The Crusader Newspaper Group

Mayor-elect Johnson hoping to lead on shoulders of others

Photo caption: Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson joined by Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr.

When Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson arrived at the Rainbow PUSH Coalition (RPC) headquarters on Saturday, April 15, his reception was a throwback to Mayor Harold Washington’s historic mayoral victory 40 years ago.

That is how Bishop Tavis Grant, acting national executive director of the RPC interpreted Johnson’s return visit to the RPC, just 11 days after he won the hotly- contested Chicago mayoral race.

“The continuum of the legacy of Harold Washington was seen today as Brandon Johnson stood on the very stage he started as an organizer and now as Mayor-elect of Chicago,” Grant told the Chicago Crusader.

“Johnson’s trajectory is a sign and is significant to our cause as progressives. He has grown and matriculated organically. He’s from us. He has been with us, and he’s for us,” Grant said.

“For Johnson to give a high degree of well-deserved recognition to Reverend Jesse Jackson exemplifies Johnson’s capacity and competence as a leader, that he knows he stands in a path that many paid the price of blood, sweat, tears and even death to keep our work relevant today.”

Grant said under the Johnson administration, “We can now see a better Chicago on the horizon.”

Johnson’s entry into the RPC auditorium was greeted by a standing-room only, multi-racial audience that loudly cheered his presence. “For a moment, I thought I was just elected pastor of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition,” he said.

The audience mirrored the coalition that swept him over the mayoral finish line on April 4. Ironically, Johnson’s visit to the RPC was also the day Dr. King was assassinated 55 years ago, and Mayor Washington’s 101st birthday.

“When Harold Washington left Congress, he was replaced by a union man,” said Robert G. Reiter, Jr., president of the Chicago Federation of Labor, referring to the late Charlie A. Hayes. Reiter compared Hayes’ union background to Johnson’s Chicago Teachers Union organizing résumé and a person “who tries to bring people together.”

Ironically, Saturday, April 15, was Mayor Harold Washington’s 101st birthday. Both Johnson and Jackson spoke of both anniversaries, blending them into the historic election of Johnson’s mayoral victory.

“I am grateful for this multi-cultural, intergenerational movement,” said Johnson. “We captured the hopes and the dreams of the city of Chicago…and we did it together,” he said to a cheering crowd. Johnson said he and his wife are humbled for the outpouring of support.

“Several years ago, I showed up here in a room with Reverend Jackson, and he just started giving me directions. What I do see and what I know about that now, but I didn’t understand then, is that he saw this day before I saw this day,” Johnson said to a cheering crowd.

Johnson said what Jackson saw in him was an organizer…someone he said who was connected to a rainbow coalition to transform Chicago that would impact the entire nation.

When Johnson joined Jackson on March 5 during the 58th anniversary when Dr. King and supporters crossed the Edmond Pettus Bridge in Selma, better known as “Bloody Sunday,” Johnson said Jackson told him to “get to the bridge, Brandon.

“But, sometimes as we walk this walk, there may not be as many people joining you,” Johnson said, but he understood what the story would read on the other side of that bridge. “In Chicago, we’ve gotten the bridge,” Johnson said. “It’s time, city of Chicago, that we transform and we build bridges across this city and across this nation.

“Those who thought they could turn us around, those who wanted to cast me as everything but a child of God, I’m here today to bear witness with a whole host of witnesses, that the best days to the city of Chicago are just around the corner,” Johnson said, ticking off a list of quality-of-life issues, such as health care, mental health care, and safe neighborhoods. “I’m talking about a better, stronger and safer Chicago.

“Those who have come before and those who will be in front of us, this will be the generation that will follow and seal the manifestation of the Civil Rights Movement and then labor rights movement,” said Johnson.

“The potential is here. The reason I am here is because there is a man who said that hope is alive. Red, yellow, Black or white. We are all precious, and he never gave up on that hope,” he said, referring to Jackson.

Johnson quoted Dr. King who said, “It is reasonable to believe that if the problems of Chicago, the nation’s second largest city can be solved, they can be solved everywhere.” Johnson said, “We can do it anywhere in the world.” He introduced Jackson as the man who made this rainbow coalition and transformation of Chicago possible.

Among speakers taking the podium were Karen Freeman-Wilson, president/CEO, Chicago Urban League, who identified herself as a “proud daughter of U.S. steel workers and a community organizer,” who came to public service on the shoulders of Mayor Washington, late Gary Mayor Richard Hatcher, Reverend Jackson and others.

When Mayor Washington would come to Gary to visit with Mayor Hatcher, Freeman-Wilson said she was a teenager but remembers the “opportunity to see a mayor of a major city who looked like me, wasn’t foreign to me. Thank God it is not foreign to our children here in Chicago today.

“It is almost infallible that in the 186-year history that we are only celebrating the election of the third Black mayor, but while we are acknowledging” the past, Freeman-Wilson said she is proud to be celebrating the election of Johnson. She is anxious to work with Johnson to create a better city for everyone.

“We are in a very serious civil rights moment,” said Senator Robert Peters (D-13). “It’s not just that we elected Brandon Johnson.” He said everyone must stand with the new Mayor-elect because “he can’t do it alone.”

Reverend Ira Acree, pastor of Greater St. John Bible Church, said when Johnson won the election as the 57th mayor of Chicago, he lost his voice. “It’s a new day in Chicago, and I am so grateful to be a part of this coalition of faith leaders. We all got a role in this,” he said.

“Brandon heard the voice of the people, those who have been locked out. He was the only candidate who spoke to ending the tale of two cities. We are grateful to have a mayor not only of the people, but a man of faith and one from the West Side,” said Acree.

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