through our consciousness. ... We are having a grand failure of imagination."

She said this is an especially important time for Americans to expand narrow perspectives that might keep them from processing new information.

"Dr. King once said that white people would rather destroy democracy than have equality with black people. Now look at where we find ourselves today, on the eve of this presidential inauguration," she said.

"Most white folks are still struggling to understand that their liberation is tied to combating anti-blackness and specifically anti-blackness against women and girls."

Brown added, "We can encourage each other by being honest with each other."

"As the saying goes, no one rain drop blames itself for the flood," she said. "We must let go of this idea that humanity is contingent. My humanity is not contingent on my race or gender or sex or religion or sexual orientation or ability or citizenship or size or occupation."

Brown spoke after Barbara Smith, a black feminist and activist for more than 40 years who helped originate the term "identity politics."

"I don't think being nice should ever get in the way of fighting for justice," she said in response to an audience question after her address.

MLK Luncheon Speaker: U.S. Not Addressing Public Ills

Ryan Denham

WGLT

At a time when government fails to address the big problems — gun violence, racial injustice, economic inequality — the contributions of individual difference-makers are even more worthy of recognition.

That’s one of the messages Judge James Knecht will deliver Jan. 20 at the Martin Luther King Jr. Awards Luncheon. The 42nd annual event will honor four MLK award recipients, chosen by the Normal and Bloomington Human Relations Commissions, for their efforts to break down barriers in the community. 

Knecht, who’s been a judge 42 years, said our Trump’s-latest-tweet news cycle is allowing the government to break its promises, big and small. That plays out in places like Puerto Rico, he said, where about half of residents still don’t have power after a September hurricane.

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“We’re not addressing the ills of society that government has a responsibility to address,” said Knecht, who’s been on the Fourth District Appellate Court since 1986. “And that bothers me a great deal. Those kinds of things are important, and the people that get recognized at the MLK luncheon, and those in the audience, those are the people who are addressing these kinds of issues.” 

Knecht, a Lincoln native and Illinois State University graduate, is a past MLK award-winner himself. Outside the courtroom, his lengthy record of community service includes time with the Beyond the Books Educational Foundation, the Illinois Family Violence Coordinating Council, and the National Advisory Board of the Corporate Alliance To End Partner Violence.

Knecht’s career is full of moments where empathy stemmed from deliberate action, not just emotion. When he was elected to the Appellate Court (with less daily human interaction than a trial court), he intentionally chose a Bloomington office (with his wife’s encouragement) located near a Planned Parenthood clinic. That put him face-to-face every day with people facing difficult, life-changing events. It’s kept him grounded, Knecht said.

So did his early-career work for the Illinois Department of Mental Health, before he became a judge. He worked with kids at the Lincoln State School (later called the Lincoln Developmental Center), including many black youths from Cook County whose poverty, lack of schooling, and meager opportunities relocated them “hundreds of miles away from home.” He organized sports (therapeutic recreation) for them.

“I think I learned a lot about empathy and compassion and some of the ills of society that I believed I could help correct,” Knecht said. “So when I saw those human problems in the courtroom, I wasn’t shocked. I wasn’t put off. I had the ability not to be depressed by it, or take it home with me. And I always tried to treat each case like it was the most important there was, because it was the most important for the people before me.”

Knecht is still working on his remarks for the Jan. 20 luncheon. In light of world events, he’s been thinking about a lot about a quote attributed to King: “The hottest place in hell is reserved for those who remain neutral in times of great moral conflict."

"This is a time of great moral conflict," Knecht said.

Knecht, an elected Republican, said he’s troubled by President Donald Trump’s “petty, vengeful, vindictive” demeanor in contrast with the respected symbol of the presidency. Knecht said he tries to view politics through the perspective of history. We’ve survived tumultuous episodes like McCarthyism and Japanese internment camps, even if they’ve stained us for decades after, he said.

“As long there’s no nuclear button pushed, I’m confident that the republic will survive, and we’ll be here as a society long after someone else is in the White House,” Knecht said. “I trust government and the art of politics, but as with everything else, it depends on who’s there. Who are the humans that are engaging in the process to help govern us in a way that benefits us all and makes us better and stronger than we were yesterday?”

Tickets for the Jan. 20 MLK luncheon are still available. Here are the 2018 award recipients:https://www.eventbrite.com/e/martin-luther-king-jr-awards-luncheon-tickets-41145584551?utm-medium=discovery&utm-campaign=social&utm-content=attendeeshare&aff=escb&utm-source=cp&utm-term=listing

Jordyn Blythe, University High School
“I Have a Dream” Award

Blythe, of Bloomington, serves as student body president and participates in band, theater, choir, and the award-winning speech team. She helped found the Black Student Union, where she works with others to raise awareness regarding social justice issues. Outside of the classroom Jordyn enjoys working with Jack and Jill of America, volunteering with Home Sweet Home Ministries, Home of Hope, and Serve Plus One, a nonprofit she helped found.

Xavier Higgins, Normal Community West High School
“I Have a Dream” Award

Higgins, of Normal, has proven himself to be a dedicated student and athlete, his commitment to serving others is exceptional. Xavier has complimented his education with numerous volunteer and leadership experiences, dedicating time to the Best Buddies Program, Not In Our School Club, and Freshman Mentoring program. 

Lorenzo Marshall (posthumously)
Adult Human Relations Award

An active volunteer in numerous professional and community organizations, Marshall positively impacted many lives in our community. For years, he coordinated the annual Juneteenth celebrations, working tirelessly to bring the community together in observance of a day commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States.

At State Farm Insurance, where he was employed for 40 years, he took pride in the mission of the African American Forum Employee Resource Group. His passion for educating, mentoring, and helping everyone feel welcome touched many lives.

Andre Hursey
Adult Human Relations Award

Hursey, of Normal, has taken it upon himself to be a positive mentor and serve those in need. For years he has volunteered and assisted many organizations including the Boys and Girls Club and the Western Avenue Community Center.

He’s also a familiar face at Bloomington Junior High School and Normal Community West High School where he regularly volunteers. Earlier this year he established the Jule Foundation, a nonprofit organization that is helping children reach their potential in and out of the classroom.

MLK Chess Players Learn Keys To Human Teamwork

Kevin Barlow

The Pantagraph

Students playing at the Martin Luther King Scholastic Chess Tournament spoke about having fun and learning winning strategies, but the lessons from the event are far deeper for founder Garrett Scott.

“I love chess. I think it’s very enjoyable and a good way for young people to train their mind,” said Scott as about 350 students from across the state played Monday in the Brown Ballroom at Illinois State University’s Bone Student Center.

“But, secondly, Dr. Martin Luther King had a special place in my heart. He let us all know that the world is a family. We’re human beings and all of us deserve the respect of one another,” said the retired speech pathologist for Bloomington District 87 schools.

On Aug. 28, 1963, Scott was in the crowd in Washington, D.C., when King made his “I Have A Dream” speech. Scott said he remembers vowing to live his life to mirror King's call for peaceful change and mutual respect.

“But six hours later, I was in Maryland with a group of people,” he added. “We walked into a restaurant and were told we couldn’t eat there because we had black people with us.

"I was crushed. I was angry. I wanted to fight. But Dr. King’s message was clear: He said that you don’t change people by fighting. You change by working together."

Scott, who served 18 years on the Normal City Council, noted that in today's political and social climate, "That’s going to be something that we are going to have to remember over the next few years.”

Scott advised players at the MLK Scholastic Chess Tournament, which he founded about 30 years ago, to judge each other by their character, not the color of their skin. Chess, he said, can play a big part in helping to develop lifelong friendships.

Among the players in kindergarten through eighth grade was Haley Seiders, a 9-year-old from Northpoint Elementary School, Bloomington.

“I love chess and all of the different moves you can make,” she said. “It’s fun. It’s hard, but it’s fun.”

Haley won her first match, against Payton Harmon, 7, a student at Prairieland Elementary School in Normal.

“I still had fun, even though I lost,” Payton said.

Daniel Espinosa, 8, a student at Cedar Ridge Elementary School, Bloomington, said he has been playing chess for about three years and loves the competition and the strategy.

“I like trying to think of different moves and different ways to win,” he said. “Chess makes you think and it’s a fun way to learn something.”

Solidarity Concert For Puerto Rico January 22

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A Solidarity With Puerto Rico Benefit Concert, featuring local musicians and performers from Normal Community High School and the Bloomington-Normal community, is scheduled 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. January 22 at Normal Theater to raise funds for hurricane relief efforts in Puerto Rico.

The event is hosted by Illinois State University Latin American and Latino/a Studies. In September 2017, Hurricane Maria devastated the island and NCHS juniors Keajia “Keke” Hardin and Anabelle Chinski wanted to do something to help. For their community service project, they reached out to ISU's Professor Maura Toro-Morn to organize this event.

All proceeds will be donated to the Puerto Rico Agenda, a not-for-profit group in Chicago sending aid to relief and rebuilding efforts on the island.

To learn more about Puerto Rico and the effects of hurricane Maria, there will be a teach-in -- free and open to the public -- on Friday, January 19, at 3 p.m. in the Escalante Room of Hewett Manchester. Puerto Rico, its unique history with the US, and the effects of Maria on the island, are topics.

Presenters will include Professors Maura Toro-Morn and Yojanna Cuenca-Carlino of ISU, Professor Daynali Flores-Rodriguez and Krista Cardona of Illinois Wesleyan University, and Stephanie Rodriguez, ISU student and reporter for The Daily Vidette. It will be moderated by Prof. Juliet Lynd, Acting Director of LALS. Sponsored by the Latin American and Latino Studies Program.

Official figures show that, of the island’s 1.5 million customers, just 900,000 have had their power restored. Businesses continue to struggle and many schools remain closed. Puerto Rico has received limited federal support amid controversial statements by President Trump about the U.S. territory and its people.

The New York City Department of Buildings sent a 14-member team to inspect damage to homes and government buildings after Hurricane Maria slammed into the island. Inspectors assessed nearly 5,100 structures, helping local officials understand the magnitude of the destruction.

Dozens of inspectors swarmed the streets of New York City in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, filling out piles of paperwork as they assessed the damage.

Over 80,000 buildings were inspected, but city officials realized the process could have been completed more efficiently. So, in late 2016, the Department of Buildings began using technology that allowed inspectors to file reports from the field using a smartphone or tablet.

The technology was used in a disaster zone for the first time a few months ago, in Puerto Rico.

“Having people from the mainland that came in early, left late, and didn’t have to worry about not having electricity in their homes — it was extremely necessary,” said David Carrasquillo Medrano, an adviser on planning and land use affairs for the city of San Juan, the island’s capital.

New York City buildings department officials said they mapped the damage and streamed the results in near-real time to officials.

 

 

The Letter: Litmus Test for '60s Clergy, Inspiration for B/N Leaders

The Letter from Birmingham Jail, also known as the Letter from Birmingham City Jail and The Negro Is Your Brother, was an open letter written on April 16, 1963, by The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The letter defends the strategy of nonviolent resistance to racism. It says that people have a moral responsibility to break unjust laws and to take direct action rather than waiting potentially forever for justice to come through the courts.

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Responding to being referred to as an "outsider," King writes, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

The letter, written during the 1963 Birmingham campaign became an important text for the American Civil Rights Movement. The Birmingham campaign began on April 3, with coordinated marches and sit-ins against racism and racial segregation in Birmingham, Alabama. The nonviolent campaign was coordinated by the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights (ACMHR) and King's Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).

On April 10, Circuit Judge W. A. Jenkins issued a blanket injunction against "parading, demonstrating, boycotting, trespassing and picketing." Leaders of the campaign announced they would disobey the ruling. On April 12, King was roughly arrested with SCLC activist Ralph Abernathy, ACMHR and SCLC official Fred Shuttlesworth and other marchers, while thousands of African Americans dressed for Good Friday looked on.

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King was met with unusually harsh conditions in the Birmingham jail. An ally smuggled in a newspaper from April 12, which contained "A Call for Unity" -- a statement made by eight white Alabama clergymen against King and his methods. The letter provoked King, and he began to write a response on the newspaper itself. King writes in Why We Can't Wait: "Begun on the margins of the newspaper in which the statement appeared while I was in jail, the letter was continued on scraps of writing paper supplied by a friendly black trusty, and concluded on a pad my attorneys were eventually permitted to leave me."

The letter responded to several criticisms made by the "A Call for Unity" clergymen, who agreed that social injustices existed but argued that the battle against racial segregation should be fought solely in the courts, not the streets. As a minister, King responded to these criticisms on religious grounds. As an activist challenging an entrenched social system, he argued on legal, political, and historical grounds. As an African American, he spoke of the country's oppression of black people, including himself. As an orator, he used many persuasive techniques to reach the hearts and minds of his audience. Altogether, King's letter was a powerful defense of the motivations, tactics, and goals of the Birmingham campaign and the Civil Rights Movement more generally.

King began the letter by responding to the criticism that he and his fellow activists were "outsiders" causing trouble in the streets of Birmingham. To this, King referred to his responsibility as the leader of the SCLC, which had numerous affiliated organizations throughout the South. "I was invited" by our Birmingham affiliate "because injustice is here," in what is probably the most racially divided city in the country, with its brutal police, unjust courts, and many "unsolved bombings of Negro homes and churches." Referring to his belief that all communities and states were interrelated, King wrote, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly… Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds."

King also warned that if white people successfully rejected his nonviolent activists as rabble-rousing outside agitators, this could encourage millions of African Americans to "seek solace and security in black nationalist ideologies, a development that will lead inevitably to a frightening racial nightmare."

The clergymen also disapproved of tensions created by public actions such as sit-ins and marches. To this, King confirmed that he and his fellow demonstrators were indeed using nonviolent direct action in order to create "constructive" tension. This tension was intended to compel meaningful negotiation with the white power structure, without which true civil rights could never be achieved. Citing previous failed negotiations, King wrote that the black community was left with "no alternative." "We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed."

The clergymen also disapproved of the timing of public actions. In response, King said that recent decisions by the SCLC to delay its efforts for tactical reasons showed they were behaving responsibly. He also referred to the broader scope of history, when "'Wait' has almost always meant 'Never.'" Declaring that African Americans had waited for these God-given and constitutional rights long enough, King quoted Chief Justice Earl Warren, who said in 1958 that "justice too long delayed is justice denied." Listing numerous ongoing injustices toward black people, including himself, King said, "Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, 'Wait.'"

Along similar lines, King also lamented the "myth concerning time," by which white moderates assumed that progress toward equal rights was inevitable, so assertive activism was unnecessary. King called it a "tragic misconception of time" to assume that its mere passage "will inevitably cure all ills." Progress takes time as well as the "tireless efforts" of dedicated people of good will.

Against the clergymen's assertion that demonstrations could be illegal, King argued that not only was civil disobedience justified in the face of unjust laws, but it was necessary and even patriotic. "I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law."

King stated that an unjust law was a law that degraded a human personality. Citing Augustine of Canterbury, Thomas Aquinas, Martin Buber, and Paul Tillich—and examples from the past and present—King described what makes laws just or unjust. For example, "A law is unjust if it is inflicted on a minority that, as a result of being denied the right to vote, had no part in enacting or devising the law." Alabama has used "all sorts of devious methods" to deny its black citizens their right to vote and thus preserve its unjust laws and broader system of white supremacy. Segregation laws are immoral and unjust "because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority." Even some just laws, such as permit requirements for public marches, are unjust when used to uphold an unjust system.

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King addressed the accusation that the Civil Rights Movement was "extreme," first disputing the label but then accepting it. Compared to other movements at the time, King finds himself as a moderate. However, in his devotion to his cause, King refers to himself as an extremist. Jesus and other great reformers were extremists: "So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love?" King's discussion of extremism implicitly responded to numerous "moderate" objections to the ongoing movement, such as President Dwight D. Eisenhower's claim that he could not meet with civil rights leaders because doing so would require him to meet with the Ku Klux Klan.

King expressed general frustration with both white moderates and certain "opposing forces in the Negro community." He wrote that white moderates, including clergymen, posed a challenge comparable to that of white supremacists, in the sense that, "Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection." King asserted that the white church needed to take a principled stand or risk being "dismissed as an irrelevant social club." Regarding the black community, King wrote that we need not follow "the 'do-nothingism' of the complacent nor the hatred and despair of the black nationalist."

In closing the letter, King criticized the clergy's praise of the Birmingham police for maintaining order nonviolently. Recent public displays of nonviolence by the police were in stark contrast to their typical treatment of black people, and, as public relations, helped "to preserve the evil system of segregation." Not only is it wrong to use immoral means to achieve moral ends, but also "to use moral means to preserve immoral ends." Instead of the police, King praised the nonviolent demonstrators in Birmingham, "for their sublime courage, their willingness to suffer and their amazing discipline in the midst of great provocation. One day the South will recognize its real heroes."

King wrote the letter on the margins of a newspaper, which was the only paper available to him, and then gave bits and pieces of the letter to his lawyers to take back to movement headquarters, where the pastor Wyatt Tee Walker and his secretary Willie Pearl Mackey began compiling and editing the literary jigsaw puzzle.

An editor at The New York Times Magazine, Harvey Shapiro, asked King to write his letter for publication in the magazine, but the Times chose not to publish it. Extensive excerpts from the letter were published, without King's consent, on May 19, 1963, in the New York Post Sunday Magazine. The letter was first published as "Letter from Birmingham Jail" in the June 1963 issue of Liberation, the June 12, 1963, edition of The Christian Century, and in the June 24, 1963, issue of The New Leader. The letter gained more popularity as summer went on, and was reprinted in the July Atlantic Monthly as "The Negro Is Your Brother." King included a version of the full text in his 1964 book Why We Can't Wait.

Haitian Sexual Politics Nov. 2 QUEERtalks Topic

Erin Durban-Albrecht will present “Religious Sexual Politics in Haiti: Vodou, Catholicism, and Protestantism” at 12:30 p.m., Thursday, November 2, at the LGBT/Queer Studies and Services Institute.

An assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, Durban-Albrecht’s book manuscript, “The Sexual Politics of Empire: An Ethnography of Postcolonial Homophobia in Haiti,” was awarded the National Women’s Studies Association–UIP First Book Prize in 2015 and will be published by University of Illinois Press. A former faculty member at Illinois State, Durban-Albrecht recently co-edited a special issue of Women & Performance: a journal of feminist theory titled “Nou Mach Ansanm (We Walk Together): Queer Haitian Performance and Affiliation.”

The fall series of QUEERtalks at Illinois State University focuses on new scholarship in the interdisciplinary field of LGBTQA/queer studies, with speakers presenting innovative work.

Take a look at other events celebrating Queertober.

This year’s co-sponsors of QUEERtalks are Illinois State’s Women’s and Gender Studies Program, the LGBT/Queer Studies and Services Institute, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Department of Philosophy, Department of English, Department of History, Department of Politics and Government, Latin American and Latino/a Studies, Pride, and The League of Extraordinary Genders (TLEG).

For additional information, contact the Women’s and Gender Studies Program at (309) 438-2947.

Unit 5 Teachers Seek Welcome Declaration

Baylee Steelman

WGLT

Teachers from Unit 5’s high schools are asking the school board to declare the district a welcoming environment for immigrant students and teachers.

Normal West teacher John Bierbaum, Normal Community teacher Patrick Lawler and NCHS freshman Aditi Sharma spoke to the school board Wednesday evening about passing a measure to declare Unit 5 schools safe learning environments for students regardless of their immigration status.

Bierbaum said feelings of safety are taken for granted by students who aren't immigrants or have immigrant parents.

"I assure you my conversations with faculty members, different colleagues and students ... they don't take it for granted," said Bierbaum. "It impacts them every single day, and they know where to go to for safety and they are measuring that every single day of their life."

Bierbaum said teachers in the district are here to educate students no matter who they are or where they come from. Sharma told the school board that students have diverse religions and ethnicities. She said no one should feel unsafe going to school.

"I'm an immigrant myself, and I came here from India," said Sharma. "I look forward to school because it's a place where I can learn and also have fun with my friends. I want everyone to (like) school like I do and not be scared because of their immigration status."

Board member David Fortner prepared a speech for the meeting. He said educators have a duty to bring wisdom to their communities.

"Let's love these children regardless of who they are, where they're from, or any perceived wrongs or mistakes their parents might have made. Let's love these children,” he said.

Board member Meta Mickens-Baker praised the resolution. She said students and faculty are working to build a culture of inclusion.

The effort to emphasize the district as a safe welcoming learning space for immigrants comes amid national controversy over immigration policy. District 87 schools implemented a similar measure a month ago.

The Unit 5 school board reviewed a draft version of the resolution Wednesday. It will return to the board for formal action next month.

Chef Sees Cultural Education as Part of the Job

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Frequently, the way to cultural understanding is through our stomachs. Breaking bread with strangers often breaks down barriers -- it’s often harder to hate if you just ate.

Jake Bolender, a Twin Cities native and head chef at Bloomington’s Reality Bites, sees culinary cultural education as “part of our jobs as chefs.” The downtown tapas restaurant and bar offers a daily sprinkling of global fare, and Bolender’s crew will create an international spread for BCAI School of Arts’ Nov. 4 Mix.Fuze.Evolve 2 fundraiser, co-sponsored by Not In Our Town: Bloomington-Normal’s Not In Our Schools.

“From what I’ve experienced, I think we’re lacking in terms of being familiar with different cultures, especially when it comes to food,” Bolender suggests. “I think people are afraid to try new things. They’re afraid of new things, different cultures, whether it be food or introducing themselves to people or going to an Asian grocery store. I think change is scary for a lot of people.”

Mix.Fuze.Evolve will showcase culturally-infused live stage entertainment and music with a dance floor, a “culturally diverse” cash bar with 14 alcoholic and non-alcoholic options, a Coffeehound coffee bar highlighting blends from various cultures, and 12 culinary meals from six different cultures. The event, from 7 to 10 p.m., will include multiple raffles, with profits funding BCAI-supported scholarships.

Tickets are $55 per person 21 or older, or $60 at the door. Tickets are available at Reality Bites, Coffeehound, or Signature India, or online at http://breakingchains116.wixsite.com/mfe2. In conjunction with the event, BCAI is holding a youth event for every age, infant to teenager, from 5:30 to 11 p.m. at Illinois Wesleyan University, free for MFE2 ticketholders. Non-MFE parents also are welcome to register youth at a $25 per-child cost.

The Saturday menu includes akara & rice, ata dindin, tikka masala chicken, garbanzo & potato curry, black beans & rice, tacos, berry pudding, baked pumpkin, hummus, lamb & toasted nuts, ayam goreng, pork & vegetables spring rolls, baklava, fried thai bananas, and tres leches cake. That may seem like a headscratcher to some meat-and-potatoes Midwesterners, but Bolender emphasizes that “just because (dishes) come from a different culture doesn’t mean all people can’t enjoy them.”

BCAI Director Angelique Racki supplied a list of the Indian, African, Hispanic, Asian, and Indigenous American cuisines to be represented at the fundraiser. “Then, we just started doing our homework, digging in to different dishes from those cultures – some of which we were familiar with, some of which we were not,” Bolender relates. “It was really fun for us to kind of dig into some things we hadn’t cooked before – even recipes we hadn’t tried before. We were really excited about it. We wanted to be authentic. We wanted these dishes to be prepared in the way they’re traditionally prepared.”

His restaurant had offered a few of the dishes on the Nov. 4 menu on weekends, and he suggests some of the “big hits” among the new creations will make it onto his team’s new November menu. Bolender, his sous-chef Amy Deranian, and other crew members have their own cultural specialties, from Asian to traditional French.

“Mom did a lot of cooking growing up,” and Bolender was raised on a sturdy Heartland diet of chicken and noodles, mashed potatoes, kielbasa sausage, mac-and-cheese, and Sunday pot roast. He began bussing tables at 15, and “immediately fell in love with the restaurant industry.” Bolender, now 31, graduated to “the front of the house” and, eight years ago, into the kitchen. His pre-Reality Bites credits included prepping sushi and pizza and learning from nationally respected chefs at the former Station 220 (now Epiphany Farms) and helping launch Bloomington’s Two Blokes And A Bus food truck.

Bolender’s own favorite international dish is “straight-up tacos,” preferably with lengua (tongue), chorizo sausage, or tripa (small intestines). Reality Bite’s MFE2 spread will include a full taco bar featuring a range of toppings and sauces.

Reality Bites’ servers are trained to help diners understand new and potentially daunting dishes. In a few cases, Bolender has made accommodations for the uninitiated: He promotes ayam goreng, a curry-marinated poultry dish, as Indonesian fried chicken.

“Most people like fried chicken,” he smiles. “Most of the times, it’s a matter of stepping outside the boundaries when it comes to food – trying something you haven’t tried before.”

Cultural Immersion Preps ISU Senior For PR Career

Deja Whitt, a senior public relations major, declared the Latin American and Latino/a Studies (LALS) minor just this year, but her enthusiasm for the program began much earlier.

Since leaving her hometown of Calumet Park, a south suburb of Chicago, in 2014 to begin her college career, Whitt has taken a variety of courses in LALS, attended countless program events hosted by LALS, and served as a teaching assistant for two courses in the minor. Outside of the minor, Whitt dedicates her time to her membership in Illinois State University’s Chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America, two jobs through the Alumni Center, and internship with Motivate Moms, LLC. Despite her busy schedule, Whitt was able to share her experience in the minor with us this month as our first Student Spotlight of the semester. Check out our interview to learn about her experience in the minor and why she wants you to join!

Latin American and Latino/a Studies: Tell me about yourself! What do you like to do?

Deja Whitt: I’m a proud part-time pet mom to my shih-tzu Stewart, annoying big sister, and movie buff! When I’m not working or in class you can probably find me watching Empire, re-reading Harry Potter or cooking. I’m also a member of the Illinois State University’s Chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America. Last year I served on the executive board, but this year I’m dedicating most of my time on campus to my two jobs at the Alumni Center! I work at the Telefund Calling Center as a fundraiser and at University Marketing and Communications as a communications assistant.

LALS: Before declaring a minor in Latin American and Latino/a Studies, you studied Spanish. Tell me about this experience. In what ways has declaring a Latin American and Latino/a Studies minor complimented your study of Spanish? Would you recommend this plan of study to other students? If yes, why?

DW: To fulfill some requirements for the Latin American and Latino/a Studies minor I took quite a few Spanish classes. I’ve studied the language since high school and it has definitely helped my understanding of a lot of the themes and concepts we learn about in the minor’s coursework. In Spanish classes here at Illinois State you don’t just learn the language, you study the people, their culture, the socio-economic challenges they face and so much more. You totally don’t need to speak Spanish to be a part of the minor, but as a non-Latinx, it helped deepen my understanding of the people I was learning about and that’s something that’s important to me.

LALS: What has been your favorite course you have taken for the Latin American and Latino/a Studies minor so far? Why was it your favorite? What did you learn?

DW: This is a tough question! I’ve loved all of the courses I’ve taken so far and I’ve learned so much during my time in the minor. If I had to choose though, Dr. Toro-Morn’s Introduction to Latin American and Latino Studies course was the class that gave me the foundation to take other classes in the minor. You get the chance to really study the U.S. Latinx population from a variety of angles. The concepts that I learned veered outside of what you expect from a traditional introductory course. The course touches on some really relevant and vital material. It counts for general education credit as well, so I definitely recommend it to everyone!

LALS: You have been a teaching assistant for Introduction to Latin American and Latino/a Studies (SOC 109) and History of Latin America (HIS 104A03), two core courses of the Latin American and Latino/a Studies minor. What did you learn from these experiences?

DW: Being a teaching assistant is one of my favorite ISU memories! I got the chance to work under both Dr. Toro-Morn and Dr. Cutter and I couldn’t have asked for two better mentors. You learn a ton being a teaching assistant— responsibility, time management, and how to communicate effectively with large audiences. Most importantly, it taught me to be an advocate for myself and to take charge of my learning. I think as college students we really underestimate how much we can learn from each other and our professors. You could be one class, conversation or conversation away from a achieving a goal— all it takes is your voice and a little courage.

LALS: Tell me about your current internship. What do you do and where? In what ways has Illinois State University, Spanish and Latin American and Latino/a Studies minors prepared you for this experience?

DW: I’m the Digital Media intern for Motivate Moms LLC. Our goal is to teach parents that by empowering themselves, they empower their children too. We step into the community and create programs that engage parents with each other, and with their children’s educational experience. Outside of technical skills like writing, my studies here, especially within the minor, have taught me how to truly connect with others. It has also taught me how to find common ground to solve problems to meet a goal that we share— and that’s exactly what we do at Motivate Moms.

LALS: What would you tell a student considering declaring the Latin American and Latino/a Studies minor?

DW: DO IT!

LALS: What are your goals after graduation?

DW: I’m pursuing jobs with an emphasis on servicing communities and I’m hoping to do that through either agency or nonprofit public relations. My ultimate goal though is to start my own freelance public relations business. I’m really passionate about helping smaller businesses and companies—I like the intimacy of getting to work with clients one-on-one and help them achieve their dreams through their business.

Director/Writer Visits Normal to Celebrate 'Nollywood' Success Story

Director, writer, and producer Femi Odugbemi will travel to Normal to help celebrate the booming Nigerian film industry (known as Nollywood) October 30-31.

Odugbemi, whose works include And The Chain Was Not and Gidi Blues: A Lagos Love Story, will speak at three screenings of his films, and share stories of his films over a photography exhibit. All events are free and open to the public.

The events aim to introduce “Nollywood” cinema to Normal, said Assistant Professor of English Paul Ugor, who is helping to coordinate the events.

“Nollywood is the second largest film industry in the world.” Producing nearly 1,500 films annually and estimated to be worth $3.3 billion, Ugor calls the evolution of Nollywood an incredible story of creativity. “This is the story of how artists in West Africa are adapting global media technologies in creating indigenous art forms that allow them to talk to their local audiences about the things that matter to ordinary people,” he said.

October 30

Noon – Jonathan Haynes of Long Island University will present “Trajectories of the Nigerian Film Industry” in Stevenson Hall, room 401, at Illinois State University. Hayes, a professor, is the author of the book The Creation of Nigerian Film Genres.

3 p.m. – Odugbemi will share photos and stories of his films at a photography exhibit at the University Galleries, 11 Uptown Circle, Normal. The Galleries will also host a photo exhibition of Nollywood posters.

7 p.m. – A screening of Gidi Blues: A Lagos Love Story at the Normal Theater in Uptown Normal. Odugbemi will share insights on his most recent feature, a buoyant romantic comedy set against the diverse metropolis of Lagos.

October 31

Noon – A screening of the documentary MAKOKO: Futures Afloat, written and directed by Odugbemi in Stevenson Hall, room 101, at Illinois State University. Divided by a bridge, the bustling economic part of Lagos stands adjacent to Makoko, a sprawling fishing community floating on the waste of a city. The film journeys in a world beneath the poverty line in the struggle for a better tomorrow.

5 p.m. – Screening of And The Chain Was Not at Capen Auditorium in Edwards Hall, at Illinois State University. Odugbemi tells the story of Freedom Park in Lagos, formerly Old Broad Street Prison. Once an instrument of colonial oppression, it has now become a peaceful place for contemplation and interaction.

The events are sponsored by Illinois State University’s Harold K. Sage Fund and the Illinois State University Foundation, the Departments of Sociology and Anthropology, Visual Culture, Theatre and Film Studies, the School of Communication and Universities Galleries.

Seven Named to Community Review Board

Ryan Denham & Charlie Schlenker        

WGLT

Seven Bloomington residents—including several downtown and west-side leaders—have been picked for a new civilian board to advise the police chief.

The Bloomington City Council is expected to vote Oct. 23 on the first appointments to the Public Safety and Community Relations Board. The appointees chosen from 66 applicants are:

  • Robert Bosquez, serves with the West Bloomington Revitalization Project
  • Sally Rudolph, decades of public service in many roles including planning bodies and the McLean County League of Women Voters
  • Jeff Woodard, director of marketing and community relations at the McLean County Museum of History
  • Arthur Taylor, longtime civil rights activist
  • Jan Lancaster, owner of the Bistro in downtown Bloomington and a staunch ally of gay rights
  • William Bennett, City of Refuge Ministries pastor
  • Surena Fish, retired Wood Street resident who was active in recent years in a neighborhood campaign to stop disruptions at a business near Miller Park

“The city would like to wholeheartedly thank all of those who expressed interest in applying to serve in this capacity,” said city spokesperson Nora Dukowitz. “With 66 applications received, it was a challenging selection process. All applications will be kept on file for 24 months in case a vacancy should arise.”

The board’s creation in July capped a months-long lobbying effort by local organizations such as Black Lives Matter. That came in response to growing tensions in Bloomington between police and many members of the minority community, some of which were documented in a May report. Not In Our Town, YWCA McLean County, and the ACLU of Illinois joined Black Lives Matter in advocating for the board.

The mayoral appointees will advise the police chief and help settle disputes over complaints against Bloomington officers.

 

Conversanco Entre Nosotros: White Acadamia and Intersectionality

Join Illinois State University's Latin American and Latino/a Studies program on Friday, October 20, at 3 p.m. in Williams Hall 314 for the second event of the LALS Brown Bag Lecture Series.

During "Conversando Entre Nosotros," Dr. Tanya Diaz-Kozlowski, Instructional Assistant Professor in Women’s and Gender Studies, shares her experiences teaching an introductory Women and Gender Studies course at a predominantly white institution, articulating three barriers to teaching the ontological, epistemological, and material significance of intersectionality.

Diaz-Kozlowski articulates how she uses Chicana feminist pedagogies in the classroom and as an interdisciplinary scholar who aims to invigorate diverse student participation, revitalize curriculum, and dismantle systems of privilege and inequality in educational institutions.

This event is free and open to the general public.