An Illinois lawmaker said the state needs to invest $1 billion into black communities that have been historically ignored, adding that it would just be the beginning.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker, along with state Rep. Chris Welch, D-Westchester, and other lawmakers, spoke to an energized crowd of several dozen on Saturday.
Welch led the chant for investment.
“Our demand, governor,” he said, the crowd repeating. “Is for a billion dollars of investment right here in our community.”
Senate Majority Leader Kimberly Lightford, D-Maywood, told the crowd that the black community has long fought in Springfield for what amounts to “crumbs” and that they’re now asking for more.
“I’m tired of the crumbs. I want the slice. I want half the pie. Governor, we need a slice,” she said, to applause.
Welch said Monday that efforts to help the black community do not end with $1 billion in investment.
“The $1 billion investment in every black community across the state is just a starting point,” he said. “To address the issues going on in black America, you have to address systemic reform and poverty. The billion dollars is across sectors such as education, higher ed, business grants, financial assistance like stimulus checks and mortgage and rental assistance just to start. You can’t address systemic reform without addressing poverty. They go hand in hand.”
Lightford said in a video conversation with Welch that the state must be held more accountable when they’re given tax dollars and told to spend it in the black community.
“We have to hope and depend on the departments implementing our laws,” she said. “So many good laws that we put on the books that go unnoticed, goes unacknowledged, and actually is being broken.”
Activist Brandon Johnson, who has worked with Pritzker’s office, said the black community needs more economic opportunity.
“The best way you can protect our communities is with what my daddy had: a W-2,” he said. ‘You want to bring security into our families, that black man got up every single day. I don’t think he smiled much but he went to work. We knew because daddy was at work, we were safe.”
Underlying the demand is a state budget set to take effect in July that relies on uncertain federal help and tax revenue that’s been reduced from COVID-19 shutdowns and historic unemployment.