Statewide Black Male Commission launched on Juneteenth
Young Black males in Illinois were in a statewide spotlight on this Juneteenth weekend.
Hundreds gathered in Aurora to kick off the state's new Illinois Commission on the Social Status of Black Males.
Along with state Rep. LaShawn Ford and Congressman Danny Davis, Aurora Mayor Richard C. Irvin serves as head of the commission that is comprised of members throughout the state.
"We are here today, on Juneteenth, to commit to doing what is necessary to improve the quality of life of Black boys and men in Illinois," Mayor Irvin said. "The commission's mission is to study the social conditions of Black males and make sustainable recommendations to improve our opportunities and quality of life."
Former Senator Roland Burris was on hand to show his support. He established the first Commission for Black males in 1992 during his time as Attorney General for Illinois.
Burris said after two years of work developing a report, nothing was done it with for decades.
"I am so pleased to see this commission continue what we began nearly thirty years ago," Burris said. "I have a copy of the report we did years ago, and I am going to give this to the mayor and the commission. Hopefully, they can start here because some of the work has been done."
Commissioner Dawson Pickens is the youngest member of the statewide team. A senior at Oak Park River Forest High School, Pickens encourages his peers to continue standing up for what is right and to join the commission's efforts.
"I encourage my fellow peers to make the best choices even when the odds are stacked against us and not to take the suggested road out," said Pickens. "We have protested, petitioned, and projected our voices about the injustices in the justice system. I offer a word of encouragement for young Black men in Illinois to join this Commission. We need you."
Two of those young leaders were honored with an award of excellence for their entrepreneurial efforts in opening their own business. The 20-year-old business owners Tre Dabney and Jermaine Hamlin are the youngest entrepreneurs to hold a lease in the Fox Valley Mall.
Attendees joined them for the ribbon-cutting and grand opening of Righteous Kicks, a shoe and clothing retail store.
"It's amazing that everyone is here today, on Juneteenth, to celebrate our dream coming true," Dabney said. "This is what Juneteenth is all about."
Illinois House Resolution 13 creates the Commission on the Social Status of Black Males to study the social conditions of Black males, create evidence-based and measurable policy and system changes, develop strategies to assist in remedying severe adversities, support forums to promote statewide achievements and make sustainable recommendations to improve the life chance and quality of life of Black males in Illinois.
The key focus areas of the commission are: Education, Mental Health, Physical Health, Criminal Justice, Faith & Values, Economics & Employment, Social & Environmental.
To get involved with the Illinois Commission on the Social Status of Black Males, email CSSBM@aurora-il.org