Matejka Second Consecutive NIOTBN Leader to Receive Peace Prize

The Pantagraph

Mike Matejka and wife Kari Sandhaas. Photo by Archana Shekara

Mike Matejka and wife Kari Sandhaas. Photo by Archana Shekara

A labor official involved in anti-discrimination efforts and other community activities has been named this year's recipient of Illinois State University's Grabill-Homan Peace Prize.

Mike Matejka of Normal, governmental affairs director for the Great Plains Laborers District Council, was recognized for his work with Not in Our Town: Bloomington-Normal.

The 1974 ISU graduate also is a member of the Normal Planning Commission and former member of the Bloomington City Council. He serves on the boards or committees of the Autism Friendly Community, Easterseals, McLean County Museum of History, the Illinois Labor History Society, the Children's Christmas Party for Unemployed Families and Secretary of State Jesse White's “Life Goes On” organ donation effort.

He also is a member of the Humanitarian and Social Aspects Committee of the town of Normal's 2040 Planning Commission. He was a founding member of the Central Illinois Food Bank.

Noha Shawki, director of Peace and Conflict Resolution Studies at ISU, said Matejka “has impressed me with his empathy, his compassion, his leadership and his commitment to peacemaking and to community service.”

The award was presented Monday at ISU's Alumni Center. First given in 2011, the annual prize goes to a member of the Bloomington-Normal community who has demonstrated commitment to community peace and justice activities.

Previous recipients have been former Not In Our Town: Bloomington-Normal Faith and Outreach Committee Chair Kelley Becker, Mary Campbell, Tina Sipula, Rick Heiser, Barbara Stuart, and Deborah Halperin.

The peace prize is named in honor of history professors Joseph Grabill and Gerlof Homan, co-founders of the Peace Studies Program at ISU.

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.

Dash Against Discrimination Fundraiser June 26

On June 26, from 2to 4 p.m., YWCA McLean County will hold the inaugural Dash against Discrimination, a 5k and 1-mile walk/run and awareness fair. 

The event will be held at the Corn Crib, 1000 W Raab Road, starting and ending on home plate.  As walkers/runners proceed along their designated routes, they will be doused in color dust!

The event will end with a color blast party, which lots of dust, music, and fun!!  We are seeking people of all ability levels, as this will be a fun event and an opportunity to make a difference in our community!!

All funds raised through this event will support Mission Impact programming to end all forms for discrimination in McLean County, such as Reading to Racism and the Equal Pay Coalition.

Ernestine: Commission Seeing Resurgence in Discrimination


While Ernestine Jackson has witnessed racial and cultural progress in the Twin Cities over her 13 1/2–year tenure with the Bloomington Human Relations Commission, she has witnessed resurgence in local discrimination in key areas and, in some cases, in a more subtle, “sophisticated” manner.

The municipal commission’s mission is to work with the community in addressing racial, religious, cultural, gender, and age discrimination in housing, employment, financing, and other areas, under the provisions of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. It also educates the public on civil/human rights and expectations and ensuring police and other city agencies and their contractors comply with their own minority hiring and anti-discrimination practices. In essence, commissioners “really try to bring the community together to deal with those issues and hopefully eradicate racism and discrimination in any form,” said Jackson, who investigates discrimination complaints.

“I’m going to be honest with you -- I have seen us going backwards as it relates to civil rights,” Jackson said during Saturday’s Cultural Festival at Illinois State University.  “I have been doing this kind of work for more than 40 years, and I’ve just been saddened that we’re at a point now where we’re still working on those issues that we thought we had fixed years ago. The complaints I’m getting are almost identical to complaints we were getting over 40 years ago.

“The things we’re seeing, the things we’re dealing with, are things we thought we had conquered. If you look at what’s happening, not only in Bloomington but all over, if you shut your eyes, you’d think you were back some time ago. That isn’t to say we haven’t been successful in areas; that’s not to say there haven’t been things that were done that haven’t been good. But now, we’re having to confront issues that most people thought were over.”

The BHRC, established under , is structured along the lines of Illinois’ Department of Human Rights and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Following an investigation to determine whether an individual complaint constitutes a “probable cause case,” the commission attempts to resolve the issue and, if a resolution can’t be reached, the complaint moves to public hearing.

To an extent, the Twin’s Cities’ growing diversity has revived old-school discrimination in new directions. Housing discrimination remains a major concern for Muslim-Americans and other cultural groups, Jackson reported.

“Why would there be a resurgence of Not In Our Town if we didn’t believe things were happening that shouldn’t be happening,” she posed. “We’re fighting some of the same battles – they’re just more sophisticated.”

For information or to file a complaint, contact the commission at 309-434-2215 or by emailing hr@cityblm.org. To view Bloomington’s Human Relations Ordinance, visit the commission at http://www.cityblm.org/index.aspx?page=263.

NIOT:B/N at Saturday's Cultural Festival, gathering youth input on the state of Bloomington-Normal.

NIOT:B/N at Saturday's Cultural Festival, gathering youth input on the state of Bloomington-Normal.