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President’s Message: What are we going to do from here?

UWQC Statement on Equity

Mr. George Floyd’s senseless death has sparked a movement. We find ourselves in the midst of people’s protest. The core of the outrage: the absence of equity across any number of fronts. If we examine our local and regional balance sheet, where would we find equity?
In most conversations about positioning the Quad Cities for growth we typically default to our many assets. We tout our unique riverfront, cultural, academic and health care prowess. But these assets don’t match the scale of our liabilities.Check out a few Quad-Cities realities that fuel United Way and our African American Leadership Society work:
  • African American Quad Citizens are four times more likely to live below the federal poverty line than white residents.
  • More than half (56%) of local African American preschoolers live in poverty compared to only 15% of white preschoolers.
  • Average annual income for an African American household is $37,335; $57,440 for white Quad-Cities households.
Quality of Life
  • 67% of African American Quad Citizens rent vs. own a home, compared to 27% of white residents who rent.
  • 48% of the Quad Cities’ African American family households are led by a single mother, compared to only 9.5% of white families.
  • 71% of African American kindergarten students entered school prepared, compared to 84% of white students.
  • 43% of African American third graders are reading at grade level, compared to 73% white students.
  • 17% of African Americans do not complete high school within four years, compared to 10% of white students.
  • African American Quad Citizens are more likely to develop heart disease, diabetes, asthma and to be living without health insurance.
These disparities and divides that we’ve created — between Black and White — are bad for all of us, not just some of us. Persistent and underlying racism, prejudice and privilege prevent too many people from having the opportunity and access to develop their full potential. We have to do more to prioritize equity in our schools, jobs and health care; we need to ensure that the basic rights and freedoms of everyone are protected.
I believe in this region. But I am frustrated by the lack of a regional, bold commitment to a shared vision like Q2030. I’m frustrated that we keep doing and saying the same things and expecting different outcomes. We have failed to address in any serious way the systems that continue to produce economic desserts and the means for upward mobility. We must be intentional about giving all people a shot at winning by strengthening education, income and health outcomes – the building blocks of opportunity.
If you are wondering what you can do right now, choose not to be silent. Let your voice be heard. Engage in conversation, choose to be counted in the US census, vote for candidates who support reform, volunteer, donate to organizations that prioritize equity, do something. It is time to act.
Stay hopeful,
Rene Gellerman, President and CEO, United Way Quad Cities


Other ways to make a tangible difference right here in your community: