When Linda Foster moved to Bloomington-Normal in 1977, she noticed a lack of equal opportunity for minorities. Raised in a family of visionaries and problem solvers, Foster followed the same path and made bringing change a priority by joining the NAACP.
“Seeing the difference of how individuals were looked at, treated, how opportunity was granted, it just didn't seem right or fair,” Foster said. “NAACP was the outlet that allowed me to ask certain questions and it had the mission to render our community in this world of racial discrimination and hate, so I became involved as a community member and have been in it ever since.”
In December 2018, Foster was selected by the NAACP state president, Teresa Haley, to become president of the Bloomington-Normal chapter. She leads its first all-female executive board.
“It wasn’t done intentionally, it’s just how it worked out,” Foster said. “There’s a myth that women can't work together but that is not true here. We get along very well and we are helping each other be better every day.”
As Foster and her team embark on their new journey and begin to execute the goals of the national chapter, they’ve set two immediate goals for the local chapter: to increase voter registration and advocate against gun violence.
In 2012 black voter turnout for the presidential election reached a record high of 66.6%, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In 2016 that declined to 59.6% — one reason why Democrat Hillary Clinton lost the election.
Foster said things will be different in 2020.
“We want to get people registered to vote but the caveat to that is to make sure that they actually do vote. Registration is just half of it. Getting out and actually getting a ballot and voting is the other part,” Foster said. “Between voter registration, empowering people to learn more about the candidates, having candidate forms, and working collaboratively with other groups, we’re making sure that we get the word out.”
The local NAACP’s other priority is reducing gun violence. In 2018, Bloomington-Normal suffered a spike in gun violence. It was the deadliest year in recent history, as nine people were killed and several others injured. The gunfire has continued into 2019.
In early August, the Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense In America local chapter held a candlelight vigil in Downtown Bloomington in recognition of those who died in the El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, mass shootings.
Foster took the stage at the event and encouraged the community to unify as NAACP began to create a plan of action.
“When I stood up at the event I wanted to acknowledge that the NAACP will no longer stand behind and go along with what's been going on. There needed to be some kind of action,” Foster said.
“We've met with our national and regional chapters to find out what it is that they're doing to have an impact and we’re at the table talking about this because we know when we come out, we have to have substance,” she continued. “We want to say, ‘Look, we know that there are some issues here but we need to find some way to come together to resolve them, and give you options other than picking up a gun and other things that could be harmful to another individual.”
During her presidency, Foster also plans to focus on areas such as the economy, the criminal justice system, access to education, public safety and health care.
“We want to ensure everyone is given the same opportunity to be successful and that the doors are open for anyone seeking education,” Foster said.
“The playing field is not easy but we have to keep tackling it by having these conversations and making efforts to make things better,” she said.
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