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.

Camille: Resolutions and Resolute Action

Camille Taylor

WJBC Forum

Rather than make resolutions I don’t keep, I focus on my hopes and dreams for the New Year. Here’s my list.

I hope to increase my advocacy for things I support, as well as things I’m against. I will use a variety of information sources to learn how best to advocate such as news updates from the League of Women Voters, Organizing for Action, and Action 36. I plan to be vigilant about what our legislators at the state and national level are doing and won’t hesitate to contact them to share my thoughts whether it involves the lack of an agreement to develop a state budget or the intent of the Republicans to repeal Obamacare.

I will be closely watching the new president, hoping that he will demonstrate responsibility and respect for the position he was elected to. I will not be silent if he chooses to be the Commander and Chief via Twitter using harmful and inflammatory rhetoric like he did during the campaign, nor will I be silent about cabinet choices who have demonstrated divisiveness and harm to our country via their past policy and/or business decisions.

I hope to increase the presence of the Not In Our School efforts locally, as well as continue to work with Not In Our Town to make our community more safe and inclusive for everyone. I hope to connect more with family and friends even without the benefit of social media. I don’t want to ever lose that “personal touch” that lets people know I care about them and love them.

I hope I’m healthy and strong, so that I can continue to care for those I love. I dream that students who depend on financial aid for college and people who have basic needs such as food, clothing, and shelter can be served despite the stalemate in Springfield. I hope and dream for peace in our world whether domestic or abroad.

I hope that people will take the time to look at their source for accurate news as opposed to reading ‘fake news” and then using this information to make decisions and form opinions. I hope I learn new things this year and use that knowledge to benefit others. Last, I hope that people begin to acknowledge that “words matter,” and being polite and using good old fashioned manners should not be the exception, but the rule.

Mike: Urban America Not 'Living in Hell'

Mike Matejka

WJBC Forum

This election people talk about a divided America.  That point came home to me when candidate Trump said that inner-city Americans were “living in hell.”  I scoffed at the notion at first, but then quickly realized, many Americans, especially white Americans, would agree.

I did not grow up in Bloomington-Normal.  I grew up in St Louis and then Cahokia, Illinois, immediately south of East St. Louis.  My dad drove a bus in East St. Louis and we were in and out of that city constantly.  On school holidays my mother would send me off to ride the bus with Dad for the day.  I went to high school in Belleville, Illinois.   I was shocked when I heard teachers there say, “I never drive through East St. Louis without my windows up and the doors locked.”   I was totally mystified.  What were they afraid of?

Today, I occasionally get a cautious question about Chicago.   People ask if it’s really safe to go to the city.   Of course it is.

Even more shocking, I’ve heard local citizens here say, “I never drive through the west side of Bloomington without my windows up and my doors locked.”  Or, “I have never been to the west side.”  Currently, I don’t live on the west side, but for almost 40 years I did.  I found wonderful neighborhoods with great people, affordable housing where a family could buy a home and live comfortably.

Now I don’t downplay that there are some urban districts that are dangerous.  But to say that people living in those areas are “living in hell” is to label people.  If inner-city America is truly “hell,” than that means that people aren’t smart enough to get out, must enjoy, or are denied a means of exit.

We often forget that in challenged neighborhoods are caring parents, people trying to make a living, human beings attempting to make the best they can with what they have.   To describe “people living in hell” is to succumb to stereotype.  Yes, we need to improve educational and employment opportunities for low-income areas.  Yes, we need to stop the prison pipeline that throws too many young people in jail and then brands them for life.  In all of this, let’s remember that the majority of us – no matter our race, color or creed – are good intentioned people.   Part of this is overcoming our fears of the other we don’t know.  Instead of living in fear or labeling whole communities, some human understanding and looking beyond the stereotype can benefit us all.

Voter Suppression, Courts' Role Addressed in Speaker Series

Voter suppression, the culture wars, the media, and the courts all have gained attention in the 2016 U.S. Presidential elections. A series of talks titled “Super Tuesdays” will explore their connections, beginning October 11.

The four-part series of presentations and discussions will be held on successive Tuesday evenings leading up to the 2016 presidential election. All talks begin at 6 p.m., and are free and open to the public. The evenings will feature brief presentations by two faculty speakers and a moderated discussion between those speakers and community participants.

“The series is designed to engage the Bloomington-Normal and campus community in a discussion of the most important and complex issues facing American voters with the guidance and assistance of Illinois State faculty who have expertise in the complexities of those subjects,” said organizer and Professor of Art Lea Cline.

The talks include:

October 11 — “The History of Voter Suppression in America” with Assistant Professor of Art Vanessa Schulman and Professor of History Amy Wood at the Center for Visual Arts, room 110, 401 S. School St., Normal. Schulman is a specialist in the visual culture of eighteenth and nineteenth century America. She is the author of Work Sights: The Visual Culture of Industry in Nineteenth-Century America, which explores how visual representations of labor, technology, and industry were crucial in shaping the way nineteenth-century Americans understood their nation and its place in the world. Wood focuses her research on American cultural history in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and the history of the U.S. South. She is the author of Lynching and Spectacle: Witnessing Racial Violence in America, 1890-1940, which examines visual representations of lynching and the construction of white supremacy in the Jim Crow era.

October 18—“The Role of the Courts” with Associate Professor of Politics and Government Meghan Leonard and Professor of Criminal Justice Michael Gizzi at the Center for Visual Arts, room 110. Leonard researches the decision-making behavior of elected and appointed state supreme court justices, with special focus on how these justices build coalitions during the opinion writing process, and how state legislatures affect the decisions state supreme courts make. Her work has appeared in State Politics and Policy QuarterlyAmerican Politics Research, and the Justice System Journal. Gizzi is a specialist on constitutional law who focuses his research on the Fourth Amendment, Supreme Court decision-making, and criminal courts. He is the author of The Fourth Amendment in Flux: The Roberts Court, Crime Control, and Digital Privacy and The Web of Democracy: An Introduction to American Politics.

October 25—“Media and the Modern Candidate” with Assistant Professor of Politics and Government Kerri Milita and Assistant Professor of Communication Rebecca Hayes at the Center for Visual Arts, room 110. Milita studies American elections and public policy. Her research focuses on candidate rhetoric and the factors that explain candidates’ position-taking strategies on key issues of the day. Hayes’ research involves uses, effects, and processes of social media in political, brand, and relational contexts. Before academia, she worked in political and governmental public affairs, developing and maintaining traditional and social media relations in state and federal government.

November 1—“Modern Political Movements” with Professor of History Andrew Hartman and Professor of Politics and Government Lane Crothers at University Galleries, 11 Uptown Circle #103, Normal.

The evening will include the premiere performance of School of Music faculty Roy Magnuson’s composition, “it wasn’t supposed to be like this,” by Justin Vickers (tenor) and Geoffrey Duce (piano). A reception will follow.

Hartman is an American historian who focuses on intellectual history and political culture. He is the author of two books, Education and the Cold War: The Battle for the American School, and A War for the Soul of America: A History of the Culture Wars, and currently at work on a book about “Marx and America.” Hartman was the Fulbright Distinguished Chair in American Studies at the University of Southern Denmark for the 2013-14 academic year and is an OAH Distinguished Lecturer for the 2015-18 period.

Crothers is the author of six books, including Globalization and American Popular Culture, now in its third edition, and Rage on the Right: The American Militia Movement from Ruby Ridge to Homeland Security. From August 2015 to May 2016, he served as the Fulbright Bicentennial Chair in American Studies in the Department of World Cultures at the University of Helsinki in Helsinki, Finland. His work focuses on the ways the values, ideals, and social practices of American political culture shape U.S. policies both in the United States and overseas.

Geoffrey Duce is a pianist who has performed in Carnegie Hall, Berlin’s Philharmonie, and London’s Wigmore Hall, and with orchestras that include the Sinfonie Orchester Berlin, the Chattanooga and Olympia Symphony Orchestras, and the Scottish Sinfonia. He has given masterclasses in Hawaii, Canada, the U.K., and the Middle East, and has recorded for BBC Radio 3. This summer he was a guest professor for six weeks at the University of Taipei, Taiwan, and in May of 2017 he will appear with Justin Vickers at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

Magnuson has composed music for orchestra, wind ensemble, concert band, chamber ensembles, vocalists, electroacoustic ensembles, and films. His works have been performed throughout the United States and Europe at universities and venues such as the World Saxophone Congress, WASBE, NASA, CBDNA, SCI, and the Red Note New Music Festival.

Vickers is an American lyric tenor who specializes in twentieth-century British music and contemporary song and opera by American composers. His first book, Benjamin Britten Studies: Essays on An Inexplicit Art, is due May 2017 by The Boydell Press. Vickers performs regularly throughout the United States, England, Europe, and Asia, having sung at Carnegie Hall, The Kennedy Center, and Lincoln Center. He appears in recital at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., in May 2017.

For additional information on “Super Tuesdays,” contact Cline at (309) 438-5621.

The talk is part of theIllinois State University Speaker Series. The series seeks to bring innovative and enlightening speakers to the campus with the aim of providing the community with a platform to foster dialogue, cultivate enriching ideas, andcontinue an appreciation of learning as an active and lifelong process.  All talks are free and open to the public.

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 (www.elections.il.gov/), the McLean County Clerk’s office site (www.mcleancountyil.gov), through the ISU student portal, at my.illinoisstate.edu.

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 http://www.thisismyvote.org/. 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!"

Camille: You Might Be...

Camille Taylor

WJBC Forum

Broadcast August 30

Last week’s news was filled with more campaign name calling which included words like racist, bigot, prejudice, and discrimination. Since most people avoid discussing race, I wanted to clarify their definitions, so that when others are labelled, the average listener can identify if the word is being properly used or misused.

Jeff Foxworthy is a comedian known for his, “You might be a redneck…” jokes. So here goes my list:

“You might be a racist” if you use your power to establish systems, rules, practices, or laws that support your beliefs that people of other races are inferior. Consequently, when you hear the words “systemic racism” it is because racism still persists across systems such as government, insurance, education, finance, criminal justice, etc. In America, white people are the dominant group controlling positions of authority across most systems, so it is technically incorrect to call a person of color a “racist”, because of their position/lack of power to establish/maintain racist practices within systems.

“You might be a bigot” if you are completely intolerant, and devoted to your own opinions and prejudices such that you treat members of other groups with hatred and intolerance.

“You might be prejudiced” if you have a feeling for or against something or someone without any good reason. For example, if you feel that a certain group is inferior or bad because of their religion, gender, race, etc., but you really don’t know anyone from that group or much about them, then you are prejudiced.

“You might discriminate” if you have strong prejudicial or bigoted feelings about an individual or group and treat them unequally or unfairly due to their individual or group membership.

“You might be biased” if you have a preference that keeps you from making a fair judgement. For example, it could be as simple as a bias for vanilla over strawberry ice cream or as harmful as an employer preferring men over women or a realtor preferring white people to people of color.

Archie Bunker, of the 1970’s sitcom “All In the Family,” was openly prejudiced, biased, and generally considered to be a bigot. The show became a “safe place” to spark discussions on a number of race related issues, using humor to “ease” the conversations. Unfortunately, there is no humor in what is happening in the current political climate. 

I’m deeply concerned about the post-election environment that is being created in our country by the use of harmful and inflammatory rhetoric.

Study: Campaign Rhetoric Spurring Bullying, Fear in Schools

A survey of approximately 2,000 teachers by the Southern Poverty Law Center indicates that the presidential campaign is having a profoundly negative impact on schoolchildren across the country, according to a report released today.

The report – The Trump Effect: The Impact of the Presidential Campaign on Our Nation’s Schools – found that the campaign is producing an alarming level of fear and anxiety among children of color and inflaming racial and ethnic tensions in the classroom. Many students worry about being deported.

Teachers also reported an increase in the bullying, harassment and intimidation of students whose races, religions or nationalities have been the verbal targets of candidates.

“We’re deeply concerned about the level of fear among minority children who feel threatened by both the incendiary campaign rhetoric and the bullying they’re encountering in school,” said SPLC President Richard Cohen. “We’ve seen Donald Trump behave like a 12-year-old, and now we’re seeing 12-year-olds behave like Donald Trump.”

The online survey, conducted by the SPLC’s Teaching Tolerance project from March 23 to April 2, is not scientific. But it provides a rich source of information about the impact of this year’s election on the country’s classrooms. The data, including 5,000 comments from educators, shows a disturbing nationwide problem, one that is particularly acute in schools with high concentrations of minority children.

  • More than two-thirds of the teachers reported that students – mainly immigrants, children of immigrants and Muslims – have expressed concerns or fears about what might happen to them or their families after the election.
  • More than half have seen an increase in uncivil political discourse.
  • More than third have observed an increase in anti-Muslim or anti-immigrant sentiment.
  • More than 40 percent are hesitant to teach about the election.

While the survey did not identify candidates, more than 1,000 comments mentioned Donald Trump by name. In contrast, a total of fewer than 200 contained the names Ted Cruz, Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton. More than 500 comments contained the words “fear,” “scared,” “afraid,” “anxious,” or “terrified” to describe the campaign’s impact on minority students.

“My students are terrified of Donald Trump,” wrote a teacher from a middle school with a large population of African-American Muslims. “They think that if he’s elected, all black people will get sent back to Africa.”

In state after state, teachers reported similar fears.

A K-3 teacher in Oregon said her black students are “concerned for their safety because of what they see on TV at Trump rallies.” In Tennessee, a kindergarten teacher said a Latino child – told by classmates that he will be deported and blocked from returning home by a wall – asks every day, “Is the wall here yet?”

A number of teachers reported that students are using the word “Trump” as a taunt or chant as they gang up on others. Muslim children are being called “terrorist,” or “ISIS,” or “bomber.” One teacher wrote that a fifth-grader told a Muslim student “that he was supporting Donald Trump because he was going to kill all of the Muslims if he became president!”

Educators, meanwhile, are perplexed and conflicted about what to do. They report being stymied by the need to remain nonpartisan but disturbed by the anxiety in their classrooms and the lessons that children may be absorbing from this campaign.

“Schools are finding that their anti-bullying work is being tested and, in many places, falling apart,” said Teaching Tolerance Director Maureen Costello, author of the report. “Most teachers seem to feel they need to make a choice between teaching about the election or protecting their kids. In elementary school, half have decided to avoid it. In middle and high schools, we’re seeing more who have decided, for the first time, not to be neutral.”

The long-term impact on children’s wellbeing, their behavior or their civic education is impossible to gauge. Some teachers report that their students are highly engaged and interested in the political process this year. Others worry that the election is making them “less trusting of government” or “hostile to opposing points of view,” or that children are “losing respect for the political process.”

The SPLC urged educators to not abandon their teaching about the election, to use instances of incivility as teaching moments, and to support children who are hurt, confused or frightened by what they’re hearing from the candidates.

Aishwarya: The Realities of Racism

Aishwarya Shekara

Not In Our School

Normal Community High School

The black smoke that engulfed us was thick and dirty. I instinctively held by breath while identifying the deep pain in my mother’s eyes. The driver sped off, quickly leaving us in the smoke.

I needed a moment to register what had just happened. This man, another human being, my fellow countrymen, had done this on purpose. His goal, like many others, was to get a rise from us: Make us want to put our anti-racism signs and Not In Our Town banner down. He wanted to divert us with his insult. He wanted to send us home; little did he know that we were already home. Bloomington is my town, my haven, my home, and no one has the right to take that away from me.

On Sunday, March 13, Donald Trump arrived in Bloomington, IL. on his alleged $100 million dollar private jet. After being shunned from Chicago, Trump must have been looking for a small town, one that would easily be duped by his radical rhetoric and demagoguery. But we would not let that happen. As a member of Not In Our Town in Bloomington, and a starter of my high school’s Not In Our School chapter, I would not allow such a hateful human to enter the realms of my community, my home.

The night before, I had decided to join the peaceful protest with NIOT members to show our community that hatred and bullying have no place in Bloomington. Donald Trump’s constant appeals to the fear and frustrations Americans face have opened doors such as racism and bigotry back in our free world. As a student watching all the mayhem the Republican frontrunner has created, I knew I couldn’t be a bystander. I had to act. My voice had to be heard. Nothing would have prepared me for the experiences and political gander I endured that day.

Braving the rain was a challenge every protester encountered. As my hair stuck to my face and my energy and spirits soared, the cold kept my emotions in check. Around thirty to forty members from Not In Our Town were silently protesting outside Trump’s rally headquarters. The silence was extremely excruciating, but I knew NOIT is nonpartisan and we were there to end hate, not create more.

Time passed as I held my anti-racism poster, and as the traffic started to pick up all the action started. Supporters of our message would honk, give us a thumbs up sign, or talk to us from their windows. Trump’s advocates weren’t as kind. As a sixteen year old American with Indian parents I had never faced this much hate in my young life. As they drove by, middle fingers raised telling us to “go home,” I was deeply shocked by the realities of racism and hatred that exist in today’s world.

When Trump arrived, I was ready to greet him with my message of defiance and protest. An elderly woman that was holding a “Make America Great Again” called my friends the “N-word” out loud. This is evidence that Trump’s campaign is uplifting racism in our country, by allowing strangers to use such evil and derogatory language. Later, I found myself trapped in a huddle of his supports. I knew I was entering a dangerous zone, a place my mother warned me of numerous times the night before. Though I was stuck in their huddle and cheers, I would not stay quiet. I knew if I was passive or ignored their hateful chants I was indirectly accepting their evil, and Trump’s message to our country. Quick to act, I began screaming anti-Trump chants such as, “Dump Trump” and “Love Trumps Hate” as loud as I could. Dazed and confused that a protestor had entered their pack, a man around sixty-years-old shouted, “Go back to your country.” At first, I was shocked to hear such a cruel comment directed towards me. Never in my life has someone had the audacity to say such a racist and hateful thing to my face. My reaction could be considered controversial; I started laughing because the joke was on him. I was born in OSF Saint Joseph Hospital, a mile away from the protest, and here this stranger was trying to tell me to “go back.” The irony of it all was too much for me, so I began laughing to let my anger and frustration out. Another woman nearby heard my obnoxious laughter and tried saying something. Before she could open her mouth I gave the group a dazzling smile and walked away.

Trump later called protesters “thugs” and “Bernie supports,” but we were simply there to exercise our right to peacefully protest to end his tyranny of hate. By appealing to radical voters, Trump has driven a wedge through our country, causing an eruption of discrimination and bigotry on our soil.

While walking back to my car I found a sticker on the ground that said “I love white people.” I love my white brothers and sisters, but loving a single race is baffling. Never had I imagined something this spiteful could be printed as a sticker to wear as a sick sign of pride orhonor. I picked the sticker up off the ground and ripped it to shreds. Something that vile does not belong on the soil of our free nation. It was in that moment I vowed to make a difference, to change something and make my voice heard. My goal as a students is to emphasize how our voice matters, and though some of us can't vote, we need to be heard because we are the next generation.

NIOTBN Trumpets Message at B/N Trump Rally

Today's appearance of a controversial presidential candidate in the Twin Cities afforded Not In Our Town: Bloomington/Normal the opportunity to amplify its message of inclusiveness.

During Republican candidate Donald Trump's campaign rally at Central Illinois Regional Airport, several individuals and community organizations concerned about some of Trump's campaign comments. NIOTBN representatives gathered at the site according to Steering Committee Member Mike Matejka "not to challenge Donald Trump, but to affirm our values of a safe, inclusive community."

The group pledged "solidarity with all who struggle for justice and equality in a non-violent way and to affirm the value of all people in our community, regardless of their economic class, race, ability, gender or sexual orientation."

"I was so proud of Bloomington-Normal today with the Trump Rally," said NIOTBN charter member Marc Miller, who participated in the group's presentation. "It was peaceful throughout. Those of us who turned out for Not In Our Town stood diligently and testified with our silence and our present for our non-partisan message of stopping hate, addressing bullying, and creating a safe community for all."

The Pantagraph, WMBD-TV, and the international Reuters wire service interviewed NIOTBN representatives at the rally site. NIOTBN's post regarding the rally and community response by late afternoon had been viewed by 3,500 people, garnering 142 likes and 20 shares.

The Twin Cities rally followed Trump's cancellation of a planned rally in Chicago in the wake of major protests by a variety of groups.

"Today’s rally has concluded and the crowd is clearing peacefully. No significant issues were reported, and no arrests have been made," the Bloomington Police Department said in a Sunday statement. "Thank you to all the law enforcement agencies in attendance for their hard work and dedication protecting public safety and free speech."