By Camille Taylor
Two interesting things happened this week.
I attended an “ethnodrama” at Illinois Wesleyan which was written by a senior named Raven Stubbs, and I went to an open meeting sponsored by Republican Senator Jason Barickman and a Chicago Democrat, Representative Christian Mitchell.
Raven’s presentation was the culmination of a research study she did on the City of Bloomington which was called, “Invisible Lines.” It looked at the east side/west side views of community workers and residents, and shared their comments, verbatim, about what it’s like living in these two parts of Bloomington.
Senator Barickman and Representative Mitchell are part of the freshman class in the General Assembly. They have reached across the aisle to each other and are providing the opportunity to get the perspectives of their constituents hopeful that when bills are presented, each will have a better idea of what people are facing in their part of the state. Consequently Rep. Mitchell heard input from the “downstaters”, and Sen. Barickman will go to Chicago to listen to people’s concerns in the city. I thought both events were unique and educational.
Words like “food desert, blue collar, slum, ignored, and neglected” were descriptors for the west side. “High potential, eclectic, and lack of vision” were used to describe downtown Bloomington, and “affluent, insular, safe, restaurants, and plentiful shopping” were used to describe the east side.
Ms. Stubbs’ research uncovered feelings of racism, classism, and oblivion when it came to how people from each side of Bloomington felt about the other. She also cited a lack of a 15 year economic plan that most thriving communities typically have. Coincidentally, when Mayor Stockton was interviewed earlier this week, he was asked what he wished could happen for our town. He hoped a group of civic leaders and community folks would get together to come up with a 15 year plan. Hmmmm!!
The new mayor and city council will continue to face the challenge of how to reconcile the two sides of Bloomington into one community. Initiatives like the Westside Revitalization Project merit the community’s support to attract businesses, improve the infrastructure, and maintain the richness of neighborhood that the Westside has to offer. I would like to see more “reaching out” between the east/west sides of Bloomington such as what I witnessed with Sen. Barickman and Rep. Mitchell. Perhaps if each could share their perspectives, more respect and acceptance might become a reality.
Camille Taylor, a retired Counselor from Normal Community High School, has been an educator in this community for 34 years. She is active in the community currently serving as a church elder and board member for both the Baby Fold and the YWCA. She has been recognized by the YWCA as a Woman of Distinction for education, a Martin Luther King Jr. award winner for the City of Bloomington, a Distinguished Alumni by the College of Education at Illinois State University, a Human and Civil Rights award winner for the Illinois Education Association, and the H.Councill Trenholm Award recipient from the National Education Association for her work with diversity. She lives in Bloomington with her husband, Arthur, and is a mother and grandmother.
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