The black community is gasping for air. And when State Rep. Maurice West of Rockford says that, he means it literally, as in the killing of George Floyd during an encounter with Minneapolis police.
But he’s also talking about systemic issues disproportionately hurting black people. That includes problems in criminal justice, but also education and health.
“We've already been reminded of our health care disparities when black people are dying from COVID-19 at an alarming rate,” he said.
In the wake of protests across Illinois, West, along with the Legislative Black Caucus, put together a series of policy initiatives to lift up black communities not just in Rockford, he says, but across the state.
The list includes a statewide police accountability system to deal with situations like the deaths of unarmed black people. It also asks the state to devote “Rebuild Illinois” funds and other state money to helping black-owned businesses.
West says he hopes people pay attention to the group’s requests. He also says he’s been hearing from a lot of white people asking how they can help. His advice: listen.
“The voices of the unheard? Those are the voices that need to be heard,” said West. “Now your voice can take a step back for a minute and just support the black community.”
West says he and the rest of the Black Caucus are traveling across the state to stand in solidarity. They’ll be holding a social-distanced event to discuss their proposals in Rockford on Friday, June 5.