The Citiesscape Pt. 3: Normal Traffic Stop Data Shows Major Racial 'Inequities'

Data on traffic stops in eight Central Illinois cities show significant “inequities” in police treatment of motorists of different races and ethnic origins, according to Illinois State University’s “A Community Report on Intolerance, Segregation, Accessibility, Inclusion, Progress, and Improvement.”

The new report, requested by Not In Our Town: Bloomington-Normal, notes blacks are stopped more often and arrested more often than their share of the Bloomington-Normal population would suggest. Vehicles driven by blacks are searched more often, and yet drugs are more often found in vehicles of white drivers.

In their study of race and the local criminal justice system, the ISU team focused on disparities in traffic stops and incarceration in the McLean County Jail.  Normal had 19,637 traffic stops out of 72,836 for all eight cities examined. That was 27 percent of all documented stops in the Twin Cities, Champaign, Decatur, Peoria, Rockford, Springfield, and Urbana.

Using 2015 Illinois Traffic Stop Data from the Illinois Department of Transportation, students investigated whether disparities in this portion of the criminal justice system exist, specifically for Bloomington-Normal.  Normal police stop vehicles at a far higher rate than police in Springfield or Peoria – ISU student researchers stated “the pattern is quite stark.” Without taking into account severity of charge, blacks who are arrested spend more time in the jail.

traffic stop chart.jpg

“We find that vehicles with black drivers are far more likely to be searched, compared to those with white or Hispanic drivers,” researchers concluded. “This is true in Bloomington, Normal, and the six other cities; however, Normal has a much smaller portion of vehicles searched relative to their large number of stops.

“Though searched more often, vehicles driven by blacks are less likely to have drugs or drug paraphernalia. We find that blacks spend more time in the jail than whites or Hispanic individuals. We also find that men spend more time in the jail than women, regardless of whether the charge is a felony or a misdemeanor.”

The second highest number of traffic stops occurred in Springfield at 15,910. Bloomington Police Department recorded the third highest number, with 9,740 stops. The remaining cities in order from most to least stops are Rockford with 7,095, Champaign with 7,029; Decatur with 4,982; Peoria with 4,784; and Urbana, with 3,659. When Bloomington and Normal are combined, they accounted for 40 percent of all stops in the eight cities.

Since 1999, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (a branch of the U.S. Department of Justice) periodically has conducted the Police-Public Contact Survey to determine the nature of this contact and discrepancies in race, gender, citations, use of force, etc.  The Bureau distributes surveys to people aged 16 and older, and asks them to describe their most recent contact with law enforcement within the past 12 months.

The Bureau noted a nationwide decline from 2002-2008 in the total number of persons who had contact with police. However, for those who had contact with law enforcement there were still discrepancies between whites, blacks, and Latinos. The number of Latinos drivers stopped by police between 2002 and 2008 increased 28 percent, although there was no difference for white and black drivers during the same period.

 In 2008, blacks were more likely to have contact with law enforcement than whites, asians, Native Hawaiians, and other Pacific Islanders. The survey also inquires whether those stopped by law enforcement felt the police behaved appropriately: Blacks and Latinos were less likely than whites to feel this was true. Similarly, black drivers were less likely to feel there was a legitimate reason for police stopping them.

Blacks were significantly more likely to be searched during a traffic stop than Latino and white drivers, and police arrested blacks at a higher rate than whites during traffic stops. Although no comparison was made in relation to the percentage of searches that resulted in finding anything illegal, only one out of five people searched felt police had a legitimate reason to do so, across racial lines.

The Bureau also analyzed the use of force during traffic stops. Although in 2002 and 2005, whites were less likely than blacks and Latinos to experience the threat of force, the 2008 study indicated that only blacks were more likely to experience force. In addition to experiencing more frequent traffic stops, blacks also experienced more frisks and searches.

Racial disparity was found to be greater in frisks than in general searches; racial disparity frisks are contingent on a community’s racial composition, and a driver’s race does not correlate with the productivity of searches.

“Racial profiling in law enforcement is a problem due to racial stereotypes, reflecting the ‘legitimizing myths’ that perpetuate social dominance and hierarchies,” the ISU team stated. “. . . Officers were more likely to stop someone depending on location (i.e., if a black was in a predominately white area, or if a white person was in a predominately black area).”

After standardizing stop data for population size, the degree to which Normal ranked highest in traffic stops -- after accounting for population size, Normal’s frequency of stops is more than twice that of the other seven cities.

In Bloomington, Latinos are disproportionately more likely to be stopped, where in Normal, Latinos are disproportionately less likely to be stopped, given their share of the population.

It is uncommon for officers to request searches from motorists in Bloomington or Normal, and the likelihood of such requests does not seem vary by race or ethnicity. Of requests for searches, though, blacks drivers are far more likely to decline the request. In the end, however, black drivers are most likely to have a search conducted.

In Bloomington, white drivers had a 5.6 percent chance of a search being conducted, Latino drivers had a 8.6 percent chance, and black drivers had a 13.0 percent chance of a search. A similar pattern emerged in Normal: White drivers had a 1.0 percent chance of having a search conducted, Latino drivers a 2.2 percent chance, and blacks had a 3.4 percent chance of having a search conducted.

For all eight cities combined, white drivers had a 4.2 percent chance of being searched, Latino drivers a 6.1 percent chance, and black drivers had a 12.4 percent of being searched.

“Although there is a higher chance of being pulled over in Normal, there is greater likelihood of being searched in Bloomington,” ISU researchers reported.

In Bloomington, while white drivers had the lowest chance of their car being searched, they had the highest percent of being found in possession of drugs. In Normal, black drivers had the highest percent of being found in possession of drugs, followed by white drivers. Latino drivers showed the lowest percentage of drug possession in either city.

In both Bloomington and Normal, students found white drivers to have the highest percentage of drug paraphernalia possession, followed by black drivers, again, despite the higher rate of searches on vehicles driven by blacks.

District 87 Approves 'Welcoming' Resolution for All Students

Julia Evelsizer

The Pantagraph

Students worried about deportation or judgement based on their family’s citizenship were told they have nothing to fear while attending Bloomington District 87 schools.

The District 87 school board approved a resolution on Wednesday affirming the district as a welcoming and safe environment for all students, regardless of immigration status.

“The resolution doesn’t fundamentally do anything in terms of policies and procedures we already have in place, but it sends the clear message to students that you mean something to us and we care about how you’re feeling. We wanted to show in a very public way that we support you and we’ll do all we can to keep you safe,” said Superintendent Barry Reilly.

Reilly said there are “probably” students enrolled in District 87 who come from illegally immigrated families, but said he hopes the resolution will "alleviate any worries those students may be feeling" after recent changes to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.

“This sends a message to the general community so those kids and their families know we have their back,” said Reilly. “The teacher in front of them in the classroom will be more important than anything we do here.”

The idea for the resolution was developed by a group of teachers who were approached by students who said they were afraid of deportation and being uprooted from their homes and schools.

Kim Taber, a teacher at Bloomington Junior High School, read comments from worried students to the board.

“I worry when I go home, I won’t see my parents and I’ll be left alone with my siblings,” Taber read from a student comment.

“It means a lot that the resolution was so strongly supported by the board,” said Taber after the meeting. “We want to see students feel successful in a country where they don’t often get that message. To hear it straight from the district is powerful.”

BJHS teacher Helen Brandon said students of immigrant families “often feel forgotten, devalued and an unwelcome member in the community.”

“We welcome you and care about you,” said Brandon.

“In a climate where outside voices are not always supportive and are sometimes frightening, we want to help kids hear, firmly, that they are wanted here with us at school,” added Julie Riley, BJHS teacher.

Gavin Nicoson, a freshman at Normal Community West High School, attended the District 87 meeting as a member of Not In Our School, a group against bullying and discrimination in schools.

“I feel that these issues and worries with students are more prevalent. I’m sure it’s hard for those students to go home where they are accepted and loved and then go to school where they are worried that people don’t accept them. This gives me hope,” said Nicoson.

McLean County Unit 5 Superintendent Mark Daniel said the Normal-based district has discussed the resolution with District 87, particularly how the district partnered with teachers to develop the message.

“Unit 5 will begin a similar process and we expect it could result in a resolution as well,” said Daniel.

Against All Odds To Open Racial Dialogue

AGAINST ALL ODDS: The Fight for a Black Middle Class, to be screened at 7 p.m. September 26 at Normal First United Methodist Church, probes the harsh and often brutal discrimination that has made it extremely difficult for African-Americans to establish a middle-class standard of living.

The film, a PBS documentary that premiered this spring, will be followed by a panel discussion moderated by Twin Cities NAACP Chairman Quincy Cummings, NIOTBN Education Subcommittee Chair Camille Taylor, and other community leaders.

As Bob Herbert notes in the film’s opening, “Whites talk about working hard and playing by the rules. But blacks have always had to play by a different, hateful set of hideously unfair rules. Working hard has never been enough for black Americans to flourish”. Through dramatic historical footage and deeply moving personal interviews, the documentary explores the often frustrated efforts of black families to pursue the American dream.

Today many African American families are still digging out of the recession that followed the Great Crash of 2007-08 and although some are doing better, black wealth remains meager compared to the white middle class. Nearly 40 percent of black children are poor, and for every dollar of wealth in the hands of the average white family, the typical black family has only a little more than a nickel.

This revealing and sometimes shocking documentary connects the dots of American history to reveal how the traditional route up the economic ladder by attaining a job that pays a living wage and then buying a house is a financial ascent that has been systematically denied to black families.  Reduced educational opportunity, rampant employment discrimination, the inequitable application of the GI bill, mortgage redlining and virulent housing segregation are among the injustices that have converged to limit the prosperity of black families from generation to generation.

Bob Herbert has been covering and commenting on American politics, poverty, racism and social issues for over 45 years through his tenure as a nationally-syndicated op-ed columnist for The New York Times as well as work for other newspapers and broadcast media. Growing up in New Jersey, the son of an upholsterer whose prosperous business was hobbled by banks unwilling to offer loans to blacks, Herbert had an intimate view of the barriers that faced striving black families.  His interviews with prominent African Americans, including Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author Isabelle Wilkerson, Congressman Elijah Cummings, renowned psychologist and author Alvin Poussaint, and policy activist Angela Glover Blackwell, as well as other accomplished black professionals, uncover generational stories
of profoundly damaging economic and social prejudice.

In AGAINST ALL ODDS, Herbert looks back at the uphill struggle facing black families freed from slavery over a century and a half ago and emerging from life as uneducated sharecroppers in the South. He traces the barriers to employment and housing designed to keep black people “in their place” both in southern states and in northern states as African Americans migrated throughout the country in search of opportunity and a better life. Shocking footage from Chicago in the 1950s and 60s shows how black families trying to escape overcrowded ghettos faced riots if they moved to a white block or a white suburb.  Beryl Satter—an author whose father, a white lawyer, fought against discrimination in Chicago— tells Herbert, “This whole history of white rioting and white violence has been historically buried.  When people think of violence and riots in the street, they always think of the 1960s when black people rioted, but when white people rioted, it doesn’t even have a name.”

For those blacks who have been successful in acquiring a middle class lifestyle in suburban neighborhoods such as Prince George’s County, Maryland, the foothold feels tenuous. Brent and Karla Swinton live there in a stately home and both have good jobs. But Brent says, “We may have arrived to a degree but we just got here so it’s still not quite the same.” The reality behind that sense of insecurity was abundantly clear following the Great Recession when widespread foreclosures stripped wealth out of the black community.

Yet through it all, Herbert reports, black Americans have shown time and again in the face of cruelty, systematic discrimination and injustice a tremendous resilience and determination to get their fair share of the American dream.  Herbert says, “There are no barriers that can’t be overcome. When dreams remain unrealized, it simply means the fight goes on.”

The Citiesscape Pt. 2: 'Desert' Life Unhealthy for Twin Citians?

Is West/Southwest Bloomington a “desert,” where lower-income residents and students especially may be virtually stranded far from healthy foods and drawn to retail “oases” that may foster serious or even lethal health risks?

According to a recently released NIOTBN-sponsored study by Illinois State University students and ISU’s Stevenson Center, the West Side exhibits disturbing desert-like conditions.    

The “disparities in access to healthy food correlates with many social factors,” including race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and income level,” concludes “A Community Report on Intolerance, Segregation, Accessibility, Inclusion, Progress, and Improvement.” A diet of “primarily unhealthy products” — including junk food, tobacco and liquor products, and fast food — can cause cardiovascular disease, liver cirrhosis, obesity, and multiple forms of cancer.

In mapping the Twin Cities, the ISU team quickly realized that Bloomington-Normal possesses many more convenience stores than grocery stores. Convenience stores stay open long hours, offering a small variety of household goods and “unhealthy” foods. With high convenience store accessibility and lower grocery store accessibility comes the tendency to rely on unhealthier convenience store options rather than the relatively healthier grocery store offerings, the study asserted.

Further, the majority of Bloomington-Normal's supermarkets and grocery stores are located along major roads, with Veterans Parkway, Market Street, and Main Street possessing the clear majority of store locations. On the map below, The areas shaded green are within one mile of a grocery store; unshaded areas are more than one mile from a grocery. The green and red dots indicate disadvantaged persons.

Additionally, layering the fast food/convenience store/grocery store locations over the map’s U.S. Supermarket Accessibility layer shows reason for significant concern in West and Southwest Bloomington. There are quite a few red dots more than one mile from a grocery. This becomes more concerning when considering walkability. Most of the grocery stores are located along high traffic roads that are difficult for pedestrians to navigate while carrying groceries. So, efforts to improve food security in West and Southwest Bloomington may be beneficial to disadvantaged community members.

“There are also far more fast-food restaurants than grocery stores in Bloomington-Normal,” the team noted. “In all, unhealthy food options are more available than healthy ones.

“Distance to, prevalence of, and accessibility of healthy food options are directly related to a person’s overall health. Neighborhoods which lack these nutritious and affordable food options are called food deserts. While located in urban and rural settings, food deserts are found predominantly in low-income communities of color.

“Individuals in these food deserts will face a higher density of tobacco stores and fast-food restaurants with few, if any, healthy food options. When people and families have to expend more energy and resources to get fresher, healthier options than food found at convenience stores or fast-food restaurants, they will often choose to buy more readily available and less healthy food. Fast-food restaurants and tobacco companies target low-income and minority populations in their advertising—such as fast-food companies offering free prizes and more kids’ meals in lower income neighborhoods than higher income communities.”

Middle school and high school students walking to school are confronted with many “concealed dangers,” students advised. On the way to and from school in some neighborhoods, students may pass by multiple fast food establishments as well as alcohol and tobacco stores. According to several studies, more than fifty percent of U.S. schools that are mostly minority have both fast food and tobacco stores in close proximity, and low-income and minority students have a greater chance of taking routes to and from school that can expose them to fast food, alcohol, and tobacco stores.

Latino students are more likely to go to schools that are in areas including multiple alcohol, tobacco, and fast food establishments. Having these establishments near schools can increase the rates of obesity seen in school children as well as higher rates of teenage smoking, and children who pass these places everyday on their way to school are more likely to be offered alcohol, tobacco, or even other drugs.

“It is encouraged that students walk to school, but the dangers of kids passing these businesses can lead to unhealthy habits,” the ISU study warned. “Compared to middle schoolers, high schoolers have a higher chance of being affected by encountering these businesses daily. In sum, the literature points to a clear association between socioeconomic status and the chance of passing by these types of establishments.”

While a trio of new groceries has emerged in Bloomington over the past two years, two are located on the Veteran’s Parkway strip, and two, including the Green Top Grocery on the near West Side, are specialty retailers featuring organic, “natural,” and other trait-identified products that often are out of the basic price range of lower-income families. Green Top is a co-op grocery, where customers can purchase shares in the store to receive discounts and rebates – a model which according to Stevenson Center study coordinator Frank Beck may not fit the conventional “cultural dynamic” or consumer preferences of lower-income and minority consumers.

Kroger’s location at College and Emerson serves both Illinois Wesleyan students and West Siders. But Aldi’s, a discount food outlet, operated on Market Street, serving a West Side clientele, for roughly nine years before moving to the western city fringe near Walmart and opening a second location on Veteran’s bordering Normal’s east side Walmart – in either case, a drive or bus ride for the West Side’s poorer or older residents. A Latino grocery operates in the former Market Street location, with fresh produce but a tailored product selection.

While chains like Walmart have been making inroads into populous metropolitan inner city neighborhoods, securing a major new grocery in or adjacent to Bloomington’s lower-income neighborhoods is a daunting challenge.

“There’s a whole science out there of, ‘Should we build it, and where should we built it?’” Beck related. “Those folks that are going to spend those millions of dollars know that science back and forth. At the community level, by rough estimates, these days, you have to have a population of about 3,000 to make ends meet, if you’re the owner of a grocery store. Some small towns have thought of co-ops and other things – food deserts are not just in urban; they’re in rural as well.”

Immigration Project Helping Save Thousands of Illinoisans DACA 'Dreams'

This week, nearly 80,000 young students, workers, and householders who’ve spent much or nearly all their life in the U.S. learned that over the next 2 ½ years, they could lose their adopted home.

“This is really going to hurt our economy; it’s really going to hurt all these individuals and their families,” warns Charlotte Alvarez, executive director of Normal-based The Immigration Project, which is working to help thousands of Illinois “DREAMers” cope with the White House-announced phase-out of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Under the announcement, individuals whose DACA designation expired prior to Sept. 5 cannot file a new program renewal application, and are effectively “terminated,” Alvarez reported. Those with pending renewals can still be processed -- The Immigration Project is helping ensure client applications are processed in a timely manner.

Currently, those facing DACA expiration between Sept. 5 and March 5, 2018, must file a two-year renewal application with receipt by immigration officials before Oct. 5 or lose their shot at renewal.

“In this state, we have about 10,000 young people who must file renewal applications within the next month,” Alvarez advised. “We’re recommending that if anybody in our service area – in Central or Southern Illinois – needs to file a renewal, and their DACA expires between Sept. 5 and March 5, they should contact our office as soon as possible. We’ve had a lot of panicked DACA clients calling us up wondering what this announcement means to them, what will happen to people who have DACA once their work permit and their permission to remain expires.”

In fact, the Project has dedicated a staff member, Thalia Novoa, to focus on DACA renewal, and callers (309-829-8703) can listen for a specific DACA renewal extension to begin the process. If applicants prefer to handle the process themselves or decide they need legal consultation, the Project can identify resources or clarify the process.

“One of the things that’s a challenge for people is affording the application,” Alvarez noted. “The application in each case costs $495 to file. I know people whose DACA expired, and they saved up enough money to pay the fees again, but they’re now not able to. And now we have all these people who either were saving up money por planning to renew in the future who suddenly have to renew in the next month.”

Some applicants thus have launched Gofundme or similar campaigns to raise the money necessary to renewal, and The Immigration Project is seeking organizations that might be willing to provide financial support for clients.

DACA, signed in June 2012, stated that the government would not deport those who arrived here before the age of 16 and are under 31 years of age on June 15, 2012; who are in school or possess a high school diploma; who have lived here for at least five years; and who have not committed serious crimes.

DACA supporters are pinning long-term hopes on congressional intervention. Two federal immigration proposals – the BRIDGE (Bar Removal of Individuals Who Dream and Grow Our Economy) Act and the DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act – propose to address concerns by creating what Alvarez terms “a real path to citizenship.”

The Project joined Tuesday with “a fairly sizeable crowd” of DACA supporters in an Uptown Normal rally, requesting that Republican U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, whose office is in Uptown, meet with those affected by new DACA rules and support either bills. As of Thursday, no meeting date had been scheduled.

At the same time, attorneys general of 15 states and the District of Columbia, including Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, have filed a lawsuit alleging the administration’s action violated the due process rights of the young immigrants by failing to safeguard the personal information they initially gave the government in order to enroll in DACA.

“The solution is, either the administration reconsiders this policy, or Congress acts and creates a law and protections for these kids,” Alvarez said. “A lot of the DACA kids we have came to the country when they were two or three. They barely remember or don’t remember the country they were from. We’ve had clients who have gotten bachelors degrees, relying on DACA to be able to work. I have clients who are nurses, who are students, who are professionals. This is just going to pull the rug from beneath their dreams. It’s a real blow for them.”

For more information, visit The Immigration Project at www.immigrationproject.org.

 

ISU Study: Problems Persist in B/N, 'Less' Today With NIOTBN Help

This is Part 1 of a multi-part examination of Bloomington/Normal's challenges and successes in bridging social, economic, racial, and cultural concerns.

ISU's Frank Beck reviews conclusions of student researchers during a NIOTBN Steering Committee review of the study at Moses Montefiore Temple.

ISU's Frank Beck reviews conclusions of student researchers during a NIOTBN Steering Committee review of the study at Moses Montefiore Temple.

Key problems persist in the Twin Cities, according to a study by ISU students with the Stevenson Center for Economic and Community Development. But significant progress is being made, in part through efforts by NIOTBN and other local groups, "A Community Report on Intolerance, Segregation, Accessibility, Inclusion, Progress, and Improvement" concludes.

The Not In Our Town chapter in Bloomington-Normal recently asked two classes of students at Illinois State University to document intolerance, discrimination, segregation, disparities of access, and disparities in the criminal justice system in the twin cities. In this report, using archival material, secondary data, and primary data, the students examine these issues from the mid-1990s to the present. Not In Our Town also wanted to understand their position in the community and some strategies for future success, through an analysis of other organizations in the country similar to Not In Our Town.

The conclusion: “Bloomington-Normal was and is intolerant; discrimination did and does take place in this community; we are segregated. The community is also less of these things than it used to be and is less of these things than other places — thanks in part to the efforts of Not In Our Town.”

Interviews and focus groups document difficulties, progress, and hope for the future among community leaders, social service agencies, elected bodies, advocates, and law enforcement. Residents discuss systemic issues and the role of Not In Our Town in addressing them. Residents shared experiences of discrimination and intolerance from police, employers, and other community members. Some of the quotes drawn from the conversations “are powerful and are evidence of work yet to be done,” the study stressed.

Discrimination by law enforcement and a lack of access to quality food, health care, and employment are highlighted. Persons promoting racial equality, LGBTQ advocates, and residents provide ideas for future balance.

For example, data on traffic stops in eight Central Illinois cities and from the McLean County Detention Facility show inequities. Blacks are stopped more often and arrested more often than their share of the Bloomington-Normal population would predict. Vehicles driven by blacks are searched more often, yet drugs are more often found in vehicles of White drivers. Normal police stop vehicles at a far higher rate than police in the larger cities of Springfield or Peoria; the pattern is "quite stark." Without taking into account severity of charge, blacks that are arrested spend more time in the jail.

Bloomington-Normal is segregated, but far less than other Central Illinois communities, the students found. The index of dissimilarity for Bloomington-Normal shows that approximately 40 percent of black households need to change their residence in order to integrate each neighborhood to the same extent, across both cities. Since at least 1980, this number declined for Bloomington-Normal. Champaign, Decatur, Peoria, Rockford, Springfield, and Urbana experienced declines in their segregation too, but their values are still higher than Bloomington-Normal. We find that Springfield is the most segregated of these cities; the interaction index also shows Springfield to be the community where blackss are least likely to interact with a White person and vice versa.

One team of students mapped diversity in Bloomington-Normal against locations of health care facilities, tobacco and liquor stores, groceries with fresh produce, predatory lending establishments, banks, schools, and transit routes. There are disparities in access to these community attributes and the disparities differ by diversity of the neighborhood. In all, West Bloomington suffers from a lack of access to health care and fresh produce. Diverse neighborhoods have more access to fast food and convenient stores than they do quality grocers. Transit routes connect patrons to health care offices/facilities, banking, schools/community college, etc., but the costs in time are high. Predatory lending establishments are located on the community’s main routes, but proximate to economically disadvantaged populations.

The work of seven aspirational organizations from across the country is presented in the report. Based on the strengths of Not In Our Town, the Best Practices group identify characteristics of these model organizations that can further the local chapter’s efforts. From bylaws to organizational structure and activities, recommendations are made to increase participation, capacity, and credibility. Therefore, this project can help Not In Our Town identify its next steps.

“As community developers know, there is much to learn when we speak to one another about the state of affairs in our communities; not only can we better understand the situations our neighbors are experiencing, we can gather in collective action to work toward improvement and progress,” the study concludes. “This is the essence of Not In Our Town’s work and dedication.”

Documentary Features Indigenous Americans' Musical Gifts

Rumble, a new film on indigenous American contributions to music, plays 7 p.m. Sept 8, 10, 13, and 16 at the Normal Theater.

Rumble tells the story of a profound, essential, and, until now, missing chapter in the history of American music: the Indigenous influence.

Featuring music icons Charley Patton, Mildred Bailey, Link Wray, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Jimi Hendrix, Jesse Ed Davis, Robbie Robertson, Redbone, Randy Castillo, and Taboo, Rumble shows how these talented Native musicians helped shape the soundtracks of our lives.

YWCA: DACA Rescission Symptom of 'Xenophobia'

STATEMENT BY YWCA MCLEAN COUNTY CONCERNING DACA

 Consistent with an ongoing agenda rooted in xenophobia and the terrorizing of communities of color, the Trump administration has rescinded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. DACA, an executive order enacted by President Obama in 2012, alleviated the immediate threat of deportation for more than 800,000 undocumented millennials who met the eligibility requirements which included a clean criminal record, a high school diploma, and those who entered the U.S. as children.

For these young people who came of age as Americans, DACA did not afford full citizenship, but rather two year permits for those approved under the program. This allowed DACA recipients to continue to study and work in their communities with minimized threat of detention and deportation.

With no viable option for citizenship, these young people, who, in applying for DACA, voluntarily submitted their documented status and personal information to the federal government, face a very real and grave threat of being targeted for deportation. At the beginning of the DACA journey, people were fearful and often had to be convinced to come forward. This reversal is their nightmare and is corrosive to the trust established between the government and the people of the United States.

Removal of DACA is a threat to our entire community. Driven into the shadows, these young people are at heightened risk for abuse and exploitation, and are less likely to cooperate with law enforcement, putting everybody in danger. What’s worse is that should these young people be deported, they will never be eligible for U.S. citizenship again. Which not only means permanent loss of family and friends, classmates, and colleagues, but as parents of U.S. citizens this creates the potential for a child welfare crisis or the forced displacement of small American children.

At YWCA McLean County, we see this for what it really is: racial profiling, xenophobia, and bad public policy. We are outraged that this promise is being broken, and that those who came to this country as children will be criminalized and driven underground. DACA does not hurt anyone, it provided an opportunity for young undocumented people to emerge from the shadows, go through a system of vetting, and live without fear in the communities in which they grew up.

We at YWCA McLean County stand with all undocumented Americans, and will fight back, not only for DACA, but for a comprehensive immigration reform that is the solution we’ve needed for decades. We are calling on congress and our Illinois elected officials – Rodney Davis and Darin LaHood – to stand up and push through a solution, like the DREAM Act. We call on our entire community stand with us, contact your member of Congress, and demand protection and a path to citizenship for these trusting young people.

IWU's 'Half Life of Freedom' To Explore Racism

Award-winning author Jelani Cobb will speak at Illinois Wesleyan University's President's Convocation on Wednesday, Sept. 6, at 11 a.m. in Westbrook Auditorium, Presser Hall (1210 N. Park St., Bloomington).

His remarks, "The Half-Life of Freedom: Race and Justice in America Today," will be presented in connection with the University's Summer Reading Program selection, Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates. In keeping with Illinois Wesleyan's annual intellectual theme, The Evolution of Revolution, Coates' book calls for a revolution of thought around the social construct of race.

Both men attended Howard University, where they began a continuing friendship and shared discourse on the complexity of race.  

Cobb is the Ira A. Lipman Professor of Journalism at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. He has received Fellowships from the Fulbright and Ford Foundations.  

As a staff writer at The New Yorker, Cobb has penned articles about race, culture, the police and injustice. In 2015, he received the Sidney Hillman Prize for Opinion & Analysis Journalism for his columns on police shootings in Ferguson, Mo., and similar happenings. His investigative series Policing the Police, which aired on PBS Frontline in 2016, won the 2017 Walter Bernstein Award from the Writer’s Guild of America. 

His books include Substance of Hope: Barack Obama and the Paradox of Progress;  an insider's exploration of hip hop titled To the Break of Dawn: A Freestyle on the Hip Hop Aesthetic;  and The Devil & Dave Chappelle and Other Essays. His forthcoming book is Antidote to Revolution: African American Anticommunism and the Struggle for Civil Rights, 1931.

"I write because a different world is possible—we must always remember that," Cobb has said of his work.

The President’s Convocation traditionally opens the academic year at Illinois Wesleyan. The event is free and open to the public.

Unit 5 Can Help Race Relations

Normal officials hope McLean County Unit 5 can help improve race relations in the town.

City Manager Mark Peterson told a joint committee of town and school officials Tuesday he hopes the district will help the town push that effort, which it intensified this month with the publication of a study on how to improve Normal Police Department procedures.

"Most African-Americans went to school, for many years, with an African-American teacher who understood them as an individual," said Chemberly Cummings, the first black Normal City Council member and a committee member. "Now, we have teachers who are coming out of suburban or rural areas never ever seeing an African-American until they step foot into the classroom."

She said that dynamic can lead to a culture of mistrust between students and authority figures that follows students after they leave school.

"They're already developed a mindset about police long before they've come to this larger interaction with law enforcement," Cummings said, "It's both our responsibilities to make sure all of our children feel welcome. ... We can develop true diversity and inclusion plans, not just window dressing."

The district is "looking at the idea of how do we integrate diversity training" and working to make its staff and administrators as diverse as its student body, said Unit 5 Superintendent Mark Daniel.

He said he's seen the benefits of diversity training up close, through one of his daughters who was a student teacher for Chicago Public Schools.

"They went first to understand the community, then they went into the classrooms. ... She had no fear walking into a classroom or walking around Chicago."

"Because she had that kind of training, she looks through a different lens — I'm treating this (as), I see no color. I just see a student, I see a need, I see I'm there to be an adult who's there to assist.'"

Daniel said officials also need to consider "how are we going to bring people of color to our community."

That was part of a wide-ranging discussion as the committee met for the first time. Cummings, council member R.C. McBride and Peterson represented the town; board members Jim Hayek and Mike Trask joined Daniel for the district, which hosted the meeting.

The next meeting is expected to be in late November or early December at Uptown Station. The town will host.

The council and school board met there last month to discuss resurrecting the committee, which is intended to make both more stable and less susceptible to external obstacles like the state.

Both passed an agreement to hold quarterly meetings with two members of each body and annual meetings with all members.

Banquet to Honor 44 Young Community Models

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Why I See You, YICU Service Awards Celebration to recognize and celebrate young adults’ community service and leadership in McLean County
 
For A Better Tomorrow (FBT) announced on August 2 that 44 young leaders and two teams have been nominated for the second annual Why I See You, YICU Service Award. YICU celebrates young leaders who are role models that make a positive impact on others lives and their community through everyday actions in their neighborhoods, schools, social service agencies or through voluntary service to others. 

Tickets for the YICU Service Awards Banquet are $25 and may be ordered on the FBT Website. Deadline to purchase the tickets in September 5. 

“Most of these nominees operate largely ‘under the radar’ doing good deeds, sharing their time and talent quietly and selflessly. We are honored to recognize and celebrate them.” said Cranston Sparks, YICU Steering Committee Member.
 
A panel of leaders will review the nominations and select three winners in three different age groups. All nominees will be recognized at this event. Nine individuals and one team will be chosen from the outstanding group to receive a prestigious award based on their accomplishments and community impact! FBT is excited to make a $250 donation towards a non-profit in honor of the award winners.

The Awards Banquet will be held on September 10 at the Double Tree in Bloomington, IL. The social hour begins at noon with the program at 1 pm. This year's nominees are:

  1. Emily Fienhold, 21, Chenoa, IL
  2. Jeffrey Risberg, 12, Bloomington, IL
  3. Amber Hill, 16, Bloomington, IL
  4. Jaylyn Haynes, 14, Bloomington, IL
  5. Sankalp Amaravadi, 16, Bloomington, IL
  6. Anusha Bhojanam, 14, Normal, IL
  7. Kaitlyn Stephens, 17, Farmer City, IL
  8. Caroline Pickering, 17, Bloomington, IL
  9. Arjun Kale, 13, Normal, IL
  10. Sankhya Amaravadi, 22, Bloomington, IL
  11. Breanne Penn, 18, Normal, IL
  12. Kavya Sudhir, 16, Bloomington, IL
  13. Wah Chook, 17, Bloomington, IL
  14. Shreeya Malpani, 16, Bloomington, IL
  15. Carys Lovell, 15, Bloomington, IL
  16. Elena Hollingsworth, 18, Bloomington, IL
  17. Sky Holland, 18, Normal, IL
  18. Rebekah Herrmann, 17, Normal, IL
  19. Austin Spaulding, 18, Bloomington, IL
  20. Veli Aydoner, 17, Bloomington, IL
  21. Danylle Myers, 18, Normal, IL
  22. Amit Sawhney, 15, Bloomington, IL
  23. Savannah Sleevar, 14, Bloomington, IL
  24. Sierra Fields, 18, Bloomington, IL
  25. Jasie Kelch, 20, Normal, IL
  26. Leah Sebade, 18, Normal, IL
  27. Zitlally Arias, 17, Bloomington, IL
  28. Ajitesh Muppuru, 15, Bloomington, IL
  29. Makayla Castle, 17, Farmer City, IL
  30. Nathaniel Parson, 17, Bloomington, IL
  31. Sky Watson, 17, Bloomington, IL
  32. Rajeshwari More, 12, Bloomington, IL
  33. Bronwen Boyd, 17, Bloomington, IL
  34. Manasa Chenna, 14, Normal, IL
  35. Bhavana Ravala, 16, Bloomington, IL
  36. Nachiketh Rotte, 16, Normal, IL
  37. Sharanya Rotte, 12, Normal, IL
  38. William Short, 17, Normal, IL
  39. Micah Johnson, 18, Bloomington, IL
  40. Georgi Roll, 18, Bloomington, IL
  41. Camron Hinman, 16, Normal, IL
  42. Tristan Bishop, 18, Bloomington, IL
  43. Logan Smith, 18, Normal, IL
  44. Cierra Ester, 15, Normal, IL
  45. Not In Our School Student Coalition Team - Aishwarya Shekara, Kavya Sudhir, Mihir Bafna, Anniah Watson, Ajitesh Muppuru, Zitlally(Lolly) Arias, Fiona Ward Shaw and Shreeya Malpani
  46. Bloomington High School Promise Council Team - Mihir Bafna, Alisha Nadkarni, Bronwen Boyd, Fiona Ward Shaw, Veli Aydoner, Amber Hill, Carys Lovell, Wah Chook, Sierra Fields, Nathaniel Parson

Mass Choir to Sing Out In Commemoration of Charlottesville

Nine local congregations will rise up together in a song of hope and humanity at Monday's Unity in the Community interfaith gathering to address the recent Charlottesville tragedy, at 7 p.m. at Bloomington First Christian Church.

The gathering is open to the public, and Twin Citians of all faiths as well as non-believers and others are welcome. The service will feature a mass choral performance of the anthem "Goodness is Stronger Than Evil," with words by Desmond Tutu.

"Having a mass choir, with the choirs of all these different churches, shows the diversity that we all can contribute, to share our passion that love is stronger than evil," said service co-coordinator and First Christian's music director Rev. Holly Irvin. "We can sing that message together."

In a statement by "faith leaders of Bloomington-Normal," they stressed they "abhor the loss of life, the dishonoring of the children of the Divine, the insults hurled, and the wounds of history re-opened."

"Events such as these inflict injury which damages our minds, bodies and spirits: the totality of our humanity," a group of several dozen leaders of various faiths stated. "At times such as these, the faiths which sustain us separately come together to assure us that love remains the most powerful force in human existence, allowing no room for hatred, bigotry, discrimination, and violence.

"Hatred is the poison of the spirit. The resulting fear cut us off from the holy, from goodness, beauty and ultimately, life. It is love that truly confronts the corruptions of racism, white supremacy, anti-Semitism, and discrimination of all forms."

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Against All Odds to Examine Black Pursuit of the American Dream

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AGAINST ALL ODDS: The Fight for a Black Middle Class, will be screened at 7 p.m. Sept. 26 at Normal First United Methodist Church, offering Twin Citians a chance to examine and discuss challenges to and efforts to overcome racism and discrimination in America.

“Have black Americans had a fair shot at the American dream?” acclaimed journalist Bob Herbert asks. The question is answered in AGAINST ALL ODDS: The Fight for a Black Middle Class, a documentary that probes the harsh and often brutal discrimination that has made it extremely difficult for African-Americans to establish a middle-class standard of living.

A panel discussion will follow the film, which is open to the public.

“Whites talk about working hard and playing by the rules. But blacks have always had to play by a different, hateful set of hideously unfair rules. Working hard has never been enough for black Americans to flourish,” Herbert says in the film’s opening. Then, through dramatic historical footage and deeply moving personal interviews, he explores the often frustrated efforts of black families to pursue the American dream.

Today many African American families are still digging out of the recession that followed the Great Crash of 2007-08, and although some are doing better, black wealth remains meager compared to the white middle class. Nearly 40 percent of black children are poor, and for every dollar of wealth in the hands of the average white family, the typical black family has only a little more than a nickel.

This revealing and sometimes shocking documentary connects the dots of American history to reveal how the traditional route up the economic ladder by attaining a job that pays a living wage and then buying a house — is a financial ascent that has been systematically denied to black families. Reduced educational opportunity, rampant employment discrimination, the inequitable application of the GI bill, mortgage redlining and virulent housing segregation are among the injustices that have converged to limit the prosperity of black families from generation to generation.

Bob Herbert has been covering and commenting on American politics, poverty, racism and social issues for over 45 years through his tenure as a nationally-syndicated op-ed columnist for The New York Times as well as work for other newspapers and broadcast media. Growing up in New Jersey, the son of an upholsterer whose prosperous business was hobbled by banks unwilling to offer loans to blacks, Herbert had an intimate view of the barriers that faced striving black families. His interviews with prominent African Americans, including Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author Isabelle Wilkerson, Congressman Elijah Cummings, renowned psychologist and author Alvin Poussaint, and policy activist Angela Glover Blackwell, as well as other accomplished black professionals, uncover generational stories of profoundly damaging economic and social prejudice.

In AGAINST ALL ODDS, Herbert looks back at the uphill struggle facing black families freed from slavery over a century and a half ago and emerging from life as uneducated sharecroppers in the South. He traces the barriers to employment and housing designed to keep black people “in their place” both in southern states and in northern states as African Americans migrated throughout the country in search of opportunity and a better life. Shocking footage from the the 50s and 60s in Chicago shows how black families trying to escape overcrowded ghettos faced riots if they moved to a white block or a white suburb. Beryl Satter, an author whose father, a white lawyer, fought against discrimination in Chicago, tells Herbert, “This whole history of white rioting and white violence has been historically buried. When people think of violence and riots in the street, they always think of the 1960s when black people rioted, but when white people rioted, it doesn’t even have a name.”

For those blacks who have made it, and acquired a middle class lifestyle in suburban neighborhoods like those in Prince George’s County, Maryland, the foothold feels tenuous. Brent and Karla Swinton live there in a lovely home and both have good jobs. But Brent says, “We may have arrived to a degree but we just got here so it’s, it’s still not quite the same.” The reality behind that sense of insecurity was abundantly clear following the Great Recession when widespread foreclosures stripped wealth out of the black community.

Yet through it all, Herbert reports, black Americans have shown time and again a tremendous resilience in the face of cruelty and injustice and a determination to get their fair share of the American dream. Herbert says, “There are no barriers that can’t be overcome. When dreams remain unrealized, it simply means the fight goes on.”

NAACP, Town of Normal Partner for Civic Engagement Program

The Bloomington-Normal NAACP is partnering with the Town of Normal for the first Normal and NAACP Civics & Citizenship (NC²) program.

This will provide high school students (ages 13-18) the opportunity to come and learn about civic engagement in their community. There is no cost to participate. The mission is to spark dialogue between students and Town officials; this includes but is not limited to police and city council.

The program will take place on Saturday, Sept. 30; Saturday, Oct. 7; and Saturday, Oct. 14. Interest Forms will become available Monday, Aug. 28. Students must complete and submit Interest Form by Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2017.

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On Saturday, Sept. 30, NAACP  will partner with the Children’s Discovery Museum to teach students that civic engagement is our duty. The students will participate in the World Wide Day of Play. On Saturday, Oct. 7, 2017, we will partner with the Normal Police Department to teach Civic Engagement is Our Right.

The students will learn how to build relationships with the police, engage with police during every interaction, a day in the life of a police officer, and the exploration of law enforcement as a career. This will be an interactive day filled with candid dialogue.

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On Saturday, Oct. 14, 2017, NAACP will partner with the Town of Normal leadership to teach Civic Engagement is our responsibility. The students will have the opportunity to create their version of the Town of Normal 2040 Visioning Plan. The plan will be presented to some of the Town’s leadership. Every participant will receive recognition during the City Council meeting on Monday, Oct. 16, 2017.

This opportunity is open to all high school students in Unit 5. For more information,  contact Chemberly Cummings at chemberlycummings@gmail.com or (216) 570-0549.

Councilwoman: Words Alone Won't Combat Racism

Howard Packowitz

WJBC

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The first African-American elected to the Normal Town Council believes it will take a lot more than inspired rhetoric to end racial bias in the town.

The council this week received recommendations from a group of community leaders studying race relations and law enforcement.

Council member Chemberly Cummings, who was elected earlier this year, said Normal “can’t be a town of words, but a place of action.”

The issue, said Cummings, extends beyond the police department. She called for continuous vigilance to ensure everyone feels welcome in Normal.

“That we all feel safe, whether it’s from our neighbor or from our police. And, we have to all be willing to do the work,” said Cummings.

“Not to just be the words, but be the workers,” she added.

Committee members and one of the leaders of the local Black Lives Matter organization praised Normal City Manager Mark Peterson for acknowledging racial bias exists in the police department and generally all parts of the community, although he said it’s mainly on the subconscious level.

The committee, which met privately since January, is ready for public input, and recommends the town council form a community policing culture board.

Specific aspects of such a commission have yet to be determined, but Police Chief Rick Bleichner is participating in working out the details.

In Bloomington, Police Chief Brendan Heffner objected to creation of a civilian review board. Aldermen set up the board to improve community relations with police and to make sure the department follows proper procedures when investigating citizens’ complaints against officers.

Normal Manager Sees Mainly Subconscious Racism in Police Department

Howard Packowitz

WJBC

The Normal Police Department is considered “ground zero” for eliminating racial bias in the town.

City Manager Mark Peterson said racism exists in all parts of the community, including the police department, even though he believes it mainly exists on a subconscious level.

Peterson made his remarks Monday night as a group of community leaders examining police and race relations submitted a report to the Normal Town Council.

“I see no evidence of conscious racism in the Normal Police Department, however, I’m also not so naive to state emphatically that conscious racism absolutely does not exist,” said Peterson.

Committee member Dontae Latson credited Peterson for motivating the group at its first meeting in January by acknowledging racism is a problem.

“And, we all about lost it because having been in this field for over 20-years, people don’t want to acknowledge the ugliness, right? And it’s my opinion that’s a part of what keeps us stuck where we are because youo can’t improve upon something you don’t want to acknowledge,” said Latson.

The committee’s work was done in private, but members are ready for public input, and they recommend the town council form a Community Policing Culture Board.

Its responsibilities have yet to be determined, but Latson said a big difference from Bloomington’s new civilian advisory board is that Normal’s police chief is actively participating in the discussions. Bloomington’s chief was opposed to creating a civilian board.

 

Hate In Our Backyard?: The Creativity Movement

Check out the Southern Poverty Law Center's online Hate Map, and you'll find 917 hate groups currently scattered about the U.S. -- at last count. A cluster of swastikas dot Central Illinois, and in its midst, you'll find the Creativity Movement, headquartered according to the center in Bloomington.

Matt Hale, former leader of the Movement, was convicted in 2004 of trying to solicit the murder of the federal judge who presided over a copyright trial involving his group, which was then using the name of a non-racist church. He is currently serving a 40-year-sentence at a supermax facility in Colorado. But his movement, like other larger supremacist groups, continues to seek a broader footprint in several states.

In addition to the Creativity Movement, Illinois also is identified as home to the statewide Aryan Nation Sadistic Souls and Soldiers of Odin, the Morton-based Divine International Church of the Web, and Peoria's anti-LGBTQ Illinois Family Institute Tri-County Chapter.  

A self-styled religious organization, the Creativity Movementpromotes what it sees as the inherent superiority and "creativity" of the white race — about the only tenets there are to its supposed "theology." The group was formed in 1973 as the Church of the Creator and was later renamed the World Church of the Creator (WCOTC).

After the 1993 suicide of Ben Klassen, who initially formed the group in 1973 as the Church of the Creator and wrote a number of foundational texts, new leader Matt Hale renamed it the World Church of the Creator (WCOTC) in 1996. The group, largely composed of racist skinheads, developed a reputation for the rampant criminal violence of its members and the verbal violence of Hale. After Hale was convicted of soliciting the murder of a federal judge in 2004 — and the group was ordered to change its name because of a ruling in a copyright infringement trial — the once-formidable outfit now known as the Creativity Movement all but collapsed, leaving only weak remnants.

In Its Own Words
"We gird for total war against the Jews and the rest of the goddamned mud races of the world — politically, militantly, financially, morally and religiously. In fact, we regard it as the heart of our religious creed, and as the most sacred credo of all. We regard it as a holy war to the finish — a racial holy war. Rahowa! is INEVITABLE.  … No longer can the mud races and the White Race live on the same planet."
— Founder Ben Klassen, 1987 

"[W]e are today engulfed in a major worldwide revolution that constitutes a major turning point in the history of the human race, and the outcome will either be a catastrophe of gigantic proportions or it will usher in a new age of greatness and well-being for the human race. … If the evil forces led by the Jews are victorious, future humanity is doomed to tens of thousands of years of slavery, misery, and bestiality, a situation from which there is no reversal and from which it can never recover. If, on the other hand, the White Race wins, led by the program and vision of Creativity, a bright and beautiful new world will emerge."
— Ben Klassen, "A Call to Action"

"The ‘W' of our Emblem stands, of course, for the WHITE RACE, which we regard as the most precious treasure on the face of the earth. The Crown signifies our Aristocratic position in Nature's scheme of things, indicating that we are the ELITE. The Halo indicates that we regard our race as being UNIQUE and SACRED above all other values."
— Webmaster, creativitymovement.net, 2005 

Background
The Creativity Movement was formed in 1973 by the late racist Ben Klassen under the name Church of the Creator (COTC). Its adherents believe that race, not religion, is the embodiment of absolute truth and that the white race is the highest expression of culture and civilization. Jews and non-whites are considered subhuman "mud races" who conspire to subjugate whites. While Klassen's "religion" attracted few followers at first, by the late 1980s, increasing numbers of white supremacists were drawn to his Nazi-like belief system, which was spelled out in a whole series of Klassen books that included such titles as Nature's Eternal Religion, Rahowa! This Planet Is All Ours, and The White Man's Bible.

Creators, as Creativity followers call themselves, have sometimes literally taken up the movement's calls for RAHOWA — or "racial holy war" — by committing violent hate crimes. Creativity "reverend" George Loeb, for instance, was convicted of the racially motivated murder of Harold Mansfield Jr., a black sailor and Gulf War veteran, in Mayport, Fla., in 1991. In 1993, eight individuals with ties to the COTC were arrested in Southern California for plotting to bomb a black church in L.A. and assassinate Rodney King, whose videotaped beating by white police officers in 1991 had sparked national outrage. Later in 1993, Jeremiah Knesal, a member of the COTC, was found with weapons, ammunition and hate literature in his car; he later confessed to his involvement in a July 1993 firebombing of an NAACP office in Tacoma, Wash. Later (see below), a close associate of the group's leader would go on a murderous racist rampage before police killed him.

In 1992, anticipating a civil lawsuit by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) in connection with the Mansfield murder, Klassen sold most of his Otto, N.C., compound at a fire-sale price to William Pierce, founder and leader of the neo-Nazi National Alliance. After searching for a successor to head his group, Klassen, a former Florida state legislator and inventor of one version of the electric can opener, then committed suicide in 1993 by swallowing four bottles of sleeping pills. After his death, his successor, Richard "Rick" McClarty, failed to defend COTC in the 1994 lawsuit SPLC did bring on behalf of Mansfield's family. As a result, Mansfield's family was awarded a $1 million default judgment. (Later, the SPLC also sued Pierce, who had immediately resold the Otto land at an $85,000 profit, for engaging in a scheme to defraud Mansfield's estate. Pierce was forced to give up the profit he had made on the resale of Klassen's land.) 

Matt Hale

Matt Hale

In 1995, the organization came back to life under the leadership of Matt Hale. An avowed racist from an early age, Hale discovered the COTC in the early 1990s while going to school at Bradley University in Peoria, Ill, near his home. Joining the group in 1995, he seized control in 1996, changing its name to World Church of the Creator (WCTOC) and adopting for himself the title Pontifex Maximus ("highest priest"). Unusually well educated for a neo-Nazi (he ultimately earned a law degree in the late 1990s), Hale managed to revitalize an organization that had virtually collapsed after Klassen's death. From 14 chapters in 1996, WCOTC grew to 88 chapters by 2002, making it the neo-Nazi group with the largest number of chapters in America. Hale also built up the group's Web presence in the late 1990s, and proved adept at winning national publicity on a number of occasions.

But Hale also proved to be a bit of a cartoon character. He had spent almost his entire life living in his retired father's two-story house in East Peoria, operating out of an upstairs bedroom painted red to depict the blood of the white race. He never held a serious job, sported a Hitler wristwatch and used an Israeli flag as a doormat outside his room. He kept a collection of teddy bears on his bed, and although he eventually married — twice — neither union lasted more than a few months. 

Hale's talk was big, but his walk was small. He told reporters that he had as many as 80,000 followers — a patently ludicrous assertion for a group that never had more than several hundred. He received national publicity for a Web page he put up that was supposedly meant to recruit young children — but confided to insiders that it was a publicity stunt (and a very successful one, at that) aimed at generating media interest. Hale appeared repeatedly on NBC's "Today" show and other national TV news programs and a leading New York Times columnist once described him as "the face of hate" in America. But the mundane reality was that Hale, while depicting himself as a red-hot leader ready to lead the revolution, spent much of his time lecturing in tiny library rooms under heavy police protection. Matt Hale, some of his crueler detractors joked, was rescuing the white race one library at a time. 

Even so, Hale's group has attracted a number of sociopaths and other violently inclined individuals. In 1999, Ben Smith, a close friend of Hale even though the Illinois führer later denied it, left two non-whites dead and nine others wounded in Illinois and Indiana after a shooting spree that was spurred by the refusal of the Illinois Bar Association to grant Hale a law license. Another acolyte, Erica Chase, was convicted in fall 2002 in a plot to blow up landmarks on the East Coast. Other Hale's followers, many of them concentrated in Florida, have been arrested for aggravated assault, armed robbery, witness intimidation and attempted murder.  

While Hale's efforts to market himself and his organization earned him a great deal of public notoriety, internal conflicts were ripping WCOTC apart. In 1999, after the Ben Smith rampage, the state of Illinois sued Hale's group, which had claimed tax-exempt status, for failing to register as a charity and disclose its finances as required by state law. Hale claimed that as a "church" WCOTC was not required to register, but in 2001 he was finally ordered to do so. After appealing the Illinois Bar Association's refusal to grant him a law license all the way to the Supreme Court, Hale also lost his bid to become an Illinois lawyer. Although he had passed the bar exam, the association found that he was not morally fit. A similar attempt to get licensed in Montana also failed. 

Starting in 2001, the WCOTC began to suffer from internal splits and defections. In December of that year, Hale — described as a misogynist by some insiders — lost his two most important female activists. Lisa Turner and Melody LaRue, who led WCOTC's efforts to recruit women in their roles at the head of the Sisterhood of the WCOTC, quit the organization. Turner cited her mother's failing health, while LaRue wrote cryptically that many of her reasons were "of a personal nature." With other female former Creators, LaRue set up Hypatia Publishing on the model of the Sisterhood. Hypatia built a website and began publishing Sisterhood magazine.  

Just a few months later, in March 2002, Hale expelled long-time Montana Creators Dan Hassett and Slim Deardorff, who had helped him win his Pontifex Maximus title back in 1996. Hale told followers that he'd sent the men $8,740 in WCOTC funds for safekeeping after the group was sued by the families of Ben Smith's victims. (The civil suit was ultimately unsuccessful.) Hassett and Deardorff bought gold with the money, burying it near Deardorff's Montana cabin. Hale said the men later claimed the cabin burned down and the money had been lost. Enraged, Hale accused the men of embezzlement and "treason." In May 2002, after Hale made his accusations, Hassett, Deardorff and three other Creators – men who had once elevated Hale to leader — fired back. They sent Hale a letter informing him that he was no longer WCOTC's leader. Hale ignored the rebels, but Hassett and Deardorff started a rival, though short-lived, "Northwest Church of the Creator."

These losses were setbacks for Hale, but by far the most important threat to WCOTC came from a trademark complaint that was brought against Hale and the WCOTC by the TE-TA-MA Truth Foundation, a peace-loving, multicultural church in Oregon that supports "the Family unification of Mankind." In 1987, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office accepted the foundation's application request to copyright the name "Church of the Creator," which was the title it used for its own church. After the required five-year wait for any challenges to that application, the foundation's ownership of the name became legally incontestable, even though Creators had used it since COTC's founding in 1973. In May 2000, after years of enduring confusion between Hale's violently racist outfit and its own peaceful church, the foundation sued the WCOTC. Hale won the first round in January 2002, when U.S. District Court Judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow ruled in WCOTC's favor. But an appeals court reversed the decision, sending the case back to Lefkow for reconsideration.  

Abiding by the appeals court decision that July, Lefkow ruled against Hale, issuing a toughly worded injunction that forbade the WCOTC from using the term "Church of the Creator." The WCOTC was ordered to give up its website domain names and remove or cover up the phrase "Church of the Creator" on all WCOTC publications and other products. Vowing to defy her, Hale transferred the WCOTC's publications and its "world headquarters" to Riverton, Wyo., in an apparent bid to keep its assets safe from the court. "No tyrant's paws will ensnare our Holy Scriptures," Hale said, adding that Wyoming state leader Thomas Kroenke was being elevated, in effect, to second in command ("Hasta Primus," or Spearhead) of the WCOTC. 

On Jan. 8, 2003, Matt Hale arrived at the federal courthouse in downtown Chicago to face a contempt hearing for refusing to comply with Judge Lefkow's order. There, he was seized by agents of the Joint Terrorism Task Force and arrested for asking his own security chief to assassinate Judge Lefkow. It turned out that the FBI, which had seen Hale as a dangerous threat ever since the Ben Smith rampage, had recruited Tony Evola, the security chief, as an informant. After four years of wearing a wire, Evola received an E-mail from Hale under the heading "assignment" and asking him to find out Lefkow's home address. A number of cryptic comments from Hale that were taped by Evola ultimately provided enough for prosecutors to charge Hale with solicitation of Lefkow's murder. Finally, in 2004, Hale was found guilty of one count of solicitation of murder and three counts of obstruction of justice. He was acquitted of a second count of solicitation of murder. A year later, Hale received a 40-year sentence in federal prison, the maximum possible sentence for his offense.   

In the course of Hale's trial and ultimate conviction, the WCOTC essentially collapsed. From 88 chapters in 2002, the group fell to just five the following year. After Hale's conviction, loyalists of the WCOTC, now renamed the Creativity Movement, scheduled an "emergency meeting" to select a new "interim" leader. But there weren't many Creators left to lead. One Montana Creator went out with a bang in 2003, taking 4,100 of the "holy books" written by Klassen from the storage shed where they had been shipped for safekeeping. Identified in newspaper accounts only as "Carl," the man hauled off every last holy book and then peddled them to the anti-racist Montana Human Rights Network — for a token $300. 

For details on other hate groups, visit the Southern Poverty Law Center at https://www.splcenter.org/hate-map

 

 

Whose Streets? Recounts Ferguson, Reverberates Amid Charlottesville

The tragedy and aftermath of the August 2014 police shooting of Ferguson, Mo., resident Michael Brown reverberated again through the American psyche last weekend in Charlottesville, Va., as a march by white supremacists ended in the vehicular homicide of Heather Heyer.

Whose Streets?, a provocative film about Ferguson, MO, coming to the Normal Theater August 25, 27, 31, and Sept. 2, co-sponsored with Not In Our Town.: Bloomington-Normal. A public discussion will accompany the film, with opportunity for interactive input. Captioning options should be provided for the hearing-impaired.

Told by the activists and leaders who live and breathe this movement for justice, Whose Streets? is an unflinching look at the Ferguson uprising. When unarmed teenager Michael Brown is killed by police and left lying in the street for hours, it marks a breaking point for the residents of St. Louis. Grief, long-standing racial tensions and renewed anger bring residents together to hold vigil and protest this latest tragedy.

Empowered parents, artists, and teachers from around the country come together as freedom fighters. As the national guard descends on Ferguson with military grade weaponry, these young community members become the torchbearers of a new resistance.

Whose Streets?, by filmmakers Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis, is "a powerful battle cry from a generation fighting, not for their civil rights, but for the right to live." McLean County YWCA director and NIOTBN ally Dontae Latson, a former grad student in the Baltimore area, noted "the pain and frustration in neglected or over-policed communities and how it is unfairly labeled as 'rioting and looting.'"

"If you live in these communities, you don't 'own' anything," Latson added, citing the suspicion and tensions that can develop between residents and retail businesses owned by interests from outside the community.