PEORIA, Ill. — Peoria came in seventh on the annual list of worst cities for black Americans to live in the country. This list was created by 24/7 Wall St. after conducting research.
Since last year, Peoria rose from five to seven on the list, but African Americans within the city are not celebrating.
“That’s nothing to celebrate and I don’t celebrate it. We have a lot of work to do,” Peoria chapter of the National Association of Advancement for Colored People president Marvin Hightower said.
He said if one part of the community is hurting it means all parts of the community are hurting.
“Is it bad for every African American absolutely not, but is it bad for the majority of the African Americans based upon the data that we have it’s not the best place for African Americans,” Illinois Black Chamber of Commerce president Larry Ivory said.
Neighbors said lack of inclusion is one reason for the disconnect and disadvantages.
“Our city is mainly run by older caucasian gentleman and we don’t really have a lot of inclusion. Look at our city boards, look at our county board, look at our police department, we’re not represented well there,” Kimberly McGhee of Peoria said.
The study bases its rank on racial disparities in income education, health, incarceration and white-black achievement gaps in other socioeconomic outcomes using various data.
Neighbors believe the struggles they incur are connected, suggesting that lack of education means a lack of income, which leads to a lack of health leaving people to do what they can to survive.
“They’re not getting the resources that they need, if you’re not having your basic needs being met you may commit a crime,” McGhee said.
Leaders are positive that change is possible but emphasize that everyone in the community needs to do their part including the black community and city leaders.
Ivory said the city needs to work on intentional inclusion, specifically more outreach to black businesses.
“Black people employ black people. If you go with black businesses you’re going to produce employment,” he said.
Some people say the system works against black people, but that shouldn’t give them an excuse to stay stagnant.
“Take responsibility, stop being victims and then also help each other encourage one another,” Hightower said.
Ivory acknowledges what he calls and incremental victory when it comes to the rise in rank. However, he questions what happens next.
He believes the city can continue to rise, but said that the community needs a game plan, a strategy, and most importantly commitment.
To create a community that is livable for all people, black people said everyone must come together adding that it starts with challenging city leaders and being the change you want to see.