NAACP, Town of Normal Partner for Civic Engagement Program

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

Review Board Push Triumph of Collaboration

The campaign to create a new civilian police review board demonstrated not only the power of public engagement but also the strength local groups were able to exert working together, according to Not In Our Town: Bloomington-Normal participants in the process

Photo by Lewis Merien, The Pantagraph

Photo by Lewis Merien, The Pantagraph

The city of Bloomington is looking for people who want to serve on the new Public Safety and Community Relations Board (PSCRB). Bloomington aldermen approved board creation Monday. Mayoral appointees will advise the police chief and help settle disputes over complaints against Bloomington officers.

NIOTBN was one of several diverse community groups convened by McLean County YWCA that worked with Black Lives Matter Bloomington-Normal to help make the PSCRB a reality. Other alliance partners included ACLU of Central Illinois, Bloomington Normal Branch of NAACP, Central Illinois Pride Health Center, Illinois People’s Action, McLean County League of Women Voters, and Prairie Pride Coalition.

"I think we're off to a good start," said NIOTBN member Dontae Latson, director of the McLean County YWCA. Latson maintained "we are not allowing ourselves to fall victim to the national narrative" of Black Lives Matter and other community interests taking an anti-police stance -- "It's just not true."

The alliance' next step is to "assure that the process doesn't get watered down," lose its central focus, or become "stacked" with members of a single viewpoint, he suggested.

Camille Taylor, who helped represent NIOTBN in the alliance, noted the challenges in alliance members working together amid varying philosophies and approaches. "In theory, working with other groups is a great idea," Taylor mused, but maintaining an individual group's focus can be difficult "when not every group at the table has the same mission."

"You have to keep your eye on the prize, and recognize that every group at the table has its own identity," she urged.

Mary Aplington, who serves as co-chairman of NIOTBN's Education Subcommittee with Taylor, saw the tenor of Monday's council meeting itself as evidence of the success of community communication and collaboration. While the meeting drew a large citizen gathering, Aplington noted the Bloomington Police officers working crowd control "did a wonderful job of being respectful and sensitive."

NIOTBN Steering Committee member Mary Aplington,

Those interested in applying for the PSCRB should submit an application by Aug. 11. Bloomington Mayor Tari Renner will share the full list of applicants with aldermen, who will be asked to share their top three recommendations with him, Renner said. Two-thirds of aldermen must vote to approve Renner’s final seven picks.

Here’s how the board will be structured:

  • Members shall serve for a three-year term; however, at the inception of the board, two members shall be appointed for a one-year term, two members for a two-year term, and three members for a three-year term, so that terms are staggered.
  • The chair and a vice-chair of the board shall be selected amongst the members of the PSCRB.
  • No person with a criminal felony conviction shall be eligible to serve on the PSCRB.
  • No city employee may be appointed to the Board, nor shall any member be a current employee of, contracted by or have any official affiliation, whether current or former, with a federal, state, or local law enforcement agency.

Bloomington Council Passes Community Relations Board Plan

During the Bloomington City Council meeting on Monday, July 24, the council passed (8-1) the ‘Public Safety and Community Relations Board’ (PSCRB) in front of a packed house of hundreds of supporters. The advocacy originated from grassroots activists and community organizations who worked tirelessly for this effort to come to fruition. Without them, none of this would have been possible.

The most vocal advocates of the ordinance was an alliance of community organizations convened by YWCA McLean County. The organizations include ACLU of Central Illinois, Black Lives Matter Bloomington-Normal, Bloomington Normal Branch of NAACP, Central Illinois Pride Health Center, Illinois People’s Action, McLean County League of Women Voters, Not in Our Town Bloomington-Normal and Prairie Pride Coalition.

“Police accountability and transparency is key to improved community relations,” said Ky Ajayi, Black Lives Matter representative. “The establishment of the PSCRB is an excellent step in that direction.”

With the passage of this ordinance, residents will have the opportunity to submit their complaint to the PSCRB, which will then be routed to the Bloomington Police Department, instead of filing directly with the department. The police department will still conduct complaint investigations as they always have, but with this board, a resident will be able to request a review by the PSCRB to ensure proper protocols were followed. In addition, the board will promote alternate avenues available to residents to make complaints, assist in clarifying and improving procedures related to complaints and assure access to these policies and procedures are open and transparent.

“The Bloomington-Normal branch of the NAACP is pleased to see the passage of this ordinance,” said Quincy Cummings, president of the local NAACP chapter. “The transparency provided by establishing this board will encourage more people to comfortably file complaints.”

Another important feature of the board is the ability to recommend changes to the police department. The PSCRB will be empowered to conduct community outreach and recommend necessary policy changes to improve police and community interactions. 

“The establishment of the board is a huge first step towards becoming a community in which police and residents can trust one another,” said D. Dontae Latson, CEO of YWCA McLean County. “We still have a lot of work to do—and this board is only the beginning—but we are committed to playing a role in the process of building and healing community relations.”

Throughout the city council’s public discussion on this issue, which took place over the course of several special sessions, countless stories and testimonies were shared by community members who have been directly impacted by what many describe as ‘disproportionate policing.’ Many cited a recent report by the Stevenson Center, which indicated that in Bloomington, black people are twice as likely to be pulled over by police; and once stopped, are over twice as likely to be searched compared to white people. These residents showed a unified and steadfast support for the creation of board to address these issues.

Citizen Review Board Nearing Critical Vote?

The Bloomington City Council is expected to vote Monday night on a proposed ordinance to create a civilian police oversight board, but its membership would not include convicted felons or police officers.

One of the hurdles for some aldermen has been whether to allow convicted felons to serve on the proposed board.

"I think I am not alone in saying that most of us on the council had many, many conversations across the community about this ordinance and how it needed to read and what its focus should be," Ward 6 Alderman Karen Schmidt said Thursday.

"A group of aldermen worked very hard to try and synthesize all of the ideas with the product that we have in front of us now," said Schmidt. "I also think most of us made some compromises on some things.

"But the heart of the ordinance is something I know a majority of us can support," she added. "It provides a structure for us to build a stronger police-citizen relationship. There are a lot of tools in it that focus on helping communication and education across the board."

An alliance of community organizations — including Not in Our Town, American Civil Liberties Union, NAACP, YWCA of McLean County, and Black Lives Matter Bloomington-Normal — has asked for a citizen review board for police. Some community activists also wanted to allow convicted felons to apply and to exclude anyone affiliated previously or currently with law enforcement.

"Essentially we came back to where we were kind of at to start with on those issues — that the felons are prohibited even if they're nonviolent felons and even if (their crimes) occurred 20 or 30 years ago, and no law enforcement officials," said Mayor Tari Renner.

Ky Ajayi, a member of the local BLM chapter, said he has mixed feelings about the revised ordinance.

"I will be glad if a review board is created." he said. "I will be disappointed that people who have been convicted of crimes in the past would not be eligible to be considered for membership on the review board."

If that happens, he said, "people who have served and paid their price to society for whatever mistakes they have made are not afforded full rights of citizenship.

"I think people who have been through the process can bring a unique perspective to the review process."

Police Chief Brendan Heffner previously said he is against felons serving on the board unless someone from law enforcement also is allowed to serve.

Ajayi said he would be pleased if the exclusion of city employees and anyone with current or former affiliation with a law enforcement agency is in the ordinance.

In May, a request by the local Black Lives Matter chapter to create a community board to review public complaints about interactions with Bloomington police officers gained community momentum. Not In Our Town: Bloomington-Normal (NIOTBN), YWCA McLean County, NAACP Bloomington-Normal and the Central Illinois chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union — supported Black Lives Matter Bloomington-Normal in calling for a civilian review board.

In a joint statement, the five groups said many residents, particularly people of color, lack confidence in the process for filing complaints about police officers and in investigations conducted solely by police.

Mayor Tari Renner pledged "a broader discussion about what the overall concerns are, what the issues are, what does our current process look like and what our options are." "One, obviously, is a review board and that certainly will be discussed,” Renner said.

"Black Lives Matter has shared some principles it would like to see shape the board, and hopefully at the committee-of-the-whole meeting the City Council will agree that these are good ideas and should form the basis for a board,” said Ajayi.

Few public complaints are formally submitted to Bloomington police, the groups related, but that fact may be misleading.

"We believe it is dangerous to assume that the low number of complaints filed against officers are a measure of public satisfaction, when it may instead be an indication of public distrust with our current complaint process," according to the groups' statement.

The organizations suggest that "in order to maintain public trust," the review board consist solely of volunteer members of the public to remain an impartial body.

The community groups also recommend expanding the avenues for filing complaints by allowing people to file them directly with the review board, with the city's human resources department or through the current process at the police department.

While the police department would investigate the complaints and make determinations, a review board could provide an avenue for people to appeal department findings they dispute, said the organizations' statement.

"We recommend that BPD make all investigative material related to the complaint available to (the review board)," the groups said.

The board could make nonbinding recommendations to the police chief or city manager to consider, according to the groups.

NIOT member Mike Matejka said people may feel more comfortable taking complaints to a review board, and the review process would be more productive than having people just raise these issues in public forums.

"People constantly voice complaints when we have these large public forums," said Matejka. “It's really not fair to the police because they can't answer an individual situation in front of a crowd."

In mid-June, an alliance of nine community organizations gathered on the steps of the McLean County Museum of History Friday to urge the Bloomington City Council to create an oversight board.

"We urge all council members to vote in favor of it," said Jenn Carrillo, YWCA mission impact director before introducing the representatives who spoke at the press conference. In addition to ACLU of Central Illinois, Black Lives Matter Bloomington-Normal, Bloomington-Normal Branch of the NAACP, Not in Our Town Bloomington-Normal and YWCA McLean County, Central Illinois Pride Health Center, Prairie Pride Coalition, Illinois People's Action, and the McLean County League of Women Voters joined in the effort.

But continued delays in bringing the plan to a vote elicited frustrations in early July

“We are disappointed this process has been delayed once more," NIOTBN member and YWCA Director Dontae Latson stated. "During the June Committee of the Whole session, we heard a majority of council members express support for the passage of the PSCRB ordinance. Council members had ample opportunity to ask questions, offer revisions and raise any outstanding issues with the ordinance during that session. We believed their concerns had been sufficiently addressed in the proposed revisions. The delay raises concern that an already vetted and modest ordinance may be weakened. We remain hopeful the city council will have the courage to vote and pass the PSCRB ordinance.”

League: Voter Participation -- Not Just Registration -- Crucial

The McLean County League of Women Voters (LWV) Saturday offered voter registration at the Festival of India on the Illinois State University campus quad, as well as assisting with NAACP registration at Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church on Bloomington’s west side.

Registration will continue next Saturday this month at the church, and Sept. 27 is a communitywide volunteer Registration Day, co-sponsored by the League with Not In Our Town: Bloomington-Normal

“The more people we get out to vote, the better our leaders will be prepared to know what we want and what we expect out of them,” LWV’s Phyllis VerSteegh said during the Twin Cities Indian community's annual event. “If we do not to events like this, people will not be aware of what they need to do, how they need to register, where they need to go to vote, how they vote, etc.”

NAACP registration efforts launched earlier this month at Mt. Pisgah, with volunteers also canvassing the area around the church, according to LWV’s Katie Pratt largely to spur community voter awareness.

In addition, the League next month will sponsor mock elections at Bloomington Middle School and Normal Community High School, as well as registration efforts Oct. 4 at Normal’s Unity Community Center, 632 Orlando Avenue. LWV participated as well as the recent Heartland Community College Fall Fest, and VerSteegh noted a local elementary school teacher’s aide has requested voter material, arguing “it’s never too young to start getting people engaged in and aware of political activities.”

Pratt stressed Twin Cities university students can vote either absentee or locally. Voter info is available at the Illinois State Board of Elections website (, the McLean County Clerk’s office site (, through the ISU student portal, at

Early registration ends Oct. 11 – after that, individuals must register onsite at area election authorities.

“It isn’t enough to register – people have to get out to vote,” VerSteegh emphasized. “They can start voting early Sept. 29 (see above list of sites).”


NAACP Sponsors Saturday Voter Registrations

The NAACP is sponsoring Saturday September voter registration drives on Bloomington's west side, at 9 a.m. at Mt Pisgah Baptist Church, 801 West Market Street.

Individuals need not be a voter registrar to participate in registration.

In addition, visit the national NAACP "This Is My Vote" website, at According to the group, "2016 is the first presidential election in over 50 years without the full protections of the Voting Rights Act. It’s time to mobilize, act and fight for democracy!"

Cultural Festival: Connecting With Cultures

Julia Evelsizer

The Pantagraph

On a green paper leaf, Brenda Joyner of Bloomington wrote the word “patience.”

She glued the leaf to a cardboard tree representing strengths in the community at the Cultural Festival Saturday at Illinois State University.

“I strive to be patient and I’m trying to grow in that direction,” she said.

Joyner has attended the annual festival, in its 37th year, for “many, many years.”

“If you’re interested in connecting with other cultures, you can start somewhere like this,” she said. “Then spread out to make diversity a big part of your life. Your life is not the only life.”

The purpose of the festival is to connect the wide variety of ethnicities in Bloomington-Normal through music, dance, art and fellowship.

Some of the performances in the Brown Ballroom included the Sugar Creek Cloggers, Odyssey World belly dancing, Japanese sword demonstration, a fashion showcase and solo singers.

“It provides an easy opportunity for the community to experience ballet, clogging, jazz, belly dancing...they can see a huge variety of cultures in one place,” said Tony Jones, program coordinator.

“With everything going on in the world, we need events like these where people can come together, mix and mingle, and enjoy a diverse environment.”

NIOTBN Arts Chairman Angelique Racki at the Festival.

NIOTBN Arts Chairman Angelique Racki at the Festival.

Community groups like Not In Our Town, the local NAACP branch, 100 Black Men of Central Illinois and BN Parents, shared information with visitors. Face painting, crafts and inflatables were available for kids.

While the Odyssey World belly dancers swayed to Middle Eastern music, 4-year-old Wynter Mann hopped off her seat in the audience and started to dance next to her grandma, Virginia Mann.

“It goes to show how people of other cultures can come together,” said Virginia, of Normal. 

Amber Schrlau of Stanford came to the festival for the first time with her kids Maeva, 4, and Murphy, 2.

“They need to know love and what better way than this event,” said Schrlau. “Not everyone is the same and that’s a good thing.”

The young dance group, Ballet Folklorico de Central Illinois, took the stage in authentic Mexican dancing costumes. The girls wore full red skirts and the boys wore sombreros. The group is part of Conexiones Latinas de McLean County, a non-profit organization with the goal of intercultural collaboration and connecting Latinos in the community.

“They are so excited about sharing this with the community,” said Javier Centeno, vice president of the organization. “This sort of event is about love; giving love to the community and respecting each other."

NAACP, BPD Maintain 'Open Channels'; NAACP Chief Urges Reporting of Suspected Racial Profiling

To fix the flaws or abuse in the system, citizens must be willing to use the system’s resources to make their voices known in official channels, according to a local leader of the African-American community. Bloomington’s police chief concurs with him on the need for “open channels” between law enforcement and citizens.

At Monday’s vigil commemorating nationwide victims of recent violence and racism, Quincy Cummings, head of the Bloomington-Normal NAACP, emphasized the need for those who feel they have experienced police mistreatment or discrimination to come forward. Citizens and local police officials joined in the event, and Cummings noted top cops must be aware a problem exists to adequately address it.

In the end, he held “we have to hold ourselves accountable for being the community we want to see.” He argued that thanks to cooperative efforts, “we have the ear of local law enforcement.”

“The problem is, a lot of times, people don’t complain,” Cummings said. “In order to hold police accountable, you have to go and fill out a formal police complaint. Even if that means calling the NAACP to go with you to do it, whether it means involving the ACLU, whatever, that has to happen.

“Police are looking at data, and if they’re looking at complaints and seeing a low volume of complaints for the year, then they don’t see a problem. It doesn’t matter what people are saying on the street. This is what we have to do.”

NAACP has worked extensively through “open channels” with local law enforcement in part through the Minority and Police Partnership of McLean County. The Bloomington Police Department is a charter member of MAPP, which was developed with NIOTBN support, and in the wake of Ferguson and Baltimore and a local NIOTBN/NAACP community/police forum in early 2015, the BPD launched annual public training sessions to demonstrate and gather citizen input on real-world police procedures and ramped up minority officer recruitment.

A sign of the progress the BPD has made in the communities was last night’s standing ovation for local police at the First Christian Church vigil. BPD Chief Brendan Heffner hailed Monday’s event and its commemoration of officers and citizens alike, arguing “any loss of life is tragic.”

“The community realizes this,” Heffner said. “We don’t always know the reasons for certain things, but any time we’re together, we’re communicating, it’s always positive.

“Having that dialogue will also help us if something occurs, cause (the community knows) we’ve done that. We didn’t just get together now – we’ve had ongoing dialogue. We may agree to disagree, but we’ve had a dialogue, and we’ve worked together for what we believe is best for the community.”

The Dallas police shootings were “a very stark reminder of what we face,” the chief acknowledged. Today’s officer must possess “the right mindset to be prepared for anything and still do our job in a professional manner,” he stressed.

Illinois’ data collection law established a multi-year statewide study of traffic stops to collect data to identify racial bias. Consistent with and in addition to state-mandated officer data collection, the BPD collected information on passenger race and gender data, specific offense, exact location of the traffic stop, vehicle registration number, parole or probation status of the driver, and expanded racial categories.  

Here are some further insights on profiling and data collection from the BPD: 

Q.  What is racial profiling?

A.  Profiling is defined as the detention, interdiction, or other disparate treatment of any individual on the basis of racial, ethnic, age, gender, or sexual orientation of that individual. 

Q. Why did the Bloomington Police Department collect more data than state law mandates?

A.  As allowed by the law, we collect additional data to enhance anticipated future statisticalanalysis.  More and richer data increases the opportunity for deeper analysis, resulting in more reliable conclusions.   

Q.  What do I do if I think I am a victim of racial profiling by Bloomington Police?

A.  Pick up a copy of the Bloomington PoliceDepartment’s Citizen Complaint Form at the police facility at 305 S. East Street in downtown Bloomington.  The forms are also available from the City Clerk’s office at Bloomington City Hall. 

Q.  What can I do to help identify and prevent racial profiling?

A.  Be patient, cooperate with law enforcement when stopped for a traffic violation, and support statistically reliable data analysis.  Report suspected racial profiling and encourage recruitment of minority police officers.  Most importantly, obey traffic laws and drive safely. 

Q.  Who do I contact if I have questions about data collection or racial profiling?

A.  The Bloomington Police Department, Office of Public Affairs, off the second floor lobby of the police facility at 305 S. East Street. Call (309) 434-2355 or inquire online at .

B/N NAACP Leader: Poor Policing Needs Weeding Out

Terry James


Cummings, center, with local NAACP representatives at NIOTBN's 20th anniversary celebration in downtown Bloomington June 28.

Cummings, center, with local NAACP representatives at NIOTBN's 20th anniversary celebration in downtown Bloomington June 28.

The head of the Bloomington-Normal NAACP said the problem of black men being killed by white police officers is a problem that is growing like a cancer.

President Quincy Cummings is reacting to incidents in Louisiana and Minnesota.

“If they cannot rely on their training to get through a situation such as a traffic stop or an encounter on the street, then they need to hang up their badge plain and simple,” said Cummings.

Cummings said black Americans remain distrustful of the police. He says 99-percent of police have the best interest of the public in mind, but the one percent of police that have personal vendettas need to be rooted out.

'The Talk' Forum to Focus on Law Enforcement Interaction/Careers

Jack and Jill of America, Inc., Bloomington-Normal Chapter, and the Illinois State University Chapter of the NAACP invite you to "The Talk" discussion of  “How to Respond to Law Enforcement and Careers in Law Enforcement” on Sunday, January 17.

This forum will take place at Illinois State University in the Bone Student Center Prairie Room, from 3 to 5 p.m., during Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend according to organizers “as we seek to continue Dr. King’s legacy through community dialogue and inclusiveness.”

Families, teens, students, churches, school districts, and others are encouraged to attend.  The event is free and open to the public.  ‪

Angela Davis to Headline MLK Dinner Jan. 22

Social equality activist and author Angela Davis will headline the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Dinner on Friday, January 22, in the Brown Ballroom of the Bone Student Center. Reservations are required.

Doors open at 5 p.m., with dinner beginning at 6 p.m. Seats are $15 for students and $35 for non-students. Reservations can be made until January 11 by calling 438-8790, online at, or printing and mailing the flyer.


The event is sponsored by Illinois State’s Office of the President and the Illinois State student chapter of the NAACP.

Davis draws upon her own experiences in the early 1970s as a person who spent 18 months in jail and on trial, after being placed on the FBI’s “Ten Most Wanted List” in her quest for equality. Through her activism and scholarship over many decades, she has been deeply involved in movements for social justice around the world, always emphasizing the importance of building communities of struggle for economic, racial, and gender justice.

Professor Davis’ teaching career has taken her to San Francisco State University, Mills College, and the University of California at Berkeley. She also has taught at UCLA, Vassar, the Claremont Colleges, and Stanford University. Most recently she spent 15 years at the University of California Santa Cruz, where she is now a Distinguished Professor Emerita of History of Consciousness and of Feminist Studies.

The author of nine books on race, gender, and imprisonment, Davis’ recent works include Abolition Democracy, Are Prisons Obsolete?, and a new edition of the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. In 2012, she published a new collection of essays entitled The Meaning of Freedom.

In recent years, a persistent theme of her work has been the range of social problems associated with incarceration, and the generalized criminalization of those communities that are most affected by poverty and racial discrimination. She has lectured on the subject throughout the United States as well as in Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, and South America. She is a founding member of Critical Resistance, a national organization dedicated to the dismantling of the prison-industrial complex. Davis is affiliated with Sisters Inside, an abolitionist organization based in Queensland, Australia, that works in solidarity with women in prison.

The event is part of the President’s Speaker Series at Illinois State University.

For more information, or if you need special accommodations to fully participate in this event, please contact Julie Barnhill, Presidential and Trustee Events, at or (309) 438-8790(309) 438-8790.

Here are some remarks by Davis at Florida A&M University in 1979.

NAACP and Downtown Normal Announce Santa's Station Partnership

The Town of Normal, Uptown Partners, and the NAACP are proud to announce a new partnership this holiday season.  Each year, thousands of kids and families come to Santa's Station in Uptown Normal for a chance to meet the big man himself!  Visits to Santa's Station are free, but donations are accepted with proceeds benefiting local charities including Special Olympics.

Program coordinators noticed during the first several years of operation that the accessible location and low cost drew an extraordinarily diverse patronage.

"In operating Santa's Station for the past few years, we've seen all sorts of kids and families come out that we might not typically see at some of our events," says Uptown Manager Joe Tulley.

At the same time, The McLean County Museum of History honored Merlin Kennedy as a 2015 History Maker. Mr. Kennedy was at the center of a strong debate that raged in Bloomington Normal surrounding the racial identity of our favorite holiday icon, Santa Claus. In the late sixties, the NAACP attempted to enter a float featuring a black Santa Claus in the annual Chamber of Commerce Christmas Parade and was barred from participating, prompting debate and protest from both sides of the issue.

The diverse nature of the Santa Station audience, combined with an awareness of community members' struggle to participate in holiday traditions, inspired the new partnership. On Saturday, December 12, from 12 to 4 p.m., and Friday, December 18, from 4 to 8 p.m., the NAACP will host Santa's Station featuring a diverse cast of volunteers in key roles.  The goal of the partnership is to create a fun experience while enhancing the effort to be more inclusive in our shared traditions.

"I am honored to be a part of such an inaugural event because this is truly history in the making," says Takesha Stokes, B-N NAACP 1st Vice President. "There is still much work to be done in the area of diversity and inclusion; however, this will move forward our efforts of breaking barriers and working to change the norm in Normal-Bloomington."

Santa's Station is open throughout the month of December, visit for Santa's Station hours and details.

Reporting System Key in Tracking, Addressing Excessive Force?

Joe Ragusa/Eric Stock


Excessive police force is a tough issue to deal with, but an Illinois State University professor and the local ACLU chapter are trying to help people understand the problem.

Photo by Joe Ragusa/WJBC

Photo by Joe Ragusa/WJBC

ISU criminal justice professor Jason Ingram says there’s no universal reporting system for instances of police force, be it excessive or deadly.

“You don’t really have a good understanding of how much force actually occurs nationally or even really at the local level,” Ingram said. “Any numbers that you hear in the media, especially in terms of the amount of deadly force, is likely going to be skewed a bit.”

Former Bloomington-Normal NAACP president Linda Foster, one of the people attending Wednesday’s forum, said there were a lot of takeaways from the program.

“My biggest takeaway is that there’s no consistency in these departments, in these cities across the nation,” Foster said.

Illinois is one of a few states to pass a comprehensive plan for police practices. The new law takes full effect in January.

Earlier in the week, Ingram told WJBC’s Scott Laughlin, police have broad powers to protect themselves and the public, which can be left for interpretation.

“What’s reasonable to some, like a police officer, isn’t necessarily going to be viewed reasonable by the public,” Ingram said. “Those are pretty permissive and intended to be so.”

Ingram said there’s no requirement officers use less-intrusive means when possible such as using a taser instead of a gun, unless a police department adopts such a policy on its own.

Ingram said he hopes new laws in Illinois regulating the use of police body cameras will prevent police brutality. He noted so far show presence of the cameras lead to more civil behavior.

“Use of force incidents and complaints of police misconduct have dropped significantly since their implementation,”

Ingram added what’s not clear is how the cameras are affecting behavior, whether officers, the public or both are less prone to confrontation with the cameras present. He said it’s also possible some misconduct claims can be proven unfounded by the cameras.

The new law will ban the police use of strangeholds when subduing a subject, but Ingram said he doubts that such force will be gone entirely.

“It will be viewed as inappropriate or excessive now but when an officer is trying to gain control of a resistant subject and it escalates, they might resort back to training,” Ingram said.

Ingram said the Community Relations Improvement Act also creates a statewide database that tracks police misconduct issues.

Below, listen to WJBC's interview with Ingram.

Workshops Focus On Financial Education

A pair of seminars -- one sponsored by the Bloomington-Normal NAACP -- are designed to help strengthen individual and family finances.

Cultural Fest in partnership with State Farm Bank will offer Financial Education Possibilities workshops free to the public, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. October 14 at Bloomington's Chateau Hotel. Register for the workshops at

Seating is limited, so early signup is appreciated. A $50 gift card door prize will be given away during each workshop.

Stink at Budgeting -- 6 p.m.: If you don’t know how to create a budget, this session will address tools to help families and individuals create and stick to a budget.

Credit Myths Discredited – 7 p.m.: Credit impacts every facet of our lives. So, this class helps dispel the myths that exist in regards to credit. The workshop will cover facts and fables on topics ranging from credit reports to credit cards.

For further information, contact Tony Jones  at

Meanwhile, the Bloomington-Normal NAACP Economic Development Committee is sponsoring Black Wealth, a Dialogue About Money, from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Oct. 20 at the McLean County YWCA Community Room. The seminar will include "a snack and a discussion on financial issues, attitudes, problems, and solutions."

Doors open at 6 p.m. for the free program.

'Black Eagle' Keynoter at NAACP Freedom Fund Banquet

Joe Madison, civil rights activist and preeminent African-American radio host known as “The Black Eagle,” is keynote speaker for the Bloomington-Normal Branch of the NAACP's Freedom Fund Banquet, Sept. 19 at Bloomington's DoubleTree Hotel and Convention Center.

The event starts at 7 p.m., preceded by a 6 p.m. social hour.

Takesha Stokes of Bloomington will be presented the Roy Wilkins award for her dedicated service to the NAACP, including serving as first vice president, Freedom Fund Banquet chair, and 2014 State Convention chair.

Another local award recipient will be Bloomington Police Chief Brendan Heffner, who will receive the Merlin Kennedy Community Service award in recognition of his efforts in building a stronger community-police partnership in Bloomington.

Tickets for the Freedom Fund Banquet are $50 for adults, and $25 for youths under 12. For information or to purchase tickets, contact Takesha Stokes 309-242-5827 or Chemberly Cummings at 216-570-0549.

Madison, a radio host on SiriusXM's Urban View channel, served as executive director of the Detroit NAACP at 24. He describes himself as "doggedly progressive," having worked on voter registration efforts and led marches and demonstrations to end the genocide in Darfur.

Last year, Joe Madison received the Freedom Flame Award presented by the Selma, Alabama, Bridge Crossing Jubilee Commission, and was named Outstanding Media Personality at the 104th Annual NAACP Convention. Madison has been selected as one of Talker Magazine’s top 10 talk radio personalities for 10 consecutive years and he is the only African-American to be listed in the “talented tenth.”

B/N NAACP Head Named Citizen of the Year

The Pantagraph

Quincy Cummings, president of the Bloomington-Normal branch of the NAACP and a charter member of the Minority and Police Partnership, was named Normal's Citizen of the Year on Thursday.

The Pantagraph

The Pantagraph

"Quincy's tireless efforts to improve this community for all citizens is exemplary," said Mayor Chris Koos. "His dedication to the cause of equality for all residents of Normal and McLean County stands out along with those of the Citizens of the Year who came before him."

Recently, Cummings has been working with Normal and Bloomington to help with the recruitment of minority employees.

"He wasn't critical; he offered suggestions," said Koos.

Cummings, who was clearly surprised at the announcement, said he was speechless. 

"It's definitely an honor; it's definitely not expected," he said.

Cummings, who received the 2013 Normal Human Relations Commission Martin Luther King Jr. Award, said: "The work I do is not to get awards or ink in the paper. It's what I truly believe is right for the community. While I'm here, I will do what I must to make it in better shape then when I found it."

He has lived in Normal for 22 years, first coming to the community to attend Illinois State University. He has worked at State Farm for 14 years, currently serving as a business analyst.

Cummings said Normal and Bloomington have been very receptive to suggestions to attract a diverse pool of employees.

"From the mayor down, they're reaching out to us," he said. "I think in the next three to five years, there will be more diversity."

He said one of the first changes that needs to be made is the perception of police, especially in light of recent happenings around the nation. 

"We've got to change the perception and also change the culture from within," he said.

The local NAACP branch is working with students studying criminal justice at Illinois State University and Lincoln College to show them "doing police work is honorable and needed," he said. 

In 2014, the NAACP recognized Cummings' efforts by awarding him the Roy Wilkins Award, the highest statewide honor.

"Quincy's work in the community is to make sure the family portrait of Bloomington-Normal portrays all of its residents," said Chemberly Cummings, Quincy Cummings' wife.

Cummings worked with the local NAACP chapter to establish the Minority and Police Partnership after he was the victim of racial profiling in a traffic stop. He also serves on Normal's Human Relation Commission.

Arlene: Louisiana Transplant 'Walking History Book'

Arlene Hosea

WJBC Forum

I will begin with a quote by Marcus Cicero:

“To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child.   For what is the worth of human life, unless to be woven into the life of our ancestors by the records of history?”

Pantagraph 2014: Arlene Hosea (third from left) and Henry Gay (center)

Pantagraph 2014: Arlene Hosea (third from left) and Henry Gay (center)

August 5, 2015 is a very important day. Why is that, you might ask? Well, it is the 91stbirthday of Mr. Henry Gay.   Who is Mr. Gay you might ask? Well, if you do not know him, I plan to tell a bit about him but if you get a chance to talk to him, please do because it will be an enlightening conversation.   He is a walking history book regarding African American life in this community over the past 70 years.

Mr. Gay is a man who relocated to the Bloomington-Normal area in 1945 from Shreveport Louisiana and he has seen this community grow and change.   I attended the 2015 History Makers Gala with him and realized how much information he has to share. Mr. Gay has known my family for years and has known me since I was a baby.   I used to be at the Gay family home in the mid to late 1970’s all ofthe time as his daughter Peg was my best friend in high school. Mr. Gay and his wife, the late Bernice Gay was always nice and hospitable. They always asked how things were and how school was going. The conversation about education was important to them and is a very important part of Mr. Gay’s conversation today.   I did not realize at 17 years of age, that I was talking to an advocate who helped craft changes in this community and who made my journey easier because of what he did.

During one of our recent conversations, I learned that this husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather and longtime member and Deacon of his church believed in the philosophy of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and has worked hard to “follow Kings example.” In 1952, Mr. Gay joined the local chapter of the NAACP, and has been “affectionately referred to as Mr. NAACP or the NAACP Man” because of his leadership role within the organization and being one of its most active members.   Mr. Gay is a very humble man who does not desire to be the center of attention, but a man of conviction and one who will speak up to try to ensure equality and equity for others.

Our community was a different community in 1945 when Mr. Gay arrived and was different when he marched and met with others in the community about housing rights, job opportunities, and theimportance of education and other basic rights. Mr. Gay has been recognized over the years for his contributions.   A few of the recognitions that he has received include: A recipient of the 1988 Bloomington Human Relations Award, in 2000 hereceived the NAACP Roy Wilkins Award for service to the NAACP, and most recently, he was presented with a certificate of recognition for his contributions for “the betterment of the African American Community of Bloomington-Normal and McLean County at the June 20, 2015 Juneteenth Celebration. In 2001 the Student Chapter of the NAACP asked Mr. Gay to be the keynote speaker for their first annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration banquet. His keynote was entitled “Martin Luther King – A Lifetime of Peaceful Protest.”

Mr. Gay is passionate about children giving their best and staying in school to obtain their education.   His quote that I will always remember is “get your education because that is something no one can ever take from you.” Mr. Gay fully understands that education is the key to future opportunity.   If you talk to him, he can tell you about earning $4.50 per week and being thankful for having a job. He can tell you about working hard to raise a family and providing opportunity for his children. As I stated to Mr. Gay one evening while sitting on his porch in early June, “I wish all of my nieces, nephews, and grandchildren could speak with you because your story is one that all of our youth should hear.” Then I added, “It really is one we should all hear.”

Happy Birthday, Mr. Henry Gay, and thank you for being committed to making this community a better one over your 70-year residency.

Arlene Hosea was born and raised in Bloomington.  She retired from Illinois State University and is on the Board of Directors for Special Olympics Illinois.  She has also served on the Town of Normal Human Relations Commission, The Baby Fold and the YWCA Board of Directors.  Arlene resides in Normal.

Kennedy to be Honored Thursday, Defends Dolezal

By Andy Dahn


A Bloomington civil rights activist who will be honored at Thursday night’s 2015 McLean County History Makers Gala said a recent NAACP controversy involving a white leader was blown out of proportion.

Rachel Dolezal is accused of portraying herself as African-American to lead Spokane, Washington’s NAACP Chapter and stepped down from her position last week. Merlin Kennedy fought for civil rights in Central Illinois throughout his career and said he believes Dolezal when she says that she identifies as a black woman.

“Some people identify that way,” Kennedy said. “I mean all people are not the same way. There are some Christian people who have got enough nerve to fight for what they think and she probably got enough nerve to do it. But they just won’t let her do it.”

Kennedy said Dolezal deserves the freedom to live her life however she pleases.

“If she wanted to practice her life that way, why can’t she?” said Kennedy. “She should have had a chance to practice her life that way if she really wanted to.”

Kennedy served as an NAACP president in the 1960’s and worked to help more minorities get hired by businesses like State Farm. While he said progress has certainly been made, Kennedy said African-Americans must continue to fight for equality the right way.

“I would tell young people to stand up for whatever they believe,” Kennedy said. “As long as they’re not breaking any rules, they should go for it.”

Kennedy was the first chair of the Bloomington Human Relations Commission and also served on the Board of the YMCA of Bloomington.

(Kennedy was featured in a February Black History Month piece on Twin Cities Stories for his then-controversial portrayal of Santa Claus in downtown Bloomington in 1966.)

Seven Set to Compete in NAACP Academic Olympics

Kevin Barlow

The Pantagraph

Jordan Stipp has been dancing since he was 3 years old, but the Normal Community High School junior says he has never had much luck in competition. He has danced throughout the state and even appeared in a professional dance video for an Israeli music artist.

Recently, though, he was one of seven Twin City high school students honored as gold medalists in the Bloomington-Normal NAACP Academic Cultural, Technological Scientific Olympics (ACT-SO) competition. The seven will advance to the July 9-12 national competition in Philadelphia, receiving an all-expenses-paid trip.

"This means that I will have a better future for myself," said Stipp, who was awarded a gold medal in dance.

"I have been in competitions competing against people who have had more advanced training than I have had and it's been difficult. But winning something because of my dance means that I can continue doing something I love.

"I will probably still stick with computer science as a career, but this shows me that I can also be successful in dance,"he said.

For the past nine months, students from Normal Community West, Normal Community, University High, and Bloomington high schools have been working on projects in the humanities, performing arts, visual arts and business, said Carol de la Cruz, Bloomington-Normal NAACP ACT-SO Chairwoman.

Thirteen African-American high school students were honored as “Olympians” at an awards ceremony and banquet Sunday at the Illinois State University Hancock Stadium Club. The local competition was Saturday in Normal.

“I was able to see the competition firsthand Saturday and to say that these students are truly exceptional is an understatement,” said Bloomington-Normal NAACP President Quincy Cummings. “Everyone did a great job and we are proud of them.”

"It's very excited, and I can't wait for Philadelphia," said Itayjah Phillips, a senior at Normal Community West who won gold in Dramatics. "This means a lot to me."

Also winning gold were NCHS freshman Alexis Starks (Photography) and senior Malik Woods (Music); University High freshman Jordyn Blythe (Oratory); Normal West sophomore Kamryn Crayton (Short Story); and BHS freshman Tierra Schickel (Poetry).

“These students are excellent people and all entered with a 'We are all winners’ type of mentality,” said Meta Mickens-Baker, chairwoman of student recruitment.

Silver medalists were U High senior Darraugh Griffin (Music), Phillips (Dance) and Blythe (Instrumental Music).

Bronze medalists were BHS junior Sydni Harris (Music Composition), Normal West senior LaShuanti Bailey (Sculpture), Stipp (Oratory), Schickel (Performance Poetry) and NCHS junior Christian Baker (Short Story, Poetry and Music Instrumental).

ACT-SO is the principle youth initiative of the NAACP. It is a year-long enrichment and mentoring program that culminates in the competition where students compete for awards and scholarships totaling more than $100,000. It seeks to promote self-esteem, academic and artistic excellence and positive interaction between youth and the adult professional community.

In the five-year history of the Bloomington-Normal program, there have been 13 local gold medalists. There also have been two national bronze medalists and a national silver medalist.