CHICAGO – Governor Pat Quinn today signed a new law to strengthen the Illinois African American Family Commission. The Governor signed the legislation at the Quinn Chapel AME Church, the oldest African American congregation in Chicago. Today’s action is part of Governor Quinn’s agenda to ensure equal rights and opportunities for all Illinois residents.
“The Civil Rights Act was signed 50 years ago and proved that working hard for what you believe in can change the world,” Governor Quinn said. “History shows that in the fight against injustice, justice will always prevail. This new law is the latest of many steps in the long journey toward true equality in Illinois.”
Senate Bill 121, sponsored by State Senator Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago) and State Representative Ken Dunkin (D-Chicago), expands the African American Family Commission’s role to include monitoring legislation and developing programs to address the needs of African Americans in Illinois. The new law also updates official statistics concerning education, employment, income and health and adds additional state agencies to the commission to assist with implementing the commission’s recommendations. The new law is effective Jan. 1, 2015.
“Including African-Americans in the development and planning process of policies and programs will guarantee Illinois is better serving the needs of minorities,” Senator Hunter said.
“I am proud to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights movement and the strides that we have made toward social equality,” Representative Dunkin said. “The African American Family Commission is a critical tool in furthering our efforts to overcome inequalities in the black community such as access to employment opportunities, healthcare, quality education and a fair justice system. I am honored to stand here with my colleagues and the residents of Illinois to make positive change for the future of our state.”
Courageous acts such as nation-wide sit-ins, the March on Selma and the integrated Southern bus tour of the Freedom Riders in the 1960s helped lead to passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964. President John F. Kennedy first proposed the legislation, and it was drafted by Attorney General Robert Kennedy. President Lyndon Johnson picked up the torch and a bipartisan push in the U.S. Senate, led by Illinois’ U.S. Senator Everett Dirksen, broke the filibuster that opponents were trying to use to stop the legislation.
Governor Quinn has long supported equal rights and opportunities for all. Between 2008 and 2013, Illinois increased state contracts awarded to minority and women-owned firms by more than 59 percent – an increase of more than $120 million. He fought for legislation creating a program that provides working capital loans for minorities and women and ensuring a fair state contract bidding process for minority and women-owned businesses.
In addition, Governor Quinn led the charge for marriage equality and signed legislation making Illinois the 16th state in the nation to embrace full marriage equality. He also created the Governor’s Office of New Americans to provide services, build partnerships and spearhead legislation to improve the integration of Illinois’ two million immigrants. The Governor has also more than doubled the number of Illinois Welcoming Centers, which provide a wide range of services to newcomers.