Moving this city forward requires great leadership By Cheryll Boswell

Peoria is not the most dangerous city in America to live.  Peoria is not the worst CITY in America to live.  Peoria is just a bad place for Black people to live, according to the 24/7 Wall Street Journal. Out of ten cities 24/7 studied, Peoria is ranked the fifth worst city for African Americans to live in the U.S. Two years ago, we were the second worst city. Racial inequalities that include poverty, unemployment, median income, housing, and incarceration were some of the factors used to review racial disparities among blacks and whites.

After reading the article and trying to understand the methodology 24/7 used to rank the worst cities in America for Blacks folks, I had to ask how did Peoria get in a position to be on the list in the first place. Did the 2008 recession broaden the socioeconomic gap between blacks and whites in Peoria or did it begin before that? Is there a list that identifies best cities in America for black folks to live?

Hundreds of cities across the country were affected by the 2008 financial crisis and Peoria was no different. Thousands of homes were foreclosed on. Neighborhoods were deluged with vacant and abandoned homes in many metropolitan cities. In Peoria, unemployment was at an all-time high. Significant economic growth has happened in certain areas of Peoria since the recession. In other areas of the City, poverty, blight, and food deserts worsened. Areas that have high poverty and unemployment continue to see decline in their neighborhoods while parts of the City added grocery stores, new retail centers and several hundred apartment units.

Most of the cities that are on the worst list for African Americans to live are in the Midwest. The Midwest was once the place where manufacturers provided well-paying jobs for people who did not have a college or high a school education. Now many manufacturing plants have shut down or jobs have been lost to technology. Several manufacturing plants in the Midwest have closed in the past three years. Mitsubishi Motors ended production of their Bloomington-Normal plant in 2015. Caterpillar’s CEO announced building new headquarters in Peoria and how it will transform the downtown area into a vibrant destination in 2015.  Fast forward to 2017, Caterpillar’s new CEO announced they are moving their senior executives out of Peoria’s headquarters to Chicago, halting all development in downtown.   The latest blow to the manufacturing industry came recently when GM announced in November 2018, it was halting production and shutting down five factories.

There are racial inequalities in the judicial system in Peoria that works against African Americans. In Peoria County, black people are five times more likely to be sent to prison than a white person. These statistics are staggering and part of what keeps Peoria on the list for worst cities for African Americans to live in the U.S.

Racial disparity in Peoria started long before the 2008 recession. Poverty in Peoria is about 28% for Black families and 10% for white households.  61605 has had residents that make less money than what’s deemed as median household income for decades. People white flighting out of the 61605 area has been happening for over 45 years.

We can use the title as motivation to not only improve the lives of African Americans but improve the economy of the entire city.  Moving this city forward requires great leadership and a motivated team to get the job done. The team must consist of members of the community, along with City officials, and other stakeholders. Our goal should be to get on a list that says “Peoria Best city in America for African Americans to live.