Illinois State University

ISU Reflects on King's Impact

Grace Barbic

Daily Vidette


Nothing compares to checking the calendar and realizing a three-day weekend is approaching. It is one extra day to sleep in, put off homework and avoid responsibilities before snapping back to reality and starting another busy week full of school and work.

Monday is a national holiday honoring not only the life and accomplishments of Martin Luther King Jr., but everything that he stood for. It is a day dedicated to promoting the equality of all people regardless of race, ethnicity, culture or background, yet people fail to acknowledge that this day is actually dedicated to his service. 

Although that idea is what this day was intended to represent, it was not always seen that way. In fact, it was not until 2000 that all 50 states began to officially observe the third Monday in January as “Martin Luther King Jr. Day.” 

Shortly after King’s death, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1968. A few days after that, a bill was introduced to make MLK’s birthday a national holiday. It took 15 years for the bill to be signed into a law. Many believe this was because of the hatred and racism that plagues our country. 

This day is not only national holiday, but it is the only national holiday that is observed as a national day of service. According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, MLK Day of Service is intended to empower individuals, strengthen communities, bridge barriers, create solutions to social problems and move us closer to King’s vision of a “Beloved Community.” 

For some, it may just be another day off of work, but for Illinois State’s Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning, it is a day on. Graduate assistant for community service projects Paige Buschman thinks that this day is an opportunity for America to show that leadership and change can come in the form of something other than political action in the Senate and Congress, it can come from everyday people. 

“MLK was not particularly different than any one of us. I think he was just compelled to do something because he saw hate and injustice in the world and I think that’s just something everyone can learn from. The fact that we have a day off to, I think, reflect on that is so important,” Buschman said. 

She believes that this should be a day of learning and reflecting on how to move forward around issues of injustice in our country and that everyone should be thinking about non-violence, political action and engagement and civic engagement.

“That is very much at the core of what we do here at the center, but I think it’s something that everyone can benefit from,” Buschman continued. 

This year the center will be honoring this day of service by sorting through donations to find items to be sold at Home Sweet Home Ministries’ thrift store, Mission Mart. Home Sweet Home Ministries is a local, non-profit organization that provides shelter, rehousing and food services, among other things, to those in need in the Bloomington-Normal community. 

Along with their service, those involved will be reflecting on the nature of their work because of the importance of this day. There will also be a presentation to connect to MLK’s mission. The center’s major objective is always to help students understand how to make a change through service. 

The Office of the President, University Housing, the student chapter of the NAACP and the Association of Residence Halls will host a cultural dinner on Jan. 25 honoring MLK and featuring Michael Eric Dyson. Assistant Director of Media Relations Rachel Hatch believes that this event blends very well with the idea of celebrating cultures that are part of the university experience.

What better way to celebrate a man who was dedicated to his community and sacrificed his ability to make a profit than to give back to the community and offer service? Buschman also believes that in order to see social change, society needs to recognize that it is going to be through volunteerism, the giving of time and commitment to something that is not just about one’s job.

“Services benefit everybody. It benefits people in the community and you as a person. I think that was at the center of MLK’s mission as well. I think that is partially why it was changed to a day of service rather than just being a day off where people don’t come into work and don’t think more about it. The idea is you should be taking this time to do something that you might not otherwise be able to do,” Buschman said.

Although having a day off can be enticing, it is important to remember the sacrifice and struggle that MLK and millions of others faced to make a change. Instead of using this holiday as a day to relax and unwind, one may consider the significance of it and how everyone can play a part in making a difference by offering something that many people take for granted: time.

“I think that Martin Luther King’s ideals are really basic to the core values at ISU. The ideas of respect, diversity, inclusion, collaboration, these are all things that Dr. King pushed for. His life embodies that drive for civil rights and I think that it fits very well with ISU to celebrate that,” Hatch said.

Poverty in McLean County is 'Bigger Than We Think'

Colleen Reynolds


McLean County’s median household income is almost $65,000, but panelists at a McLean County League of Women Voters forum Tuesday night said despite that, the problem of poverty is creating waiting lists for social service agencies and leaving some people without help.

Lisa Hirtzig was among those who shared their personal stories. Hirtzig was in a women’s shelter with a broken neck when she learned about the YWCA’s Labyrinth House which provides transitional housing for formerly imprisoned women. Hirtzig grew up in foster care and went from one abusive relationship to the next.

"I lost my job. I lost my home which made me lose my car. Losing my car, I had no way to get to anything," she said. "It really put me down. I had nothing ... nobody," she told a packed Community Room at the Normal Public Library. 

Starla Hays has been at Mayors Manor in Bloomington for nearly three years. The 26-unit apartment building provides permanent, supportive housing to formerly homeless, single adults. Hays was married for 22 years and after a divorce, she turned to drugs and alcohol and her downward spiral began.

"Mayors Manor saved my life," she said wiping tears from her eyes.

"I don't want you to feel sorry for me, I just want you to help because there are so, so many out there," she said referring to others who need assistance, often because one crisis was amplified by poverty and a lack of resources.

"We have working poor in McLean County. People are working two jobs and still are in poverty," said Mayors Manor Representative Tasha Davis.

Illinois State University graduate student Jeanna Campbell explained why she started the School Street Food Pantry. While she was an undergraduate, Campbell found herself working for poverty-level wages and scrounging for food. As a Type 1 diabetic, she also had costly prescriptions that she bought instead of groceries, only to find her blood sugar falling to dangerously low levels when she had nothing to eat at the end of the month.

Campbell said she wound up taking an even lower-paying job to qualify for government assistance when she encountered health problems and had no more sick days.

"It was definitely a cycle and a situation that left me in a bad place."

According to the Heartland Alliance, slightly more than 21,200 people in Mclean County live in poverty. Center for Hope Ministries Outreach Coordinator Pat Turner, who fled Chicago public housing, said poverty is a multiplier because those in it can't rely on personal resources to get past a setback.

"It's bigger than we think," Turner declared as she pointed out her ministry served 4,600 individuals in its food pantry last year.

Turner believes lawmakers need to enact legislation that addresses some of the root causes of poverty.

"Racial injustice, ageism, sexism, inequality, classism—those are the things that feed into poverty and leave people feeling hopeless," she said.

Turner, who is also a candidate for Normal Town Council, suggested public policy makers need to initiate systematic changes.

"We've got to get on the preventive end. We've got to start building families. We've got to start investing in our young people and start on the solutions side instead of dealing with it on the crisis side," she said.

Moderator Laurie Bergner of the League of Women Voters of McLean County agreed with an audience member who suggested with so many new minorities in leadership positions in Springfield, now is a good time to start lobbying for legislative changes including raising the minimum wage.

Bergner advised panelists to form a lobbying coalition.

"I think going in groups is important because you have a better chance you'll be listened to," she said.

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.   


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 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


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."

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


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


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


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

“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.”


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

“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


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

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 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.

Bloomington/Normal Students Preparing for Walkout Over Gun Violence?

Ryan Denham



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.


#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.


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.

Immigrant Targeting Spurs Fear Among Local Scholars

Judith Valente


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

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

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

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

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

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

Finding Safe Haven

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Struggle To Survive

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MLK Chess Players Learn Keys To Human Teamwork

Kevin Barlow

The Pantagraph

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Solidarity Concert For Puerto Rico January 22


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Haitian Sexual Politics Nov. 2 QUEERtalks Topic

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

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

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

Take a look at other events celebrating Queertober.

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

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

Cultural Immersion Preps ISU Senior For PR Career

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


LALS: What are your goals after graduation?

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 30

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

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

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

October 31

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

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

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

Conversanco Entre Nosotros: White Acadamia and Intersectionality

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

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

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

This event is free and open to the general public.

'Hyperdocumented Academic' To Keynote ISU Latinx Heritage Month

Aurora Chang will deliver the keynote address for Latinx Heritage Month at Illinois State University with the talk “Undocumented to Hyperdocumented: A Journey of Papers, Protection, and Ph.D. status” at 5 p.m. Thursday, November 9, in the State Farm Hall of Business, room 357. The event is free and open to the public.

Once an undocumented immigrant from Guatemala, Chang will relay her journey to becoming a “hyperdocumented” academic. She currently serves as an assistant professor of teaching and learning in the School of Education at Loyola University. Chang will also discuss her ongoing national research on the identity, education and agency of undocumented college students.

Interlacing personal experiences with findings from empirical qualitative research, the talk will explore undocumented students’ quest to achieve. Their effort to grow academically cultivates an empowering self-identity while simultaneously forcing them to involuntarily perform the role of infallible non-citizen citizen.

The event is sponsored by Latin American and Latinx Studies Program. For more information contact Latino Studies at

The Citiesscape Part 5: B/N's 'Social Vulnerability' Exacerbated by State Proposal?

Social vulnerability is defined as “the weakened resilience of communities when confronted by external stresses on human health,” such as natural or human-caused health issues or disease outbreaks. Higher social vulnerability levels often track with racial diversity, low SES, old age, limited transportation, low-quality housing, and population density.

A recently released Not In Our Town: Bloomington-Normal study by Illinois State University students and ISU’s Stevenson Center for Community and Economic Development cites numerous points of vulnerability for a key segment of the Twin Cities populace.  

And according to Louis Goseland, director of the Illinois Alliance for Retired Americans’ Caring Across Generations (CAG) campaign, nationwide trends, federal and state budget debate, and gubernatorial proposals to retool and cut funding for major Illinois home care could mean even greater vulnerability for low-income, senior, and diverse other Central Illinoisans.

CAG is a national movement of families, caregivers, people with disabilities, and aging Americans working to “transform the way we care in this country.” The movement uses online action, grassroots organizing, and “innovative culture change” work to improve health policies and practices, with an emphasis on “shifting how our nation values caregiving” and calling for solutions “that enable all of us to live and age with dignity and independence.”

Currently, Goseland and Co. are focusing on the Community Care Program, which provides home care services to nearly 90,000 seniors across Illinois, enabling them to remain at home and or in their communities instead of being forced into more costly nursing homes. The services provided by home care aides through the CCP include help with meals, laundry, housework, and errands, and costs to maintain individuals in the CCP program are $10,000 annually, versus nursing homes which cost in excess of $55,000.

But while the program has enjoyed bipartisan support, budget concerns have prompted Gov. Bruce Rauner to propose moving non-Medicaid seniors into a new “Community Reinvestment Program,” potentially imposing new hardships and costs especially on lower-income seniors and their families. Beyond slashing state funding for homecare services by $120 million, the governor’s plan would call on seniors currently accustomed to home care aides providing transportation to doctor’s appointments instead to take an Uber or other unfamiliar and questionably reliable transportation “from strangers.”

Proposals like that raise a variety of issues, from seniors’ technical capabilities and physical limitations to potential inconvenience and added costs for poorer working families. Overall, the CRP "really creates a more complicates system of care for people who aren't enrolled in Medicaid."

Goseland , who relocated from Kansas to Bloomington nearly two years ago, knows firsthand how dramatic health care/home care shifts can devastate a family.

“I have kind of a personal interest, because of the experience my family had when my grandmother fell ill, just realizing how just how much a lack of access to care impacts not just the person who is in need of that care, but also the entire family structure,” relates Goseland, who served as a professional community organizer for nearly 11 years, working on political campaigns, with college students, and in research into Trump administration appointees, before discovering CAG.

“When I was about 13, my grandmother, who had problems breathing, was in need of care, but in Kansas, there just wasn’t access to a sufficient sort of state-funded home care program. So my mom, who’d been happily employed at a union job, making a good wage, ended up having to drop that and move us to a rural part of the state in order to care for my grandmother. My mom had to take on whatever she could in terms of employment just to keep food on the table, but the work opportunities were so bad that she ended up taking on multiple jobs. My mom, who was part of what’s called the ‘sandwich’ generation, cared for her mother as much as she could while needing to be a mother herself and taking on multiple jobs just to try to make thing work.”

Goseland sees Illinois as fortunate in having the Community Care Program (“I wish we’d had that in Kansas”). It has grown by more than 105 percent over the past 10 years, and “demonstrates the critical need for the state to invest more into its aging population.”

But Rauner’s untested Community Reinvestment Program would remove 36,000 non-Medicaid seniors from CCP care and shifts many home and community-based services to regional or privatized systems which according to CAG would diminish quality of service.

All that with a “complicated system of vouchers and a revolving door of service providers,” and no guarantee funding would be available for non-Medicaid seniors in need of services, Goseland warned. The Illinois Department on Aging would be given unlimited authority to make program cuts at any time.

Instead of enabling home care aides to make healthy meals for seniors, the CRP would provide meal vouchers that might not provide some older Illinoisans reliable daily nutrition. Instead of a home care aide doing housekeeping and laundry, the state would contract new and unfamiliar laundry and housekeeping  services.

The Community Reinvestment Program lacks basic provider standards the Community Care Program imposes to protect senior safety and prudent funding use. It requires no licensure or certification requirements nor basic disclosure requirements for providers necessary to monitor or maintain quality of care.

And from a taxpayer standpoint, CAG argues Rauner’s plan could incur higher long-term statewide costs. “For every senior who is forced into a nursing home, the state could end up paying $15,600 or more annually than it would pay for that senior to remain in the Community Care Program,” Caring Across Generations maintains.

That’s amid what CAG sees as an already “unprecedented Elder Boom” -- every eight seconds, another baby boomer turns 65. That’s four million Americans per year and almost one in five Americans by 2025. By 2050, the number of Americans who will require some form of long-term care and support will double to 27 million.

Aside from "countless" Medicaid-eligible Illinois seniors who aren't enrolled, cost of care is expected to increase significantly for those whose income stream precludes Medicaid eligibility. "They're still facing a significant economic hardship" under the CRP, warned Goseland, who argued CCP funding "if anything should be supplemented" before the state institutes a privatized, voucher-based system.

"This is also a question of values," he said. "Are we as a state going to treat the growing longevity of our citizenry as a burden or a blessing?"

Not only seniors and families are impacted by the ongoing health care crunch -- the home care workforce makes a meager average $13,000 a year, leaving many caregivers to rely on public assistance.

The ISU/Stevenson Center study cites “overrepresentation of (health) services on the Eastside of Bloomington-Normal and the clustering of services along Veterans Parkway, Main Street, and Market Street.” Immanuel Health Center on Morris Avenue currently is the only health clinic located within Bloomington’s West Side.

West Side residents “in general are further removed from services than their East Side counterparts,” the team concluded. Public transportation can deliver residents to those services, but these trips often require seniors to make multiple transfers and can represent an additional economic and time cost “some residents cannot afford,” researchers concluded.

“Health care services in Bloomington-Normal were classified as hospitals, clinics, minute/quick clinics, psychiatric hospitals, orthopedic doctors, optometrists, dental offices, physical therapy centers, cancer care centers, and assisted living (including nursing homes and hospice),” the study details. “This abundance of services is helpful for the Bloomington-Normal residents, but there is a clear disparity in access to these services for all citizens.”

At the same time, the ISU report notes a higher prevalence of industrial sites and sources of pollution on the Bloomington-Normal’s west side. Most of Bloomington’s black population lives within the most vulnerable areas, subjected to more acute environmental hazards and sources of noise, smell, and air pollution.

Further, many areas of West and Southwest Bloomington are at a higher risk of flooding, while a major railroad junction runs through West Bloomington, surrounded by a number of industrial facilities and exacerbating both safety and health risks.