The New Normal By Lord Mic Williams

The Novel Covid-19 Pandemic has infiltrated nearly every vestige of life as we know it, and at a truly proliferate rate. Every conversation…every interaction…seemingly every thought comes back to the dreaded “coronavirus.” In many ways, it’s brought our country to a knee, socially and economically.

As testing capabilities increase, Coronavirus cases are anticipated to increase substantially. States across the country are still locked-down with shelter in place restrictions, closed businesses, and depression level unemployment. Every household and every business is feeling it, especially small Black-owned businesses! In one of Gov. Pritzker’s press briefings, Congresswoman Robin Kelly said, “COVID-19 is putting long-lasting inequities on display”. The fact is that this novel coronavirus crisis is illuminating the effects of established socioeconomic disparities based on the rapid transmission of the disease and the exponential fatality rates disproportionately affecting urban communities that have a high concentration of Blacks.

The Illinois State Black Chamber of Commerce (ILBCC) and National Black Chamber of Commerce (NBCC) are engaged on the state and federal levels to ensure that small black businesses across the country are not left out of financial relief strategies again during this Coronavirus crisis. “Whether it is a barbershop owner, family restaurant, engineering, or consulting firm, we must be the voice for Black businesses. This pandemic is a national emergency, and it’s our job to protect Black small businesses as best we can. And we’re going to work to do just that,” states ILBCC President-CEO & National Chair Larry Ivory. The Chamber feels that seasoned Black business leaders should advocate for the economics of the Black community and on behalf of the Black-owned businesses instead of the highly venerated leaders from social service organizations, which has all too commonly been the practice for the Black in the community. If you were going in for heart surgery, you’d likely value the opinion of a cardiologist over an ophthalmologist…although they are both likely to be astute and respected in their field.

We also believe that being a key voting block, the Black community should demand that both/all candidates and their parties appropriately and measurably vie for the favor of the Black vote. To make it plain, we ought not give our vote away for free or for empty promises. We should set and appropriately manage expectations.

The Chamber has hosted a series of impactful video and teleconference calls so that the Chamber leadership and our constituency could interface with key national and state congressional and senate leaders, corporate and healthcare leaders and other delegates to address some of the most pressing needs of Black businesses in the age of coronavirus. These conferences have featured notable political figures such as Illinois Black Caucus Members and State Representatives Carol Ammons, William Davis, and E. Chris Welch, as well as Senator Dave Koehler and many others. The Chamber’s “National Call to Action” featured notables like Congressman Danny Davis, the NationalBCC President Harry Alford, and the White House’s Director of the National Economic Council, Larry Kudlow. Each of these individuals brought specialized insights that help to sharpen our focus.

On one of the initial calls focused on the needs of Illinois’ Black businesses, leadership identified the need for a formal manifesto to present to relevant government offices as well as a formal “marshall plan” for agents of change to coalesce around as we strategically move our agenda forward. We’re pleased to report that both of these pieces have been mobilized and are excited to be sharing them with you in detail very soon!

We can share with you now an overview of our 4 point Manifesto of Needs, as it relates to Illinois Pandemic Relief & the CARES Act.

  1. The ILBCC has formally requested to work directly with the State of IL Office of Procurement to discuss specific issues and make recommendations for adaptable procurement provisions, particularly considering the sense of urgency and volume of medical supply needed to respond to COVID-19. For example, we know that the State has spent over $170 million for emergency PPE to date & that not a single dollar of those funds was spent with a Black-owned company. This is unacceptable, especially when the Chamber knows qualified firms that can meet the need!

  2. The Chamber knows that messaging to diverse communities requires diverse, creative, targeted, and culturally sensitive messaging utilizing Black media outlets to achieve the desired comprehensive reach.

  3. The ILBCC requests additional CARES Act resources that would provide PPE (i.e., masks and gloves) that will be readily accessible, available, and freeto Black communities living in poverty.
  4. The ILBCC understands the CARES Act contains a series of accountability provisions to oversee the rapid spending of its funds, but the Chamber wants to ensure that the State of Illinois is intentional about tracking exactly how and where these dollars are spent. We must measure the true participation of Black businesses in the stimulus efforts & a tangible tracking and reporting system for the CARES Act will ensure transparency and equity in the allocation of resources.

Generations of institutionalized socioeconomic disparities have resulted in the highest rates of chronic diseases, crime rates, mortality rates, poverty, and concentrated housing in Black communities. The Chamber knows that it will require a consistently applied coordinated campaign of programmatic initiatives of matching and greater proportions in order to counteract the detriments set in place. Your continued support is critical to successfully advancing our agenda in this New Normal. The saga continues!

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The Chamber’s Board of Directors is looking forward to convening in Chicago at the United Center with full fanfare for their annual meeting just as soon as the greater social health condition is conducive! The Chamber is still driving key agenda items and initiatives, such as the Sheltered Market, the LobbyDay2020 legislative agenda, and the annual ILBCC State convention. Yes, we anticipate being able to celebrate premier relationships, highlight special transactions, and spotlight true transformations with you this fall, so we hope that things hold well for us all. We’ll keep you abreast of all our scheduled event modifications as they happen.

Despite some cloudy days and a few hazy situations, the horizon is bright for Illinois’ Black businesses and communities, so stay tuned and stay engaged! Please know that the Chamber is here to help YOU position for success! Plugging in and beginning your journey of personal and professional growth and development is very important to us!

Get a bird’s eye view of what’s important to the Black business community by texting ILBCC to 22828 for a free subscription to the Chamber Business NewsJournal.

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