An Example of a Strong Black Leader

Harry C. Alford | 4/28/2020, 12:21 p.m.

This letter is an excellent example of perfect advocacy demonstrated by Larry Ivory, Chairman of the National Black Chamber. I encourage all Black leaders to share this within your networks. Let us stop “sleeping” and get busy shaking things up in our communities. Stop absorbing the blows of bigotry and start swinging back (twofold!)

April 20, 2020 letter to Senator Koehler from ILLINOIS STATE BLACK CHAMBER of COMMERCE, INC

Congratulations on your leadership appointment to the Long-Term Economic Revitalization and Recovery Committee for the State of Illinois.

As you are astutely aware, communities of color have been historically marginalized and disadvantaged as it relates to social and economic opportunities in America. These institutionalized socio-economic disparities have resulted in the highest rates of chronic diseases, crime rates, mortality rates, poverty, and concentrated housing in communities of color, particularly African Americans. The COVID-19 crisis is illuminating the effects of these disparities based on the rapid transmission of the disease and the exponential fatality rates disproportionately affecting those urban communities that have a high concentration of communities of color. For example, African Americans make up less than 15% of the State’s population and 32.4% of Chicago’s population, yet they account for 70% of the COVID-19 fatalities in Chicago. Congresswoman Robin Kelly put it best, she stated in Governor Pritzker’s press briefing, “COVID-19 is putting long lasting inequities on display”.

It is with this premise that the Illinois State Black Chamber of Commerce (ILBCC) is compelled to take a stance and a lead role in mobilizing community resources and ensuring that communities of color not only have a seat at the table, but be a key partner in the economic stability and recovery for African American businesses and communities.

The U.S. Senate passed a roughly $2 trillion Coronavirus response bill, CARES Act, intended to speed relief across the American economy. This aid package from Congress was meant to keep businesses and individuals afloat during an unprecedented freeze on most of the American life. The ILBCC wants to ensure that the CARES Act and any other State resources are targeted to the greatest, critical needs in the most vulnerable populations in Illinois. We are also ready to work in tandem with the State of Illinois to identify and reduce barriers to equitable funding distributions.

Based on feedback from ILBCC members and community leaders, we have identified some immediate issues and observations that we would like to bring to your attention for further discussion and action. State of Illinois Procurement

The ILBCC members that meet the criteria to provide medical supplies are being told by State of Illinois procurement administrators that they must wait 90-140 days to be paid. We have observed that some participating firms (non-minority) are able to be a supplier and participate in the COVID response with an approved provision of being paid on demand. One ILBCC member company, SI Medical Supply, is an international medical supply company that has 60 other African American supply companies

tied to it, can produce over $50M in PPE supply orders. The challenge is establishing a line of credit in this amount for production and distribution. The ILBCC would be very interested in working directly with the State of Illinois Procurement Department to discuss this issue in particular but also to make recommendations for adaptable procurement provisions, considering the sense of urgency and volume of medical supply needed to respond to COVID-19.