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Collaboration Is Key In B-N NAACP's Latest Action Plan

Linda Foster gesture
Emily Bollinger
Bloomington-Normal NAACP branch President Linda Foster speaks Sunday, Aug. 23, 2020, at Mount Pisgah Baptist Church in Bloomington.

Moving forward with its advocacy for the civil and political rights of African Americans, the Bloomington-Normal chapter of the NAACP revealed its new strategic plan Sunday with an eye on reform.

Speaking to a crowd outside of Mount Pisgah Baptist Church, President Linda Foster and Vice President Dr. Carla Campbell-Jackson outlined the six focal points of the plan: public safety and criminal justice, education, voting rights and the 2020 Census, health, economic sustainability, and environmental and climate justice.

Carla and Karen speak
Credit Emily Bollinger / WGLT
NAACP Vice President Dr. Carla Campbell-Jackson, left, talks to former Bloomington City Council member Karen Schmidt at Sunday's event.

As outrage over the killings of Black people at the hands of police expanded to Kenosha, Wis., Campbell-Jackson said the death of George Floyd served as an impetus for the new plan. 

“We recognize the disparities that African Americans often face and contend with, so we felt compelled to make sure to come up with a plan to hold all of our constituents and entities accountable,” she said. “When they know they’re being accountable they have a greater propensity to adhere to the demands and requests put forward.”

Some of the plan was influenced by the Normal West Black Student Union. Campbell-Jackson said she was proud of the students for speaking up but not surprised after hearing their experiences.

“It was most amazing because it's one thing for the school system to hear from the NAACP because they are familiar with our platform. But to hear those same issues from students within their four walls indicates that there are racial and discriminatory problems that must be addressed head on,” she said. 

“Everyone from Jasmyn (Jordan) to Justin Turner has done phenomenal jobs with bringing issues to the forefront. Those students live it day in and day out and they have the right to quality education that's equitable in all senses of the world,” said Campbell-Jackson.

Studies have shown that students learn best from teachers who look like them. One of the NAACP’s educational recommendations is for schools to target and hire graduates beyond the local and state level, like from historically black colleges and universities.

“Students learn best when they can relate to their teachers, and teachers teach best when they have that solid relationship with their students,” she said. “Some will say ‘Well we’re in central Illinois, we can’t find the diversity here.’ If that’s the case I challenge the school systems to go outside of Bloomington-Normal to do whatever it takes and take some unconventional measures to make sure we are bringing that necessary diversity.”

Beyond the schools

In addition to education, the plan also addresses equity in health care. One demand is that hospitals develop a diversity and inclusion department.

Two men speak outside church
Credit Emily Bollinger / WGLT
The NAACP unveiled its strategic action plan Sunday, Aug. 23, 2020, during an event at Mount Pisgah Baptist Church on Bloomington's west side.

“We know that minority group members are often disenfranchised, so if a hospital staff is not familiar with dealing with minority patients, that relationship is not as solid as it needs to be when it comes to healthcare. We think that engaging in that training will be beneficial for hospital staff and research has shown that there is something associated with medical biases so this will help minimize those biases,” said Campbell-Jackson.

With African Americans disproportionately affected by COVID-19, Campbell-Jackson says the training will be effective in making sure the playing field is leveled.

“After listening to reports from the CDC we know that oftentimes doctors will have to decide who gets a ventilator, and what a sad posture to be in, but they have to decide which person from their perspective warrants to live another 5-10 years,” she said. “If the playfield is leveled then everyone will be allowed that equal opportunity.”

Hoping to gain economic sustainability, the plan also mentions eliminating food deserts. Campbell-Jackson said obtaining a livable wage also plays a key role. 

“Living wage is critical. Being able to pay the rent, have food, and have decent transportation are basic necessities that people need to have a life full of dignity and respect. There are grocery stores where I live on the east side of town within two to three minutes of me. However on the west side of town where there is a greater number of minorities, the desert is prevalent,” she said. “We shouldn’t have children eating a candy bar and chips for breakfast because they can’t gain access to fruit and vegetables, so when we recognize those issues we have to do something to try to make them whole and complete.” 

Wrapping up the reveal, leaders encouraged community members to get involved with the plan. Passing out boxes of face masks and hand sanitizer, the group also announced its desire to collaborate with other organizations that have emerged from the recent events. 

“Before we launched this plan we sent a robust email to all of these organizations, so a lot of this was developed as a result of the comments and recommendations offered and we were able to embed them in the final strategic plan,” Campbell-Jackson said. “Collaboration is something that we’re very passionate about and will continue to do.”

The NAACP plans to make its new plan available online later this week.

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Tiffani Jackson is a reporting intern at WGLT and a student at Illinois State University's School of Communication. She started working at WGLT in summer 2019.