Food for thought.  We always talk about holding our elected officials accountable for their actions. Usually, when we talk about accountability, we are only talking about putting them on blast when they do something that we don’t agree with, or that runs counter to the community’s best interests.  I’ve done it myself in my own advocacy. 

However, community accountability, if done right, is 360 degrees. When I say that, I mean that, if we live in the village, we all need to hold one another accountable to do what’s best for the community. That includes going to bat for one another; giving credit where credit is due; calling out injustices and instances in which our actions are self-serving. Anybody in the community should be able to hold people accountable, and, in turn, be held accountable, for better or for worse.

Many of us in the Black Community, were up in arms because the City Council Black Caucus’ attempts to pass an ordinance to extend the rollout of the legalization of cannabis in Chicago to July 1, 2020 failed. Delaying the rollout would have given Black businesses more time to apply for licenses to run dispensaries, and the ability to legally sell cannabis the same day as everyone else who qualified; instead, Black businesses were told, yet again, to “wait our turn” and to be happy for the small wins. All too often, in the past, “our turn” never came, and our “wins” stayed small. 

During last week’s City Council debate on the ordinance, squabbles took place all over social media. Our Black aldermen and their colleagues said that not enough was done at the state level to ensure that Black business owners could get licenses to sell cannabis in January. Our Black elected officials at the state level questioned why our Black aldermen didn’t participate in discussions in Springfield before legislation to legalize cannabis was passed. Our community members felt that our governor, mayor, state reps, senators and aldermen all could have done better to make sure Black-owned businesses were not excluded. There were some who blamed Black business owners themselves for not being prepared or even reading the legislation.  

It occurred to me, there is a whole lot of angst to go around, and no one publicly mentions the names of the Black businesses we are fighting for. We have a circular firing squad going down, with a lot of name-calling and blood-letting in the figurative sense.  When the dust settles, I believe, there will be some Black businesses and Black-controlled nonprofits benefiting in some form or fashion from the legalization of marijuana sales — if the pressure is sustained.

My question is, who will hold the Black businesses and nonprofits accountable to do right by the community? I have seen, all too often, community members going up the flag pole, fighting for this group and that group, and when the community needs the people who benefit from our advocacy, they cannot be found. At least if we find them, we can’t hear them. Some of the worst experiences I’ve had is advocating for people and then having those same people leave me high and dry when I needed help. Unfortunately, my story is not unique.

If you are a Black business owner, and you have the community and elected officials going all out for you, please, don’t leave the community “hangin'”. You need to pay it forward so that we can truly lift all boats and not just some boats.