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

Racial & Restorative Justice Requires Discomfort

MACOMB, ILLINOIS – Nearly two months after a group of white business owners publicly displayed and/or distributed signs which were condemned by the black community and allies as racist, we appreciate that Mayor Mike Inman has officially spoken on the issue in a recent op-ed to the Voice.

Well, almost.

It would be hard for anyone who has not been closely following the events in Macomb surrounding the signs to understand the context of the Mayor’s letter or what may have caused this sudden concern for “race relations and inclusivity”, as he writes. The mayor calls for “healing,” “dialogue,” and “making amends.” An uninformed reader might ask, “about what?”

Nowhere in the article does he mention the direct cause the current tensions: namely, these business owners publicly shaming one of the most prominent black figures in Macomb.

The vagueness of the letter tries to soften some hard truths. There hasn’t been an organic “coming together of individuals” – there have been selective conversations. It’s important to build an inclusive community, but “all individuals” were not targeted by the signs – a black man was. Making amends behind closed doors “without shame or blame” is a weak substitute for addressing a racial injustice that took place very publicly.

Many black people in Macomb have already made their voices heard as individuals and through allied organizations. They shouldn’t be expected to sit through a session and explain to these wealthy white people why the signs were racist. Neither should we pretend racist “feelings and beliefs” have equal legitimacy to the real trauma and fears expressed by the black community.

While it’s a start to provide a safe, non-challenging space to help white people learn the basics of how not to be racist, diversity training isn’t enough. Restorative justice for harm done to our black community, even if the harm was inflicted unintentionally, is needed. That means strengthening public institutions in our community, like the Equal Opportunity and Fair Housing Commission, that are tasked with addressing issues of racism and discrimination and providing concrete solutions.

We live in a time of explicit and violent racism from the Presidency on down. There can be no “tolerable” level of racism in a healthy, vibrant community. There is explicit racism, there is anti-racism, and what is in between is the “tolerable” racism which white people can choose to ignore. That space is white privilege.

To act publicly in a racist manner and then have one’s white elected officials offer private, gentle, protected, optional penance as ‘coming together’—with no accountability or acknowledgement of harm done—epitomizes white privilege.

Restorative justice would be the Mayor explicitly condemning the signs as racist, and those business owners issuing a public apology for harm done, then taking explicit, transparent actions to hire, employ, and welcome black people as employees, customers, and clientele.

Signed,
The Democratic Women of McDonough County

The Democratic Women of McDonough County is a 501(c)4 non-profit organization focusing on increasing the participation of women in all levels of politics.

OpEd: Democratic Women of McDonough County respond to meme of Congresswomen posted by Illinois Republican County Chair’s Association

MACOMB – The Democratic Women of McDonough County, Illinois, wishes to respond to the racist propaganda meme recently posted on the Illinois Republican County Chairs’ Association’s Facebook page that targeted four female Congressional Representatives.

The incendiary image, posted on Friday, July 19, mischaracterizes the women as Muslim terrorists, positioning them as hostile foreign actors and making it seem acceptable, through their example, for the Republican Party base to further degrade, harass, and threaten them.

“The Illinois GOP’s use of violent propaganda perpetuates the dehumanization of these elected citizens of the United States,” stated Regina Matthews, Chairwoman of the Democratic Women’s Racial Justice Coalition. “This rhetoric must stop.”

“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 by emailing me at hmcmeekan@gmail.com.”

We stand in agreement with the Illinois Democratic County Chairs’ Association, which has encouraged Illinois Republican Party leaders and organizations to distance themselves from the image, to stand in solidarity with the Illinois Democratic Chairs’ Association call for every Republican County Chair to denounce the image, and to condemn its dissemination by the Republican Party. We also call on the Illinois Republican Party to investigate the source or agent(s) who posted the image and hold them accountable.

The Democratic Women of McDonough County also call on our U.S. Congressman Darin LaHood (R-IL18) to publicly condemn both the meme and Mr. Trump’s racist messaging and tweets. Tacit endorsement or ignoring of harmful behavior normalizes and perpetuates it. His refusal to condemn these racist attacks by his own party leadership is unacceptable and unbefitting a U.S. Representative of the great State of Illinois.

“It is wrong. It is extreme. It is untrue. The image echoes and amplifies the racist tweets President Trump made about four Democratic Congresswomen,” wrote the Illinois Democratic County Chairs’ Association on their Facebook page.

The Democratic Women of McDonough Co. has informed our Facebook followers and personal friends of the meme, sharing it cautiously with explanation as to it’s inappropriate and harmful messaging to help educate and inform viewers, and in keeping with our mission to be allies to women and all underrepresented people.

Regardless of political party, we should all agree that the creation and posting of such images is not acceptable political discourse. The image depicting these women with hateful, racist and xenophobic stereotypes is morally indefensible, and it puts them at risk of being targeted for violence. The Illinois GOP’s Chairmen’s Association should be condemned for their part in degrading our democracy and promoting hatred.

Signed,
The Democratic Women of McDonough County
McDonough Co, IL

The Democratic Women of McDonough County is a 501(c)4 non-profit organization focusing on increasing the participation of women and girls in all levels of politics and public policymaking at the local, state, and federal level.

#AllyshipFirst #NoRacism #NoKKK #BlackLivesMatter #Resist #FlipIL93#IL18isWatching #Mac185 #NoWhiteNationism #UniteBlue #JusticeDemocrats #GoodTrouble

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

Diaper, pad, and tampon drive being held throughout July

MACOMB — Throughout the month of July, the Women’s Health Task Force of the Democratic Women of McDonough County is holding their Dignity Drive for women and children in McDonough County. Donations of diapers, tampons, pads, and other feminine hygiene products can be dropped off at participating businesses during normal business hours until August 1.

Participating businesses include the following: Burton’s Law Office at 212 W. Carroll St., Dad’s Garage at 539 N. Lafayette St., and Your CBD Store at 833 N. Lafayette St. Suite 1.

All donations will be given to Loaves & Fishes, etc. Food Pantry, Western Illinois Regional Council, Samaritan Well Women’s Shelter, and local schools.

“We think this project is really important. It is wonderful to show up for people who don’t necessarily have somebody helping them. It’s truly an honor,” said Heather McMeekan, president of Democratic Women of McDonough County. “We’re very excited about this and the community response so far. We’ve had so many people offer to help. We couldn’t ask for a better response.”

McMeekan said that the drive did well its first week. According to Karen Lovell of Dad’s Garage, one generous donor even dropped off a carload of diapers at their location. According to a 2019 study published in the journal “Obstetrics & Gynecology,” nearly two-thirds of the low-income women surveyed were unable to afford feminine hygiene products and nearly half of these women reported being unable to afford both food and feminine hygiene products within the past year.

“Diapers and period supplies are basic sanitary necessities which are not covered by assistance programs,” said McMeekan in a press release. “Most charity organizations do not provide diapers, pads, and tampons which leaves many forced into using soiled supplies longer than is healthy, using alternatives that may put them at risk of health issues, or going without entirely.

***Public Statement RE: Calls for removal of our local university President***

As members of the Democratic Women of McDonough County, our allyship on this issue is with our members, colleagues, friends, and family members in the black community here.

We used appropriate tactics directed at those with the power in Springfield to hold accountable ALL those in local university leadership responsible for our university’s problems, not just one person.

Our petition, public events, trips to lobby in Springfield, letters, emails, and phone calls properly called for ALL new leadership on the BOT. We have also repeatedly, openly called for replacing ALL those who violated the Open Meetings Act while in leadership roles at our local university.

We also called for ALL of those responsible for harming the institution, its people, programs, reputation, and community to be placed under new leadership, with a new BOT. And it worked. We have a new BOT.

That was the right way to do things.

The tactics being employed now in this community by “suddenly angry” (but previously silent) white people against a black man are racist.

Because our previous work using the appropriate, responsible processes and tactics are already yielding the desired result, new oversight, this issue isn’t at all whether or not the target of their sudden anger deserves to stay or go.

Indeed, many of us concerned about the current situation were harmed as well by the failures of many of the responsible University administrators, community leaders, and our State Senator and State Representative. They remained silent and complicit as all the cuts were made, year after year.

Our State Rep and Senator never put forth legislation to get our local institution supplemental funds, for YEARS. Yet there are no signs saying “Fire Norine” or “Fire Jil”, even though the need for funding will still be there and remain unmet because they STILL refuse to do their jobs as our legislators.

Similarly, we do not stand with ANY member of the previous BOT nor the previous higher administration, most of whom were allowed to move on with no consequences for their destructive decisions.

Of those who remain from the previous administration, this recent wave of attacks has only targeted the black person instead of all those responsible. THAT is what makes this blatantly racist. There’s still another white V.P., for example, who was caught violating the Open Meetings Act and subsequently directed the destruction of evidence.

Our issue is with the timing, the targeting, and the tactics being employed suddenly in the past month by white people that single out ONLY the black person involved, but not all the white people who are ALSO responsible. That makes these tactics racist, whether or not they meant it that way.

What else could possibly be motivating those who never bothered to speak up against anyone else as hundreds of members of our community were losing their jobs, their homes, their financial stability, their benefits, their healthcare?

This is why this situation is traumatizing for members of our black community who have also been harmed by the actions, complicity, or inaction of many of these people. If the tactics are racist, it doesn’t matter the intent. Racist tactics, no matter how we feel about the target, are always wrong.

We are all rightly frustrated by the situation at our local university. But those who jump on this bandwagon led by people who have never before spoken up only validate their racist tactics.

End the racist tactics harming our community and our reputation.

Let the BOT do their job.

Public Statement RE: “Fire —-” Signs

***Public Statement RE: Disrespectful, public signs seeking to humiliate a local black university administrator***

As members of the Democratic Women of McDonough County, our allyship on this issue is with our members, colleagues, friends, and family members in the black community here.

We used appropriate tactics directed at those with the power in Springfield to hold accountable ALL those in local university leadership responsible for our university’s problems, not just one person.

Our petition, public events, trips to lobby in Springfield, letters, emails, and phone calls properly called for ALL new leadership on the BOT. We have also repeatedly, openly called for replacing ALL those who violated the Open Meetings Act while in leadership roles at our local university.

We also called for ALL of those responsible for harming the institution, its people, programs, reputation, and community to be placed under new leadership, with a new BOT. And it worked. We have a new BOT.

That was the right way to do things.

The tactics being employed now in this community by “suddenly angry” (but previously silent) white people against a black man are racist.

Because our previous work using the appropriate, responsible processes and tactics are already yielding the desired result, new oversight, this issue isn’t at all whether or not the target of their sudden anger deserves to stay or go.

Indeed, many of us concerned about the current situation were harmed as well by the failures of many of the responsible University administrators, community leaders, and our State Senator and State Representative. They remained silent and complicit as all the cuts were made, year after year.

Our State Rep and Senator never put forth legislation to get our local institution supplemental funds, for YEARS. Yet there are no signs saying “Fire Norine” or “Fire Jil”, even though the need for funding will still be there and remain unmet because they STILL refuse to do their jobs as our legislators.

Similarly, we do not stand with ANY member of the previous BOT nor the previous higher administration, most of whom were allowed to move on with no consequences for their destructive decisions.

Of those who remain from the previous administration, this recent wave of attacks has only targeted the black person instead of all those responsible. THAT is what makes this blatantly racist. There’s still another white V.P., for example, who was caught violating the Open Meetings Act and subsequently directed the destruction of evidence.

Our issue is with the timing, the targeting, and the tactics being employed suddenly in the past month by white people that single out ONLY the black person involved, but not all the white people who are ALSO responsible. That makes these tactics racist, whether or not they meant it that way.

What else could possibly be motivating those who never bothered to speak up against anyone else as hundreds of members of our community were losing their jobs, their homes, their financial stability, their benefits, their healthcare?

This is why this situation is traumatizing for members of our black community who have also been harmed by the actions, complicity, or inaction of many of these people. If the tactics are racist, it doesn’t matter the intent. Racist tactics, no matter how we feel about the target, are always wrong.

We are all rightly frustrated by the situation at our local university. But those who jump on this bandwagon led by people who have never before spoken up only validate their racist tactics.

End the racist tactics harming our community and our reputation.

Let the BOT do their job.

We’re Bringing Macomb’s First Pride Event to the Downtown…

The FIRST ever PRIDEFEST in Macomb is bringing together wonderful human beings to celebrate our LGBTQ*A friends, family members, allies, supporters, visitors, and students in and around the Macomb, Illinois community. We were honored and blessed to partner with so many wonderful allies and groups to host this event that we might visibly proclaim our love for and affirm the dignity and humanity of all member of the GLBTQIA family.

We seek to provide a safe space for all attendees to enjoy the freedoms all should enjoy with gender expression/gender identity until such time that every space is made safe and validating for all members of our community.

We proudly welcome McDonough County Clergy members in attendance, knowing far too many members of their churches are living in hiding from their flocks and other members due to risk of bullying, marginalization, and expulsion from their churches. We have allied with those who are working to try to confront such misguided congregations in our county.

We pledge our support and allyship to that end, that all may live, work, play, and visit here, free from being targeted by those individuals who have yet to address their own issues. Those who project homophobia, transphobia, and ignorance onto others in our county will be confronted and held accountable with real-world consequences.

We will no longer silently tolerate ignorance which contributes to a toxic culture which puts members of the LGBTQIA at risk. #NOH8#LoveWins#MakeItMacomb