Not In Our Town: Frequently Asked Questions
What is NIOT?
Not In Our Town is Bloomington-Normal’s grassroots anti-discrimination movement. We work to eliminate hate, address bullying, and create a safe, inclusive community. Safe for others means safe for you. Inclusive for others means inclusive for you. Not In Our Town is a grassroots organization. Everyday people in the community started this movement; everyday people are who keep it going. Everyone who supports our mission statement should sign the pledge: physically, or on line. That all it takes to make you a member.
Not In Our Town has been a force in our community for almost 20 years. Other towns have reacted; our movement was started to prevent a hate event in our community, ever. We are part of national movement: Not In Our Town. In December 2014, we launched a new phase of our efforts under the banner Season4Reason.
Not In Our Town and this website are designed to provide an educational/informational clearinghouse on Twin Cities' issues, progress, and cultural awareness.
Discrimination and bullying do exist, and they not only damage individuals but also threaten the local economy, educational and economic opportunity, and, potentially, public safety. Prevention and education are key to community health, and that's what Not In Our Town is about.
We hope to combat bigotry and bullying through "inoculation" -- preparing individuals with words and facts to combat discrimination, and help them foster the collective strength to stand up to it. Our new campaign features a personalized approach, seeking retailers, businesses, and community leaders familiar to and respected in the community to support Not In Our Town. New, individualized logo/decals will help identify individuals, businesses, and groups that support NIOT efforts.
How did NIOT-Bloomington-Normal come into existence?
The original Not In Our Town campaign was created in 1992 in Billings, Montana, which had been plagued by hate crimes against Jewish, African-American, and Native American families. The community rallied, and the local newspaper printed a full-page menorah, and more than 14,000 local families displayed it in their windows.
PBS documented this event with a half-hour documentary, Not In Our Town, shown nationally in December 1995. The video was previewed in Bloomington-Normal, accompanied by adult and youth panel discussions, and the Bloomington Police Department began using the video as a training tool.
The Bloomington-Normal NIOT campaign began in the summer of 1996, in the wake of African-American church burnings in the South. A Not In Our Town – No Racism march and rally were conducted, drawing a large, diverse turnout. Hundreds of residents signed a No Racism pledge, Bloomington Mayor Jesse Smart stepped up police patrols around local African-American churches to prevent any church attacks here, and a delegation traveled to the south to rebuild a burned church.
A sign with the universal red slash through the word “racism,” became the local Not In Our Town logo. City vehicles and residents placed stickers with the Not In Our Town symbol on their vehicles and doors. Bloomington, and then Normal, unveiled road signs with the Not In Our Town message at community roadway entrances, beginning in August 1996. Subsequent marches and panel discussions followed in an effort to raise awareness.
A second PBS video, Not In Our Town II, featured Bloomington-Normal’s efforts.
What has NIOT accomplished?
The Bloomington-Normal Not In Our Town effort is credited with first Normal and then Bloomington expanding their human relations ordinances to protect gays, lesbians, and transgendered individuals.
Not In Our Town countered East Peoria white supremacist Matt Hale’s messages with an alternative diversity fair in downtown Bloomington. NIOT coordinated similar activities to Rev. Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church when they came to the Twin Cities with anti-gay messages.
In 2006, Bloomington-Normal hosted the first national gathering of Not In Our Town communities. An annual voluntary outreach effort was established in area schools -- high school students were asked to sign “no discrimination” pledges while primary school students signed “no bullying” pledges.
Blooming-Normal Not In Our Town has developed strong relationships with the Bloomington and Normal police departments and the City of Bloomington and Town of Normal, as well as informal working relationships with local labor unions, the Human Rights Advocacy Group (focused on gay, lesbian, and transgender rights), various religious denominations, the YWCA, the NAACP, the Indian Association, and the Minority and Police Partnership (MAPP). It continues to work with area high schools, middle/junior highs, and elementary schools.
NIOT's new blog, Twin Cities Stories (on this site) offers personal accounts, news on community events and cultural opportunities, and views on current events that impact our community and its communities. A simple keyword search will enable visitors to find all blog materials on a given topic (racism, bullying, education, etc.). We want to be a primary resource for the community.
How can you help?
Signify your support for fighting bigotry and bullying by signing the pledge, on this website or at local events where Not In Our Town is present. No obligation, no legalities, and all personal contact information will be strictly private and protected. It's effectively just a reminder, to speak up, to respect and protect others in your office, your school, your business, your home, your community. You're also welcome to volunteer or otherwise support NIOT, but your level of involvement is strictly up to you.
Go to the Help Fight Hate page and use our contact form to pledge, volunteer, or donate.