Thank you to all who attended our press conference today.
[Note: Based upon interviews and collaboration and input from multiple sources in our city, we believe the following to be accurate based upon our understanding at this time. As we are volunteers, community members, and concerned human beings, we believe the overall picture of this situation emerging from these preliminary findings is of sufficient concern to warrant a demand for action.]
Situation: A mentally disabled, traumatized Black man with intellectual challenges went missing a few weeks ago in our community. He has a legal guardian, his brother, who is also Black.
The guardian brother, worried and desperate to find him, tried to make a report about his missing brother at the police station. They refused to help him, claiming that since his brother was an adult, they couldn’t take a report. The brother kept trying to locate him on his own, without any police help.
More days passed. The brother asked yet another police officer to take a report, and he refused as well. But one of the police officers told the brother that another officer had given his brother a one-way ticket to Chicago. The statement was witnessed.
The brother continued his search without any assistance nor even support from the Macomb Police Department.
A few days later, the police officer then changed his story and stated they hadn’t given him a ticket and sent him away. Frantic and traumatized, the brother, who is his guardian, finally received aid from a professional health provider who went with him to the police station to insist they finally report his brother as missing and endangered.
The Macomb P.D. finally, approximately two weeks later, filed the missing persons report, neglecting to mention in that report he was missing because they had given him a one-way ticket to a city where he has nobody to help him. The Chicago Police Department located him, sitting on a stoop, with frostbitten feet, in the same clothes he had left Macomb with two weeks prior.
The brother who is the guardian of this man not only wasn’t offered any assistance nor apology, he had to drive up to get his brother and bring him back to his home community at his own expense, with no assistance from the Macomb police, who had created this emergency in the first place through their own actions.
Thank you to all who organized, donated, spoke, stood with us, and/or otherwise supported our Chandler Park Vigil for Peace against #WarWithIran. Thank you to the news agencies for their coverage of this event.
Transcript: President Heather McMeekan’s Event Emcee
“The moment we begin to fear the opinions of others and hesitate to tell the truth that is in us, and from motives of policy are silent when we should speak, the divine floods of light and life no longer flow into our souls.”
~ Elizabeth Cady Stanton
Thank you to all who donated food, supplies, and gifts of time and resources to make this event possible.
As the decisions of the Trump Administration drags our nation perilously closer to war with Iran, we are grateful for all who have chosen to stand with us as we say no to yet another endless, expensive war which we cannot support ethically, financially, nor spiritually. We stand as one human family to demonstrate that we oppose the bloody sacrifice of American lives, immoral and unilateral use of force against another country, and needless waste of taxpayer money.
At this time, I’d like to introduce Reverend Kelly Ingersoll, First Christian Church, Disciples of Christ, for our convocation.
“It isn’t enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn’t enough to believe in it. One must work at it.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt
When a parent or caregiver serves in the Military, so does their family, including their children.
According to The National Child Traumatic Stress Network: “Children of military and veteran families experience unique challenges related to military life and culture. These include deployment-related stresses such as parental separation, family reunification, and reintegration; disruption of relationships with friends and neighbors due to frequent moves; and adaptation to new schools and new community resources. Added to this, some children face the trauma of a parent returning home from combat with injuries or illness; others must face their parent’s death.”
“According to the National Center for Children in Poverty: “Wartime parental deployments can be one of the most stressful events of a child’s life.17“
“Changes reported included changes in school performance, lashing out in anger, worrying, hiding emotions, disrespecting parents and authority figures, feeling a sense of loss, and symptoms consistent with depression.18
High levels of sadness were observed in children in all age groups.19
I’d like to introduce our next speaker. He’s a local businessman, a father, a grandfather, a husband, and a Vietnam Veteran, having served in the U.S. Army. Please welcome Paul Trimmer!
[Paul Trimmer, U.S. Army Veteran, Vietnam Veteran]
Role of Employment Status on Child Outcomes
“Nearly 2/5ths (38.3 percent) of deployed services personnel are not full-time military.55 Many of the nearly 1.1 million individuals in the National Guard and Reserve components experience combat-related duty.56 Reserve and Guard troops represent a significant sub-population within the military, and face specific challenges that impact their families.
Research shows that living on base is linked to reduced difficulties both during and after deployment.57
Reservists and their families have less experience dealing with deployment and re-integration and less support than active duty soldiers and families.58
Reservist families are less likely to be integrated into a military social support network, are less familiar with how to access military benefits and less likely to use installation-based services.59
Reserve component soldiers were nearly one and a half times more likely to report mental health problems and over three times more likely to be referred for services than active duty personnel three to six months after their return.60 These higher levels of referrals were attributed to differential health benefits and supports for these individuals compared to active duty personnel.61
Less than ½ of National Guard and Reserve families surveyed reported a consistent level of support during the pre-deployment, deployment and post-deployment phases. 17% reported no support.62”
Our nation does not exist to vote in leaders who condemn our children and grandchildren to fighting endless wars while the needs of our communities go unmet. We urge Congressman Darin LaHood (R-IL18) to join his Illinois Colleagues in the Senate, Illinois State Senators Tammy Duckworth & Dick Durbin, in putting the safety of our military members and our community’s next generation of soldiers above partisan politics by seeking diplomacy and de-escalation to protect lives, resources, and our crucial diplomatic ties with our allies around the world. We are handing out postcards that already have a stamp on them. Fill them out, and send them to US Congressman Darin LaHood. Make certain you state on there “I am a Consituent.”
Now I’d like to bring up University Professional of Illinois’s President, William “Bill” Thompson.
“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.” ~ President Dwight D. Eisenhower
Please welcome Candace Whitman, Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor
Military Combat Deployments Increase Child Maltreatment Due to Toxic Stress
“Phases of deployment (pre-deployment, deployment and re-integration) are important and affect the children’s well-being. Both departures to, and returns from, combat deployment cause stress in families. Poorly supported families are at greater risk of psychological stress & long-term issues from combat deployments.”
“Rates of maltreatment in military families far outpaced the rates among non-military families after the U.S. started sending larger numbers of troops to Afghanistan and Iraq in 2003.39
Among families of enlisted U.S. Army personnel with substantiated reports of child maltreatment (physical, emotional or sexual abuse), rates of maltreatment are greater when the soldiers are on combat-related deployments.
The rate of child maltreatment in families of enlisted Army soldiers was 42% higher during combat deployment than during non-deployment.40
For military personnel with at least one dependent, the rate of child maltreatment increases by approximately 30% for every 1% increase in the number of active duty soldiers who depart or return from combat deployment.41” Source: http://www.nccp.org/publications/pub_938.html
Our next speaker, Emiliano Vera, is a teacher from Bushnell, and is running for State Representative in Illinois’s 93rd Congressional District. Please welcome Emiliano Vera!
Thank you. And thank you all for coming out evening. We must get our nation’s leaders, including our own US Congressman Darin LaHood (R-IL18) to oppose war with Iran and put country over ideology. We must. We must not hand our children yet another bloody, endless conflict that starves our nation of it’s promise, potential, and resources we should be using to the benefit and safety of all.
Please, speak the hard conversations with those who are still more afraid of revealing their opinions publicly rather than challenging those whose ignorance is tearing at the very fabric of our shared purpose. Our children need us all to have courage now. There is no alternative to demanding diplomacy and peace.
• Opening Remarks – Heather McMeekan, President, DWMC • Convocation – Kelly Ingersol, First Christian Church, Disciples of Christ • Paul Trimmer, US Army & Vietnam Veteran • William “Bill” Thompson, UPI Local 4100 (WIU Faculty/Staff Union) • Candace Whitman, Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor • Emiliano Vera, Teacher, Candidate for State Representative (D-IL93)
• White Board Campaign with hashtag – get people to post on their own social media • Sign the online petition to Rep LaHood • Postcards to Rep LaHood, Senators Duckworth & Durbin
Some of our members attended the city council meeting to begin reading into the public record some facts about the racist legacy of cannabis prohibition, and how the current legislation at the state and federal level still allows for risk of disparate treatment of Black/Hispanic/Latino/Native American cannabis users due to the subjectivity and lax oversight on how the laws are enforced. In particular, the paraphernalia laws and ordinances must go.
Paraphernalia laws are blatantly racist and classist. Wealthier, white users can afford edibles and nasal sprays. The poor purchase flower and use chillums, one-hitters, bowls, etc. as they can’t afford to purchase the edibles.
And Black users are over-policed using this law, causing them to enter the justice system for the crime of using this safe plant. Furthermore such laws stigmatize and criminalize addiction, despite the fact that these devices are a legal delivery device that is sold in our city.
“In a related issue, two city residents asked the council to consider striking the drug paraphernalia portion of an amended cannabis possession ordinance adopted two weeks ago. “Some of those devices are used legally by medical marijuana users,” said Heather McMeekan.
McMeekan said the paraphernalia ban is a legacy of previous rigid enforcement and could especially harm students and minorities. She said the portion of the ordinance allowing police to make stops based on detecting the odor of cannabis threatens those who have purchased it legally.
“The sealed medical marijuana in my vehicle leaves a distinctive odor,” McMeekan said.
Emiliano Vera told the city council that he is also opposed to the retention of drug paraphernalia language. “The poorest people in our community would be harmed by these unnecessarily punitive regulations,” he said.”
Our membership is growing!!! Thanks to your support, we are at 120 members just 11 months after becoming an organization. To celebrate, we’re announcing our new member benefits we’ll be offering to all our members!
Included with dues, members can join as many groups as they wish. We will have the following services/circles:
Allyship Book Club (via our Racial Justice Coalition)
Artists & Crafters Guild (Networking, support, and promotion)
Drum Circle (Meets monthly and on special occasions)
Fibre Arts Circle (ALL things fibre/sewing/crocheting/knitting)
Gardening Co-Op (Environmental Justice Coalition)
Home Improvement Co-Op (Environmental Justice Coalition)
Liberal Lunchers Weekly Brown Bag Discussion
Monthly Trauma Circle (Mental Health Task Force)
Quarterly Trauma Healing and Resilience Workshops (Mental Health Task Force)
Right before Christmas, it was brought to our attention that the shelters had no offers of aid. We are IMMENSELY grateful for all the good people in both political parties (or none) who stepped up to help us get the shelter gifts and treats for all the residents. THANK YOU!!!
We will do an annual holiday gift drive for The Samaritan Well as one of our projects so this never happens again. What are we here for, if not to support one another? Any of us could experience housing insecurity/housing loss. We all have to ensure those who do experience such traumatic affronts to feelings of personal and familiar safety do not also suffer abandonment from the community as well.
This lack of attention to the needs of our most marginalized community members by our city also showed up in an absence of food bags for homes without financial privilege. Such an absence meant many families had no holiday dinner for their loved ones. Alas, due to the late discovery, we were unable to marshal the resources needed to get this need filled. This failure to care for our most vulnerable human family members should never happen again in this community.
We’ve written an OpEd about some remedies that can help our community do better in the future. We can, and we must. Read our OpEd here >>>>
The Mayor said we’d receive a written response to our letter. So far, nothing. It’s been weeks.
We met with him and City Councilwoman Gayle Carper two weeks ago. Mayor Inman refused an offer to work with our Racial Justice Coalition, stating his preference for working with the Multicultural Center Staff at WIU.
WIU’s Multicultural Center staff is there to serve WIU students, and despite losing all but 1 director, is doing a great job.
But WE are community members representing OUR COMMUNITY. To refuse to work with our committee members shows Mayor Inman isn’t serious about actually addressing the racial challenges in this community.
The McDonough County Democratic Central Committee has a letter to the editor today. Meanwhile, we’re still waiting for ANYONE in the local Republican party to denounce racism.
Mayor Inman knows we want an anti-racist proclamation. His ongoing excuses and put-offs on this issue reveals much about the city leadership’s lack of commitment to standing up for racial justice in this community.
We greatly appreciate our Democratic Party’s response, as below:
Letter to Our Black/Latin/Hispanic/Native American/International Community Members
We believe you. We stand with you. We want to prove it.
This is the message that the McDonough County Democratic Party wishes to share with people of color in Macomb and McDonough County, in alignment with the national Democratic Party’s established commitment to stand up for racial justice and civil rights.
This letter is partially in response to the events of this spring’s “Fire Jack” campaign organized by a group of business owners targeting WIU President Thomas. But we also recognize that events like this are only flare ups in a long-simmering reality that lets people of color know they are simply not welcome in many spaces here.
Some individuals do not understand why this campaign was racist and why people of color are still hurting from that event. Too often, the reaction by well meaning white people to events that harm the black community is to “not raise a fuss” and “wait for it to blow over”.
Silence is itself an injustice. Dr. King notes the preference of the “white moderate” for “a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice.”
Black people in the community have already gone to great lengths to explain why the actions taken by the campaign were racist, through many op-eds, blog posts and public speeches. To briefly summarize, the public shaming of a black man, in the town square, using only his first name stripped of all recognition of office and merit, by powerful, prominent white citizens, reminded may people of darker days, when black men were called “boy” to belittle them. Addressing Dr. Thomas as ‘Jack’ shows disrespect for him and the office, no matter how one feels about his performance as President.
This time, because of the voices of individuals in the black community and allied organizations, this issue was not quietly hidden away.
Mayor Inman and WIU Interim President Abraham have publicly acknowledged that racism exists in our community and have pledged to address this issue. So far, an attempt at a remedy has come in the form of the “non-violent communication” workshops led by Dr. J. Q. Adams. They are a necessary start to the conversation, and we look forward to achieving material gains in racial equality in Macomb and the county.
In seeking justice we will not allow continued offenses to blow over. Last month’s “Town and Gown” event, held in the venue where the campaign slogan was prominently displayed on their marquee, caused shock and disappointment among members of our committee involved in the recent forums on racial justice.
In continued solidarity, we stand behind the National Democratic Party Platform and the efforts of local organizations that are working to create a community committed to equality and justice for all of its residents.
The McDonough County Democratic Central Committee Contact: Lee Trotter, President, McDonough County Democratic Party
The Macomb Chief of Police (like the McDonough County Sheriff) has apparently learned how to evade public awareness & accountability…they just refuse to talk to our journalists on the record.
That kind of disrespect for the public they are sworn to serve and protect, combined with a lack of transparency, is how we got to where we are in this community.
Show some guts, guys, or step down if you aren’t up to the job of taking journalist’s questions. That’s a basic function of the job. Leaders of police departments have NO RIGHT to deprive the public of their responses to journalist’s questions about your own job performance and actions while representing us taxpayers. We don’t know why these Republican leaders think they are above basic accountability and transparency.
As for Mayor Inman, we have a meeting tomorrow with the Mayor and City Councilwoman Gayle Carper.
Despite our request for her to be included, Macomb’s first Black Woman Alderwoman-at-Large was excluded from both the meeting tomorrow, and whatever they are planning to show us. This continuing marginalization of Alderwoman Tammie Leigh Brown-Edward’s voice deprives us of her expertise, perspective, and cultural input.
We sincerely hope Mayor Inman will stop excluding Alderwoman Brown-Edwards from such important discussions in the future. Keeping our one Black elected city official out of the meetings and discussions for the remedies for our city’s challenges isn’t ok. Nor is listing her presence at the “Community Conversations” in an official response to the paper instead of asking her for her actual thoughts and statement.
It’s as if they sought to imply that her mere presence at the Community Conversations legitimized them – without soliciting and allowing her opinion about them to be heard and inform our dialog. This appears to be yet more convenient optics, instead of real racial justice in action. This is unconscionable given our city’s racial challenges.
We’ve posted another affidavit about community members trying to get Macomb Police Chief Barker’s attention on his department’s issues with race, class, and lack of cultural competency, from 2016. We’ll keep posting them as needed so the public can see all the many years community members have been trying to get our city leadership’s attention to these issues, without any measurable progress.
We’ve still received no response to our call to the Republican Party to distance themselves from the racism. …and the racism is continuing to get worse in our community. Their silence is consent, and given how the racism in this community is harming our black citizens, students, and visitors, is morally indefensible.