The mayor of a city is the focus around which very important things happen. He or she can shape the political environment by how they collaborate with others to forge a great municipal experience. With that said, Gary, IN elected the nation’s first Black mayor, Richard Gordon Hatcher, in 1967.
Fast forward to 2019 Chicago. Something unthinkable and historic has happened there– the city has elected the first Black female mayor, Lori Lightfoot, who also identifies as LGBTQ.
The mayoral contest was hard-fought between experienced politician and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, and Lightfoot. There was a question as to who was the most “progressive” of the candidates. Of the two, Toni Preckwinkle appeared to be the most progressive, but also the one most identified as being part of the Chicago political “machine.”
Ultimately, the ascension to the office of Mayor of Chicago by Lori Lightfoot has left many people cautiously optimistic, as that happens when any new person is elected to office, especially the “first.”
People want to see what she will do to make good on her promises of “change.” But here’s the thing: real change can only happen when there is a partnership between those who are elected to serve and their constituents. This goes for Gary, Chicago, or any other city in America.
There is a huge misconception among the masses of people in many cities, wherein people place all of the blame on what happens in their communities on elected officials. This is ludicrously unrealistic. No positive change can occur without the help AND input of people in communities. It just won’t happen.
America’s cities have serious challenges.
In Chicago, this takes a particular turn. Gentrification is making people uneasy, as there is a suspicion that a plan is afoot to push poor people out of the inner cities and ultimately, outside the city itself.
There are problems of violence. Chicago has become known in some circles as “Chiraq,” because of the unrelenting violence. It is one of the elements that people blame for the exodus of residents from the city. Lightfoot has vowed to address the problem of community violence. Her promise has the ring of sincerity. The truth of the matter, however, is that she will not be able to do it alone.
People should not sit back and expect her and her team to come up with all of the answers to community problems and then to implement them. Black-on-Black violence, for example, won’t change until people in the affected communities muster up the will to address the perpetrators. After all, community residents are in a better position to know who the gang bangers, Ray Ray and Pookie, are than the mayor of the city.
The new mayor will need to forge coalitions with diverse segments of the population in order to address unique problems in each community.
And this is where Gary comes in.
The problems that Gary faced many years ago under its first Black mayor may be some of the same that will impact Chicago. Moreover, the proximity of Gary to Chicago will no doubt find that issues will cross “political” borders.
Gary has a female mayor, the astute Karen Freeman-Wilson. This should bode well for establishing bonds that will address issues for African Americans in their respective cities.
For example, Gary has long wanted to have a third airport: perhaps this is the kind of issue that can have mutual benefits for both cities if there is a meeting of minds between the two leaders.
Finally, Gary, and the problems faced after the election of the first Black mayor in America, may be able to provide Chicago with advice on how to avoid the pitfalls that were faced by Gary after her historic moment. This would help the new Chicago mayor to avoid making mistakes.
With that said, this is a new day for African Americans in Chicago, and a new opportunity for a relationship with Gary. After all, we have the same constituents; we are part of the same family and face many of the same problems – we are Black people in America. A Luta Continua.