The Illinois Black Advocacy Initiative is a Black-centered advocacy organization dedicated to building power across Black communities in Illinois utilizing the foundational principles of justice, equity, and abundance. IBAI was founded in 2021 in response to the urgent need to create and advance a statewide Black advocacy agenda in Illinois. This need sprung from the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on Black lives, as well as the ongoing police terror Black communities have experienced for decades, highlighted by the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Chicagoan Laquan McDonald, and unfortunately, many others. With this backdrop, IBAI was developed to provide Black Illinoisians with an advocacy and organizing institution that prioritizes their well-being, prosperity, and needs. IBAI believes that though this work is not new, now is the time to accelerate targeted strategies, resources, and skills to effectively launch a unified, Black-led, Black-focused agenda.
In 2020, a peer group of philanthropic organizations commissioned a landscape analysis and that analysis found strong support for a statewide entity and revealed a robust ecosystem of advocates. The analysis built the case for a race-conscious approach to advocacy in Illinois and a call for specific actions that could be taken to support this endeavor and that can result in a socially and economically stronger state. Key recommendations were threefold:
Sustain and increase funding for existing Black advocacy organizations statewide. Devoting resources to any future statewide Black advocacy efforts must not mean reducing the funding for existing efforts.
Establish a Black-led, Black-focused, statewide, multi-issue advocacy organization. IBAI provides an important opportunity to align the landscape’s assets toward a common agenda, narrative, and strategy
Establish or leverage (through partnerships) key capacities for statewide advocacy. A range of capacities and strategies must be leveraged (individually and in combination) to successfully achieve statewide advocacy. Such strategies include community organizing and coalition building; leadership development; communications support; action research and policy expertise; litigation and government relations; and electoral or political organizing.
The Illinois Black Advocacy Initiative expands the capacity and power of Black-community-focused organizations and dismantles systems of oppression through policy, education, and organizing.
The Illinois Black Advocacy Initiative envisions an equitable and self-determined future for Black Illinoisans by supporting the ecosystem of Black-community-focused advocacy organizations and key stakeholders to dismantle systemic injustices and advocate for holistic, community-derived solutions.
To carry this work out, IBAI organizes and supports the diversity of Black voices across the state to develop and implement an asset-based narrative and strategy that centers the needs of the most marginalized in Illinois’ Black community and enhances the advocacy ecosystem to ensure that their needs are met. IBAI serves as a repository of data about Black experiences across the state, and leverages this information to:
uncover and address the root causes of racial inequities,
convene key stakeholders to determine best-practice solutions, and
develop and advocate for the advancement and implementation of a shared, Black-centered policy agenda.