* Press release from last week…
Senate Majority Leader and Chair of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus Kimberly A. Lightford (D-Maywood) joined colleagues at the Westside Justice Center on Tuesday to announce a plan to build a legislative agenda that addresses systemic racism in Illinois.
“We have an opportunity to leverage this moment to make sure other Black women, Black mothers and Black wives just like me can truly have peace, justice and hope for our future, knowing that our children and our grandchildren will not share the same kind of life experiences that everyone in my generation and generations before me have had to endure,” Lightford said.
Lightford and the ILBC plan to hold hearings on four pillars of policy to compose a legislative agenda to be brought forth during the fall veto session. The four pillars of policy are as follows:
I. Criminal justice reform, violence reduction and police accountability
II. Education and workforce development
III. Economic access, equity and opportunity
IV. Health care and human services
The caucus will hold a series of hearings in the months leading up to November’s post-election veto session – the first of which, focused on police accountability, was held Tuesday – so that definite proposals will be ready for the legislature to take up when it reconvenes Nov. 17-19 and Dec. 1-3, Lightford said.
Without concrete measures to evaluate, it’s impossible to gauge the probability of success and support Black lawmakers’ wish list will receive from their peers.
So far, the Democratic leaders who call the shots in the legislature are supportive, but vague on just what they’ll back.
* Illinois Senate President Don Harmon…
The Black Caucus is showing us the path to a better Illinois. I look forward to being an ally and helping win approval of needed reforms.
* Speaker Madigan…
“Like so many, I’ve been reflecting on the injustices our communities of color, especially within the Black community, have faced for generations and thinking about ways in which we can address these issues and ways we can do better in Illinois to improve the quality of life of Black America.
“We are at a turning point, and it’s past time to take action. We know there isn’t one single source that has contributed to issues of inequality in our country and our state. We must evaluate all of our institutions to finally bring about the change that will make a difference. We must revisit issues with our criminal justice system, policing tactics, education system, workforce and economic opportunities and access to healthcare, among others, to bring about equity in the lives of Black Illinoisans.
“I thank the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus (ILBC) for advancing these difficult but necessary discussions. I believe it’s time we build on the legislature’s past efforts to meaningfully explore the issues outlined in the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus’ Policy Agenda, and I will continue to work closely with the ILBC to support their efforts to end systemic racism throughout Illinois.
“Along with my staff, I have had many conversations with Black Caucus members, community leaders, other elected officials and residents across the state to understand the pain, concerns and ideas for moving forward. I am committed to working with everyone seeking changes to address those recommendations and enact policies that finally start to provide equal justice under the constitution.”
Rep. La Shawn Ford emphasized Black leaders have been fighting and struggling for years. However, their voices and efforts have gone unheard.
“We are now at a moment where our white colleagues that have been raised in white communities, that just didn’t understand what we were talking about, are now uncomfortable. They are so uncomfortable now that they are hearing all of the asks that they couldn’t hear before,” Ford said. “Now the question is, are they ready to act on what they are hearing? Are they ready to join in the effort to make Illinois healthy?”
Several caucus members note the state won’t move forward unless their concerns are addressed. They believe all people deserve the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
“I know that the Constitution that I love and hold so dear - when it was written - I was not the person it was written for, nor were my ancestors or people who look like me,” explained Sen. Elgie Sims (D-Chicago). “But the reality is that for myself, my ancestors, my children, and future generations, I am owed a debt.”
* Capitol News Illinois…
State Senate Majority Leader and ILBC Chair Kimberly Lightford opened her remarks at the news conference by noting, “This is the moment that I have dreamed of, that I have prayed for, that I have worked towards my entire life.”
“This is a time when I stand on my parents’ shoulders, and their parents’ shoulders, and their parents’ shoulders and their parent’s shoulders,” she said. “We’re finally here … today as the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus, to present to you our agenda to end systemic racism that has oppressed our people for as long as we’ve ever known.” […]
While none of the pillars of the agenda have been filed as legislation yet, Lightford said bills would be ready for the fall legislative session.
“We will have our legislative initiatives prepared for the veto session and we do intend on taking up all of veto session to address them,” she said.
It is still about three months and a presidential election away, but the veto session is shaping up to be a potentially busy time in Springfield.
This considering there were (and still are to some degree) people whispering that the veto session will be canceled. The basis of that is there are literally no vetoes for lawmakers to consider and with the coronavirus pandemic continuing, it will still be difficult to convene the General Assembly in a safe manner. There are also people pushing the idea that the Democratic leaders don’t want to convene with the questions hovering over House Speaker Michael Madigan and the federal investigation into Commonwealth Edison.
Counter that, though, with the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus saying last week that they fully expect the veto session to be dominated by their efforts to pass criminal justice and social justice reform legislation. They made it clear that they intend to move while there is a national focus on those issues. Or as Rep. Chris Welch, D-Hillside, said, “The Black agenda cannot wait.”
The Black Caucus is a significant force in the Democratic Caucus making it improbable they will be told to wait until later by the Democratic leaders.
* Scott Holland…
These aren’t just Chicago issues; there are Black families throughout Illinois. It’s not just a youth mindset; the pillars focus on developing a solid labor force and working for equality of opportunity when it comes to starting businesses, getting loans and investing in property. Neither are they strictly Black issues; poverty knows no race, and Illinois has miles to go before it can be said all its young people have equal opportunities.
But if you shut down upon encountering phrases like “police accountability” and “systemic racism,” you’ll miss the big picture. We should listen to our neighbors when they tell us they’re hurting and fully engage with their ideas for solutions.
Yes, it is important to discuss how nonwhite communities are policed. But the people pushing for change know that’s only part of the equation.
Don’t miss the message — the entire message.