The Illinois State Black Chamber of Commerce launched an initiative Wednesday to get the state to spend a larger share of its advertising dollars on Black-owned media.
The Coalition for Black Media Equity is seeking at least 8% of the state’s annual $2 billion marketing budget, or about $160 million, be spent on Black-owned media, in line with the state’s minority procurement guidelines.
Larry Ivory, president and CEO of the chamber, said the state’s actual Black-owned media spend is closer to $10 million a year, or about .5% of the total budget.
“There’s an enormous amount of money being spent — taxpayers’ money — and there’s no equity at all,” Ivory said.
A spokeswoman for Gov. J.B. Pritzker did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
The state’s Business Enterprise Program, which promotes the economic development of minority-owned businesses, “encourages” state agencies to spend at least 20% of their budgets with minority-owned businesses, including media companies.
Based on demographics, that should translate to about 8 to 10% of the state’s advertising budget placed with Black-owned media companies, including radio stations, newspapers and advertising agencies, Ivory said.
There are 15 initial members in the coalition, Ivory said. Chicago members include Dorothy Leavell, publisher of the Chicago Crusader, Melody Spann Cooper, owner of WVON-AM 1690, and Carl West, publisher of TBT News.
Ivory, who serves on the council overseeing the enterprise program, said the coalition plans to do an audit of 10 state agencies — from the Department of Transportation to Healthcare and Family Services — to look at their media ad budgets and strategies.
“We’re going to see what the numbers say and then we’re going to ask you for your strategy,” Ivory said at a downtown Chicago news conference announcing the initiative. “Because what’s been going on hasn’t been good for us.”
Chicago native Harry Lennix, 55, a prominent actor and star of NBC’s “The Blacklist,” came back to the city Wednesday to participate in the news conference and support the Black-owned media coalition.
As a 20-year-old in 1985, Lennix landed his first national TV commercial for McDonald’s through Chicago-based Burrell, a Black-owned advertising agency. That opportunity was the beginning of a successful acting career that has spanned more than three decades.
“We want the same thing any community wants — we want the ability to have the culture represented through media,” Lennix said. “Black-owned media is part of the rising tide that lifts all boats. It helps everybody.”
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