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Black business groups blast college board over sputtering minority business participation

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(The Center Square) – Citing data that shows most state community colleges are falling short of meeting state-mandated minority participation goals, Chicago Southland Black Chamber of Commerce Chairman Dr. Cornel Darden Jr. is calling for the Illinois Community College Board to be defunded.

Despite state law calling for 30% minority participation among vendors, Darden pegs such business with most community colleges at just 1%, adding that some institutions still have no dealings.

“Black companies always get the short end of the stick,” Darden told The Center Square. “So, we’re advocating that we get many of these state institutions to reach those goals. What’s going on with the community colleges specifically is that they’ve been the most egregious and not even attempted to meet the goals.”

Joined by several other Black business organizations in pushing for such equity, Darden added that the reasons he’s heard for noncompliance are vast, ranging from some not believing in the law to others insisting that the targeted goals are merely aspirational.

“We’ve actually met with every single community college in the state of Illinois and it’s just been a horrible experience,” he added. “When we approach them about reaching the goals, they respond with hostility.”

More recently, state Rep. La Shawn Ford, D-Chicago, who also chairs the Illinois House Appropriations – Higher Education Committee, hosted a subject matter hearing on the issue.

Darden said the group is also pushing for colleges and universities to become members of the Black Chambers of Commerce and other Black trade associations so they are familiar with and have a connection with minority owned businesses when opportunities arise.

“We’re not just coming up with that, they are already members of white chambers of commerce and white trade associations,” he said. “We think that’s the first step to take because their No. 1 excuse is that they don’t know where these Black businesses are. If you’re having a hard time reaching Black and minority businesses, then you should be advertising those solicitations in Black owned media.”