The Democratic Party of McDonough County Responds

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

Source: http://mcdonoughcountyvoice.il.newsmemory.com/?publink=143f5f116&fbclid=IwAR1IVPq1jFLeq4lOJGJAtXsmYnfmuCOtuwyB-8kaFKE5Apf9vCQDPt2iVMI

Update on our Press Conference

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.

Our First Press Conference…

…was held, and we released our first White Paper. [Link has been updated.]

We hadn’t heard back anything yet from our letter to the Mayor and City council, until 2:30 the afternoon after the press conference.

Our response to the white women who seem more concerned with #TonePolicing us, rather than with holding power accountable for their repeated failures to address the racism and anti-LGBT issues here:

McDonough County Republican Party Refuses to Denounce Racism

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.

” Here, in McDonough County, we have two requests of the McDonough County Republican Party: publicly condemn the racist and xenophobic images and rhetoric shared by their state party, and pledge to distance themselves from the racist and divisive rhetoric from Mr. Trump,” said Heather McMeekan, President of the Democratic Women of McDonough County. “We urge the leaders from the McDonough County Republican Party to contact our local news media to issue a statement, or to contact me directly…” Source: https://www.mcdonoughvoice.com/opinion/20190729/democratic-women-of-mcdonough-county-respond-to-meme-of-congresswomen-posted-by-illinois-republican-county-chairs-association

#twill #BlackLivesMatter #ICYMI

https://www.mcdonoughvoice.com/opinion/20190729/democratic-women-of-mcdonough-county-respond-to-meme-of-congresswomen-posted-by-illinois-republican-county-chairs-association

Letter Follow-up

This is a copy of the email President Heather McMeekan sent to the Macomb Mayor, Mike Inman, and the members of the Macomb City Council, as well as several others.
_________________________________________________________

Dear Mayor Inman & Macomb City Council Members,

Thank you for the opportunity to address the Council last night. I greatly appreciate being given a few extra minutes to finish reading the letter.

Attached is the letter I read to the City Council last night. It references the Chronicle of Higher Education article at https://www.chronicle.com/interactiv…/20191101-Western-Race…

Also attached to this email is the affadavit from Joanne Curtis, read by our 2nd V.P. Verna Parkins last night.

Some examples of city council proclamations we reviewed in preparing our letter include:

Sample Proclamations Resource: https://www.niot.org/c…/action-kit/sample-city-proclamations

A resource we’ve found helpful to our members and leadership team: Ten Ways to Fight Hate: A Community Response Guide: https://www.splcenter.org/…/ten-ways-fight-hate-community-r…

We appreciate your service to our city and consideration for our requests, and look forward to receiving your response.

Respectfully Submitted,

Heather McMeekan, President
Democratic Women of McDonough County

An Urgent Call To The Mayor & Our City Leadership…

We just posted this urgent letter in response to the article in last week’s Chronicle of Higher Education about our community. First, we affirm the veracity of the information. We call on our community members to report those who mistreat members of our community to the Macomb Police Department. Please, especially report all acts of racism and bigotry to the Macomb Police.

To those who have expressed fear or mistrust in the Macomb Police Department Leadership and some officers, we have heard your concerns. Our letter contains a list of actions to begin addressing the lack of confidence and trust in our police department, promote a greater balance of checks and balances, transparency, and multiple avenues of communication.

Read it, and weep for our community’s Black, Latin, and Hispanic students and community members who deserve to live here in safety and equality of opportunity and protection under the law.

Celebrating 100 Members

When we began this journey, it was just our founder and a handful of her friends. Now, a little over 8 months later, our organization just added it’s 100th member…and we’re just getting started!

We’d like to give a #ShoutOut to our friends in Fulton County, Illinois, who recently launched their own “Democratic Women of Fulton County, Illinois” group and Facebook page. Congratulations!!!

We’re beginning organizing for next year’s #MacombPridefest event. If you’d like to be on our planning committee, let us know! Send us an email at info@democratic-women.org.

Of Kites & Festivals…

We’d like to thank all those who helped out at the 5th Annual Macomb Kite Festival this past weekend.

Five years ago, our founder and current President, Heather McMeekan, put together this festival as an event that would allow all children in attendance to enjoy. Now with it’s fifth year behind us, we look forward to supporting and sponsoring this event as part of Macomb’s “Air, Wind, & Fire” Festival the first weekend after Labor Day.

We are especially grateful for all our our members, friends, and the sponsors & volunteers who made this event happen! Thank you to:

Building the Blue

Re-blog of the article from the McDonough County Voice:

“Area Democrats are working hard to build up the blue in McDonough County.”

“A group of enthusiastic Democratic voters and elected officials in McDonough County filled the Macomb VFW on Monday night for the McDonough County Democratic Central Committee’s annual Fish and Chicken Fry Dinner. The dinner served as a chance for the party to talk about its ongoing effort to find more “blue” voters in a historically “red” region.”

“Illinois State Treasurer Michael Frerichs made the trip to Macomb to speak at the dinner. The Champaign County native said that McDonough County reminds him of home, especially with its quality of soil, agricultural opportunities, and proximity to a 4-year university.”

“With the struggles in enrollment at Western Illinois University, Frerichs told the Voice that the state has turned the page from former Gov. Rauner’s lack of financial commitment.”

#FlipIL93 #UniteBlue #BlueWave2020

Source: https://www.mcdonoughvoice.com/news/20190828/building-blue

McDonough County Fish Fry

President Heather McMeekan’s Remarks at the Aug 26 McDonough County Democrats Annual Fish Fry Fundraiser at the Macomb VFW

My joy at being with so many of you tonight is tinged with more than a little sorrow and grief for all the people who should be here tonight, yet aren’t, through no fault of their own. Some have passed away, but others were forced to leave our community because of the jobs lost forever at WIU. Indeed, many of the jobs targeted for elimination were OUR people, liberal democrats. Or their partners. Or their children. And their absence is deeply felt in our community.

Since our last fish fry, many businesses have closed, their services degraded or lost to our community. The ALEC-driven Republican austerity has starved our regional economy, leaving many of our community members struggling to put food on the table and clothing on their children’s backs.

Democratic Representatives and Senators all across the state have been using the recess to hold job fairs, back-to-school fairs, health fairs, property tax appeal seminars, college affordability assistance fairs, clothing and food drives, Fair Tax Town Halls, and many other helpful support and enrichment programs we NEVER receive, because our voters keep voting for Republicans who don’t do any of these things for our people, preferring to toe the ALEC “starve our services” line. 

Yet there is hope for renewal and progress. This spring, we elected our FIRST black alderwoman-at-large with Tammie Leigh Brown-Edwards winning her race. And got our first black Democratic power couple with the election of Stirling Edwards, her husband, to serve on our Park Board! We also elected an amazing woman, Emily Sutton, to our local school board, though we lost her to an even bigger oppportunity to help our communities when she was appointed to be a judge, and you’ll get to hear from her this evening as well. There is no challenge we can’t meet with good, hard-working people in positions of power and authority.

As our McDonough Democrats know, our county party has a “no issue” stance in our by-laws and by local tradition. After last November’s election, some of us who were frustrated at the prospect of more years of absent constituent services from our Republicans in leadership organized around a simple idea. “Allyship FIRST.”

Wow, has THAT led to some interesting challenges, discussions, and activities. Even better, it has given us the profoundly moving privilege of connecting with many diverse, wonderful human beings under our Democratic Big Tent!!!

In early January, we hand-delivered community letters about WIU’s impending layoffs to then Governor-Elect JB Pritzker. Later that month, we convened our very first official meeting of the Democratic Women of McDonough County with 23 initial members, and got to work.

It was our intent to organize the first 6 months quietly behind the scenes. When WIU’s former administration and BOT announced they intended to go ahead ANYWAY with their layoffs despite Governor Pritzker’s election, we held community meetings along with University Professionals of Illinois, WIU’s Faculty Union, to try to stop the layoffs. We were unsuccessful, but we did show up.

Our organizational dynamics from the ground up were designed to accommodate the very real challenges of organizing rural diverse women and allies already leading very complex, busy lives, often in the midst of great personal hardship & struggle. Many of our members are the primary caregivers of their children, and/or their parents. Many live below the poverty line, and could not be here tonight because even $20 for a ticket during a back-to-school month is beyond their household budget.

Our flexible, trauma-informed, asynchonyous, online organizing style accommodates our members’ energy, schedules, and responsibilities. As a small org with few resources – and even fewer Democrats in leadership positions around here to mentor us – our group is having to break new ground as we simultaneously build, use our progressive voices to challenge authority, and provide services as needed, all the while confronting the challenges our members bring before us and push us to take action on. This allows us to be efficient, responsive to developing issues, and provides opportunities to grow our members’s networks, skills, and storytelling abilities.

We provide training and education to our members and the general public, and mentor & sponsor young democratic women from WIU and Macomb High School, providing opportunities to meet with legislators and connect with other democratic organizations around the state.

But not without a cost. Many of our members have been banned from teaching Sunday School, kicked out of their churches, ostracized at family gatherings, bullied online and in person, had their jobs threatened, their integrity questioned, their co-workers turn their backs on them, and been asked to disavow themselves. All for the sin of being in or associated with our Democratic Women’s org. We have members who have to hide their association or risk divorce, challenges to custody of their children, even loss of their home. I am deeply honored and proud to lead an organization filled with so many caring humans willing to allow themselves to be subjected to such trauma in the hopes we can advance a progressive agenda and bloom our own blue wave someday here in West Central Illinois!

And what a whirlwind of organizing this past 7 months has been! We’ve rapidly grown to almost 90 members strong, with over 25 advisors, mentors, and issue experts from around the state. We became an official affiliate of the Statewide Organization, Illinois Democratic Women, through which we are also affiliated with the National Federation of Democratic Women. We’ve grown to become the SECOND LARGEST county Democratic Women’s organization in the ENTIRE STATE!!! 

With eight active social media teams trained in messaging, rapid response, evidence collection, troll takedowns, reporting of dangerous online content, connecting those in need to resources, and vetting info for accuracy, we’ve even had two separate unique “memes” go viral, one in-state with over 33 thousand views, and another which went viral nationwide with over 1.2 MILLION views to that image, all organic, unpaid reach.

Our Animal Welfare Coalition addresses the education of pet owners and community members as to the intersections between animal abuse and neglect and human interactions.

Our Labor Coalition boasts a membership with leaders and members in labor unions across the state, serving as a local networking hub for working people operating in the area seeking to connect with them for wisdom and support.

Our PrideFest committee held the first ever community PrideFest in Chandler Park this April. Despite a cold, wet, windy day, over 480 wonderful human beings from all over west central Illinois came out for a day filled with friendship, acceptance, love, and joy. But know we had to protect many attendees there from being discovered and put at risk of very real harm. 

Members of the clergy enjoyed one day in our county where they didn’t have to hide from their own flocks; members of churches came with their own family members who must live in hiding or risk bullying, banishment or worse if discovered. Our committee also sent an allyship sheet cake to WIU’s Unity Drag Show, in honor of their years of standing up for the LGBTQIA community and we hope to support them in their valuable work.

Our Mental Health Coalition held a free “juvenile mental health first aid” training & is holding one for adults this fall. They also provided multicultural coloring pages and mental health info brochures for Juneteenth, and for all our tabling opportunities.

Our Women’s Health Task Force stood up in the cold rain for the passage of the Reproductive Healthcare Act, organized a professional clothing drive for Juneteenth, and holds a quarterly diaper and period product drive, addressing poverty issues affecting women and girls.

In our “Racial Justice Coalition,” our black members, WIU alumni, allies, and mentors have generously shared their experiences (and their patience with us white women) while we’ve been learning how to deal with our #WhiteFragility. We acknowledge that our internalized white supremacy, which we all have, makes even discussing race issues difficult for us.

We’ve learned that our segregated personal bubbles must be integrated so we can learn to use our privilege to help our black community members receive witness, validation for their long-standing struggles, and support in the form of white allies who can speak their truth to white people in power – and be far more likely to be heard, whether or not they agree with what we say.

Alarmed at the rise in anecdotal accounts of racist micro-aggressions and targeting of our community members, we urgently call on all people of good will in our communities to begin speaking to our neighbors and community leaders about racism. We are facing a terrible scenario this upcoming 2020 campaign season in that we may very well be facing a Republican Party rapidly being pushed into becoming a White Nationalist party. We must be ready to resist such a grim perversion of our democracy at all levels.

We hope to work together with our elected and appointed officials to address structural racism, which is the longstanding legacy of every community in our nation. We put out a letter to the editor a few weeks ago calling on our local and state GOP to distance themselves from their party’s racism at the federal and state level. So far, there has been no public response from the local Republicans.

I am very proud of our work in this community, and of our organization’s members and allies. We hope we can all come together and bloom a blue wave in 2020, but WE NEED CANDIDATES!!! If you would like to run, please let our party know! We know we must work hard every month to win races in 2020. We’re profoundly grateful for all our Democrats at all levels working together during these troubled times.

Thank you for all you do.

Heather McMeekan, M.S., is the Founder and President of the Democratic Women of McDonough County. She serves as a Democratic Precinct Committee Chair for the McDonough County Democratic Central Committee. She serves on the board for the Obama Legacy Initiative, as an Advisory Council member for SheVotesIL, and serves as the Digital Media Director for Illinois Democratic Women. She is quoted in the book, “Digital Civil War” by Peter Daou.


#twill #BlackLivesMatter #Macomb #IL #ILPolitics #Illinois #BlueWave2020 #IDW #UniteBlue