Black lawmakers demand more investment

State officials calling for $1B investment, police reform in wake of George Floyd death

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By Michael Romain


Black lawmakers from various levels of government are demanding for more investment in black communities in the wake of George Floyd's death on May 25. Floyd died at the knee of Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin, as three other officers looked on.

"I'm tired of taking crumbs," said state Sen. Kimberly Lightford (4th), who represents much of the West Side, during a gathering of elected officials in front of the Fred Hampton Aquatic Center in west suburban Maywood on June 7. Gov. J.B. Pritzker also attended the gathering and was standing a few feet away from Lightford.

"Governor, we need a slice!" she said.

State Rep. Emanuel "Chris" Welch (7th) said that slice includes "real police accountability" and for $1 billion to be invested "in every black community."

The gathering was organized by Welch, Lightford and First District Cook County Commissioner and Austin resident Brandon Johnson, with a few dozen other black elected officials in attendance, including Cook County Clerk Karen Yarbrough, who also lives in Maywood, and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton was also in attendance.

The Maywood gathering was one of at least four different gatherings of black elected officials in black communities across the Chicago area. 

Lightford, the  first African American female Senate Majority Leader in state history, was brought to tears talking about how her political career started as a 27-year-old Maywood trustee whose fight to rehab the Fred Hampton Pool got her labeled "the angry black woman, because I was fighting for what was right for my community," she said. "And I have been that angry black woman for 21 years and I'm not going to stop!"

Lt. Gov. Stratton channeled the suffering of George Floyd while she outlined the centuries-old battle for equality among blacks.

"Every single system in this country has been built with racism at its core," Stratton said, adding that blacks don't want any more "knees on our neck" and "we deserve to breathe."

Gov. Pritzker called for a 10-second moment of silence during his remarks.

"We're here on Fred Hampton Way because he was a hero to so many, but think about all of the unsung killed at the hands of murderous police officers," he said. "I want to take a moment of silence for those whose names aren't being spoken here today."

Pritzker said that there is "no justice without police accountability," criminal justice reform and without "making significant investments in our black communities."

Johnson told those gathered to continue their protests ("don't end your protests, don't end your rage"), before saying that Pritzker and Stratton have made commitments to black elected officials from across the state to have listening sessions, "so that we can develop policies that will transform lives."

Fred Hampton Jr., the son of Hampton and the leader of the Black Panther Party Cubs, also spoke during Sunday's gathering. He said that the "first step to addressing the problem is to recognize that we have a problem."

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