‘I think we have reason to be hopeful here’: One man’s commitment to change in Champaign County

CHAMPAIGN COUNTY, Ill. (WCIA) — One person has become a staple within the Champaign County community. His peers say he’s brought change and hope, and even helped to introduce Illinois Soul to the area.

The name Tracy Parsons is now synonymous with community progress.

“One of the very first black leaders that I was made aware of and urged to get to know is Tracy Parsons,” said Mike Ross, Krannert Performing Center director.

Pushing to make change within a community is an admirable goal for anyone; but for Tracy Parsons, making Champaign County better isn’t as much of a goal as it is his duty.

“I’ve seen far too often historically Black kids are really struggling. Black families are really struggling, and I’m just passionate about changing that,” Parsons said.

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Parsons was born and raised in the area and says he’s seen the issues the Black community has faced throughout the years.

“He has an infectious commitment that is grounded in deeply good values,” Ross said.

“Race relations is at the core of everything that we’re having to deal with, but it’s also the most difficult. So, to talk about, to address it,” said Parsons.

He’s also seen and been a part of the solutions.

“It’s hard for me to imagine these things actually happening if Tracy had not been among us,” Ross said.

“My strength is that I’m a relationship builder. I get along with everyone. I’m involved in all types of groups, and so my strength gets manifested through the community coalition,” Parsons said.

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Now, he’s using his greatest gift to push the progress further. The Champaign County Community Coalition is an organization dedicated to building partnerships to bring the community together.

“But I very quickly came to be so impressed by the way Tracy works with people,” Ross said.

Ross moved to the area from New York decades ago. He says he’s seen firsthand how impactful Parsons has been and sees the potential for the future he will help to foster.

“So, I think we have reason to be hopeful here, in large part because of Tracy Parsons,” Ross said.

“I’ve been around a really long time, I’ve seen a lot and I’ve seen the progress that we made. So, I know how much more we can do,” Parsons said.

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