I was humbled when Dr. Laura Vazquez of Northern Illinois University invited me to work with her on a documentary about the history of racism and exclusion in DeKalb.
My interest in this topic was piqued several years ago when I learned Sycamore was a stop on the Underground Railroad but DeKalb was not.
While it was an unwritten ordinance, DeKalb was a “sundown town” until roughly 50 years ago -- meaning African-Americans should not be in town once the sun goes down. Many African-American NIU students had to live in Sycamore.
Recently, an affidavit was located from the 1925 sale of the famed Ellwood family properties. The affidavit states, “The ownership and occupancy of lots and buildings in this addition are forever restricted to members of the pure white race.”
When history is not known, it’s bound to repeat itself.
The John Doe vs. The DeKalb School District lawsuit about residency validation is not about taxpayer’s money; it’s about exclusion. I’ve attended several City Council meetings and School Board meetings, and it’s obvious who is behind this lawsuit. People in this community in positions of power with deep financial resources think certain students are being “imported” into this district.
The fastest-growing student demographic in this district is non-white. Plaintiffs in the lawsuit feel taxpayers are paying for students who are attending District 428 schools illegally. Yet they have no empirical data to support their claim, and each school in the district performs residency validation.
In my opinion, this is an institutional attempt to advance an exclusionary agenda. While so much has changed in this community, so much remains the same.
I’m Joe Mitchell, and that’s my perspective.