In 2015, the city of Chicago may see a Black woman running things.
Amara Enyia is a 30-year-old, municipal consultant and community organizer, who is planning to run against the 55th mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel in the February 2015 mayoral race. “The political system needs to be obliterated and we need something new and different,” Enyia told InTheseTimes.com while discussing her decision to run for mayor. “The status quo doesn’t work—at least, it doesn’t work for too many people. Now we have a unique opportunity to chart a new path.”
Enyia wants to bring compassion and care into the next mayoral race and to the city, should she have the opportunity to lead it. She asserts Emanuel doesn’t care about all the people of Chicago and wants to bring a leadership to the city that focuses on all areas equally. “Rahm simply doesn’t care about these neighborhoods. He simply doesn’t care about the South and West Sides,” she said. “These whole sections of the city are crumbling, but they’re completely out of the equation…..My message is the city will never be as great as it can be unless we all grow together. What impacts [someone] living in Lincoln Park impacts someone in Humboldt Park, and vice versa. The violence in Back of the Yards impacts [someone] even if [they] live in Edgewater. It’s one city; we all rise together.”
In addition to focusing more on underserved neighborhoods in the town, Enyia is already chiming in on her plans to improve the public school system, which was plagued by several issues in 2013, including a massive teacher strike. Last year The Chicago Board of Education also sparked protests and lawsuits when they voted to close 50 schools and programs, but the new mayoral hopeful says she’ll take a different tactic in handling the city’s education system.
“CPS made so many needless missteps,” Enyia charged. “If [you’re] going to close 50 schools, just tell the community you’re going to close 50 schools because you can’t afford to keep them open. People will be angry, but they will appreciate the fact you told them straight out—you didn’t try to come up with all these different false misleading reasons to justify it. What CPS did under the mayor’s leadership was come up with all these fake half-baked reasons [for closing specific schools], and once things started to unravel they spent all this time in damage control and came up with these processes of engagement that were for show. Then they wondered why nobody trusts them!”
Enyia highlighted she specialized in education policy and said she’d take a more transparent approach to dealing with the city’s school system. “I did my [doctoral] dissertation on good faith in school policy. When all this was happening, I was shaking my head, thinking, they should have just read my dissertation,” she said. “I have no illusions of easy answers, but respect people enough to tell them the truth and take their input in developing a way forward.”
To be sure, she’s got some tough competition. Mayor Emanuel’s camp has a reputation for intimidating the competition, but Enyia says she’s not scared. In fact, the administration’s culture of intimidation is a major reason she is so determined to run against and ultimately unseat him. And she’s not concerned with critics who say she may be too young, inexperienced or doubt her abilities because she’s a woman. “My dad always said revolutions never come from people in the status quo; they come from those on the outside,” Enyia said. “You can’t be ‘realistic’ when it comes to these things that are truly transforming. There’s a certain ‘delusional’ quality that you have to have, because you see something that other people don’t see.”
We’re rooting for you Amara Enyia!
About Amara Enyia:
Enyia does municipal consulting through the firm she founded, ACE Municipal Partners, in addition to continuing her work with community groups in Austin and other hard-hit Chicago neighborhoods, including Englewood and Roseland on the South Side. And in case you’re not impressed by Enyia’s laundry list of amazing things she’s doing, she also offers her thoughts on urban planning, culture, politics and global travel (she speaks Igbo, Portuguese, Spanish and French). And there’s a blog. Yes, Enyia has a blog called The Municipal Maven, that she runs on her leftover free time. And as a triathlete and marathon competitor, Enyia knows a thing or two about racing, but this mayoral race may well be her biggest yet.
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