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African American Business Association celebrates first year

Megann Horstead, Reporter | 11/7/2018, 3:56 p.m.
In its first year, the African American Business Association has grown in more ways than one. “It’s been a very ...
Cornel Darden Jr. (right) offers remarks at a recent dinner and celebration to commemorate the African American Business Association and its first year as an organization.

Joliet Mayor Bob O'Dekirk offers remarks at a recent dinner and celebration to commemorate the African American Business Association and its first year as an organization.

Joliet Mayor Bob O'Dekirk offers remarks at a recent dinner and celebration to commemorate the African American Business Association and its first year as an organization.

In its first year, the African American Business Association has grown in more ways than one.

“It’s been a very interesting year for the African American Business Association,” said Cornel Darden Jr., board chairman of the African American Business Association.

A recent celebration united the African American Business Association in commemoration of the organization’s first year.

Programming consisted of award presentations, panel discussion, dinner and a keynote address.

Featured guests included Joliet Mayor Bob O’Dekirk, Larry Ivory, Congressman Bill Foster, Troy Cicero, Erika Harold and Jim Dodge.

Darden said the work of the African American Business Association has brought him great pride over the last year.

“I will do everything that I can do to continue to fight for us and to continue to make sure that we get our fair share,” he said.

Not all chamber organizations have a group designed specifically to support the efforts of African-American business owners.

“I really compliment you, the entrepreneurs and any other people that got involved to push forward African American business in the Joliet area,” O’Dekirk said.

O’Dekirk acknowledged the city has butted heads with constituents seeking increases in minority contracting.

Darden, who is also an advocate for black contractors, has appeared at public meetings held at city hall making the case for greater equality.

O’Dekirk gave kudos to groups, like the African American Business Association, for making their voices heard on issues the community faces.

“One of the things I really am proud of is the actions that minority groups in Joliet have taken,” he said. “When I ran [for office] four years ago, I talked a lot about Joliet being a more inclusive community. That message started at city hall … That message, I think, resonated with a lot of different groups.”

Foster said it is important for people to recognize the obstacles African Americans face are often derived from systemic problems.

“It is the duty of every generation to acknowledge the past and fix it,” he said. “Part of that fixing can be done by government. A big part of it has to be done by organizations like this.”

Foster complimented the efforts of the African American Business Association.

“One thing I’m very proud of is the way this has been arranged,” he said “This is not a freestanding, completely separate effort [from] the Joliet Chamber of Commerce. This [organization is] part of the official domain of the Joliet Chamber of Commerce. This is something all of Joliet should be proud of.”