By Governor Tony Evers
In 2020, I proudly ordered the Juneteenth flag be flown at the State Capitol for the first time in state history, to commemorate the day in 1865 when Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Texas to declare the end of slavery, two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was enacted. It is so important to recognize this holiday, where we not only celebrate the resilience and strength of Black Americans, but also acknowledge the end of one of our most shameful institutions and the long legacy of systemic racism in our state and our country.
During my first term, we’ve made steps toward progress, but we are reminded today this work is urgent. Wisconsin faces some of the most disparate outcomes for Black Wisconsinites, from inequities in housing and healthcare to education and childcare to the justice system and economic opportunity.
Building a more just, more equitable, and more fair state means connecting the dots between issues and tackling disparities holistically. I have been committed to uplifting the Black community and working together with leaders across the state to create a Wisconsin that is a more diverse and inclusive place to work, live, and raise a family.
Over the past four years, we’ve made historic investments in public education and small businesses, have worked to ensure access to affordable housing and affordable healthcare, and have directed millions to community organizations working to keep Wisconsinites safe. We’ve also introduced countless proposals to help improve our state that haven’t passed the Republican-led legislature, including common sense gun safety reform, shoring up abortion protections, and expanding voting rights. I’ll never stop fighting to make these things a reality.
Racism is a public health crisis that has harmed generations of Black and brown Wisconsinites. That’s why I have taken steps to tear down healthcare barriers and ensure that every Wisconsinite has access to quality care. I have invested $50 million in expanding healthcare infrastructure in disadvantaged communities and called on Republican legislators to put aside their partisan games and pass a BadgerCare expansion, which would allow almost 100,000 Wisconsinites access to affordable healthcare coverage.
I have also taken crucial steps to uplift Black-owned small businesses and ensure they have the resources needed to thrive. During my first term, I have directed more than $75 million to small businesses in underserved areas as they grow from the pandemic and work to get ahead.
In 2021, we announced that the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, a cabinet-level agency, will be relocating its headquarters to the Urban League of Greater Madison’s Black Business Hub when construction is complete in 2023. By embedding WEDC in the business hub, WEDC leaders will be working alongside some of the state’s most exciting innovators and will be a resource for the young companies that will call the business hub home.
I also recently announced an additional $86 million in grants to help small businesses in communities of color that have historically had limited access to capital and are owned by members of communities disproportionately affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Of the more than $86 million, $57.6 million in grants were awarded through the Diverse Business Assistance Grant Program to 24 chambers of commerce and nonprofit organizations providing assistance to small businesses. As governor, I will continue to uplift our small businesses in every community. They are the backbone of our state’s economy, and employ the majority of our workforce.
This Juneteenth, as we recognize the trials Black Americans have overcome and celebrate the resilience, vibrancy, and countless contributions of Black Wisconsinites, we must also recognize our fight for equity and justice in this state is far from finished. We’ve got our work cut out for us, but by working together, we can build a more just, more equitable Wisconsin for everyone.