Heart & Soul recently sat down with Tiffany Hightower Executive Director at ILLINOIS LEGISLATIVE BLACK CAUCUS FOUNDATION
Tell us about your conference.
The Illinois Legislative Black Caucus Foundation will host its Annual Legislative Conference the weekend of October 13-16, 2022 at the Sheraton Grand in Chicago. The Foundation is celebrating 20 years (founded 2002). The mission of the ILBCF is to provide a forum for non-partisan educational research, public policy development, and analysis of various issues of social and economic importance for Illinois African-American communities, and to provide students throughout Illinois with scholarships and internship opportunities to advance their educational goals.
The Caucus is celebrating 55 years (founded in 1967 and is older than the CBC). The ILBC has produced several of the nation’s first including the First Black US President, the first Black US Senator, and the first Black Mayor of the City of Chicago-to name a few.
The foundation in its 20 years has given over a million dollars in scholarships. The ILBC last year introduced an Omnibus package called the 4 Pillars to end systemic racism which was transformative in the state of Illinois and had policy implications nationwide. With such a rich history, this conference will prove to be extremely educational, policy driven, a premier networking opportunity, provide impactful information for the collective of attendees, and so much more!!! The conference will boast a robust workshop schedule; several curated panels such as a lunch on Friday entitled “A walk on weed street: Equity in the Cannabis Industry”, a networking function on Thursday, breakfast on Saturday with prominent leaders to discuss the impact of the Pillars across all branches of government, and culminate with a celebratory Gala on Saturday evening (which will feature entertainment and a keynote speaker). We will even host a Ladies’ First panel to highlight Black Women in this industry who are the first in their fields. This conference will be inclusive of several exciting special features and will prove to be one of the don’t miss events of the year!
What can people reasonably expect from attending your conference?
Conference attendees can reasonably expect to be actively engaged in programming that will produce solutions to several critical issues and subject matter that is impacting Black people. These 2.5 days at the conference will be packed with not only the ability to learn, but also to create a level of synergy that will guide a strong organized agenda. The hope is that the unified agenda, conversations, and networking will promote the importance of how the collective wisdom will positively influence the quality of life for all. This conference is for all generations, all professions because it is so critical that all voices are at the tables and in these rooms.
We also plan on having surprise guests, keynote speakers, and entertainment. We will be productive, purposeful, and we will be together!!! Once again this is a conference that will speak to anyone who cares about the experience of Black people.
How important is it that people stay engaged with the political process?
I tend to think of this question more in terms of why it is important for people to stay civically engaged. Wikipedia defines civic engagement as “any individual or group activity addressing issues of public concern. Civic engagement includes communities working together or individuals working alone in both political and non-political actions to protect public values or make a change in a community.”
With that being said, and recognizing that the Foundation is a 501c3, I believe it is of the utmost importance for people to stay civically engaged which incorporates the aforementioned process. When you are engaged, it means that you have decided that your voice is pivotal in improving the quality of life for the communities in which you align and/or have an infinity to; if you do not use your voice through being engaged then you are not sowing into the growth of society. If I am speaking from me as a Black woman, my ancestors were shot, had to march, and fight for the right to be included on all levels of civic engagement. So it’s important because, it is a citizen’s privilege and we have spent a lifetime fighting for all, while the win was only for some, we have been sidelined and forgotten, but we have been strong in our Black, brave and boldness all the way to the ballot and beyond in the face of the bullet and our shed blood, we have been pawns in the midst of protest, and have paid the price of playing politics, our engagement is for our people (our ancestors), to go an reclaim the power of our involvement-reclaim what we bring to the tables we built!
What does success look like for you?
I have answered this question many times before and my answer remains the same. Success for me looks like the ability to look in the mirror and be at peace with every choice I have made. Because the reality is success is not defined by the outside world it is defined by you. I know plenty of people who have the money, the mansion, the cars, everything that a conventional society would define as success-but they have no peace. Success for me is the ability to stand in integrity knowing that I have contributed to creating sustainable possibilities for myself and the communities that I serve.
Tell us about your role as Executive Director.
As the Executive Director of the ILBCF, the role requires that there is a delicate balance of leadership and management to ensure that everything is executed to the rich history that the ILBCF represents. I oversee the day to day operations of the organization, which includes leadership, management, fundraising, communications, planning, strategizing, marketing, problem-solving, and anything else that might come down the pipeline. My role requires the building of a strong relationship with the Board of Directors and our partner organization the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus. The role is steeped in staying true to mission, one of those missions being ensuring that we provide scholarship dollars to students. The Foundation in 2021 was able to provide its millionth dollar in scholarship to matriculating higher education students since inception. This year in 2022, we were able to double the number of students we were able to assist-through the level of support of organizations and people who believe in the work of the ILBCF. Another major part of my role is to communicate that work, the objectives, and our innate drive to be a resource for Black Illinoisans. The role aims to ensure that the future promulgation of the organization is embedded in synergy and programming that is solution-based.
What can people expect from you in 2023?
I think what people can expect from me in 2023 is to continue to live life with purpose. On a professional note, I plan to continue to focus on the mission of the ILBCF and implement strong programming that meets the needs of the communities we serve throughout the state of Illinois. Personally, I have some passion projects that I would like to finish, such as my poetry book. Also, to continue to serve on the boards that I do-that simply give back to people. One of my favorite books is the Alchemist by Paul Coelho, and it states; “when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” People should at the end of the day expect for my desire to still be entrenched in doing good-and I am so glad that the universe will conspire with me to achieve that goal in 2023 and beyond.