Black History Month 2021


Black History Month February 2021

"Celebrating the proud history and bright future of Black businesses in Illinois"


The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) will celebrate Black History Month throughout February 2021. DCEO through its Office of Minority Economic Empowerment (OMEE) will spotlight Black businesses across the state, highlight Black business accomplishments and their contributions to our state, showcase our commitment to growing and investing in Black businesses, and celebrate the leadership of our Black employees.


Black History Month Events 

  • Celebrating the History of Black Business: A Fireside Chat with Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity(DCEO) Director Erin Guthrie 
    Date: Thursday, February 11, 2021 
    Time: 10:00 AM 
    Click here to register 

    Illinois has a strong Black business community. DCEO Director Erin Guthrie will meet with a group of long standing businesses throughout the state to listen to entrepreneurs share their experiences, including barriers they have overcome, success stories, and how we can work to ensure that Illinois is a place where Black business can thrive. 

    Moderator: Director Erin Guthrie, Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) 

    • Hayes Bynum, The First Impression of Chicago, Inc.  
    • Derryl Caldwell, D.C. Mad Hatter, Inc.     
    • Elzie Higginbottom, East Lake Management  
    • Rupert Johnson, Johnson's Southern Style BBQ     
    • Spencer Leak Jr., Leak & Sons Funeral Home    
    • Michael McDonald, Wood N' Hog BBQ     
    • Christopher Sumner, Mama Lee's Gourmet Popcorn     
    • Tamara Turner, Silver Spoon Desserts     

  • Fair Access to Justice | Diversity in Procurement - Two Part Series
    Date: Part I, Thursday, February 11, 2021
    Time: 1 PM – 2:30PM
    Click here to register

    For Black History Month, the Illinois Departments of Central Management Services and   Commerce and Economic Opportunity are collaborating for a special two-part Fair Access to Justice Series, exploring diversity-related matters in procurement. This first series will offer attendees information on the certification process for the Business Enterprise Program (BEP) and guide small business owners to resources and other important information relative to doing business with the state of Illinois. The second conversation will focus on how the State can continue to advance economic development in Black communities around Illinois by working alongside of community organizations dedicated to this advancement as well.

    Date: Part II, Thursday, February 25, 2021 
    Time: 1 PM – 2:30 PM
    Click here to register

  • Black Access to Capital: How Black Economic Trailblazers are Closing the "Racial Wealth Gap"
    Date: Thursday, February 18, 2021 
    Time: 2:00 PM 
    Click here to register 

    Just because they were first, does not mean they should be the last. Black access to capital has long been an issue in America, and Illinois is no exception. Institutional barriers to mortgage loans, small business loans, development capital, and government procurement for Black Americans has created an elusive environment for capital access. Please join the Illinois Department of Commerce, Fifth Third Bank, and Black Chicago business pioneers for a moderated panel discussion about how they are increasing access to capital in Black communities and how you can join the fight for equity.  

    Moderator: Director Erin Guthrie, Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity 

    • Nicole Johnson Scales, Vice President of Community Engagement, Fifth Third Bank  
    • Will Towns, Managing Director, 4S Bay Partners  
    • Karen Freeman, CEO, Chicago Urban League  

  • Black History Month: Opportunities in Trade and Overcoming Barriers 
    Date: Tuesday, February 23, 2021  
    Time: 2:00 PM 
    Click here to register
    Registration code: ITCCOMEE

    The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) through its Office of Minority Economic Empowerment (OMEE) and the International Trade Club of Chicago (ITCC) will host a conversation about how to increase participation in international trade by Black businesses. DCEO is committed to increasing diversity in trade across our state because we know that our economy does better when all businesses have access to market growth opportunities. This event will feature trade and entrepreneurship experts that will discuss how Black entrepreneurs can grow their business through export activities. We will discuss opportunities, overcoming barriers to entry, and resources available to provide support.

    Moderator: Matt Simpson, African American Business Development Manager, Illinois Office of Minority Economic Empowerment (OMEE) 

    • Ngosong Fonkem, International Trade Attorney, Page Fura P.C.  
    • Tonya McNeal-Weary, Managing Director, IBS Global Consulting, Inc.  
    • Mark Tolliver, CEO, Best Diamond Plastics  

  • Advancing the Development of Minority Entrepreneurship (ADME): Longevity in Business
    Date: Wednesday, February 24, 2021 
    Time: 10:00 AM
    Click here to register 

    The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) through its Office of Minority Economic Empowerment (OMEE) and the Illinois Small Business Development Center (SBDC) will host a conversation on "Longevity in Business." A panel of Black business owners from across the state will share insights and best practices for maintaining a successful business for years to come. 

    Moderator: Matt Simpson, African American Business Development Manager, Illinois Office of Minority Economic Empowerment (OMEE) 

    • Duntai Mathews, CEO - DLM Manufacturing (17 years in business) 
    • Robert & Pamela Frazier, President - All in One Cleaning Service (19 years in business) 
    • Lenice Levy, Owner - Good to Go Jamaican Cuisine (18 years in business) 


Business and DCEO Employee Spotlights

Throughout the month, DCEO will be highlighting Black Illinois business owners across the state, and celebrating the leadership and commitment of our Black employees.

Twitter: @IllinoisDCEO
Facebook: @illinoisdceo
LinkedIn: Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity

For more information about the Office of Minority Economic Empowerment (OMEE), click here.