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Trailblazing Senator Collins retires after 20 years of service

Father Michael Pfleger, pastor of retiring Illinois Senator Jacqueline Y. Collins (D-16th), is hosting a reception for her following Sunday’s 10 a.m., January 15 worship service, which is dedicated to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 94th birthday.

“Senator Collins’ commitment to economic, social and racial justice is unmatched in government,” said Pfleger.

“She has made lasting changes in the State of Illinois. Her leadership and integrity present a witness to all, of what authentic public service looks like. We are a better State because of her service.”

Reached in Springfield late Tuesday, January 10, 2023, Representative Mary Flowers (D-31st) said, “Senator Collins is going to be definitely missed. She is hardworking and very dedicated to the people of the 16th senatorial district and the Saint Sabina Church family.

“This is her last day in the Senate and she’s still fighting for her pawn broker’s bill to be voted out and sent on to the House for a roll call vote,” said Flowers.

“I will be forever grateful that she helped me champion bills on Maternity Mortality. As a result, so many mothers’ lives have been saved.

“Her leadership on financial institutions will surely be missed, and she played a major part on the Criminal Justice Committee,” Flowers said.

Legislative contributions aside, Flowers noted further of Collins, “The Senator is always impeccably dressed. She is beautiful and blessed, and I wish her well, but I’ve got a feeling that Senator Collins is not going anywhere soon. There is plenty of work to do, and I look forward to continuing to work with her.”

Former journalist and Emmy award-nominated CBS editor, Collins was born in McComb, MS and moved to Chicago’s Englewood community as a child.

In 1975, for a year, Collins was a reporter, editor and photographer at the Citizen Newspaper. She was press secretary to Representative Gus Savage (D-IL) in Washington, DC from January 1983 to July 1983 and part-time from 1981 to 1986 while on leave from WBBM radio.

She also worked as press liaison for Reverend Jesse Jackson during his seven-day tour of Japan, and the Republic of Korea.

Collins graduated from Northwestern’s School of Journalism and began working for Citizen Newspaper publisher Gus Savage. It was he who introduced her to the Black independent movement in Chicago.

“He introduced me to Reverend Jackson, to Senator [Richard] Newhouse, Congressman [Ralph] Metcalfe and Mayor Harold Washington,” she reflected.

But before that, Collins worked with the late Jorja English Palmer, the wife of journalist Lu Palmer, on Washington’s unsuccessful 1977 mayoral campaign. “It was Gus opening the door for me, and when Gus went to Congress, I worked part-time in Chicago.”

She then began working with WBBM radio in 1978 until 1987 when Johnathan Rodgers was the first Black general manager of CBS TV. “So between WBBM radio and TV, I spent 20 years.”

However, Collins said she became “very disillusioned with the projector of journalism. It became a sensational medium. I did not like the way they were covering the Black community. That is when I decided to go to Harvard University.”

In 2001 in her last year of Divinity School, Collins said there was a Census and that is when Saint Sabina’s Father Pfleger told her of an opening and asked her to run for the Democratic senate seat in the 16th District.

On her last day in the Senate during a late Tuesday, January 10 interview from her Springfield office, Collins told the Chicago Crusader, “I told him no, and he told me I did not want to step out of my comfort zone. I wanted to stay with Hillary Clinton,” Collins said, explaining that she had a Fellowship under the former presidential candidate.

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State Senator Jacqueline Y. Collins

Pfleger gave her three days to pray about his request and Collins said she later said yes. It was Pfleger and then-Alderman Terry Peterson (17th) who ran her senatorial campaign. “That is how I became a state senator 20 years ago.”

Her two role models who Collins always had throughout her campaigns and battles for social justice have been the late President John F. Kennedy and his brother, Senator Robert Kennedy, “because they defined public service, which really had an impact on me.”

Collins said Dr. King also had a great influence on her and that he was her “philosophical role model.”

In all of her political campaigns, her focus Collins said, returned to King’s philosophical teachings.

“It was his mantra, the one you hear all the time. I ran on that.”

Collins was referring to Dr. King’s saying, “I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture of their minds, and dignity, equality, and freedom for their spirits….”

Collins boasts a large and varied body of contributions in her 20-year arsenal of legislation.

Asked what are some legislative initiatives she has passed, Collins said of her more than 200 pieces of legislation, foremost among them are her ban on “ghost guns, the Predatory Loan Prevention Act, the Illinois Community Reinvestment Act, the Mortgage Rescue Fraud Act, the Sudan Divestment Act, and the Payday Loan Reform Act.

She cited as well the flavored cigarette ban, nursing home reform, and creation of a special instant Red Ribbon Cash Lottery ticket that has generated $11.5 million to fund HIV/AIDS prevention programs.

Collins additionally noted her establishment of an Illinois Human Trafficking Task Force; a bill to end the statute of limitations on child sex crimes; and the establishment of the Council on Women and Girls to advise the governor and General Assembly so that they have a seat at the policy table.

She is responsible also for a bill establishing the vote by mail system for all future elections that expands ballot access.

Prominent in her arsenal of legislation Collins is proud that she helped pass the Reverse Mortgage Act that ensures a three day cooling off period before a borrower can be bound by the terms of a loan.

More recently she contributed to legislation for Safe-T and Pretrial Fairness Acts, and protecting postal workers, making it a Class I felony to assault a postal worker; and ending Expressway Violence by expanding the use of expressway cameras, aiding in improved coordination between law enforcement in solving crimes on the road.

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