ISU Prof Helps Students Capture the Tastes of Culture

 ISU senior Larissa Summers explored her Cherokee roots through her poster presentation on Cherokee Bean Bread.

ISU senior Larissa Summers explored her Cherokee roots through her poster presentation on Cherokee Bean Bread.

Archana Shekara lives where art, culture, and social justice intersect. This semester, she helped Illinois State University students nourish an appetite for cultural identity and a hunger for social justice and inclusion.   

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Shekara’s spring course, Art 315: Special Topics in Graphic Design, explored multicultural perspectives and social issues through visual artwork. The associate professor, a native of India, assigned her 17 students a trio of daunting projects: Bringing vision and creativity to issues of cultural stereotyping and marginalization; developing soon-to-be-released new posters and related graphic materials for Not In Our Town: Bloomington-Normal (NIOTBN) Not In Our School anti-bullying/anti-bigotry programs; and Food For Thought, an examination of individual cultures and their histories through their cuisine.

Food and culture are inextricably intertwined – the staples and delicacies of global societies reflect their geographies and climates, their agriculture and economic lifeblood, their beliefs and folkways. As part of the ISU Food For Thought exhibit, which ends Monday at ISU’s Milner library, created information design posters about one dish from their ancestral country and traced its history, ingredients, and relevance.

“When you break bread together with people who don’t look like you, all of a sudden, something fascinating happens,” said Shekara, a NIOTBN Steering Committee member.

 ISU's Evan Morris presents a series of proposed new designs for NIOTBN's Not In Our School programs, developed as part of Archana Shekara's Special Topics In Graphic Design course.

ISU's Evan Morris presents a series of proposed new designs for NIOTBN's Not In Our School programs, developed as part of Archana Shekara's Special Topics In Graphic Design course.

Students conducted research about national identity, pride, language and art. Subjects included German pfannkuchen (pancakes) and landjaeger (sausage), Greek saganaki (flaming cheese), Lebanese hummus, Italian cannoli (a sweet confection stuffed with ricotta cheese), Irish colcannon (a hearty potato/cabbage/onion/bacon dish), and Polish pierogi (dumplings).

Senior Larissa Summers highlighted Cherokee Bean Bread, an indigenous staple that embodies the indigenous American struggle against cultural appropriation and dilution.

“My Cherokee heritage is very close to me,” the native Oklahoman relates. “I did bean bread because I didn’t know about it, I hadn’t tried it before, and I wanted to get more in touch with something I was not familiar with. I have two different versions of the bread in my piece – the original version of the bread, which is just mashed-up corn and beans; and the kind of recipe you find now. It’s kind of like cornbread with beans in it. It’s very ‘westernized.’ The Cherokee used to have simplistic meals, simplistic lives, and then (non-native settlers) came over, and everything started getting more complex.They started getting moved around; their food started being influenced. There’s flour in it now, milk, honey. I wanted to show the journey not only of the food, but of Native Americans, as well.”

Rock Island’s Evan Morris meanwhile explored his Scottish ancestry through haggis, which blends ground sheep’s heart, liver, and lungs with oats, cooked inside a sheep’s stomach. While according to Morris the unique dish was once considered “a poor man’s food,” he noted haggis today is celebrated as a culinary symbol of Scottish nationalism and pride – his poster incorporated the verse of Scots poet Robert Burns, whose piece “The Address to Haggis.”

“I found out my ancestors came over probably about 200 years ago – that’s when there was a huge emigration from Scotland because of the Highland Clearances (a mass eviction of tenants across the Scottish Highlands during the 18th and 19th Century),” reported the senior, who applied his research as well in Shekara’s stereotyping/marginalization project. “I still have to do some more digging on it. I’m going to try to go on Ancestry.com and trace everything back.”

 Food For Thought is but one graphic exhibit running through the weekend at ISU's Milner Library.  TELL relates through visuals and narrative the experience of young, local English language learners from a variety of cultures

Food For Thought is but one graphic exhibit running through the weekend at ISU's Milner Library.  TELL relates through visuals and narrative the experience of young, local English language learners from a variety of cultures

Food For Thought Exhibit Explores Culture Through Cuisine

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The exhibit Food for Thought: Understanding Cultural Identity and Heritage Through Food, will be presented April 19 – May 14 on the second floor of Illinois State University’s Milner Library. An opening reception/presentation will be held at 3:30 p.m. April 19 at the library.

"As part of their coursework in ART 315: Special Topics in Graphic Design, Illinois State University School of Art students created information design posters about one dish from their ancestral country and traced its history, ingredients and relevance,” ART 315 Prof. Archana Shekara relates. “Students conducted research about national identity, pride, language, and art.

“Through conversations with their family, students discovered the significance of the food they had long taken for granted. Each poster expresses the designer’s unique cultural background. Food for Thought invites audiences to celebrate different heritages thorough diverse cuisine."

Mike: March Students Represent 'Thoughtfulness and Reason'

Mike Matejka

WJBC Commentary

On Saturday, March 24, there (was) a march in downtown Bloomington against gun violence.  The main organizers and adherents of this event are area high school students, propelled and frightened by school shootings.

As I’ve followed these young people in the local media and having met a few, I’ve been totally impressed, not only by their passion, but also by their thoughtfulness and reason.   Guns are not an easy issue, yet it seems these high school students should be a model for us all.  They don’t all share a uniform viewpoint.  At the same time, they’ve been able to respectfully listen and dialogue on a difficult issue that’s divided the nation for generations.

This may be presumption, but I’ve considered them Obama’s children.  Our current high school students were born during George W. Bush’s presidency.  They came of age during Barack Obama’s two terms.  Reflecting their classroom’s diversity, they saw a multi-racial President with a multi-hued administration.   They also witnessed a passionate leader projecting a calm and reasoned presence.

Racial, gender and ethnic tensions still live in school hallways, just as they are in our society.   Our younger generation does not simply accept these, but instead they actively dialogue.

My contact with them is through the Not In Our Schools program.   A very diverse group meets regularly in our junior and senior high schools.  They talk about what they witness; they reach out to students who might be marginalized or bullied.  They talk to their teachers and school administrators, sharing concerns that might run beneath the surface.   Most impressive, they’ve decided they will not be by-standers, but “up-standers,” speaking up when other students are not treated with consideration and equality.

Watch their Saturday march, join them if you can.   You’ll see that youthful energy, tempered by thoughtfulness.   If we older Americans can support our youth, we’ll be building a firm foundation for the future.  We don’t have to agree with all their stances, but we should take every opportunity to encourage their debate and their welcoming spirits.  They are a breath of fresh air in our current politics, which attempts to score points against the opposition on issues, rather than grappling with those concerns carefully and moving our nation forward.

Mike Matejka is the Governmental Affairs director for the Great Plains Laborers District Council, covering 11,000 union Laborers in northern Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota. He lives in Normal. He served on the Bloomington City Council for 18 years, is a past president of the McLean County Historical Society and Vice-President of the Illinois Labor History Society.

NIOTBN Continues to Seek Welcoming Message

Gabe Pishghadamian

CIProud

The discussion continues in Bloomington to make the city a welcoming place for immigrants. 

Local groups for immigrant protections and rights are coming forward to pressure city officials to continue the conversation about a potential ordinance. 

The groups say city council members aren't listening. 

Bloomington PD say it's their job to serve and protect all under the law, but local activists involved with "Not in Our Town" say they want their city to be safe for everyone, including so-called Dreamers. 

"The main motivation is to build a positive relationship between city services and the immigrant community," says Mike Matejka, Not in Our Town.

Bloomington is home to colleges, busy streets, local shops and Dreamers. 

"Not it Our Town" has always stood for an inclusive community," says Matejka. "Everybody is a part of the community. Everybody should be respected. Everybody should be welcome."

The group believes city leaders are not having the conversation of protecting immigrants after dropping the topic from their agenda. 

"Too often our immigrant community lives in the shadows and even though they are very much a part of daily life," says Matejka. "They need the full protections and the full involvement that's available to them."

The Illinois Trust Act is a state effort to make Illinois a welcoming place for immigrants, but there are citizens who do oppose the idea saying the ordinance would go against federal law.

"If you pass this, you will handcuff the police even further."

There will be demonstrating outside city hall in Bloomington this Sunday at 6 pm and again on Monday.

Activists also plan to fast as part of their demonstration. 

Bloomington Police Chief Brendan Heffner says no one has been deported by his department since before he became chief. 

March For Our Lives Participants Seek Action on Gun Violence

Julia Evelsizer

The Pantagraph

Claire Lamonica has had enough.

“I was sure it would get better after Columbine and I was sure it would get better after Sandy Hook, but here we are. I hope all the young and old people work together for a change and Congress gets a clue,” said Lamonica of Normal.

She joined a multi-generational crowd of hundreds Saturday at the March for Our Lives event outside the McLean County Museum of History in Bloomington to advocate for stricter gun laws in the country.

About a dozen counter-protesters held signs and flags.

The local March for Our Lives event was one of more than 800 rallies around the world that was organized following last month’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., that left 17 people dead.

 Photos by Camille Taylor

Photos by Camille Taylor

Despite the blowing snow and ice, the crowd met for over an hour to hear speakers, sing songs and sign letters to state lawmakers on the museum steps. Then the crowd marched to the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts for a final song.

The march was organized by Voices of Reason, Indivisible McLean County, YWCA McLean County, Not In Our Town and the Normal Community High School Peace and Justice Group.

“We want to send a message that a majority of Americans want sensible gun reform, safe schools and safe communities,” said Jodie Slothower, event coordinator. “We’re not saying to get rid of guns, we’re saying guns need better regulations. We should get rid of bump stocks, improve the way guns are registered, increase background checks and work on mental health issues.”

Megan Michalski of Bloomington waved signs with her sons Felix, 8, and Murray, 6.

“I don’t want my children to be afraid to go to school. I’m worried about my youngest learning how to read, not hide. I hope the community can push aside their personal agenda,” said Michalski.

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Many of the speakers and attendees were Twin City high school and college students.

Normal Community West High School juniors Francesca Riley, Abby Ramsey and Mary Kelly waved signs as they stood in the snow.

“Guns have no place in schools. It genuinely makes us uncomfortable,” said Riley. “I think about the possibility of a shooter all the time. Like, if they came into this classroom, what window would I run to. That’s messed up.”

University High School students and sisters, Elizabeth and Katherine Raycraft used plastic bags to protect the messages on their rally signs.

“It’s not OK to have guns in school. Stand up for what you believe in and don’t let others, or the weather, stop you,” said Elizabeth, 16.  

As a gun owner, Jerry Moncelle of Bloomington said he’s tired of gun violence and “something needs to change.”

“It’s the government’s responsibility to take care of people and they’re dropping the ball. We aren’t against guns, but we need more control to keep them out of the wrong hands,” he said.

John Boch of Bloomington and Ryan Sweeney of rural Armington attended to show support for the Second Amendment.

“We’re here to try to make people aware. There’s a lot of work that should be done before gun reform. Mental health reform is a huge issue and so is parenting. Criminals don’t follow laws anyway,” said Sweeney.

“We’re out here to show we won’t lay down as the other side marches to ban our guns,” said Boch.

Aishwarya Shekara of Bloomington said marchers want to protect everyone in the community, “including the counter-protesters.”

“I encouraged the crowd to contact their representatives, write letters, send emails and post more on social media about the cause,” said Shekara, a freshman at University of Illinois. “My fear is that students will lose hope. What about tomorrow and next month and next year? This movement isn’t over until we see better gun control in Congress.”

Asian Heritage Week Offers Rich Palette of Culture

Illinois State University's Asia Connect in April will offer "series of events where you can experience a variety of Asian cultures," in observance of Asian Heritage Week.

Monday, April 2, 5:30 p.m.
Chinese Calligraphy Demonstration and workshop
ISU Center for Visual Arts, Room 311
Enjoy warm Chinese tea, and learn the history of calligraphy and participate in the workshop.
Miranda Lin, Associate Professor, College of Education, ISU
Shihwei Chiang, Lecturer, College of Arts and Sciences, ISU

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Tuesday, April 3, 6:15 p.m.
Kannathil Muthamittal {a peck on the cheek} Indian {tamil} film
Caterpillar Auditorium, State Farm Hall of Business, Room 139
Question and Answers after the film.
Archana Shekara, Associate Professor, College of Fine Arts, ISU
Li Zeng, Associate Professor, College of Fine Arts, ISU

Wednesday, April 4, 5:30pm
Bangla parbon: Celebrating Bengali poetry
Blangladesh Student  Association, ISU
DeGarmo Hall, Room 551
Refreshments, Question and Answers after poetry recital.

Thursday, April 5, 5pm
Indonesian Cuisine Demonstration and Workshop
Food Lab Kitchen, Turner Hall, Room 131
Learn authentic Indonesian cuisine and taste right after!
Rini Stoltz

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Friday, April 6, 6:15pm
Cape Number 7, Taiwanese film
Caterpillar Auditorium, State Farm Hall of Business, Rm. 139
Panel discussion after the film.
Wei-Zan Wang, Director, Overseas Community Affairs Council
Cultural Center of Taipei Economic and Cultural Office, Chicago
Hsiu-Ling Robertson, Assistant Professor,
Weinberg College of Arts & Sciences, Northwestern University
Shihwei Chiang, Lecturer, College of Arts and Sciences, ISU

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Fast Designed to Bring Council Back to The Table

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Twin Citians on March 25 & 26 will fast in solidarity with undocumented families "who don’t have a seat at the table" and call on  Bloomington City council to come back to the table to pass the “Welcoming City” ordinance.

"Immigrants in our community are living in fear," event coordinators advise. "Some are workers who endure exploitation from bosses, who use their immigration status as a threat. Others are children, who from a very young age, know the risk and fear that their parents might be torn from them at any moment. Others are dreamers, brought to the U.S. as children, living in D.A.C.A. limbo, watching their dreams fade away as the program expires. Some are women, who suffer in abusive relationships but are too afraid to call out for help. But ALL are human beings who deserve to live and love in safety and in the abundance of a community that truly welcomes them."

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Across many faiths and social movements, fasting has been used as symbol of sacrifice for a moral purpose; and food, as a way of bringing community together. After his 25-day-fast with the United Farm Workers in 1968, Cesar Chavez expressed, “I am convinced that the truest act of courage, is to sacrifice ourselves for others in a totally non-violent struggle for justice.”

Starting on Sunday, March 25 at 6 p.m., community members across McLean County will come together outside of Bloomington City Hall to begin a fast in solidarity with undocumented families, and in support of the “Welcoming City” ordinance. The fast will continue into the following day. On Monday, March 26 at 6 p.m., they will invite Bloomington City Council members to “come back to the table” with a commitment to work with us to pass a “Welcoming City Ordinance” and "break the fast."

To become involved, visit https://keepfamiliestogether.wixsite.com/home/take-action.

Local Students Join National Walkout To Address Gun Violence

The Pantagraph

 Photo by Mary Aplington

Photo by Mary Aplington

Students at several Central Illinois schools joined their peers across the nation Wednesday by walking out of their classrooms to send a message about gun violence.

 Photo by Diane Peterson Mather

Photo by Diane Peterson Mather

The nation-wide walkout began at 10 a.m. and lasted for 17 minutes.

The event was organized to occur exactly one month after 17 students and faculty were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., by a former student wielding a semi-automatic rifle.

In wake of the massacre, students have risen to be some of the loudest activists for stricter gun control.

Hundreds of students at Normal Community High School, Normal West High School and Bloomington High School participated in the peaceful protest. Several schools in neighboring communities also joined.

“I am so moved by the students in our community,” Bloomington-Normal Not In Our School coordinator Mary Aplington said. “Their voices, their actions, their messages today have power and inspiration beyond their schools.

At NCHS, nearly 400 students left their classrooms and crowded on the sidewalk behind the building. Their event was organized by the Not In Our School group, Social Studies Club and Peace and Justice Club.

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Senior Faithe Wenger spoke to the crowd, reminding them of the 2012 shooting that happened in a classroom at NCHS.  The shooter was a student. No one was injured and the building was evacuated.

“NCHS remembers. Our town remembers. When the practice tornado siren goes off the first Tuesday of every month, we shake,” said Wenger. “For the first 10 seconds our hearts drop to our feet. For that short period of time, we feel the fear that was present at Sandy Hook, Parkland, Las Vegas and Orlando. How can we make government feel that?”

Junior Tristan Bixby told the crowd how her brother was held hostage in the classroom at NCHS by the shooter six years ago.

 “I consider myself lucky. I still get to see my brother every day. I get to be a part of his life. That is not always the case in this country. It terrifies me to think that thought could have been a reality within my own community,” said Bixby.

As for future change, Bixby said “start small.”

 “Talk to leaders, send an email, sit down and have those difficult conversations. Find kids who don’t have anyone and be there for them,” said Bixby. “Before today we were just kids, but we are the future and we will be the change.”

As she encouraged her peers to vote and speak up, Wenger’s hand shook but her voice was strong.

 “We still need stricter background checks, need to raise the age to 21 for all guns, not just rifles, we need to focus on mental illness and protecting student lives and all lives,” said Wenger. “This is just the beginning for us, the generation of change.”

The students ended the event by chanting “spread love, not hate, we just want to graduate."

For the final minute of the walkout, the crowd took a moment of silence to honor students killed by gun violence.

Nearly 300 students at Kingsley Junior High School also participated.

Before the walkout, Kingsley eighth-grader, Sam Gathright, said she planned to hold a sign and have conversation with her peers to understand their views on the issues.

She said she chose to join the national walkout because “our generation has some of the most lives lost due to school violence and suicide.

Normal Community junior Ajitesh Muppuru, 16, organized students Wednesday in a demonstration in support of stricter gun laws following the deaths of 17 people in a school shooting in Parkland, Fla. on Feb. 14.

I’m not so much thinking about me and my peers, but for every generation after me that will benefit from my actions,” she said.

Students at BHS participated in a different way, leaving their classrooms to line the halls and stay silent for 17 minutes.

"It was a somber mood," said Fiona Ward Shaw, junior. "There's a time and a place for sitting in remembrance but we have to take action through legislative changes."

Freshman Jaylyn Haynes said it is "inconsiderate" for older generations to not take the students seriously because of their age.

"You're never too young to learn and express an opinion. That's one of the reasons behind so many of these shootings; people feel like they have to go to horrible lengths to get attention because they feel their voices aren't being heard," said Haynes.

School officials in some parts of the country have told students they will be disciplined for participating in the walkout.

But superintendents at Bloomington District 87 and McLean County Unit 5 said students weren't disciplined for practicing free speech without seriously disrupting the school day.

Young Voices From B/N Want to Shape Gun Debate

Ryan Denham

WGLT

Ellie Diggins and her friends can’t drive a car. They can’t vote. They’re not even in high school yet. But they want to influence the public debate over gun violence.

Diggins is an eighth-grader at Kingsley Junior High School in Normal. Along with friends Ari Whitlock, Courtney Sims, and Maddie Beirne, they’re planning a school walkout demonstration March 14 as part of a nationwide movement sparked by the recent shooting in Parkland, Florida. They were inspired in part by the young Florida survivors who’ve lobbied publicly for stricter gun control.

Beirne said she moved to act after seeing the names and ages of those killed in Florida. Many of them were 14, just like her.

“I’m just kind of watching and wondering if my school is going to be the next one that’s going to be shot up or terrorized in some way,” Beirne said. “And I feel like I shouldn’t be afraid of that. I feel like I should be worried more about my next social studies quiz or what high school is going to be like next year, as opposed to whether or not I’m going to die when I walk into (school).”

At 10 a.m. on Wednesday, March 14, the four friends and other students say they will walk out of class, then out the front door at Kingsley. They’ll hold signs during a mostly silent protest (so they’re not disruptive) focused on more gun control.

They want to see universal background checks, a full ban on bump stocks and assault weapons, and additional measures to stop those with mental illness from buying weapons, said Whitlock. They also hope to attract the attention of state lawmakers like state Rep. Dan Brady and Sen. Jason Barickman, who’ve visited their school before.

“We’ll be high schoolers next year, and after that we’ll be adults, and we’ll be voting,” said Diggins, who created an online RSVP for the event. “And right now we can’t hold office. But we want to change things that people in office can change.”

Sims said she wants to make a difference, regardless of her age, noting the impact the Florida survivors have had on the public debate around guns.

“I personally think it’s quite inspiring to see kids as young as we are stand up for themselves and try to make a difference in the world,” Sims said.

Whitlock agreed. During an interview with GLT, Whitlock name-dropped several court rulings and laws that she says gives the students precedent to act.

“I feel that the youngest generation can always make the most change. We’re taking control of our futures. Just because we’re not old enough to vote yet doesn’t mean we have no say,” Whitlock said. 

Ellie Diggins’ mom, Aleda, said she was very proud of what her daughter was doing.

She said they’ve talked about what happens if she’s disciplined for organizing the walkout. (Unit 5 Superintendent Mark Daniel said last week that peaceful protesters who are not disruptive will not be disciplined, calling it a learning opportunity.)

“She has decided it’s worth it. And I back her on it,” Aleda Diggins said.

Demonstrations are expected at both Unit 5 high schools as well as Bloomington High School on March 14. Another rally on gun control is planned for March 24.

Amara: 'The Worst Part Is Being Unheard'

Knowing that it could be anyone is terrifying. The people in my school who are irresponsible and immature can at any time purchase a gun. They can bring that gun to school, and kill people. Knowing that any person in the classroom could be carrying a weapon on them at any time creates a paranoia that I wish I didn't have to feel. When I'm sitting in the classroom, I should be thinking about what's for lunch, my grades, the topic at hand. When I'm in the classroom, I should be thinking about my future, not the lack thereof. 

But this is not the worst part. The worst part is feeling unheard. The students from Florida have done a remarkable job of forcing politicians to take a stance on reforming gun laws and making this a national issue, but we still have so far to go. Now arming teachers is being pitched, but that's not what we're pushing for. Guns belong nowhere in school, and it is so frustrating that grown adults are unwilling to give up their their toys for our lives. It's like they're not even trying to hear our point of view. 

When you're sitting in the same place every day, feeling threatened, and you're told there's no problem, it starts to get to you. How can you learn if you feel scared but ignored? How can you live if you feel scared but ignored? I just wish I could get my education and make it out alive. 

Thank you for the opportunity to share my thoughts, and thank you even more for the support. It means so much. Thank you for your time.

Amara Sheppard

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Heartland Students, Faculty Debate Gun Violence

A gun control protest brought proponents on both sides of the debate to Heartland Community College in Normal on Monday. The protest is a prelude to a national walk out on March 14th. Some H.C.C. faculty and students say it's important to take action now.

Armed with neon signs it was hard to miss the messages about gun control from a small group of students and faculty at Heartland Community College on Monday.

"I don't personally own a weapon. I wouldn't have one in my personal life. So the idea of being asked to have one in my professional life is very concerning. I wouldn't feel comfortable. I wouldn't feel like I was the expert in that," said Heartland Community College employee Jenny Crones.

"I'm retired military. I just don't see any place that high velocity or assault weapons have any place in the general public's hands," said Heartland Community College faculty member Mark Finley.

But not everyone attending the protest want to see tougher gun control laws.

"I think that we have the right to own the guns, what guns we want when we want, that says it in the constitution and the bill of rights second amendment and that's the whole argument for everybody," said Heartland Community College student Garrett Conaty.

Faculty member Ericka Hines organized the protest ahead of the national walkout scheduled for March 14th. She also reminded students of their right to vote in the upcoming elections.

"A lot of people didn't vote in the last presidential election, 49 percent and that as a nation is pretty pitiful. I hope a lot of kindness and common sense gun laws come out of it. The world can be a lot more kind and we could be better educated about guns and background checks could be better," she said.

Another national protest will take place March 24th in Washington D.C.

ISU Umoja Ceremony To Recognize Black Graduates

Illinois State University is hosting its annual pre-commencement recognition ceremony Umoja: Celebration of Black Graduates at 7 p.m. May 10.

A celebration of African-American and other students of color, the event honors those with unyielding determination who have successfully completed undergraduate and graduate degrees from Illinois State in 2018.  Students interested in taking part in the recognition ceremony can register until April 1 at http://umojaisu.weebly.com/.

“This is a time for everyone to experience a celebration of African American culture,” said senior Daniel Jackson, who has volunteered for the ceremony since his freshman year. “Celebrations are such an important part of African American culture, and there is no one way to celebrate. Each year is new and exciting.”

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After volunteering for years, Jackson will take part in the ceremony as a senior. “Now it is my turn to hear my name called, and I hope the campus community will join us,” he said. “Umoja is a way for the campus community to embrace the diversity Illinois State represents, and be part of honoring a black excellence.”

Faculty, staff, and community representatives are needed to assist with the event, and with the Harambee Circle, which functions similarly to a circle of elders for the event. The circle consists of those who have supported, advocated for, taught and/or encouraged students to reach this important goal.

For those interested in volunteering, please sign up by April 13. For those interested in taking part in the Harambee Circle, while the Circle remains open we would like if people sign up by May 1 at http://umojaisu.weebly.com/.

“This is a chance to do more to support our students of color,” said Professor Beth Hatt of the College of Education, who has been part of the Harambee Circle since Umoja began at Illinois State. “It’s very different than the formal graduation ceremony. At Umoja, audience participation and celebration is encouraged. It is a wonderful cultural experience.”

This year’s Umoja theme is: Transgress * Transcend * Transform. The theme reflects the graduates’ abilities to go beyond limitations and make dramatic change. “This year’s theme pays homage to our fortitude, resiliency, and ability to enact social change,” said Tamekia Bailey of University College, which helps plan the graduation recognition ceremony.

Book, Address Relate ISU Prof's Journey From Fields to Scholarship

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The life of Illinois State University’s Professor Mildred Pratt was a fascinating one, leading from the rural cotton fields of Texas to the hallowed halls of academia.

Pratt’s daughter, Menah Pratt-Clarke, chronicles her incredible path in a new book, A Black Woman’s Journey from Cotton Picking to College Professor: Lessons about Race, Class, and Gender in America. Pratt-Clarke will visit Illinois State and give a talk on the book Thursday, March 29, in the Old Main Room of the Bone Student Center.

There will be a reception at 5:30 p.m., followed by the book talk and signing from 6:30-8 p.m. Proceeds from the sale will benefit the Mildred Pratt Student Assistance Fund at Illinois State.

Sponsored by Illinois State’s African-American Studies program and School of Social Work, the event is free and open to the public.

Raised by her mother as one of eight siblings in rural east Texas during the Great Depression, Pratt became a college professor when less than one percent of full professors were black women. Pratt-Clark’s book explores her mother’s journey through Texas, Indiana, Kansas, Los Angeles, Michigan, Pittsburgh, and Illinois. Teaching at Illinois State for decades, Pratt is credited with first suggesting a child care center at the University in 1970. “Her inspirational story from the outhouse to the White House, lifting others as she climbed, provides an insightful look at issues of race, class, and gender in America,” said Pratt-Clarke.

“My hope is that this book inspires high school and college students, regardless of their race, gender, and economic status, to dream of more and to believe that more is possible,” said Pratt-Clarke, who is vice president for strategic affairs at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, vice provost for inclusion and diversity, and a professor in the College of Education. To learn more, visit www.menahprattclarke.com.

For additional information on the speaker, contact the School of Social Work at (309) 438-3631.

ISU Academy Programs Begin This Week

Illinois State University’s Academy of Seniors programs begin this week and continue through May, with sessions focusing on community building, women's rights, and immigration.

The classes are sponsored by the Senior Professionals organization and will be held at the ISU Alumni Center, 1101 N. Main St., Normal.

Academy classes are $35 for members and $45 for nonmembers for four sessions, and $15 for individual session walk-ins, where available. Mornings classes are $35 for members and $45 for nonmembers for five sessions, and $15 for individual sessions. Participants can preregister for full sessions or pay at the door for individual sessions.

To register, visit www.seniorprofessionals.illinoisstate.edu for online registration or printable registration form. Call 309-438-2818 for more information.

Academy classes include:

“Building our Community,” 1:30-3:30 p.m. March 6, 8, 13, 15; various topics and instructors; walk-in available.

“More than the Vote: Women’s Rights Activism in the United States”; 1:30-3:30 p.m. March 20, 22, 27, 29; Kyle Ciani, associate professor of history and core faculty for women’s & gender studies, ISU; no walk-ins.

“Immigration: Political, Legal, Moral and Human Implications”; 9:30-11:30 a.m. May 8, 10, 15, 17; various topics and instructors; walk-in available.

BCAI Event Highlights Latin, Indian, Hip-Hop Cultures

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MixFuzeEvolveFamily, a BCAI School of Arts fundraiser, will offer a "culturally infused" celebration of Latin, Indian, and hip-hop influences as well as a variety of culinary treats.

The April 14 event, 3-6 p.m. at the Hansen Student Center, 300 East Beecher Street, Bloomington, will feature live music and stage entertainment, raffles, and 12 Indian and Latin dishes on a sampling basis.

Admission includes $10 entry (Ages 6 and up); $6 for a small meal ticket (up to 5 food samples);
$10 large meal ticket (up to 10 samples); and $25 VIP admission (includes entry, a sample of every dish, front row seat reservation for stage events, and one free raffle ticket).

Children under 6 years old enter for FREE, but they must have either a large meal or small meal ticket.

The event is sponsored by State Farm, Not in our Town: Bloomington-Normal, and Willie Brown.

For more info, visit the event website at https://bcaischoolofarts.wildapricot.org/MFEF/.

YWCA to Guide Families 'Around The World'

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YWCA McLean County will host "Around the World" Friday, March 9 at YWCA McLean County, 1201 N. Hershey Road, Bloomington. The family event is free open to the public from 5 to 7 p.m.

 YWCA Young Wonders will provide a fun atmosphere for families to learn about different countries and cultures while participating in games and activities native to each country. Countries like Spain, India and Africa will be represented by several YWCA Young Wonders Before and After School programs and Bloomington Public Library.

 Attendees will receive a passport that will allow them to travel to the different countries and when their passports are filled with stamps, travelers will earn a prize! Guests will have the chance to document their travels in a fun photo booth as well.

 Exclusive registration discounts for YWCA Young Wonders summer camp and before- and after-school programs will be available. Parents will also have the chance to win one free week of summer camp!

 Drinks and snacks will be provided, event is suitable for those ages 3-11. To learn more, please visit www.ywcamclean.org or contact Rita Poore, YWCA Young Wonders Youth Development director, at (309) 662-7826, ext. 274 or rpoore@ywcamclean.org.

Bloomington/Normal Students Preparing for Walkout Over Gun Violence?

Ryan Denham

WGLT

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Plans are taking shape for Bloomington-Normal high schoolers to participate in a national walkout movement this month aimed at curbing gun violence in schools.

Both Unit 5 high schools and Bloomington High School are expecting students to participate in some way March 14, though plans are still in flux. Many participants in the national protest — sparked by the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida — are planning to walk out for 17 minutes at 10 a.m. March 14. The political goal is to get Congress to pass stricter gun control legislation.

It’s unclear if walkouts will occur in Bloomington-Normal schools, or if students will turn to other forms of demonstration. Some students have expressed concern they’ll face disciplinary action if they participate, although Unit 5 and BHS administrators say peaceful protesters won’t be reprimanded.

“We want to make sure it’s appropriate in regards to behavior,” said Unit 5 Superintendent Mark Daniel, calling the walkouts a learning opportunity. “They need to re-enter and move back into classrooms immediately thereafter, (so) it’s not a major disruption. Very inappropriate behavior won’t be tolerated and shouldn’t be tolerated.”

Rachel Evans, a Spanish teacher at Normal West, said at least one of her students—a sophomore—is trying to coordinate some sort of demonstration March 14. Evans, who is politically active herself, said she’s walking a fine line in her classroom of not “unnecessarily influencing” her students while also encouraging their “ability to do what they believe in.”

The young survivors of the Florida shooting have publicly lobbied for new gun-control measures, appearing in media interviews to make emotional pleas.

“High schoolers are capable of making these kinds of decisions, and it’s time we integrate them into these discussions. Because it’s going to be important for them. They’re the ones whose lives are on the line every day in school. They’re the ones who should get to have a say,” Evans said.

Evans said some students are concerned about the prospects of being disciplined for participating. Sensing this worry, universities like Illinois State have told prospective students that “disciplinary action associate with their participation in peaceful protests will not impact their admission.”

“Some are just so concerned about what those possibilities are,” Evans said.

At Bloomington High School, Principal Tim Moore has met with student leaders who are still figuring out their plans. A joint demonstration with Bloomington Junior High School is possible, he said.

Moore said those who protest peacefully will not face discipline. Moore said he and some of his  students are interested in broader ways to approach school safety, although gun control is part of that. Students discussed what they can do to help social outcasts feel more welcome, he said.

“That’s what I want to come out of this. If we’re going to continue to keep BHS a safe place, every individual in our building has a responsibility and a role in doing that,” Moore said.

 

Marker to Recall Segregation of Miller Park

"Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.”

 1940: Miller Park's whites-only beach.

1940: Miller Park's whites-only beach.

That famous quote attributed to Edmund Burke, a one-time orator, political theorist and British member of parliament, is behind a new effort at Bloomington's oldest park.

The Illinois State Historical Society is putting up a marker to stand as a permanent reminder of the history of racial segregation at Bloomington’s Miller Park.

From 1908 and into the early 1950s when the beach was closed for a time, the swimming area at Miller Park was divided by a well-maintained section with a lifeguard and an unkempt, unguarded section labeled “Blacks Only.”

The Community Has A Secret

Mark Wyman, a retired Illinois State University distinguished emeritus history professor, said when the beach was reopened in 1957, there were no references to the decades of segregation.

 

The marker the McLean County League of Women Voters erected in Franklin Park in 2005 to recognize the local resident who was the first woman elected to the Illinois Senate.

Credit Illinois State Historical Society

"I saw the secret really develop then because in all of the editorials about reopening and in the speeches by the mayor, no mention that it used to be segregated until it closed in 1953," said Wyman, who along with historian Jack Muirhead researched the history and interviewed residents about what they knew about the separate and not-so-equal policies at Miller Park lake.

“People were not aware of that. ‘Did we ever have segregation here?’ they asked longtime residents. The replies were all the same, ‘No, too far north. No, never heard of it.’ Wyman said he and Muirhead heard the same response many times. "That’s when I realized this community has a secret."

The NAACP is supporting the project along with the McLean County Museum of History and the Not In Our Town (NIOT) coalition. Camille Taylor of NIOT said history has a way of repeating itself, so the marker is an important recognition of this community's ability to discriminate.

"Our mission is to stop hate, address bullying and to make a safe, more inclusive community for all so the things that Mark describes would certainly be under that mission in terms of sharing the history of segregation and where we are now as a community," Taylor said.

Taylor was involved in The Bloomington-Normal Black History Project, formed in 1982 to document the local history of the local black community with a collection that now contains photographs, portraits, booklets, articles, and artifacts.

The former Unit 5 counselor used those artifacts and documents for presentations during Black History Month at area schools. She said students could not understand why blacks were not allowed to swim in the same section of Miller Park lake.

"When I talked about Miller Park and a little girl named Phyllis Hogan who had to swim in the segregated part of the lake that had lots of debris and she got caught up in it and drown and some of the children were the same age as this little girl ... they couldn't believe it. They would ask, 'Why would they make those people do that?'" she said.

"That's when I realized this community has a secret."

Taylor said the students hearing those presentations in the 1980s and 1990s had no idea about this kind of treatment of blacks in their own community.

"Their eyes opened as big as saucers when they would hear things like the cheerleaders at Bloomington High School, going downtown to the square after a game and they wouldn't be served if a black cheerleader was with them, so all the cheerleaders got up and left," Taylor said about how the children responded to her accounts of discrimination.

She said the historic marker will be permanent and do more good to educate people and bring awareness than what she was able to accomplish through her school visits.

 

Plenty of Support

Wyman said he has encountered no opposition from city leaders including Alderman Karen Schmidt whose ward includes Miller Park. He was never worried about raising the estimated $4,000 to erect the marker and he says once he began talking about it, the money flowed in.

"Right away when I would mention it in talking to groups around town about our segregation past people would come out and say, 'I want to donate.'" He said several individuals who read about it in the McLean County Historical Society newsletter contacted us and offered donations.

The marker will measure 44 by 51 inches. There has not been an Illinois State Historical Society marker erected in the Bloomington-Normal area since 2005. Twelve years ago, the McLean County League of Women Voters sponsored a marker on the east side of Franklin Park honoring the life and career of pioneering lawmaker and community leader Florence Fifer Bohrer.

Wyman said plans are to put up the marker sometime this spring.

It includes 16 lines of text including a final line that reads, “Today, Miller Park—like all city facilities—is open to all.” 

#BlackLivesMatter Network Ambassador Keynote for April 20 Symposium

Janaya Khan, international ambassador for the #BlackLivesMatter Network, will be the keynote speaker for the 23rd annual Women’s and Gender Studies Symposium at 1 p.m., Friday, April 20, in the Prairie Room of the Bone Student Center. The event is free and open to the public.

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With a timely message about the transformational power of protest, Khan is a leading activist who engages the audience in a profound discussion about social justice and equality.

Known as “Future” within the Black Lives Matter movement, Khan is a black, queer, gender-nonconforming activist (pronouns: they, them, theirs), staunch Afrofuturist, and social-justice educator who presents an enlightening point of view on police brutality and systemic racism.

Khan has been honored with several awards, including the 2015 Bromley Armstrong Humanitarian Award, and has been featured in media outlets, including the Feminist Wire, RaceBaitR, and The Root. Khan currently serves as executive director of Gender Justice LA, a grassroots multi-racial coalition of transgender people and allies.