Black community’s voices ‘finally being heard’

Black community’s voices ‘finally being heard’


From left, Becky Gabany, system director, Community Services at Memorial Health System; Ryan McCrady, president and chief executive officer, Springfield Sangamon Growth Alliance; Dominic Watson, president and chief executive officer, Springfield Black Chamber of Commerce; and Shawn Gregory, Ward 2 alderman pose for a portrait near an area in the Southtown neighborhood Gregory hopes to revitalize into a parklet allowing patrons of Harold's Chicken Shack and Clay's Popeye's BBQ a comfortable outdoor dining and meeting space east of the intersection at South Grand and Eleventh St. in Springfield, Ill. Friday Apr 30, 2021. [photos by Jason Johnson]

Dominic Watson is intimately familiar with the disparities that exist in Springfield and Sangamon County.

Growing up, he would travel from the north side of town to the east side to attend St. Patrick’s Catholic School near the corner of MLK Drive and South Grand Avenue.

“Driving from the north side to the east side, or from the west side to the east side, you can see how things change,” said Watson, 37, who is president and chief executive officer of the Springfield Black Chamber of Commerce. “You transition. It’s like a whole different world.”

In Sangamon County, the median household income for a Black family is $27,003, while it is $66,648 for their white counterparts, according to five-year estimates from the 2019 American Community Survey, the most recent available. The survey shows that 39.2% of the county’s Black residents live in poverty while 10.3% of white residents live below the poverty line. Of the 13 Illinois counties with Black populations of 15,000 or more, Sangamon has the highest poverty rate among Black people in the state.

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