Springfield, Illinois-June 12, 2020
Illinois Association of Community Action Agencies Statement on Social Justice
The Community Action movement was birthed 56 years ago during a tumultuous time of civil and social unrest. This was juxtaposed by the economic inequalities that affected many due to the lack of real opportunities and access in both rural and urban America. At that time, structural reforms were championed through landmark pieces of legislation under the banner of the “Great Society” led by President Lyndon Johnson. Passage of those pieces of legislation intended to address issues of poverty and racial injustice. Community Action was tasked with identifying the sources of poverty and marshaling resources to help people overcome these obstacles to create a better life for their families and our country as a whole.
In 2020, the progress that was intended from all the reforms and legislation passed due to the social and economic justice reforms of the 1960s seems to be illusory. We find ourselves as a society joined by the rest of the world marching for the same issues many did in the 1960s. The United States is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, yet many of our fellow citizens for generations have not been able to share in our prosperity and well-being. In 2020, it is glaringly evident that people of color particularly African Americans are disproportionately affected by issues of economic, social, civil and health justice. The recent pandemic has disproportionately affected African Americans in infection rates and death as well as job losses. To date, there are nearly 125,000 reported COVID-19 cases and over 5,700 deaths in Illinois, of which 30% are African American. The unemployment rate for African Americans prior to COVID-19 was 8.7%, more than double the state average of 4%. Now the unemployment rate for all Illinoisans is over 16%. Extrapolating these numbers would estimate that over 1/3 of African Americans are now unemployed in Illinois. Add to this the all too common occurrence of yet another unarmed black person dying at the hands of police officers who did not value his life. Righteous frustration and anger resulted in protests that have now spanned the globe. The threadbare veil that allows many to not see the suffering caused by systemic racism, specifically anti-blackness, has been pulled aside again.
The National Community Action Partnership also issued a statement affirming the core values of our network. We would like to join them in amplifying those words as the blueprint for our approach to service: "We believe that all people should be treated with dignity and respect and recognize that structural race, gender and other inequities remain barriers that must be addressed."

It is not acceptable for African Americans to lose their lives at the hands of those who are sworn to protect and serve them. It is unacceptable that deprivation of opportunity has left so many families in poverty and thereby also more vulnerable to serious complications from COVID-19. The protests that have spread throughout every county in our state are emblematic of something larger. A recognition that many of the ills in our society are connected. The protests are a call to action for us all. It is time to begin to remove the stain of racism from the fabric that weaves us all together as Americans. Now is the time to advocate for structural changes that ensure an end to discrimination in education, in the workplace, in housing, in healthcare, in criminal justice, and in our cultural practices. Working toward equality and justice will truly help people and change lives, all of our lives, for the better.
The Illinois Association of Community Action Agencies Board and Staff fundamentally reject racism and discrimination in all forms.