State Farm

BCAI Event Highlights Latin, Indian, Hip-Hop Cultures

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MixFuzeEvolveFamily, a BCAI School of Arts fundraiser, will offer a "culturally infused" celebration of Latin, Indian, and hip-hop influences as well as a variety of culinary treats.

The April 14 event, 3-6 p.m. at the Hansen Student Center, 300 East Beecher Street, Bloomington, will feature live music and stage entertainment, raffles, and 12 Indian and Latin dishes on a sampling basis.

Admission includes $10 entry (Ages 6 and up); $6 for a small meal ticket (up to 5 food samples);
$10 large meal ticket (up to 10 samples); and $25 VIP admission (includes entry, a sample of every dish, front row seat reservation for stage events, and one free raffle ticket).

Children under 6 years old enter for FREE, but they must have either a large meal or small meal ticket.

The event is sponsored by State Farm, Not in our Town: Bloomington-Normal, and Willie Brown.

For more info, visit the event website at

Latson, Jani To Be Honored at Leadership Graduation

McLean County's Multicultural Leadership Program will honor Not In Our Town: Bloomington-Normal leader and McLean County YWCA Director Dontae Latson at MCLP's April 22 Class of 2017 Graduation Celebration.

Jani and Latson

Jani and Latson

The Graduation Celebration is an event that recognizes the hard work of service-oriented local citizens. Latson will be awarded the MCLP's Community Service Award for a Local Community Leader, while Tejas Jani will receive the Community Service Alumni Award. Jani is State Farm android test lead and a 2014 MCLP grad.

Kira Hudson Banks

Kira Hudson Banks

Speaker for the graduation is Kira Hudson Banks, Associate Professor of Psychology at Saint Louis University and racial equity consultant for the “Forward through Ferguson” Ferguson Commission. The Edwardsville native will address diversity and inclusion; her work has been published in journals such as Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology and American Psychologist.

Banks argues inclusivity "requires the vulnerability to have an acknowledgement and a humility to realize that we all have biases.”

Reservations for the celebration are available through Thursday. Visit…/graduation-celebration-2017/ for information.

Cummings Makes History for Town of Normal

Chemberly Cummings last week made local history as the first African-American elected to the Town of Normal City Council. Cummings is a major supporter of and volunteer with the McLean County YWCA, chiefly through the Y's Girls BE U program.

Cummings, a 34-year-old State Farm business architect who lives at 1416 Montgomery St., said she's running to "provide diversity of thought, experience and knowledge." She was the only female candidate for council.

"Many residents feel diversity and inclusion is just (tongue in cheek)," she said. "How (do) we make all citizens feel welcome?"

Cummings said she hopes to help officials keep "making the town of Normal not just a place to live, but a place to work and play."

"(That's about) finding new ways to attract businesses that can provide jobs to our community, as well as making our community attractive to where people want to live," she said.

Corporate Equality Index Ranks Illinois LGBT Treatment; State Farm Scores High

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) has released the 2016 Corporate Equality Index (CEI), an annual report assessing LGBT inclusion in major companies and law firms across the nation — including 90 in Illinois. State Farm received a perfect rating under the index.

In total, 851 companies were officially rated in the 2016 CEI, up from 781 in the 2015 report. The average score for companies and law firms based in Illinois is 90 percent, with 41 earning 100 percent.

The CEI rates companies and top law firms on detailed criteria falling under five broad categories. They are non-discrimination policies; employment benefits; demonstration of organizational competency and accountability around LGBT diversity and inclusion; public commitment to LGBT equality; and responsible citizenship.

The Illinois companies earning perfect scores include A.T. Kearney Inc., AbbVie Inc., Aon Corp., Astellas Pharma US Inc., Baker & McKenzie LLP, Barilla America Inc., Baxter International Inc., Boeing Co., Chapman and Cutler LLP, CNA Insurance, Discover Financial Services, Exelon Corp., Faegre Baker Daniels, Groupon Inc., HERE North America LLC, Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP, Huron Consulting Group Inc., Hyatt Hotels Corp., Jenner & Block LLP, JLL, Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP, Kirkland & Ellis LLP and Kraft Foods Group Inc.

They also include Leo Burnett Company Inc., Mayer Brown LLP, McDermott Will & Emery LLP, McDonald's Corp., MillerCoors LLC, Navigant Consulting Inc., Northern Trust Corp., Orbitz Worldwide Inc., Schiff Hardin LLP, Sears Holdings Corp., Seyfarth Shaw LLP, Sidley Austin LLP, Starcom MediaVest Group, State Farm Group, United Airlines, W.W. Grainger Inc., Walgreen Co. and Winston & Strawn LLP.

Allscripts-Misys Healthcare Solutions Inc. and Navistar International Corp. were at the bottom of the Illinois list, with each company earning a score of 30 percent.

"Corporate America has long been a leader on LGBT equality, from advocating for marriage equality to expanding essential benefits to transgender employees," said HRC President Chad Griffin. "But this year, many leading U.S. companies have broken new ground by expanding explicit non-discrimination protections to their LGBT workers around the globe. They've shown the world that LGBT equality isn't an issue that stops at our own borders, but extends internationally." However, Griffin added there is much work left to be done in places and in companies where LGBT workers still face significant obstacles.

Pride at Work issued a statement that was disparaging of the CEI. Executive Director Jerame Davis said, "We are disappointed that the HRC Corporate Equality Index (CEI) rewards big corporations for questionable employment practices without taking into consideration the lived experiences of the LGBTQ working people in those corporations.

"It is our position that any company that takes action to stall, stymie, or otherwise undermine the efforts of their workers to unionize is preventing LGBTQ working people from achieving the full non-discrimination protections federal—and most state—law currently doesn't provide. LGBTQ working people receive far more protection under an inclusive union contract than they do under any existing state law."

The full report, including a searchable employer database, is available online at .

Employer Name 2015 CEI Rating

A.T. Kearney Inc. 100

AbbVie Inc. 100

Aon Corp. 100

Astellas Pharma US Inc. 100

Baker & McKenzie LLP 100

Barilla America Inc. 100

Baxter International Inc. 100

Boeing Co. 100

Chapman and Cutler LLP 100

CNA Insurance 100

Discover Financial Services 100

Exelon Corp. 100

Faegre Baker Daniels 100

Groupon Inc. 100

HERE North America LLC 100

Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP 100

Huron Consulting Group Inc. 100

Hyatt Hotels Corp. 100

Jenner & Block LLP 100

JLL 100

Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP 100

Kirkland & Ellis LLP 100

Kraft Foods Group Inc. 100

Leo Burnett Company Inc. 100

Mayer Brown LLP 100

McDermott Will & Emery LLP 100

McDonald's Corp. 100

MillerCoors LLC 100

Navigant Consulting Inc. 100

Northern Trust Corp. 100

Orbitz Worldwide Inc. 100

Schiff Hardin LLP 100

Sears Holdings Corp. 100

Seyfarth Shaw LLP 100

Sidley Austin LLP 100

Starcom MediaVest Group 100

State Farm Group 100

United Airlines 100

W.W. Grainger Inc. 100

Walgreen Co. 100

Winston & Strawn LLP 100

Health Care Service Corp. 95

BMO Bankcorp Inc. 90

Caterpillar Inc. 90

CDW Corp. 90

Crate and Barrel / CB2 90

Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago 90

R.R. Donnelley & Sons Co. 90

Allstate Corp., The 85

Grant Thornton LLP 85

Morningstar Inc. 85

True Value Co. 85

Motorola Solutions Inc. 80

Abbott Laboratories 75

Deere & Co. 75

US Foods Inc. 75

Zurich North America 75

CME Group Inc. 70

Hospira Inc. 65

USG Corp. 65

Illinois Tool Works Inc. 60

Perkins + Will Inc. 35

Wildman, Harrold, Allen & Dixon LLP 35

Allscripts-Misys Healthcare Solutions Inc. 30

Navistar International Corp. 30

"Corporate America has long been a leader on LGBT equality, from advocating for marriage equality to expanding essential benefits to transgender employees," said HRC President Chad Griffin. "But this year, many leading U.S. companies have broken new ground by expanding explicit non-discrimination protections to their LGBT workers around the globe. They've shown the world that LGBT equality isn't an issue that stops at our own borders, but extends internationally."

Despite this progress and a new global commitment, there is much work left to be done in places and in companies where LGBT workers still face significant obstacles.

"While support for LGBT workers is growing in the U.S. and around the world, too many companies still fail to guarantee basic, vital workplace protections that allow employees to bring their full selves to work," Griffin said. "That continues to create barriers for LGBT people, especially for transgender people, who face high rates of unemployment and discrimination in hiring. These companies should look to the example set by global corporate leaders as a path forward to achieving LGBT equality for all workers, no matter where they live."

Key national findings contained in the 2016 CEI:

407 companies earned a 100 percent in the 2015 CEI, up from 366 in the 2015 report.

511 companies participating in this year's CEI now offer transgender workers at least one health care plan that has transgender-inclusive coverage. That's a 150 percent increase since 2012, when the CEI first included trans-inclusive health care as a requisite for companies to receive a perfect score;

Gender identity is now part of non-discrimination policies at 75 percent of Fortune 500 companies, up from just 3 percent in 2002;

More than 330 major employers have adopted supportive inclusion guidelines for transgender workers who are transitioning.

And 176 Fortune 500 companies were given unofficial scores based on publicly available information

Just as the CEI has successfully steered the country's top corporations, law firms and their influential leaders toward breaking new ground in workplace equality — from enacting LGBT non-discrimination policies to extending same-sex partner benefits — it has also helped companies move toward full inclusion for their transgender employees.

The CEI rates companies and top law firms on detailed criteria falling under five broad categories:

Non-discrimination policies

Employment benefits

Demonstrated organizational competency and accountability around LGBT diversity and inclusion

Public commitment to LGBT equality

Responsible citizenship

The full report, including a searchable employer database is available online at

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation is the educational arm of America's largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. HRC envisions a world where LGBT people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.

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.

36th Cultural Festival To Highlight Twin Cities Diversity

Illinois State University reportedly will be “The Happiest Place in Central Illinois” July 25, as host to the 36th annual Bloomington-Normal Cultural Festival.

The festival, established in 1979, is a community event that has evolved over the years but always focuses on the theme of diversity. The event is designed as a tool to bring people and the community together to provide a positive impact and serve as “a bridge to foster positive attitudes and learning.”  This year’s event will be from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Illinois State University Brown Ballroom; admission and parking will be free.

Local groups can reserve a booth the Cultural Fest online by visiting Organizations may with a $50 fee request an invoice and be billed to hold a spot.

In addition, area residents can register at the website to participate in a festival Lip Synch Battle.

Festival Partners include State Farm, Ameren, the City of Bloomington, Country Financial, the Bloomington-Normal Convention and Visitors Bureau, Illinois Prairie Community Foundation, the Illinois Arts Council, KHOL, WXRJ, Illinois State Redbird, and Perfect Productions.

Education Summit April 29; New Youth Intervention Specialist on Board

As local law enforcement agencies prep next week to show how they interact with the community, efforts to keep youths from becoming involved in the juvenile justice system reportedly have gained momentum with the introduction of a youth intervention specialist for the Bloomington Police Department.

Michael Donnelly, who works as community impact manager with the United Way of McLean County, will work part time with police to identify and mentor at-risk youth.

Mayor Tari Renner said the city is not alone in the challenges posed by youths who get into trouble. Calling youth crime "one of the top social issues" among mayors, Renner said a $25,000 grant from State Farm will allow Donnelly to work with youths and their families to address small matters before they become bigger ones.

A similar program funded by State Farm has been in place at the Normal Police Department since 2008.

BPD Chief Brendan Heffner said Donnelly will work with the agency's four school resource officers and McLean County juvenile probation staff to help students who need guidance.

"We know we won't save every young person we come in contact with," said Donnelly, but building a bridge that serves police, families and social services is a positive first step.

Donnelly's prior experience working with youth through several community programs makes him a good fit, said Heffner.

Retired 11th Judicial Circuit Chief Judge Elizabeth Robb attended the announcement at BPD and said Donnelly "knows the families and the system," agreeing having a person who knows how to talk to youths about the consequences of their mistakes will provide the community with a much-needed resource.

McLean County State's Attorney Jason Chambers also applauded the city for obtaining the grant and for hiring Donnelly.

"Its not unusual for adults in the criminal justice system to have a history of police contact as a juvenile. A lot of what law enforcement does is reactive. It's great to see someone working on prevention," said Chambers.

City officials did not have an estimate for the number of youths Donnelly could see during the year he will work under the grant.  With the onset of warm weather when youths are typically more active, he could be busy, Heffner admitted.

The city plans to seek a renewal of the grant after its reviews statistics on the impact Donnelly's work has on police interaction with at-risk youth.

MCLP Fosters 'Diverse Leaders'; Fair Feb. 14

McLean County's Multicultural Leadership Program (MCLP) next month will showcase its Class of 2015 and its members' community aspirations as part of a program devoted to grooming "diverse leaders."

MCLP is inviting community organizations to apply to participate in its Networking Fair on Saturday, Feb. 14. The fair is an opportunity for groups to meet this year’s 26 MCLP class participants developing leaders are nearing completion of their eight-month leadership program.

"We believe your organization will appreciate the leadership qualities of these participants," MCLP suggests. "During the fair, you will speak one-on-one with up to 15 of the program participants. This creates an opportunity for you to consider extending board and committee openings to members of the MCLP class. Please note that this is not a volunteer recruitment event, but rather an opportunity for you to meet potential board members and committee leaders."

MCLP is "an intense professional development curriculum" that provides a framework to the "innumerable leaders amongst us of all ages, cultures, and walks of life" with an interest and potential to step into leadership roles within their communities." Each MCLP class is composed of  26 individuals who meet for bi-weekly sessions spread over eight months, August through March each year.

Class participants are chosen on the basis of their demonstrated commitment to community issues, desire to learn and intent to contribute to the community at large.

The program's mission is to prepare skilled, informed individuals for leadership positions in public, private, educational, political and non-profit sectors; to foster leadership diversity through community welfare and civic participation; and to promote inter-community unity. See the accompanying video on MCLP's impact, featuring Not In Our Town: Bloomington-Normal leader and MCLP board member Phani Aytam.

To apply for the program, visit If your organization is interested in attending the Networking Fair, please download and complete a profile form from the MCLP website and submit it by email to Pollyanna Spears at, no later than Feb. 1, 2015. The MCLP Community Involvement Committee will review each group's profile sheet and inform applicants if a space is available at the fair.

If you have any questions, please contact Linda Bollivar or Pollyanna Spears at the MCLP offices, at 309-556-3589 or 309-556-3589. State Farm is a "visionary sponsor" for the program.


NIOT Leaders Nominated for 2015 King Award

Mary Ann Ford

The Pantagraph

Three residents from Normal and three from Bloomington are nominated for the 2015 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. awards. 

Adult nominees from Normal are Sonya Mau, Marcos Mendez and Takesha Stokes. Bloomington adult nominees are Anthony "Tony" Jones, Marc Miler and Elizabeth Robinson.

The winners will be determined by the Bloomington and Normal Human Relations Commissions and announced at the 39th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. awards luncheon at 1 p.m. Jan. 17 at Bone Student Center at Illinois State University. 

Mau is executive director and one of the founding parents of the Multicultural Leadership Program, designed to develop diverse leaders. She also is a founding member of the Illinois Prairie Community Foundation's Women to Women Giving Circle that raises money to meet the needs of local women and children and further develop philanthropic leadership skills.

She was the first woman and the first Asian to "break the glass ceiling" and achieve a high management position at Country Financial. She also is a long-time member of Toast Masters International and has been a mentor to numerous others.

                                                                    Marcos Mendez

                                                                    Marcos Mendez

Mendez is chairman of the board for Conexiones Latinas de McLean County and an active member of State Farm's Hispanic affinity group. He volunteers as a basketball coach at the YMCA and as a soccer coach for the Prairie Cities Soccer League.

He was instrumental in planning the first Day of the Dead celebration at the Children's Discovery Museum and secured 300 free passes to ensure all families who wanted to could participate. He also has been involved in the Minorities and Police Partnership which is designed to help foster better cooperation and understanding between the Bloomington and Normal police departments and the Latino community.

Stokes is a volunteer with the Boys & Girls Club, serving as a tutor, mentor and program assistant and was in part responsible for establishment of the Teen Pageant hosted by the club. She also is active in Mount Pisgah Baptist Church including serving on the food pantry team, as church clerk and an aide to the pastor. She also is a long-time member of the Orthodox Woodriver District Baptist Association.

She is first vice president of the Bloomington-Normal NAACP and has served in several other capacities with the organization; and is past president of the Bloomington-Normal Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority.

Jones has coordinated the Bloomington-Normal Cultural Festival; spearheaded the creation of an entrepreneur showcase to inform the community of minority business; and created a monthly fundraising event with proceeds going to different community organizations.

He has served on numerous committees and boards including the Bloomington Human Relations Commission, McLean County Urban League, Boys & Girls Club, Minority and Police Partnership, West Bloomington Revitalization Project, Black Business Alliance, 100 Black Men of Central Illinois and the Bloomington-Normal NAACP.

                                                                           Marc Miller

Miller is chairman of the Not In Our Town finance committee and has been an advocate for the group for more than 18 years, including taking the Not In Our Town Pledge cards into local schools.

He is a founding member of the Pratt Music Foundation and currently serves as president. He also founded the Share the Music program to provide low-cost rental instruments to Twin Cities children who want to participate in band or orchestra but can't afford the rental fees.

Robinson is membership chairman for the Black Business Alliance and is an active member of the Crossroads-Global Handcrafts board. She works with Heartland Community College students, volunteers with survivors of domestic violence through Countering Domestic Violence, and mentors teens, young women and women through the YWCA, Urban League, Junior Achievement and the NAACP.

Youth nominees

Eight Bloomington youths and four Normal youths have been nominated for the "I Have a Dream" award. They are:

Bloomington: Oludayo "Dayo" Ajayi, Markus Brooks, Radience Campbell, Tanmay Shah and Malik Woods, all of Normal Community High School; Jordyn Blyth and Jordynn Palmer, both of University High School; and Kianna A. King, Bloomington High School.

Normal: Lokesh Julakanti and Keerthi C. Amballa, both of NCHS; Kristina Smith, Normal Community West High School; and Imani Gilbert, University High School.