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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

NOT IN OUR TOWN – MCLEAN COUNTY

 

Thursday, September 8th, 2011

 

Not in Our Town Logo

Not in Our Town” is a national effort to combat discrimination and hate crimes, bringing communities together on common ground.

The original story begins in 1992-93 in Billings, Montana, where a series of hate crimes against Jewish, African-American and Native Americans families brought the community together, under the slogan, “Not In Our Town.” The local newspaper, the Billings Gazette, published a full-page illustration of a menorah, asking families to put it in their window, after a Jewish family had their window smashed with a cinder block when they displayed a menorah. Over 14,000 families responded and the Billings community came together.

This half-hour program, Not In Our Town, was shown nationally on PBS in December 1995. Leading up to the showing, a show was previewed in Bloomington-Normal, with panel discussions of both adults and youth. In January 1996, the Bloomington City Council turned down, 6-1, expansion of the city’s human relations code to include gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgendered individuals. More panels and discussions followed this. The Bloomington Police Department began using the video as a training tool.

In the summer of 1996, when African-American churches were being burnt in the South, a “Not In Our Town – No Racism” march was held, drawing a large and diverse coalition. A group from this march went south to help rebuild a church and people signed a “no racism” pledge. Mayor Jesse Smart stepped up police patrols around African-American churches, to prevent a repeat of what was then happening in Southern states. A sign, with the universal red slash through the word “racism,” became the local Not In Our Town logo. City vehicles and residents put stickers with it on their vehicles and doors. Bloomington and then Normal unveiled highway signs at the community’s entrance with this “not in our town” message. A march was held from the IWU to the ISU campus in 1997. Bloomington-Normal was featured in 1998’s Not In Our Town II broadcast on PBS. Annual events were held for a number of years, often including panel discussions, an annual march and a diversity fair.

Special events were held at various times. When Normal and then Bloomington did expand their human relations ordinances to include gays, lesbians and transgendered people, Not In Our Town sponsored forums. When East Peoria’s Matt Hale came to town with his white supremacist message, an alternative “diversity gathering” was held in downtown Bloomington. When Rev. Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church came to protest with anti-gay messages outside local churches, a community response was formulated.

In 2006, Bloomington-Normal hosted the first (and only) national gathering of Not In Our Town communities. An on-going effort is an annual voluntary out-reach in area schools, where junior and high school students are asked to sign “no discrimination” pledges, and primary school students, “no bullying” pledges.

What has this meant for McLean County? Some would say that it is only a superficial “feel good” effort, and that discrimination still exists. No one with Not In Our Town would deny discrimination’s continued existence; what Not In Our Town has accomplished is a standard that the community aspires to live up to and it has created numerous opportunities for local people to not only dialogue, but also celebrate and affirm our community’s diversity.

 

 

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For further information contact Linda Miller, WTVP Vice President of Programming, at (309) 495-0591 or linda.miller@wtvp.org

 


 

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