Black Activist Terry Townsend Presents Demands to Champaign’s Unit 4 School Board

On Monday night, June 14, 2010, longtime community activist Terry Townsend delivered a list of demands for construction of the new school to replace the Booker T. Washington School in Champaign. The new school is to fulfill the requirements of the consent decree to provide an additional 200 seats in the historically black community of the North End. The Unit 4 School Board is currently reviewing bids for the $13 million school. The old school has already been torn down and its replacement will be roughly double the size. Townsend says that this will significantly impact the neighborhood, bringing increased traffic and paving the way for gentrification.



Extended School Vacation and March on Champaign Schools

Coalition Demands

1.    We demand that you build a smaller Washington school (BTW). Traffic and parking options are unacceptable.
2.    We demand that Champaign schools stop using sales tax money to purchase homes in the BTW target area.
3.    We demand a public accounting of sales tax money used for lawyer fees.
4.    We demand that you guarantee all walking students within the 1.5 mile radius of BTW a seat in the new school.
5.    We demand a copy of the controlled choice seat assignment policy that will be used to assign students to BTW.
6.    We demand a public guesstimate of the tax increase on residents in the BTW area and the geographical reach of said tax increase.
7.    Superintendent Arthur Culver has stated, “he will not use eminent domain in the BTW area.” We demand a Board of Education resolution consistent with and supportive of said statement.
8.    We demand that the parking on the 400 block of East Eureka be restored as the residents have requested and that no additional parking for the BTW will be allotted on that street. Please note: residents cannot park on said street thus they are parking on their front yards. They have been informed that this practice of parking on their front yard subjects them to fines up to 700 dollars!
9.    We demand that Douglass Center not be torn down and that programs be developed for all ages of the community. Douglass center should not become an outpost for BTW.
10.    We demand that parks that are frequented by minorities close at the same time as other parks.

Demands are negotiable.

If demands are not met, nonviolent direct action will commence August through October.

Appropriate place for comments?

Curious, anyone else up for discussion about this? I would like to understand better why these demands were made. Please know that I am seeking information as one who is somewhat ignorant, I am not questioning the wisdom of these statements as someone who is condescending and self-righteous.


It was my understanding, naive as it may be, that BTW was being enlarged to help meet the requirements of the Consent Decree. is this not the case? I am a little confused as to how the School District made so much progress in this direction, with the apparent support and encouragement of the Plaintiff class, if there is something that is obviously bad about this plan. What am I missing?


I have to admit, I am troubled that Unit 4 is buying up land. After attending a EEE meeting, I can say that the tax money is 100% public information and not hidden under a basket. in fact, I have requested that all forms be posted online and Gene Logas has stated that he will generate a report suitable for the common man to read (I know I can't read legalese very well). If the school is to be larger, it must have new land, correct?


For student assignments, it is my understanding that back in the 90s, the schools in the poorer neighborhoods where undesired and African Americans were severely inconvenienced if they were to choose a "better" school elsewhere in the district. The answer to that particular problem was Controlled Choice, as outlined and controlled by Dr. Alves with the help and support of Dr. Peterkin. Is this understanding incorrect? Under Controlled Choice, there is never 100% guarantee that anyone will attend a particular school with the exception of siblings. Even those who live closest to the school still must go through the lottery. Despite that, would even a larger school be able to seat every single student within 1.5 miles of BTW? I am merely curious, I have not seen the population numbers so I have no way of ascertaining if this is even possible.


I am hoping this is an appropriate place to discuss these things. I value feedback and welcome different points of views. My perspective is that I am on a journey, visiting different modes of thought and locales of culture and experience. I do not see myself as having arrived.

FYI - I made the above comment

I just had not logged in yet.

work with the community

My hope would be that the school board would work with the community in adressing these issues - not fast track the process. Of course, the additional 200 seats will be a benefit to the black community and fulfill the requirements of the consent decree. But it appears the way this is being handled some people feel as if it is being shoved down their throats. Knowing how sensitive the issue is, it would seem the school board would work closely with those in the community raising these concerns.  But ultimately I would defer to Terry Townsend to answer your questions.

In regards to the question of the 1.5 mile radius, this raises the question of whether "bussing" was ever the best way to desegregate schools. It is really our neighborhoods which need to be desegregated.


Well, wouldn't desegregating

Well, wouldn't desegregating our neighborhoods ALSO have the effect of destroying "historically black communities" like the north end?  If we desegregated them, they wouldn't be "black communities" anymore.  That seems to be the issue here.  How do you go about desegregating a community when a lot of African-American people seem like they want to mostly live around other African-American people?

desegregation doesn't mean destruction

I would prefer to live in a racially and economically diverse neighborhood, the likes of which I have seen in some cities on the West Coast. In Chicago, the projects were torn down and the old Bronzeville district is currently being gentrified. I'd prefer diversification of our neighborhoods over destruction and gentrification.

And of course historically in the cases of restrictive covenants during the first half of the century, or during white flight of the 70s/80s it's been more often that white people want to live around other white people.



I'm sure you would prefer to live in a racially-diverse community.  But what makes you so sure that's what most black people want?  If, say, ten black families moved from Garden Hills to your neighborhood, you'd be happy, because that would increase the "diversity" of your neighborhood.  You'd be able to brag about it to all your countrified relatives.  It would kind of suck for them, though, because now they'd be in the minority in their own community. 

Don't you think it's just a little condescending to suggest that what black people want most of all is to hang out with us white people all the time?  Why would they?  Are we that great?  Trust me on this one.  I've been living around white people all my life.  Most of us are really nothing to write home about. So why would black people choose to pick up their stuff, move away from people like them, and voluntarily make themselves the minority in a white community?  Is that something you would do?  If so, why don't you?  I'm sure there's a house in Garden Hills that would be in your price range.  So why not move there?

There are exceptions, of course.  You talk about the racially diverse communities on the west coast.  Are you unaware that there are neighborhoods like that here in town?  In fact, I would venture to say that the neighborhood I live in is almost certainly more racially diverse than the one you live in.  It's mostly white, but there are black people, Latinos, Asians, even a few Irish-Americans for good measure.  And you know what I see when I go outside?  White people out walking with white people.  Black people hanging out with black people.  Latinos hanging out with Latinos.  You didn't mention that that's the exact same thing you see in those communities on the west coast, but it's true.  I suppose it would be nice if it weren't, but it is.

The thing is, nobody's forcing people to only hang out with members of their own race.  It's just what people do.  They tend to have more in common with each other.  What should we do?  Mandate that black people must spend at least three hours a day hanging out with Asians?

You also didn't mention some of the other stuff that happens in racially-diverse communities on the west coast.  Such as in Los Angeles in  2007, when Latino gangs ethnically-cleansed their neighborhoods of blacks.  So what you want is a noble idea, I agree.  But the liberal idea that if you just cram enough different people into a small space together, then in a few weeks, they'll all start loving each other is not exactly realistic.  That kind of stuff only happens on made-for-TV movies and things like that.

Because another thing you didn't mention is what Robert Putnam (the guy who wrote Bowling Alone) found out when he studied ethnically-diverse communities.  The more diverse they are, the less social capital they have.

People in diverse communities even trust members of their OWN race less.  Why do you think this is unequivocally a good thing?  Just so you can feel like such a wonderful person for living in a diverse community?  Well, that might be a nice feeling for you.  But I don't think it would really be as much fun for anyone else.

Also, what white flight really taught us is that, when people get enough money saved up, they tend to move to places where they can be fairly sure they're not going to get mugged or shot.  Wealthy blacks fled the inner cities just as fast as white people did.  Now, of course, white people are moving BACK to the inner cities, and transforming communities their from total hellholes into nice places to live.  This is what is known as "gentrification", and is considered to be a bad thing.  Those darn old white people can't do anything right, can they?

But maybe it's true that white people do want to live around other white people.  Why does this make you think that black people don't want the same thing?  Go ahead.  Show me the black person in the north end who says to himself "You know.  What I really, really want is to have a whole bunch more white people move in around here. I just can't get enough of them!".  I don't buy it. 

Wow (no period)

An argument for segregation because the discriminated against actually desire the poor set of choices they've been handed is 1950s.

Or just plain racist in the 21st century.

I see.

So, living in a black neighborhood must mean that you've been dealt a "poor set of choices". In other words, given the choice, who would ever want to live around a bunch of black people?
And you call ME racist.
Look, I'm not arguing in favor of segregation. If black people WANT to live in majority white neighborhoods, then by all means, they should be allowed to. I just don't think that's what a lot of them really want. And, unlike you and Brian, I don't see why they really WOULD want that. So I'll ask again. Are white people just so vastly superior to black people that they're just like drawn to us or something?
I'm not sure who you think is being discriminated against. Like I said, there already ARE black people in my mostly-white neighborhood. There could be more, if more wanted to move out here. Yet they don't. The ones that are here really seem to be here more because they don't mind living in a white neighborhood. It's not like it's an active preference for them or something. If it was, why would they spend so much time seeking out the other black people around here to hang out with them?
I won't deny that there might be some freakazoid examples of neighborhoods with a "no blacks allowed" policy. But that's truly the minority of cases these days.
Tell me something. Does Brian think the reason there aren't more black people in his neighborhood is just that people won't allow blacks to move into it? If so, should he really continue to live in a neighborhood with such a discriminatory policy? Shouldn't he move to a place that doesn't discriminate, like Garden Hills?
But you know what, I'll play along. Let's pretend that the only reason there are clusters of blacks in certain neighborhoods is ONLY because they're being discriminated against. OK. So, suppose that those laws ended tomorrow, and that black people could then live wherever they wanted. Do you think that the first thing they would do would be to scatter themselves to the four winds, and evenly distribute themselves throughout the city? Why? Why would they do that?
Think about what would happen if they did. Champaign-Urbana is 15% African-American. If our neighborhoods were completely desegregated, that would mean that every neighborhood in town would be 15% African-American. This means that, no matter WHERE in town black people were, they would ALWAYS be in the minority. They would never make up a quarter of the people around them. Do you think it's fun to be a minority? I don't. So don't you imagine a lot of black people probably think it's NICE to live in a place where they're not a minority?
But, maybe I'm wrong. Why don't you ask them? Why not go down to the Douglass Center and do a survey. Ask the black people there if, all things being equal, they would PREFER to live in a mostly white neighborhood. Something tells me you're not going to get too many takers.
Thank you for calling me a racist, though. Generally speaking, when someone CAN logically point out where you're wrong, they'll do so. When they don't, it's usually because they can't. So, when the only response you have is to point at someone and sputter "Racist!" at them, you're really kind of just admitting that they're probably right. So, once again, I really appreciate it.

School Diversity Under Siege

Separate still isn't equal.

by Marian Wright Edelman

The South has made more progress in providing children the opportunity to attend desegregated schools. Now, sadly, it's also the region where re-segregation is growing fastest.

When the Supreme Court issued its pivotal Brown v. Board of Education ruling in 1954, the percentage of black children in the South attending majority-white schools was just 0.001 percent, or one in 100,000. Six years later, that number had grown to one in 1,000. Integration continued to grow until at its apex, 43.5 percent of African-American kids attended majority-white schools in 1988. Since then the number has steadily fallen. It was down to 27 percent by 2005.

This isn't just happening in the South. In June 2007, when the Supreme Court assaulted both the spirit and intent of Brown v. Board by ruling that desegregation plans that assign students to schools on the basis of race are unconstitutional, the lead case in that decision involved opponents of a program in Seattle. Resistance to programs designed to provide more integrated schools--even in "progressive" communities that had voluntarily desegregated--is mounting in every section of the country.

Consider what's happening to the Tinsley Voluntary Transfer Program in California.

That Bay Area program came about as a result of a lawsuit brought by a group of parents, including Margaret Tinsley--who lived in the high-minority, low-performing Ravenswood City school district and wanted better educational opportunities for their children. Separate is still not equal in many school districts. In 1986, a court order was issued permitting a set number of children to transfer each year from Ravenswood to schools in seven nearby districts, including the Menlo Park City district. The program has been very popular both with parents and students in the Ravenswood district and with many families in the receiving districts. But recently the Menlo Park City superintendent raised the question of whether Menlo Park could continue participating in the program, citing a budget crunch and the district's growing number of children.

Menlo Park parents who value the diversity the transfer program has brought to their schools found themselves clashing with neighbors who wanted the program eliminated. A strong debate took place before the school board agreed not to suspend the program--for now.

What's at stake in these choices? Menlo Park and the other districts that receive students through the Tinsley program have been caring communities helping children move towards successful passage to adulthood--many of whom might otherwise have become trapped in the "cradle-to-prison pipeline" that funnels vulnerable children down life paths marked by school failure, dropping out, and incarceration. At the same time, they also are giving all their students valuable exposure and educational opportunities and a broader education than they may have had otherwise. Studies have repeatedly found that integration is valuable for all students, as the 2007 Supreme Court decision affirmed.

A recent report by scholars from the Poverty and Race Research Action Council and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte notes students who attend desegregated schools are more likely to live in integrated neighborhoods and make cross-ethnic friendships as adults. It also points out that integrated schools prepare students "for complex social situations and multiethnic workplaces where the capacities to engage effectively, problem solve, plan, and collaborate with people different from oneself are at a premium." Children need more opportunities like this, not fewer.

Until our neighborhoods are all racially and socioeconomically diverse--a manifestation of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "beloved community" that is very, very far from coming to pass--children will not have the opportunity to experience racial and socioeconomic diversity in their neighborhood schools. Instead, too many children are still being isolated in high-minority, high-poverty, high-failure schools, where they aren't receiving an equal education or an equal chance to succeed in life.

That struggle was too hard-fought by too many people to continue the erosion of inclusion on our watch. Decisions on whether or not to insist on making these opportunities reality for all children have deep implications for our values as a nation, our commitment to progress, and the true education we want all our children to receive and that all children deserve.

We can't let them down.

Marian Wright Edelman is president of the Children's Defense Fund.


But since Champaign has controlled choice, I really don't see what your point is.

So what exactly is the root issue?

Disclaimer: I do not know what black people want. For that matter, I do not know white people, Latinos, Asian-Americans or Irish-Americans want, either.


In general, I think what most folks have an issue with is injustice. I think we give it many names, and it comes in many flavors. One definition of Justice that I have come to admire is "the elimination of oppression". So "injustice" = "oppression". So the corrollary is that most people probably want justice. At least in some idealistic, utopian sense. While we may want justice, few are actively working to achieve it. We are a greedy, self-serving society living in a nation that promotes a twisted sense of capitalism as some kind of enlightened "American Dream". I confess I have a hard time shaking that sad cloak off my own shoulders.


Injustice is rampant around us. I noticed a CNN brief this morning about a white cop that punched a black girl in the face ( In that one example, there are many different problems layered on top of each other, and demonstrates how quickly things can escalate from bad to worse. In our own community, some people are struggling to find enough food to feed their family, while others that live within 2 miles go out for breakfast and lunch, have a maid that takes care of the household chores and lawn service. To top it off, someone has been robbing from the Salt & Light collection cans! (


This is just the tip of the iceberg. It is interesting to note how good intentions can become bad implementations; the idea of desegregation sounds like it might be good, but the way it is carried out seems to have more negative affects. How do we, as a community, take ownership of the problems and work towards a solution that benefits all of society?


Here is what amazes me most. There are some people who are striving mightily to make things right. Not only Salt & Light, but Empty Tomb, the many safe-houses and shelters for the abused, the Crisis centers. To be honest, I am amazed when I hear about black activists that attempt to affect change non-violently - amazed because in a number of cases, the "easy" response is often the violent one, amazed because they are trying to react in a relatively calm manner.


Which brings me back to the Terry Townsend demands from the OP. Obviously, Mr. Townsend is representing a collective ("we"). Who is that collective? Furthermore, it seems apparent that this group of people have given some thought to what they want to change and developed a list. I am not arguing whether it is wise or delivered well, I am just looking at what I see. Are these demands reasonable? How do they jive with the many things that came out of the settlement for the Consent Decree? I do not have answers for those questions. I am curious. My point is that there is a root of concern somewhere in there, the real issue to the "problem" at hand, and I would like to dig it out from all the rhetoric that both sides are flinging about. Myself included - please do not think I am perfectly innocent. I have problems.


I appreciate this discussion and I hope we can keep it going. Is there any way to get an RSS feed for these comments, or email notification?

Why the Qualification?

I am generally a big fan of the intelligent, critical, and informative media that the UC IMC continually produces. This is a great article and I understand that this is a minor concern, but why is Terry Townsend, the activist, qualified with the adjective 'black'? I know that I risk sounding like a nitpicky moron, but I fully understand the thoughts, trends, and attitudes that can be expressed or reflected in one word or a small phrase. Adding the black before activist makes it sound as if this is some rare variety of activism (the kind that is led or supported by black people) and that is downright insulting. I don't see any headlines talking about the white activists out there and this further supports the normalcy that is granted whiteness, whether it be in education or, in this case, activism. It is not rare to be a black activist, it is not weird, and I think that our language should reflect that.


P.S- This was a good article and you're awesome Brian!

re: work with community

Brian, I agree that a large part of the issue is at the community level. I had to look up the word "gentrification" yesterday and did some reading on it, and the process bothers me; it is a huge dilemma when, in an effort to "improve" an area, the underclass is shoved off to the side with little to no compensation, and with even less sympathy.


Which further places the school district (and by association, the government) in a bind on how best to deal with it. How far can the schools go? How far should they go? The issues our community faces should be tackled first by the people in the trenches, the parents, the activists, the students, the laypeople. Then the schools can be brought alongside those efforts to reinforce them. At least, that is my humble opinion backed up by 0 years of teaching, community planning, psychology and/or social planning.


So how do we engage the community? How do I, for example, get in touch with Mr. Townsend (I cannot locate a phone number or an email address, yet)? How would I go about planning a community forum at, say, a meeting room in the Douglas Library (they are surprisingly underused)? I know discussions are happening, and I would like to plug in if possible.


Your average Joe, who may read headlines from time to time or hear a talking point while channel surfing the radio or TV, and gets a majority of his "facts" from friends, may not fully appreciate the historical context that paints such a comprehensive picture of the things going on in Champaign-Urbana. Heck, for that matter, I do not even fully appreciate that big picture. Yet. It is hard to care, much less take ownership of the problems (taking the bull by the horns, perhaps) when one has such a small glimpse into the reality of things.


Anyway, I am very interested in hooking up and talking with others, with my main purpose so that I may start to grasp other perspectives and maybe even start to walk in other shoes.

CUCPJ Sat. at 4pm

You can always come to a CU Citizens for Peace and Justice meeting every Saturday 4pm at the Independent Media Center to get plugged in with a group of people working on these issues.


Are You Ashame of What You Write?

If you truly believe in what you're saying ... why not put a signiture with your article?


Peace & Blessings

Ruthie Harper

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Ms. Harper,

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