black caucus presser 090120

CHICAGO—The Illinois Legislative Black Caucus is developing a legislative agenda to help Black communities in Illinois overcome centuries of oppression.

Recent events, including the COVID-19 pandemic and persistent police killings, have highlighted staggering disparities that have made it clear that comprehensive reform is crucial to end systemic racism.

ILBC Chairman Kimberly A. Lightford (D-Maywood) says the caucus seeks to bring justice to Black Illinoisans.

“African Americans have been held down by systems of oppression since our ancestors were enslaved 400 years ago,” Lightford said. “We are still enslaved, shackled by unemployment, police brutality and a severe lack of resources. The Black Caucus seeks to uplift our communities by demanding fair treatment from our institutions and finally receiving fairness and justice.”

The Black Caucus is building their efforts based on four pillars:

  1. Criminal justice reform, violence reduction and police accountability
  2. Education and workforce development
  3. Economic access, equity and opportunity
  4. Health care and human services

Each pillar will prompt a series of committee hearings. The first is a joint Senate Criminal Law and Public Safety Committee hearing on Tuesday. The subject matter hearing is focused on police accountability. State Senator Elgie R. Sims, Jr. (D-Chicago) is a co-chair of the committee.

“Those who take the oath of law enforcement pledge to uphold the law and hold the public trust sacred,” State Senator Elgie R. Sims Jr. (D-Chicago) said. “Far too often we see that some in law enforcement are not committed to the fidelity of the oaths they took but are more committed to reinforcing the racial caste system which divides us. Black lives matter, and each of us owe ourselves and future generations to be better, and we will work tirelessly to ensure state law and our police culture in Illinois reflects this reality.”

House members joined the committee as guests, including chair of the House Judiciary-Criminal Committee, State Representative Justin Slaughter (D-Chicago). He and Sims are leading the caucus’s efforts on criminal justice reform, violence reduction and police accountability.

“The COVID-19 pandemic and recent civil unrest, exacerbated by countless years of systemic oppression and divestment in our communities, have highlighted the indispensable need for reform. I am committed to working with my colleagues to continue the fight for justice,” Slaughter said.

State Senator Robert Peters (D-Chicago) is a co-chair of Tuesday’s hearing as the chairman of the Senate Public Safety Subcommittee.

"We are currently seeing what decades of failed 'tough on crime' policies looks like," Peters said. "It is clear they are not an effective way to secure safety and justice in our communities. We must act now to pass a comprehensive package that will change the lives of millions of people across our state."

The caucus is committed to eliminating the longstanding inequities that have always plagued Black communities, Senate ILBC Chair Christopher Belt (D-Centreville) said.

"Since 1892, the Pledge of Allegiance has included the words 'With liberty and justice for all,” Belt said. "But throughout America's history, people of color have been denied those rights. It's past time for change–every American deserves to be treated equally under the law." 

State Representative Camille Lilly (D-Chicago) serves as the House ILBC Chair.

“For far too long, the effects of systemic racism have plagued the Black community. For generations, we have known that the criminal justice system disproportionately and unfairly targets African American men and women,” said Lilly said. “No one should be racially profiled, over policed, or treated unfairly because they are Black. These biases are what lead to tragic situations such as the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and, most recently, the Jacob Blake situation. For far too long we’ve had to read headlines and watch videos of armed and trained police officers killing unarmed Black men and women. Today, we stand with our communities. We will not turn a blind eye to the people we have been elected to serve in Springfield.”