A letter to Our Community from Betsy Ziegler
Wednesday, June 3, 2020
Posted by: Abbey Kwiat
Dear ITA/1871 community,
I’m reaching out to you today not just from my position as a CEO in the Chicago tech community, but also as a leader of a team who is distraught and fearful, and as a mom of a 7-year-old son who does not yet have the context or the experience or the language to understand why so many people are hurting.
The tragic, senseless deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and, as of late last night, David McAtee and the unjust experience of Chris Cooper are only the latest in a long line of events that share the same root cause: centuries-old structural decision-making that has institutionalized systemic racism in our country.
Every day, Black members of my team, Black founders and leaders, and Black members of our community are afraid that what happened to George Floyd could happen to them. They are afraid for their children, their siblings, their friends, and their neighbors. Their pain is visceral. Their anger is expected. And their lives matter.
This pandemic has disproportionately impacted Black and Brown Chicagoans. Black Illinoisans are dying of COVID-19 at a rate two times higher than White Illinoisans (source). Disparities pervade virtually every aspect of health, education, housing, the criminal justice system, and access to capital.
It is harder for Black founders and leaders to receive funding. It is harder for Black founders and leaders to get customers. It is harder for Black founders and leaders to build teams and scale their businesses. It is harder for Black founders and leaders. We have not yet put a dent in solving these problems, in closing these gaps. In Chicago Tech, we have to double down on our efforts in leveraging our networks, building new partnerships, and using our collective voice to demand change.
We at ITA/1871 are here, together, with you in support of all aspiring and current Black founders, leaders, and innovators. We are committed to doing better.
Our first step will be to convene a series of conversations with Black founders and leaders in Chicago to dig deeper to more holistically understand their context. From there we will co-develop a plan forward and co-create a set of near and long-term solutions focused on increasing the probability of their success in Chicago and across the state of Illinois.
Our name, 1871, recalls the year Chicago burned and the period of rebuilding that followed.
The time to reimagine our collective future is now. Arm in arm, shoulder to shoulder, we will move forward together.
With respect and gratitude for your continued commitment to our community,