Engaging and Mobilizing the Black Community in Illinois

The Center for Racial and Gender Equity works to build the power of the Black women most directly impacted by the intersections of violently racialized and gendered capitalism to advance a radical vision for liberation, through leadership development and political engagement. It runs grassroots policy and electoral campaigns, engaging Black voters and building Black women’s leadership to advance a legislative agenda and candidates that explicitly support Black women’s Liberation. Thanks in part to support from Voqal, Center for Racial and Gender Equity is using relational organizing to win real policy victories for its movement.

In order to accomplish its policy goals, the Center for Racial and Gender Equity launched the Racial Justice Online Action Center, mobilizing supporters to send over 3,500 emails to state lawmakers in tandem with in-person policy advocacy. This work led to real results. It helped pass legislation that expands licensure access for job seekers with convictions, prohibits the practice of charging inmates fees to recover their incarceration costs, improves inmate access to healthcare, expands cash assistance for low-income families, and bans for-profit detention facilities in Illinois. It also helped pass SJRCA 1, creating a pathway to a progressive Illinois income tax.

At the core of this success, was the Center for Racial and Gender Equity’s focus on relational organizing, which has proven to be very effective for the organization. For in-person events and online actions, it shifted its strategy from relying largely on neighborhood canvassing and mass emails to focusing on holding its core group of members and leaders accountable for turning out their own close contacts. For example, for its 2019 Forum for Safety and Liberation, the members responsible for planning the event were each tasked with bringing five people. Staff acted in a project-management type role, empowering these leaders to reach out to their contacts both in-person and online.

At Voqal, we believe true social equity starts from the ground up. The Center for Racial and Gender Equity’s work to empower and engage the Black community in the political and legislative process perfectly exemplifies this idea. We are proud to support its work and look forward to the more equitable Chicago that will no doubt result from its continued effort.