What We do

Policy

The Institute’s unique approach generates new knowledge to solve problems and to make black neighborhoods thrive. Our research paradigm shifts the policy discussion from universal policy practices to policies that recognize the structures of “historical and contemporary discrimination” experienced by African Americans. 

Advocacy

Our advocacy work will include advancing specific proposals for policy and practice change within government agencies, proposing legislation, and supporting the creation of new groups or organizations that can more effectively respond to institutional racism.

Research

We will serve as a resource for policymakers and civic leaders, particularly those who are African American, by providing accessible, critical information. We will use “action research,” quantitative and qualitative data-focused, research-rich analysis to recommend innovative courses of action to improve outcomes.

Facilitate and Convene

We will consistently convene community leaders and other key stakeholders to inform our community-based research and build community-level trust. We will discuss and review findings in community settings and solicit assistance in constructing solutions. This will in turn help us create a more informed black citizenry.

Police-community relations are at a nadir, fueled in part by criminal justice policies that have targeted black youth for mass incarceration. So urgent is the crisis in police-community relations in Chicago that it has given birth to a new generation of social justice activists and a Black Lives Matter movement that transformed the political landscape of the City, as represented by the historic 2019 mayoral and City Council elections. AALPI’s research, advocacy and leadership equity model will make it a critical resource for Chicago’s social justice movement and policymakers. Upon re-entering their communities, the formerly incarcerated find employment and housing prospects worse than when they left, inducing a new cycle of recidivism. The Institute’s restorative justice framework and research focus on reversing the school-to-prison pipeline with a prison-to-school-and-employment pipeline will make it a valued partner with community stakeholders, social justice activists, and black elected officials engaged in reforming the criminal justice system.

AALPI is mindful of the new ethnic division of labor fostered by the neoliberal globalized economy that relegates African Americans below Asians, whites and Latinos on the bottom rung of the economic ladder. Our policy agenda addresses the special needs of black unemployed and underemployed labor market participants directly, as well as the widening racialized wealth gap, and the precariousness of black economic and business development. The Institute’s approach customizes research around the critical indicators that determine the progress of policy implementation, beginning with two of Chicago’s most significant infrastructure projects to impact the African American community: the $500 million Obama Presidential Center and the Chicago Transit Authority’s $2.3 billion Red Line Extension. The Institute’s expertise in community and workforce development, as well as nearly two decades of community engagement, political advocacy, and policy research on the Red Line Extension makes it the go-to agency on this historic project.

Despite a decade of rising African American high school graduation rates (Chicago’s 2019 rate: 71%; national rate: 78%), American education is still separate and unequal. These data contrast to the overall national rate of 84.6%, with significantly higher graduation rates among whites and Asians. The strong educational imperative among black youth, their families and teachers, reflected in rising graduation rate, is all the more impressive when set against data showing that African American and Latinx students in the nation’s largest cities are more likely to attend poor or low-income schools. This is complicated by Chicago closing more than fifty public schools in the city’s poorest communities. Regionally, some of Chicago’s poorest suburbs are hyper-segregated enclaves of the suburbanization of black poverty. Through its racial equity lens, the Institute will apply its theory of change to Chicago’s intersecting lines of residential, economic, and educational segregation. Targeting those indicators that are race- and non-race-specific measures of structural inequality, the Institute’s equity research and advocacy are value-added policy assets of the African American community’s emerging policy agenda.

Family strengthening advocates for public policies that places families’ well-being, child outcomes and parental engagement, including the engagement of noncustodial fathers at the center of public policy efforts that seek to support better life outcomes for children. Family strengthening embraces a framework that acknowledges and leverages the value, unique contributions, skills and talents of all family members. A family strengthening framework seeks to reinforce the wisdom of family decision-making, strengthens family bonds, and seeks to generate the best possible outcomes for children, mothers and fathers, and the community at-large. There is a recognition that many social service institutions fail to effectively advance family strengthening approaches because they supplant family decision-making by their top-down rule-based practices that marginalize family independence and self-efficacy. So, family strengthening advocates for the transformation of institutional practices and policies that uplift family voices, while reinforcing family resilience and capacity.

AALPI’s Health & Wellness Domain curates policy papers, research, and articles on key healthcare determinants and indicators in the African American community and identifies solutions to crippling healthcare challenges (HIV, hypertension, obesity, diabetes, COVID-19, et.al.)  faced by low-income communities in Chicago. Through the AALPI Health & Wellness Domain, research and information are available to elected officials, civic leaders and to the African American community-at-large. Most public policy institutes that attempt to address the multiple and intersecting healthcare crises of the Black community offer little explanation of how and why structural racism influences public policy. Former Clinton Administration Surgeon General David Satcher and his colleagues published a 2005 study examining the differences in mortality rates among blacks and whites nationally. They defined excess death as the additional deaths that occur after accounting for age and expected illness. Based on 2002 data, 83,579 excess black deaths could have been prevented by eliminating health disparities. The 80,000-plus excess deaths are equivalent to a plane full of Black people dropping out of the sky every day for 365 days a year, each year. Dr. Satcher and his co-researchers concluded that

The interrelatedness of personal health behavior, social determinants, neighborhood ecology, provider bias, structural inequities, and institutionalized racism suggests that eliminating disparities will require large-scale multidimensional, community-participatory intervention focused explicitly on health disparities for specific population groups, as well as on broader dimensions of social equality and economic justice. (David Satcher, George Fryer, Jessica McCann, Adewale Troutman, Steven Woolf, and George Rust, “What if we were equal? A comparison of the Black-White mortality gap in 1960 and 2000,” Health Affairs 24 (2), 2005: 459-464; 463)

In Illinois, research shows that African Americans are affected disproportionally by these underlying conditions, which are leading factors causing the huge disparity in the numbers of Black people infected by and dying from COVID-19.  According to data from the Illinois Governor’s Office, 21,000 White residents tested report an 18.4% positive rate. Out of the 11, 413 Black residents tested, more than 36% tested positive. African Americans make up only 15% of Illinois’ population but are disproportionally affected by the virus and are dying at much higher rates than Whites. The intersection of an acute respiratory disease like COVID-19 with a population that has the state’s highest rate of asthma makes a coronavirus diagnosis a historic health challenge in the Black community.

In making the latest research and policy recommendations available to policymakers and to the Black community through its Health & Wellness Domain, AALPI is also calling on policy analysts, epidemiologists, public health researchers, and healthcare journalists to submit up-to-date articles on the coronavirus’s impact on the Black community.