Illinois Wesleyan University

Housing Inequities Still Plague Minority Communities

Judith Valente


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She said low-income renters also face significant challenges.

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

Renters are also vulnerable, she said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IWU Speaker: King Would Be Disappointed By Campus

Derek Beigh

The Pantagraph

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

IWU Workshop/Dinner Focuses on Religious Diversity

Tahera Ahmad, associate chaplain and director of interfaith engagement at Northwestern University, will lead a workshop from 4 to 5 p.m. in Illinois Wesleyan University's Memorial Center Davidson Room.

This workshop is for all students, faculty, and staff, and is designed to sharpen skills in both recognizing religious intolerance (especially anti-Semitism and Islamophobia) and supporting a religiously diverse campus where all worldviews are welcome.

The campus community is also invited to a 6 p.m. dinner and keynote address.

Anti-Hate Rally Commemorates Kansas Murder, Seeks Unity

Lenore Sobota

The Pantagraph

and Camille Taylor

Rabbi Rebecca Dubowe of the Moses Montefiore Congregation in Bloomington asked people attending a Not In Our Town anti-hate rally Thursday at Illinois Wesleyan University to join hands and repeat after her.

"We are not here to protest or rally against any group or individual, but to educate ourselves and our children and become more aware of what is happening around us. After you leave these doors, remember tonight, remember our stories, our cheers, our emotions and friendship, remember that we our one. Together, Let us be compassionate, kind, and respectful towards each other. We must see people for who they truly are and teach our children to take a stand against racism, bigotry and all forms of intolerance. Let us celebrate our diversity together and inspire and honor each other as brothers and sisters. -- Archana Shekara

“We are here. We are your brothers and sisters. We hear you. We believe you,” she said as the crowd of more than 150 people echoed her words. “Hatred and intolerance have no place here. We shall not fear. Love will hold us together as one family of humanity."

The gathering started with a mantra recited by a Hindu priest and the lighting of a candle to symbolize removal of darkness from the community.

Aishwarya Shekara (Photos by Mike Matejka)

Aishwarya Shekara (Photos by Mike Matejka)

Speaker after speaker talked about the need to support each other, to speak out against hatred and bigotry and to work for peace.

Imam Khalid Herrington

Imam Khalid Herrington

The rally took place in IWU's Hansen Student Center where the two dozen flags of other countries that ring the upper level took on special meaning.

“We are all here in solidarity as a community to stop hate together,” said IWU Provost Jonathan Green. “We are gathered here tonight to express love for our neighbors.”

But it was the personal stories of insults and slights, particularly those of high school students from Bloomington District 87 and McLean County Unit 5, that seemed to touch the crowd.

A student whose family is from India told of being asked in a social studies class what caste her family was from.

Another who is Muslim said the day she decided to wear her hijab to school she received "weird looks" or was ignored by people she knew.

A Hispanic student said she was told not to speak Spanish in school — “you're in America now,” they said.

And a student of mixed race related how, when she was only 6 years old, her mother, who is white, came to school for a program and another student asked if she was adopted.

Imam Khalid Herrington of the Islamic Center of McLean County experienced racism growing up in the 1970s with a mother who is white and a father who is black. When he became a Muslim in the mid-1990s, he encountered other bigotry, especially after the 9-11 attacks.

Bloomington Police Chief Brendan Heffner and local law enforcement officers were on hand at the event. Below, Normal Mayor Chris Koos, right, and Bloomington Mayor Tari Renner stress the need for community solidarity.

Bloomington Police Chief Brendan Heffner and local law enforcement officers were on hand at the event. Below, Normal Mayor Chris Koos, right, and Bloomington Mayor Tari Renner stress the need for community solidarity.

One day, Herrington, whose parents both served in the U.S. military, was told to “Go back to your country,” he said.

“I didn't know whether to laugh or cry,” he recalled.

But amid the stories of rude comments — or worse — there were also stories of feeling welcome in Bloomington-Normal and staying far longer than they ever thought they would.

Archana Shekara, a Not In Our Town member and one of the event's organizers, lived in India for 19 years, but she has lived in Bloomington-Normal for the last 24 years.

“Bloomington-Normal is my town. It's where I live. It's my home,” said Shekara, prompting applause from the crowd.

A number of speakers, representing different races, religions and nationalities took the stage at one point — immigrants and children of immigrants from countries such as France, Brazil, Bangladesh, India and Venezuela.

“This is what Bloomington-Normal looks like,” said Shekara.

The Rev. Susan Baller-Shepard of rural Bloomington warned that hate speech is becoming hate action in parts of America, but she emphasized that hate should not be answered by hate.

“We have to guard against lowering … our behavior to that of the haters,” she said.

Shekara urged people to report instances of hatred.

Her daughter, 17-year-old Aishwarya Shekara, said, “See us as the next generation of leaders who have the power to change our nation, even in these polarized times.”

Baller-Shepard said, "Let's continue to celebrate diversity, not just tolerate it, not just moan about it, but celebrate."

Herrington reminded the crowd: "We are not going to agree all of the time. We can still respect each other all of the time. We can try to understand each other all of the time."

Four of NIOTBN's nine Not In Our School (NIOS) schools also were represented at the rally. An Indian student translated the gathering's Hindi prayer into English, while students from Bloomington Junior High and Bloomington High School read a post-election letter written to them by their teacher assuring them of their safety.

Another BHS student read a prepared statement from the Bloomington District 87 School District affirming its support of all students. A Normal West High School student read a similar statement prepared by the Normal Unit 5 School District.

Other Indian, Muslim, biracial, and Latina students shared personal stories about being stereotyped, feeling singled out, and wanting to be seen as a human being first and foremost. Some of the students were the leaders of NIOS clubs; others were members/students from their schools.

A group of children from BCAI (Breaking Chains Advancing Increase) performed with dances reflecting the Indian culture. Their sponsor, Angelique Racki, is on the steering committee of NIOTBN, as chair of its Arts and Culture Committee.

Stop Hate Together Event Counters Recent Violence

A NIOTBN “Stop Hate Together” rally is planned for Thursday, March 9, 6:30 p.m., at Illinois Wesleyan University’s Hansen Center, 300 Beecher Street, Bloomington.

March 9 would have been Srinivas Kuchibhotla’s 33rd Birthday; Kuchibhotla was the young Indian engineer shot in Olathe, Kansas on February 22.  On Friday, March 3, a Sikh American was shot and wounded in his driveway in Kent, Washington.  Meanwhile, threats against Jewish centers and the desecration of a Jewish cemetery in St. Louis have also raised concerns.

“As a South Asian community, we are tense and apprehensive,” said Illinois State University professor Archana Shekara, immediate past-president of the McLean County India Association.  “We appreciate Not In Our Town and the community coming together to affirm our positive presence in McLean County and to uphold our rights within this country.” 

Shekara estimates there are over 5,000 South Asians in Bloomington-Normal.

 Various faith leaders, immigrants from diverse backgrounds and area high school students will speak during the event.

 The event is free and open to the public

'White Talk' Topic for Saturday Talk at IWU

“White Talk, Social Justice, and Ignorance,” a discussion of interracial dialogue and white evasiveness, is scheduled at 11 a.m. Saturday at Illinois Wesleyan University State Farm Hall 101.

Illinois State University’s Dr. Alison Bailey will address how she believes “white talk” – fear- or anxiety-based evasiveness regarding race -- insulates white individuals from having deep discussions about racism and social justice by expanding.

Bailey will explore Fairfield University education specialist Alice MacIntyre’s argument that such white talk persists because it has an “enduring moral payoff” for white people, and that the defensive and goodness-centering habits of white talk can be explained in terms of how vulnerable they feel in the face of our racialized fears. Bailey suggests white individuals learn to recognize white talk, and replacing it with “a discourse of vulnerability.”

Local Educators Emphasize Commitment to NIOTBN Goals

Education – of the public, of youth, of policymakers and officials – is key to eliminating bigotry, discrimination, and bullying. In conjunction with the Feb. 2 Solidarity Rally in Bloomington, local educators offered their support for NIOTBN and Not In Our School and their commitment to diversity, inclusion, and community security.

Unit 5

The Unit 5 Board of Education, together with students and faculty across our district and the community, resolve to stand up against bullying and intolerance and actively work to make our schools free from discrimination and hatred. 

We promote safety, inclusion, and acceptance in each and every building. Unit 5 students and staff members come from a variety of different backgrounds and speak more than 40 different languages. That diversity enhances the culture throughout the district. Regardless of background, we strive to educate each of our students to achieve personal excellence. 

Unit 5 enjoys an excellent relationship with Not in Our Town and hosts several Not in our School chapters, and will continue to build on that relationship.

District 87

District 87 supports the mission of Not In Our Town to work together to stop hate, bullying, and build safe, inclusive environments for all.  Part of our mission states that we will promote mutual respect and have an appreciation for student and staff diversity. 

As the most diverse pre-K through 12 district in McLean County, we take pride in our diversity and see it as a strength of the community.  We stand together with Not In Our Town to support students from all backgrounds.

Regional Office of Education No. 17

The Regional Office of Education No. 17 partners with many advocacy groups, including Not in Our Schools, to deliver the message that diversity, tolerance and safety for all of our students and staff in the school districts we serve is paramount.

We support efforts to promote acceptance and eliminate discrimination and bullying and will continue to do so.

Illinois Wesleyan University

Illinois Wesleyan University remains strongly committed to providing a supportive environment in which each of our students can become confident, participatory members of a global society.

We define ourselves as a diverse, inclusive and welcoming campus, with the understanding that education in the context of diversity – whether diversity of nationality, race, religion or thought – creates the richest learning environment. We respect and value our fellow students, educators and staff across geographic and cultural boundaries, and stand with institutions of higher learning throughout the country in insisting that it is critical that the United States continues to welcome scholars of all backgrounds and nationalities.

Heartland Community College

Heartland Community College is committed to being a welcoming and inclusive institution where all students, employees, and visitors are regarded with respect and dignity in a safe and secure environment.

As expressed by longstanding Policy, Heartland Community College provides equal educational opportunities to all students and equal employment opportunities to all employees and applicants for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, age, disability, marital status, status as a veteran, or any other protected status under federal, state or local laws.

Existing Policy further states that the College expressly prohibits any form of harassment in the learning and working environment, including but not limited to, sexual harassment and harassment based on any status or condition protected by applicable law, rule or regulation.

IWU Program Highlights Douglass' Pioneering Photo Work

The co-director of the Yale Public Humanities Program, Laura Wexler, will visit Illinois Wesleyan University Feb. 9-10 as part of the Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar Program.

Wexler is professor of American studies, professor of film and media studies, and professor of women’s, gender and sexuality studies at Yale. She is founder and director of the Photographic Memory Workshop at Yale, and the former co-chair of the Yale Women Faculty Forum. She has received numerous fellowships and awards, including a Henry R. Luce Foundation Grant for a three-year project on “Women, Religion and Globalization.”  Since 2011, she has been principle investigator on a project to make a web-based interactive research system for mapping, searching and visualizing more than 170,000 photographs from 1935-1945 created by the Farm Security Administration and Office of War Information. Wexler holds M.A., M.Phil. and Ph.D. degrees from Columbia University in English and Comparative Literature.

She will present a talk entitled, “Frederick Douglass: On Photography” at 4 p.m. Feb. 9 in Beckman Auditorium. In the 1860s, Douglass gave several public lectures where he discussed the importance of the then-new invention of photography. In “Pictures and Progress” he shared his vision of the role he hoped photography would play in fostering a more democratic society after the Civil War. Wexler’s lecture engages with his critical thought in the context of his time, and ours. The presentation is free and open to the public.

The purpose of the Visiting Scholar Program is to contribute to the intellectual life of the institution by making possible an exchange of ideas between the Visiting Scholars and the resident faculty and students. The Visiting Scholars spend two days on each campus and take full part in the academic life of the institution. Founded in 1776, Phi Beta Kappa’s mission is to champion education in the liberal arts and sciences, to recognize academic excellence, and to foster freedom of thought and expression. Illinois Wesleyan’s Phi Beta Kappa chapter received its charter in 2001. Wexler’s visit to Illinois Wesleyan is also a co-curricular programming event associated with Illinois Wesleyan’s intellectual theme Women’s Power, Women’s Justice.     

Women's Justice, Empowerment Focus of IWU Symposium

 Illinois Wesleyan University’s Ames Library’s main floor buzzed with energy on Dec. 7, as nearly 100 students from nine cluster courses presented their work during a closing symposium and open house.  

Some had created colorful posters, drawing faculty and peers to their projects covering topics as diverse as child soldiers in a Ugandan militant group, to a local Autism McLean board member.  Others huddled around Chromebooks perched atop the wooden magazine stands, showing visitors their Prezis on African-American women in education. And a group of students in Associate Professor of Political Science Kathleen Montgomery’s “Women and Politics” course held court around a TV screen, presenting a visual “State of the Discipline” talk.

Carole Myscofski, director of the Women’s and Gender Studies program, said she believes events such as the closing symposium provide an important learning experience for students because the format necessitates a short speech and visual summary of their work.

"Visual Ethnographic Methods" student Tristan Fox '18 (right) worked with Presbyterian minister and writer, Rev. Susan Baller-Shepard, to create a visual metaphor of her life. 

“For some students — the Gateway students, for example — this is the first opportunity to create poster presentations, which is a learning process in itself,” said Myscofski, who is also the McFee Professor of Religion. An open house format provides relatively low-pressure opportunities for students to reflect on their class or a particular research project, to sum it succinctly with both images and words, and to offer their interpretations orally, according to faculty.

Myscofski said she was very impressed by the students’ visual presentations, both on posters and through computerized displays. “The students were well instructed, so credit also goes to the faculty who guided them,” she said. “Many of the presentations featured good graphic design, balancing photos or charts with captions or longer text which explained each element, and helped the viewer understand the core ideas in several ways.”

“I was also impressed with the sheer variety of approaches to the presentations,” she added. “Some students emphasized dramatic photos or charts while providing brief, focused captions, while others offered more textual explanations with images only in supporting roles.”

This semester more than 25 courses were associated with the 2016-2017 intellectual theme Women’s Power, Women’s Justice. Faculty electing to encourage their students to participate in the closing symposium included: Visiting Assistant Professor of Sociology/Anthropology Nicole Brown, Assistant Professor of History Amy Coles, Visiting Assistant Professor of Educational Studies Maggie Evans, Professor of Anthropology Rebecca Gearhart Mafazy, Professor of History April Schultz, Visiting Assistant Professor of Psychology Marie Nebel-Schwalm and Montgomery. Chosen by a working group of faculty, staff and students, each year’s theme is designed to encourage deep thinking and discussion of its many aspects. Next semester more than 25 events associated with the intellectual theme are planned. Follow the theme on Facebook and Instagram

IWU Speaker Examines Gender Segregation

Author and journalist Jenny Nordberg will speak Wednesday at the President’s Convocation at Illinois Wesleyan University. Nordberg is the author of The Underground Girls of Kabul , which was selected for the University’s Summer Reading Program.

Nordberg’s book is based on her extensive research and reporting inside a war zone on the practice of “bacha posh” – how girls grow up disguised as boys in gender-segregated Afghanistan. In 2010, Nordberg broke the story to a global audience in her work published in The New York Times and The International Herald Tribune. The practice of "bacha posh," which had never been previously documented, offers new and previously unknown details about Afghanistan and the inner workings of the deeply conservative society. Nordberg’s book raises new and profound questions about gender in children and teens, nature versus nurture, religion, sexuality, and what roles women play during war. The book has won numerous awards, including the J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize and a Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2014. Nordberg has also developed the website as an online resource for girls who have grown up as boys due to segregation.

Nordberg is an award-winning journalist and foreign correspondent, columnist and television producer. Together with The New York Times’ investigative unit, she worked on projects such as the examination of the American freight railroad system, a series that won the Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting.

Also with the Times, she worked on a project on U.S. efforts at exporting democracy to Haiti. She has produced and written several documentaries for American television, and she is also a member of the first investigative team at Swedish Broadcasting’s national radio division, where she supervised projects on terrorism and politics. She has won awards from Investigative Reporters and Editors and the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights. Nordberg holds a law and journalism from Stockholm University, and an M.A. from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.

The President’s Convocation, which begins at 11 a.m. in Presser Hall’s Westbrook Auditorium (1210 N. Park St., Bloomington), traditionally opens the academic year at Illinois Wesleyan. Nordberg’s address is free and open to the public. She will also sign copies of the book at 1 p.m. Sept. 14 in the Memorial Center Young Main Lounge.

Summer Enrichment Program Eyes Women's Issues

For the 12 students in Illinois Wesleyan University’s Summer Enrichment Program (SEP), Wednesday became their favorite day of the week.

On Wednesdays the students selected for SEP came together to hear guest speakers, discuss current events and debate questions such as “do women have to possess masculine characteristics to be considered effective leaders?” Students learned about professional development from experts and talked about their SEP internships.

SEP is a longtime Illinois Wesleyan program for students of color and was extended to international students two years ago. The 10-week summer program focuses on academic, professional and personal growth. Participants complete a paid internship, learn from formal training workshops and work together on a service project in order to enhance students’ team building and leadership skills. This year’s theme was “Women at the Intersections” which complemented Illinois Wesleyan’s annual theme of “Women’s Power, Women’s Justice” for 2016-17.

The program’s highly regarded reputation inspired Ayrren Calhoun (Class of '18) to apply. “I just felt like it would be a really good fit for me,” said Calhoun, noting SEP has exceeded her expectations.

A cherished SEP tradition is lunch each week at a different ethnic restaurant in the Bloomington-Normal area.

“It’s a really inspiring and really encouraging program,” said Calhoun, an International Studies major from Homewood, Ill. She said the group interactions during “SEP Wednesdays” opened her eyes to varying points of view held by those from different backgrounds or ethnicities.

Internships are an important component of the program. An aspiring attorney, Calhoun interned at local law firm Allison & Mosby-Scott. She secured the position with the help of her Titan Leadership Program mentor, attorney Matt Majernik (’07). Calhoun said she’s grateful for the opportunity to get an inside view of a legal practice, but has also discovered family law is not the area for her. “I just don’t have the heart for it,” she said of the specialization, “but that’s what the learning experience is about, determining what you like and what you don’t like and following your passion.”

Students also noted they learned from each other. Emani Johnson (’18) said she recognizes that her views as a black woman will differ from those of her peers of a different race, gender or culture. “Everyone has some type of privilege, so it’s been very eye-opening to hear from other people in acknowledging that privilege, whatever it may be. I like the fact that we talk openly about those things,” said Johnson, a sociology major from Berkeley, Ill.

SEP Wednesdays also served as an opportunity for students to lift up each other. On a recent Wednesday, students were encouraged to give a tap on the shoulder to a peer who has had an impact on their lives in some way.

For Hunain Anees (’19), a simple tap on the shoulder turned out to be something that had a tremendous impact on his entire summer. “I was very surprised by the number of taps I received and I felt very happy about it,” said Anees, an accounting and economics double major from Karachi, Pakistan. “I later realized we all can make a change in people’s lives in more ways than we can imagine.”

The 2016 group of SEP participants are:

  • Hunain Anees ’19, accounting and finance double major, Karachi, Pakistan
  • Anuvrat Baruah ’18, economics and financial services double major, New Delhi, India
  • Cindy Basilio ’17, mathematics major, Streamwood, Ill.
  • Shravya Bommaveddi ’18, biology major, Bloomington, Ill.
  • Meri Brown ’18, accounting major, Chicago
  • Ayrren Calhoun ’18, International Studies major, Homewood, Ill.
  • Ruby Garcia ’17, Hispanic Studies and educational studies majors, Evanston, Ill.
  • Guadalupe Hernandez ’18, business administration and computer science double major, Chicago
  • Emani Johnson ’18, sociology major, Berkeley, Ill.
  • Tung Nguyen ’17, International Studies and political science double major, Hanoi, Vietnam
  • Nancy Qu ’17, art major, Changshu, China
  • Alani Sweezy ’19, philosophy and political science double major, Chicago

Carruthers: Systemic Change Needed to Address Racism

Lenore Sobota

The Pantagraph

A legacy of “anti-blackness” continues to have a negative impact in America, but collective efforts and resilience can bring change, a black activist said Thursday in her keynote address to a racism summit at Illinois Wesleyan University.

“Malcolm X is not coming back to save us. There is no Martin Luther King in 2016. There is no single charismatic leader coming to save us or free us,” said Charlene Carruthers, a 2007 IWU graduate who is national director of the Black Youth Project 100.

“But it is within our collective power to do it,” Carruthers told a crowd of more than 150 people at the Hansen Student Center.

“Black folk embody resilience,” said Carruthers, adding that resilience is not just enduring. “We have to aspire to more than struggle.”

Carruthers' remarks came at the end of the first day of a three-day conference, “Summit: New Frontiers in the Study of Colorblind Racism.”

Associate professor Meghan Burke, who organized the summit, said the turnout has been good for the conference-style presentations.

She hopes to “continue to build dialogue between scholars and those working on the problems” when the summit continues Friday with a panel at 9 a.m. in Room 202 of State Farm Hall. It will bring together academics researching racism and representatives of local organizations working for social justice.

In her talk, “The Legacy and Impact of Anti-Blackness in America,” Carruthers said, “Anti-blackness is a belief that there's something wrong with black people.”

She noted that, until recently, blacks in Chicago were 15 times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession even though marijuana use is roughly equal among blacks and whites.

Carruthers blamed the disproportionate arrests and incarcerations of blacks on the black community being more scrutinized and targeted.

She doesn't believe having more black people serve as police officers will fix the problem.

Carruthers, who lives in Chicago, said, “The new police chief is black. I don't feel safer.”

Instead, “I think we have to completely change how we deal with conflict and harm,” she said. “The system is not working.”

There should be other options when problems arise besides calling the police, such as community-based respondents, Carruthers suggested.

Among those at the talk was IWU history Professor Emeritus Paul Bushnell, who was involved in the civil rights movement and participated in sit-ins at segregated lunch counters in the early 1960s.

He thinks the growth of Black Lives Matter and similar movements is a reflection of the frustrations of those who feel society has not made the progress that is needed. But he sees signs of hope.

“We're getting some more very able black leadership into public life,” he said after Carruthers' talk.

In answer to a question from a recent graduate who wants to be an activist but fears getting burned out in the struggle, Carruthers said, “Take care of yourself. You can't do it alone. … You have to build a community around you.”

She also suggested seeing activism as a craft.

“Just as an artist has to spend hours and hours and years and years developing their craft, the organizers, the scholar, has to do the same thing,” said Carruthers.

'Colorblind Racism' Theme for IWU Summit

A public Summit on New Frontiers in the Study of Colorblind Racism, May 12-14 at Illinois Wesleyan University, which will focus on the modern roots of racial bigotry and discrimination.

The summit is supported by the American Sociological Association Fund for the Advancement of the Discipline, in order to bring together scholars, a campus community, and a local public to invigorate new directions for research on contemporary racism. It will include presentations by scholars as well as workshop sessions meant to stimulate new methodologies, approaches, insights, and strategies for better understanding and challenging contemporary racism.

The summit features a keynote address by Charlene Carruthers, national director of the Black Youth Project, whose recognition includes being named one of the “New Leaders of Social Justice” and “One of America’s Most Daring Young Black Activists.” 

The summit will explore the idea that contemporary racial inequality is that of colorblindness -- the notion that individual or cultural differences best explain racial inequality, rather than ongoing racism and its past legacy.

Carruthers is a "black, queer feminist" community organizer and writer with more than 10 years of experience in racial justice, feminist and youth leadership development movement work. She currently serves as the national director of the Black Youth Project 100 (BYP100 is an activist member-led organization of black 18-35 year olds dedicated to "creating justice and freedom for all black people."

Her passion for developing young leaders to build capacity within marginalized communities has led her to work on immigrant rights, economic justice, and civil rights campaigns nationwide. She has led grassroots and digital strategy campaigns for national organizations including the Center for Community Change, the Women's Media Center, and National People's Action, as well as being a member of a historic delegation of young activists in Palestine in 2015 to build solidarity between black and Palestinian liberation movements.

Carruthers is the winner of the "New Organizing Institute 2015 Organizer of the Year Award." She was born and raised on the south side of Chicago, where she currently resides and continues to lead and partake in social justice movements.

Chicago Latino Community Leader/Alumnus Leads 'Do Good' Program

Doing good is "about now, not later," .MacArthur Fellow and Illinois Wesleyan University alumnus Juan Salgado maintained during last week's Student Senate’s annual “Do Good” lecture at Illinois Wesleyan University.

"While you have that energy and enthusiasm and vitality, while you have everything to give and absolutely nothing to lose," said Salgado, president and CEO of Instituto del Progreso Latino, which creates educational and workforce opportunities for Latino communities in Chicago.  "When you are doing action research or volunteerism or opening the doors for others, you're really opening the doors for yourself in so many different ways."

Salgado was recognized as a 2011 White House Champion for Change for Social Innovation. In 2010, he was the recipient of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund Excellence in Community Service Award.

Based on his leadership on the educational, political and economic advancement of the Latino community, Salgado was named one of 24 MacArthur Fellows in 2015. Funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the so-called “genius grants” award each recipient $625,000, paid over five years with no strings attached, as an investment in the recipient’s originality, insight and potential. MacArthur Fellows are recognized for their extraordinary originality and dedication in their individual creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction.

Salgado is a 1991 graduate of Illinois Wesleyan with a major in economics. He won a graduate fellowship to study at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, where he earned a master’s degree in urban planning. Illinois Wesleyan granted Salgado an honorary doctor of humane letters degree at Commencement in 2013.

Illinois Wesleyan’s Student Senate sponsors the “Do Good” speaker series. The “Do Good” title refers to President Minor Myers, Jr., who concluded each Commencement ceremony admonishing graduates to “go forth in the world and do well, but more importantly, do good.”

Salgado’s presentation, entitled “The World Needs You,” will be held in the Hansen Student Center and is free and open to the public. It is part of the events and activities surrounding the inauguration of President Eric Jensen on April 2. 

NIOT:B/N Co-Sponsored Legacy Wall Comes to IWU

The Legacy Wall, a traveling exhibit featuring stories of LGBT individuals who have made a significant impact in the world, opened this week at The Ames Library at Illinois Wesleyan University. The exhibit will be at the university through Feb. 13.

The interactive Legacy Wall features biographies of people who have made contributions in a number of fields. Some of the individuals featured include author Oscar Wilde, U.S. Congresswoman Barbara Jordan, British mathematician Alan Turing, and Father Mychal Judge, a chaplain to the New York City Fire Department who was killed in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

The Legacy Wall exhibit was created by the Legacy Project, a Chicago-based nonprofit intended to inform, inspire, enlighten and foster an appreciation for the role LGBT people have played in the advancement of world history and culture. Victor Salvo, the founder and executive director of the Legacy Project, presents remarks at Sunday's opening reception. Other speakers include IWU Provost Jonathan Green, Equality Illinois Field Fellow Marcus Fogliano, Bloomington Mayor Tari Renner, and Rev. Kelley Becker, associate pastor of First Christian Church, Bloomington, representing Not in Our Town, one of the sponsors of the exhibit.

The Legacy Wall is brought to Illinois Wesleyan as part of the “Queer Lives” Speaker and Performer Series at IWU funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Other Illinois Wesleyan sponsors include the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, IWU Pride Alliance, and The Ames Library. Organizers said awareness of the roles LGBT people have played in shared human history helps boost the self-esteem of LGBTQ youth who are raised without the benefit of historically significant role models. The goal of the Legacy Wall exhibit is to use the lessons of history to spark conversations and to promote a feeling of safety and belonging in the classroom. The exhibit includes data linking the teaching of LGBT-related content in schools with lowered incidences of bullying between students.  

The exhibit may be viewed on the entry-level floor of Ames, which is open Sundays 12 noon to 1:30 a.m.; Monday through Thursday 7:45 a.m. to 1:30 a.m.; Friday 7:45 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Saturday 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.