- Group Name: Bloomington-Normal Not In Our Town
- Location: Bloomington-Normal, IL
- Regular meetings: Regular meetings held monthly. On a few occasions, we have called special meetings to respond to situations in the community. • Informal meetings also held. Since the group traditionally had done summer activities, there is a “call” every spring to gather folks to decide the most appropriate next action. Or the group has gathered when there was a community event that needed support or a response.
Activities, Challenges & Lesssons Learned
Our group was initiated in 1995 when PBS was airing NIOT, screenings were held at the Carpenters Hall with community discussions, both for youth and adults. NIOT was used for training with the Bloomington Police Department. More forums and discussions were held after a failed human rights ordinance vote that January. In July 1996 the first NIOT march was held, with an event every summer after that and at various times. Church burnings in the south that year were one motivator for the march and a group went south to help rebuild churches. In August 1996 Bloomington erected its first NIOT sign at the city’s limits, with Normal following.
Innoculation -- talking early about possible issues helps create common ground and also builds a community climate that hateful activity is not to be tolerated.
Key lessons we would like to share include how an informal, community group can sustain activity for almost 15 years and perhaps survived because it was not formalized, though local government has provided key resource and personnel support. Because the group was not formalized, it has been able to respond to flexibility to a variety of challenges. NIOT has become part of the community’s consciousness, particularly through the signs, annual events, and the school outreach program, which reinforces the message to a new generation. “Inoculation” against hate is a key concept for this group.
We have strong relationships with the Bloomington and Normal police departments, and the City of Bloomington and Town of Normal. We have informal working relationships with community groups including local labor unions, Human Rights Advocacy Group (gay, lesbian, and transgender rights), various religious denominations, the YWCA, NAACP, Indian Association, and MAPP (Minority and Police partnership). We also work with area high schools, middle/junior highs, and elementary schools.