ILLINOIS STATE SENATOR Willie Preston (D-16th District) (left, center) greets a United States veteran (right) with a handshake on behalf of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus Foundation. The Foundation held numerous events across the state for Veterans Day which consisted of a grocery and gift giveaway to Black veterans.
The Illinois Legislative Black Caucus Foundation recognized the brave men and women who have served our country with a series of Veterans Day events held in multiple locations. It included pop-up grocery and gift giveaways.
The series of events took place over the weekend at numerous locations throughout the state, highlighting the valor and courage of Black veterans both past and present. Additionally, the Foundation was happy to partner with local sponsors such as HyVee, Schnucks, Kroger, Mariano’s, Instacart, Wal-Mart, UI Health and the University of Illinois Cancer Center.
The location of these events included CAP 1908 Innovation & Coworking Center (1100 S. Grand Ave. E., Springfield, IL); The Red Door Meeting Place (1519 Roosevelt Rd., Broadview, IL); William E. Earnest Post 559 (704 N. Hickory St., Champaign, IL); Compassion Baptist Church (2650 E. 95th St., Chicago, IL); Our Lady of Africa Parish (607 E. Oakwood Blvd., Chicago, IL); Mary Brown Center (606 S. 15th St., East Saint Louis, IL); 801 S. McAlister Ave., Waukegan, IL; Hope Manor (3053 W. Franklin Blvd., Chicago, IL); and the Black Fire Brigade (8404 S. Kedzie Ave., Chicago, IL).
The Foundation continued grocery giveaway stops during the following week which included food donations to two Chicagoland Salvation Army locations and similar events held in Peoria and Rockford.
ILBC Joint Chair Rep. Carol Ammons stated, “When we mention ‘land of the free and home of the brave’, it is important that we acknowledge all of our Black veterans who have fought bravely for our freedoms since our nation’s creation to the present day.”
Veterans Day was created as “Armistice Day” on November 11, 1919, the first anniversary of the end of World War I, and became a national holiday in 1938. At this time, Black military veterans who fought under the umbrella of “freedom and democracy” overseas, often faced racial terrorism and violence here in America.
ILBCF Executive Director Tiffany Hightower declared, “Despite facing the trials, tribulations and seemingly insurmountable odds of just being Black in America, our veterans still served with excellence, distinction and honor.” She continued, “The service and sacrifice that our bravest men and women have given to our state and our country deserves more than just a day, or even a weekend, but nonetheless, we simply wanted to take some time to say thank you!”
Community Abolitionist and U.S. Army Veteran, Chris “Brotha” Blanks remarked, “The ILBCF’s and our local leaders’ commitment to showing their gratitude to veterans here in Waukegan and throughout the state through their grocery giveaways was highly impactful, especially in an underserved community such as this one.” Blanks carried on, “As a veteran myself, I see the urgent needs for greater access to information and resources for our servicemen and servicewomen on a regular basis. Sunday’s giveaway was for a worthy and needed cause, and a nice gesture of appreciation.”
The Foundation also took time during their Veterans Day events to celebrate the life of the late Rep. Raymond W. Ewell, who prior to serving the 29th District in the Illinois General Assembly and helping found the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus in 1967, also served in the U.S. Army.
Former Rep. Charles Morrow, a good friend of Ewell’s, stated, “There’s something to be said about serving and Ray served throughout his entire life, and to the fullest, both in the U.S. Army and in the Illinois General Assembly.” Former Rep. Morrow continued, “To me he was always a hero and someone I was proud to call a friend, advisor, mentor and even a father-figure. He was truly one of the most brilliant men I had ever met, and I miss him.”
Ewell, who was honored by the Foundation for his career achievements in 2020 with the Sen. Richard H. Newhouse award, passed away in October 2022 and was the last-surviving founding member of the Caucus.