As the events of 2020 have laid bare the many racial inequities in government and social systems, the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus has set forth an agenda aimed at eliminating systemic racism. Beginning this past summer, Black legislators and leaders have made their case to the public at hearings and public events across the state.
The agenda, which was released this fall, has four pillars: criminal justice reform; education and workforce development; economic access, equity and opportunity; and health care and human services.
On the topic of criminal justice reform, ILBC Chair Sen. Kimberly Lightford says that while police accountability is top of mind as protests continue across the country, the ILBC agenda addresses violence reduction within the community as well.
“We all know in the wake of George Floyd there was a cry across this country for more police accountability,” Lightford said. “We’ve held seven subject matter hearings having discussions … in ways we can reduce violence in our community as well as holding the police accountable for excessive force. So it’s a wide range of topics that the subject matter hearings have been addressing.”
With regard to economic equity, Lightford noted the long-existing structural inequities within banking and financial institutions. “It just clearly has shown the economic stability that our Black community has lagged because of a lack of supports in the state’s procurement process of lack of housing, land use, gentrification, poor banking and investment opportunities for Blacks,” she said. “It’s just really giving it away how entrepreneurship is not available in the Black community, where banks are actually lending. They’re not lending to Black people in this state and particularly around Chicago.”
Lightford says that while this may be a challenging time to push for sweeping systemic changes, the ILBC strongly believes it’s the right time to do so.
“This has to be the time. There’s no other time. I’ve been in the legislature for 22 years, and I’ve never seen passion and compassion amongst people as I’ve seen it now,” she said. “As I walked in those parades and I shared protests with many people, they didn’t look like me, those that were standing next to me. All across the country, it’s just a feeling of there has to be a change. Enough is enough.”