Black Labor Acknowledgement

Black Labor Acknowledgement, Created and Affirmed March 2023Empty heading

Delta Institute recognizes that the United States, both as we know it as of today and as we all have lived within it over the course of our respective lives, was built at the fatal and extractive expense of forcefully enslaved Black/African American people. We acknowledge and remember those who did not survive the Middle Passage; those who were beaten and lynched on American soil; those whose personal wealth was forcibly taken/extracted; those who are confined by societal barriers that inhibit personal and familial security and access; and those who died and are still dying while fighting for their freedom. We mourn the continued persecution, exclusion, and murder of Black/African American persons, and call on us all to work to address these traumas that manifest today.

Delta Institute acknowledges that while fighting for their own lives and civil liberties that Black/African American people have envisioned a world which is better for all of humanity—so all of us may live more equitably and justly. We call witness to not just the past, but the incalculable contributions and opportunities that the Black/African American community has provided to our society.

We call on white-led and white-majority organizations, like ourselves, to reject extraction and co-option of these Black/African American contributions, to instead center meaningful investment and collaboration on a shared vision of equitable environmental and economic outcomes for the Midwest.

Words without action do not address historical and current social ills. Please engage with the wide array of (as these are but a few of many) Black/African American-led organizations who are working today to champion justice, uplift, restore, and heal. Please continue learning more about Black/African American accomplishments and consider how we all may collectively work together to create genuine inclusivity, access, and benefit for everyone.


We at Delta Institute created this Black Labor Acknowledgement following multiple rounds of development, review, and discussion involving our staff, Delta Emerging Leaders associate board, and governing board of directors for over one year. Delta’s Board of Directors voted to adopt this Black Labor Acknowledgement in March 2023. Click here to learn more about diversity, equity, and inclusion activities at Delta Institute.


Black/African-American-led organizations who are working today to champion justice, uplift, restore, and heal


Why we adopted a Black Labor Acknowledgment at Delta Institute

Disproportionate consequences have been borne by communities that have not had their voices heard and have faced systemic, generational racism designed to limit their capacity and resources to change the environmental and economic problems they face. Communities with predominantly Black/African-American and/or Latina/Latine/Latino/Latinx residents disproportionately face higher levels of environmental hazards and decreased investment.

Industrial practices, municipal and societal segregation, and environmental racism have contributed to the absence of environmental protection and economic development of lower income minority communities in Chicago and the United States. Many environmental justice communities are resource constrained, which limits their capacity to support planning that is critical for communities to identify economic, social, and environmental challenges, develop strategies to overcome them, and leverage community assets and financial resources.

Lower-income/disinvested communities—especially these communities of color—struggle the most to manage these environmental stressors and seek to fill their planning gaps through partnership with organizations such as Delta to provide capacity and lend their technical expertise to help create solutions. Collaborating and addressing community-defined goals to eliminate or reduce these social ills have been a cornerstone of Delta’s work since 1998.

Simply put, it would be inauthentic for Delta Institute to not acknowledge the historical persecution and disinvestment that communities of color have experienced—and for us to be a truly engaged partner with these communities, we must recognize the impact that forced Black labor has had throughout generations of United States social experience.

More about Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Delta Institute

Over the past few years, we have committed ourselves to being more transparent with our partners, supporters, and stakeholders regarding our approach to advancing DEI at Delta Institute. It is in this same spirit, that we offer this short update about where we’ve been, what we’re working on, and what we’re looking toward for the future at Delta Institute. We encourage you to learn more about our recent activities, such as developing a Land Acknowledgement, our Inclusive Community Engagement Stipend Policy, and our approach to inclusive vocabulary.


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