By the time you read this article, Chicago will have elected its next mayor who once again will not be Black, but by all accounts will be elected based on the Black vote. In Chicago’s first-ever mayoral runoff between incumbent Rahm Emanuel and challenger Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, both candidates have spent a significant amount of their time campaigning in the city’s Black wards. But with no true Black agenda, it is important that the Black community have its own plan for the next four years, regardless of who is elected mayor.
The Black Agenda
Since the gains achieved during the civil rights era, there are very few issues that the Black community has consistently coalesced around, stood for or stood against consistently, which has made it difficult to build unity within the Black community. Taking this into account, the first step is a meeting of representatives from the Black political, business, civic, service and education communities to develop a Black Agenda. The Black Agenda would serve as the measurement tool of Black progress, the measuring stick by which the Black community can judge how worthy both Black and white candidates, businesses, non-profits and schools are of our support. By creating a Black Agenda, with input from all aspects of the Black community, Blacks can create our own uniform standard of accountability.
When Harold Washington successfully ran for mayor, it did not happen on a whim, but was a well-orchestrated plan made possible by the existence of a Black infrastructure that no longer exists today. Washington was able to rely on the independent Black politicians for signatures and votes, Black activists for organizing and Black businesses for funding. At the time of Harold Washington’s election, there were 28 businesses in Chicago on the Black Enterprise 100. Today there is only one. Between Daley and Shakman, the Black political organizations have been decimated and the Black activist community has aged out, leaving up-and-coming activists without clear guidance or direction. Regardless of who is mayor, the Black community must rebuild its internal infrastructure of businesses, political organizations, civic and service groups, and educational institutions through consistent communication. By developing the Black agenda and having the Black infrastructure to support it, the Black community can focus on economics.
When Black politicians pass laws that help Black businesses, those Black businesses in turn hire Black people. This means that regardless of who is mayor, Black people must be vociferous in the demand for their economic piece of the pie in every aspect of city government, including jobs, contracts and purchasing. City records show that whites are still dominant in the areas of jobs and contracts, so to advance economically in the city, the Black community must redefine its path to success. Oftentimes Black activists waste countless hours protesting worksites and construction companies, knowing that a limited few companies can actually compete for the work. Instead of constantly fighting for the construction jobs, Blacks should consider fighting for the jobs that create jobs by generating contracts and providing purchasing opportunities. Blacks should consider the route of procurement over the numbers working in streets and sanitation.
De-Emphasize Social Services
Social services have become an all-consuming liability in the Black community. In many cases, social service agencies are not only service providers, but also major employers in the community. This leaves the Black community in a precarious position because whenever the government needs to make cuts, the first place they cut is social services, which has a two-fold effect on the Black community — cuts in services and cuts in jobs. Going forward, if the Black community is to succeed, we must decrease our dependence on social services as an economic engine and replace it with other entrepreneurial ventures that are less likely to be impacted by government cuts.
Regardless of who is the next mayor, the Black community needs our own plan.