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ELECTIONS 2015 Urban planner Amara Enyia runs for Chicago mayor
by Matt Simonette

[Editor's note: On Dec. 10, Amara Enyia announced that she would be withdrawing from the race and throwing her support behind the campaign of Ald. Bob Fioretti.]

Amara Enyia has been one of the lower-profile individuals in the race to unseat Mayor Rahm Emanuel in the city election in February. She's never held public office, but she thinks that her extensive work in grassroots activism and public-policy consultation can bring new ideas to the fifth floor of City Hall.

Enyia, who has participated in several LGBT events over the past year, is currently executive director of the Austin Chamber of Commerce and is a consultant with ACE Municipal Partners, which largely specializes in work with small to mid-sized municipalities. Her campaign has not been an easy one. She and supporters have been taking part in community events and gatherings in order to get the word out for over a year. Her petitions were among those challenged the week of Dec. 1.

The candidate sat down with Windy City Times to discuss why she's running for mayor and her vision for a city she says can be more unified by its citizens' commonalities than their differences.

Windy City Times: What prompted your decision to run?

Read more story below....

Amara Enyia: Well, it's a number of things. First and foremost, I think we're at a unique opportunity as a city to really move in the right direction, that it really requires new leadership. The issues that we face are urgent, and I think that the ideas that are going to move us forward have to come from people who are thinking outside of the box in terms of what this city needs, and are not afraid of challenging a system that we know in many ways does not serve the best interests of the public.

So, for me, it comes out of that sense of responsibility. I live in the community. I live in Garfield Park so I see the issues when I walk out of my house every day. It's that sense of responsibility and that sense of urgency, with the need for new leadership.

WCT: You said the city needs ideas "outside the box." What are some of your ideas that you see as being outside the box?

Amara Enyia: When we talk about education, for example, we're talking about radically reimagining education and schooling. We talk about the need for an elected school board. We talk about what it looks like to have the arts and vocational education in schools. What it looks like to have an education that's not premised on over-testing children. What does it look like to have an administration that's actually focused on the best interests of children? What does a school system look like [that's] actually in the hands of educators and not corporate CEOs?

Economically, when we talk about forms of revenue, we talk about a public bank, which is a revolutionary idea when it comes to a city's finances. We talk about worker-owned cooperatives as the viable kinds of job-creators and business-creators that we need. No one else is talking about these things. We're pushing a financial transaction tax because we believe that this is the time and the environment to make sure that all of our corporations and our financial sectors … [are] sharing the burden of making sure that this city is healthy and grows. No one else is talking about these kinds of ideas and that's something that has distinguished us from other candidates in this race.

WCT: You have a great deal of experience working in the public-policy arena as a consultant and you worked with Mayor Daley's administration, but you haven't held public office yet. What on your resume best qualifies you to be mayor?

Amara Enyia: I think it's everything on my resume. I think it is the diversity of experience and the type of experience—someone who has worked both at the top level of city government, which I have, who has worked across policy areas, so I was doing everything from food security to education to housing to violence prevention—having that breadth of experience. But also [I am] someone who has had that grassroots experience. I've worked with—as the executive director of a couple of non-profits—grassroots community-based organizations and have served oftentimes as that bridge between the top-level policymakers and those of us who are on the ground doing the work, so that those policies are relevant to us, and not many elected officials can say that they have both of those vantage points.

I've also worked in the private sector. I've worked with mayors and city managers of other municipalities on policy issues. I've worked in academia. I think it's about looking at the breadth and the quality of experience, and someone who has that diversity of experience. It's not just about an ability to fundraise. I don't think that qualifies you to be able to speak to, what are the issues that average Chicagoans face? What are the issues that the majority of Chicagoans face? People are looking for leadership that understands them, and can empathize with their challenges, needs and desires.

WCT: Were you to win, you'd be contending with what is possibly one of the city's greatest financial challenges when the mandated contributions to the firefighters and police funds jump and potentially increase the city's deficits significantly. What steps does the mayor need to take in order to protect the city's balance sheet?

Amara Enyia: The first thing the mayor needs to do is be honest and forthright about what that balance sheet looks like. In addition to bringing these new ideas to the table—financial transactions tax, public bank and other revenue-generating proposals—we have to be [discussing] what our city's finances are. For example, no one is talking about that, because we've had these horrible policies, not just under this administration, but the previous administration before that, we are in a position where a property tax increase is almost inevitable. So what I have committed to, and what this campaign has committed to, is to be honest with the people of Chicago. We're not going to say that we are going to make the hard decisions but then kick the can down the road, which is what the current mayor has done.

We want to come out and say, because of the failed policies of the past, we are in a very difficult situation and here's what we need to do to make sure that we can move forward. One of those things is unfortunately a property tax increase. The other is looking at what happened at CPS [Chicago Public Schools] and the misleading maneuverings that CPS has done to present a false picture of what their finances look like, and right now the solutions are so thin, because, instead of working on those solutions, the mayor and the current administration have been doing so much to present a different picture, which is completely dishonest.

I think we all know that there are difficult decisions that have to be made fiscally. The best way to handle it is, No. 1, to bring these new ideas that we're talking about to the city of Chicago, about how to grow the economy—worker-owned cooperatives, a public bank, financial transaction tax, workforce-development investments—but also to be very honest about what the state of our fiscal health is in the city, and that means being forthright about what taxes are needed to be increased immediately because we did not address these issues over the last four years or the … years before them.

WCT: Can you speak about your idea for a public bank?

Amara Enyia: So right now we are in debt to other financial entities. I think when I last checked it was about $900 million. So the concept of a public bank is the notion of the bank as a public utility, a bank that works for the interests of the city of Chicago. Its allegiance is to the taxpayers. What that means is, we have the money to invest our own dollars into, for example, extending lines of credit to small businesses, to extending for homeowners who want to get loans for homes and repairs on their buildings if you're a landlord. These are the sorts of things that it's very difficult to get private financing from traditional banking institutions.

The other [benefit] is infrastructure—having the money to execute infrastructure projects, [such as] our streets, our sewage systems, all those sorts of projects at low interest rates. Right now, the interest rates are sky high and, with that interest, the city never sees any of those dollars. We're just paying it out to these other financial entities, so imagine if that interest is actually recirculating back into our economy. It reduces the cost of these projects, but it also means that our money is recirculating back, which is in the interest of the public, the taxpayers.

This is something that has worked in North Dakota. They've found that the Bank of North Dakota is actually outperforming all of the Wall Street banks. It is something that has been done in Europe, so it exists and the model is there, it's just a matter of pushing this idea for the city of Chicago.

WCT: Do you think service cuts would be on the table?

Amara Enyia: … What the current administration has done is, for example, closed 50 schools, closed six mental health clinics, and tell us that it's to save money, and then we find out that in fact no money was saved. So, with the school closings, we actually spent more with maintaining the buildings and consultants. So there's this false narrative presented that we have to have to do these service cuts. But we're not getting anything in return.

The way that we present what needs to happen is: Here are the services that the city offers—public safety, infrastructure, our public education system. These are the things our taxpayers believe their tax dollars are going to pay for. Now we have to show them, what is our fiscal health? What does that landscape look like? We put it to the taxpayers to say, in light of where we are financially, what things should we cut? What you'll find is, most people do not want their public safety budgets cut. they do not want money for schools cut. … Then the question becomes how to identify new sources of revenue to make sure that we don't have to cut those vital services. This where talking about a property tax increase is much more amenable, because you're thinking about, "Is it the quality of my schools or is it a higher property tax? Or a financial transaction tax?" Do we finally make sure that the financial sector is actually paying into the economy like everyone else? So now these ideas begin to gain traction.

Or we talk about other options, [such as] a tax on services. Illinois is one of the few states in the country that doesn't tax services. This is a substantial form of revenue that we could use to plug some of the budget shortfall. So I think it's less about saying, here's what we have to cut. This is what the governor-elect is doing. This is what the current administration has done. It's more about saying, "Here's what the vital services are that we know are important to you. Here's where we are financially. Here are the areas where we can possibly cut but here are the opportunities for revenue that can make sure that this doesn't become something that is so painful for the taxpayers of this city."

WCT: You speak of the inevitably of a property-tax increase, which, as you know, gives many Chicagoans great anxiety. Have you thought of the scope of an increase that might be necessary?

Amara Enyia: We've been doing this analysis for months now. We have an excellent team of economists, people who analyze taxes both at the city-level and the state-level. The question is, what does that increase look like? Of course we want to make sure—I can't say that it's painless—that there's as little pain as possible while understanding the reality of what needs to happen.

We know that it's not politically popular and this is part of the reason why, for years, under every administration, they've said, "We didn't raise property taxes." Even in this 2015 budget, we analyzed that entire budget from start to finish. While the mayor and many of the aldermen were saying, "We didn't raise property taxes," if you looked at all of the taxes that were increased, it essentially amounted to what a property tax increase would have looked like anyway. It's that kind of dishonest political maneuvering that I think actually does a disservice to the public because they need to know that we're honest with them about what our financial status is, and they need to know that these are hard decisions, but we can do it together, in an honest and forthright way. That kind of language is refreshing to a city that has heard so much of, "We didn't increase property taxes." But everything else in my life has increased, so what's the difference?

WCT: Mayor Emanuel has faced much criticism that his policies have exacerbated income inequality in the city, widening the gap between rich and poor, and diminishing the strength of the middle-class. What are your thoughts on economic inequality and how would you seek to diminish it?

Amara Enyia: Chicago is one of the top cities in terms of the gaps between those who are the highest earners and those who are at the bottom of the socio-economic spectrum. That has done nothing but hurt the city. We've lost almost 200,000 residents over 10 years. Many of those residents were from the South and West sides of the city, and they ended up moving out, largely because they could not find work. Their homes were foreclosed upon. Their communities are not safe. This is all a product of disinvestment of areas of the city for decades. The way we combat that is with investment.

It's creating a growth economy. Right now we have a scarcity economy. We're told, "This has to be cut because we don't have enough money." … We have to flip that paradigm to start thinking about, what does a growth economy look like, so a lot of the ideas that we're putting forth are about, how do we grow the economy so that people are earning more money naturally?

With our most recent proposal on worker-owned cooperatives, we found that in New York, which has one of the largest cooperatives in the country, employees earn from $10-25 an hour, over just a few years. That's their wage. They have more benefits. ... There's so much debate over the minimum wage increase, but we're not talking about the cost of living increases in the city … [and] why, when the cost of tickets increases, how that disproportionately hurts low-income and middle-income residents. We're not talking about how, when we privatize our public transportation, how that disproportionately affects those residents that rely on public transportation to get to work, because they don't have a car and maybe they don't want to have a car. … That's something as a city we can address but we're just not doing it, because we don't have leadership that sees it from that standpoint. We have leadership that is more concerned with those who are politically connected and perhaps have the the finances to have political clout and influence in decision-making. I think that hurts our city.

WCT: What can the mayor do to stimulate job growth in the city?

Amara Enyia: One of the biggest things that we have to do is invest in workforce development. We have to recognize what are our strengths as an economy, such as IT or health care. If we're not developing a pipeline into those sectors, than we don't have big tool that can attract, not only companies to locate here, but creation of jobs here.

One of the biggest planks of our platform is about small businesses, and making sure that entrepreneurs have a clear path to ownership, because we know that that strengthens the economy, especially in the neighborhoods. We know that small businesses actually tend to hire locally more often than the large corporations that the mayor is proud to say that we've attracted to downtown. A public bank helps facilitate the growth of small businesses.

Expanding worker-owned cooperatives means that more people are owners of businesses—they're making more money [and] hiring from the community. Those are the things that create jobs. Then, when we have a labor force that is adequate with skills in manufacturing, construction, IT or healthcare, then companies are looking to locate here because they want to hire, because our labor force is so high-quality. That's what makes Chicago an attractive place. Those are the things that create jobs. It's not just poaching a headquarters from the suburbs and claiming that we've created jobs. Who gets those jobs? Is it residents who get those jobs? Many times it's not.

WCT: Just as income disparities take a toll on Chicago, so do racial ones. Many Chicagoans of color face over-policing and have difficulty accessing resources, such as school and public transportation, that are readily available to their fellow residents in other neighborhoods. What disparities that often fall along race lines do you see as being most significant, and what would you do to address them?

Amara Enyia: The disparities that fall along race lines also fall along socio-economic lines. We're seeing that so much in Chicago. We talked that for policing—this has been a huge issue nationally. One of the lines of data that always sticks out to me is the number of stops [versus] the number of complaints that were filed—over 10,000 cases, and the number carried forward, 274. So you know that there is huge disparity when people are having these negative experiences with the police. Who's listening and is there any justice from their end? Are their complaints being taken seriously? We know that the likelihood of your being stopped if you're an African-American is maybe 10 times the rate if you're white. So we know that there are disparities in policing. The question is, what are we going to do about it? Do we have the courage to actually address the issue head on? What I've found is, that because it can a potentially contentious issue is that, many will shy away from it, or they'll just ignore it and, maybe after the election, they'll start to say something about it. But if they're serious about addressing these disparities about race and class, we have to tackle them head on and we cannot be afraid to talk about police brutality, the disparities in who's getting jobs [or] why one community has not seen any significant investment for the last 40 years but we have so much investment going into the central business district.

This is about our collective interest. Addressing issues of race does not mean that you're racist or divisive. It means that we acknowledge the issues in our city and we recognize that we have a collective interest in doing better, and making sure that we're reducing inequality wherever it exists. It takes a certain level of maturity, and a desire to see the city grow together, to really address those issues in a way that recognizes our diversity of experiences [and] the real pain that people experience because of racism, classism, sexism and discrimination based on their sexual orientation. You have to recognize that their experiences are real, and if you recognize that, we have to in good faith do everything possible address their needs, make sure they're heard and that it's reflected in the policies that we put forth.

WCT: How safe a city do you perceive Chicago to be?

Amara Enyia: Depends on where you are, and I don't like that fact. An equitable city is a city where you can be in any neighborhood and feel fine. Right now that's not the case. With this current administration, and with previous administrations, we've been okay with violence and crime as long as it's in those areas. … It should be unacceptable anywhere. Now that we've seen more reports of crime and violence in areas that we don't typically associate with crime and violence, so if it's in Lincoln Park or if it's in Irving Park, then all of a sudden it becomes this big thing. But it should be unacceptable across the board.

The young people I work with in some of these communities … I just remember, we were taking them downtown—it was a service learning project—and one of the girls remarked that, just walking down the street she just felt so free. She wasn't looking over her shoulder. To me that said so much. She deserves to be able to walk on her block and feel just as free as she felt when we were walking on Columbus downtown. That's the kind of Chicago that I want. I want people to feel safe wherever they are.

WCT: What were your thoughts on President Obama's speech on immigration?

Amara Enyia: As the daughter of immigrants, this is a huge issue for me. I know what it's like, both from family and people that I have been close to, to come to this country and to struggle. So I was pleased. I think it's a start. Of course, I would love to have many more things included, but I understand how contentious this issue was, and why it wasn't even done in the first term. But we have to start somewhere, and I think that his speech and the policies gave people a lot of hope who have been in the dark, who have not had any options. So I think it's a good first step.

WCT: Can you tell us a little bit about your parents and how that plays into your understanding of Chicago and the international scene?

Amara Enyia: My parents are immigrants from Nigeria. They're also activists, so my work is the legacy of their work. My father fought in our civil war. Nigeria had a civil war in 1967. He was 21. At the time a genocide was going on against our ethnic group, the Igbo people. They were being slaughtered essentially, so he got into that war against the Nigerian government. My mother was a frontline nurse in that war. I always tell the story that, when I asked my dad why, in the prime of life—well, I think 21 is the prime of life for a young man—why would you fight a war against a country, especially when you're not sure that we were going to win? He said that it's not necessarily the fact that our people were being killed, it's the fact that he can't stand oppression. They fought for years in a war that was supposed to be over within days, and they didn't win.

After the war was over, we had a number of dictators in Nigeria, and my parents continued fighting against those dictators. It was dangerous work. They eventually came to the United States and began organizing here in Chicago on the North Side—organizing the Nigerian community, the African community—against those dictators. It was to the point where, in 1997, seven individuals were executed by the government, and I also found out later from my parents that the Nigerian government had been sending emissaries to our home to intimidate them. It was dangerous work. I remember going to the press conferences. … My dad wrote the blueprint for Nigeria's democracy. I remember typing that [document] up for him when I was younger. I remember that determination and the sense that they had that a government is supposed to work on behalf of the people, and, if it is not, we have a responsibility to push back against that government, for a system that actually works.

Everything that we're doing in Chicago, that I'm doing in Chicago, is driven by that sense of "this is what government is supposed to be, and this is the responsibility that we have as citizens to hold our government accountable and to push back against that system. We can't be afraid to do so. My parents did that in a context where many people disappeared, people were killed, thrown in jail. They had that experience, but they still pressed forward.

When we look at Chicago and what's happening with our current mayor and the sense of invincibility about him, or the sense that because I'm not wealthy, or the right race, or the right gender, that I somehow cannot possibly challenge this mayor, I think about my parents' experience, and I think the issues that we face in Chicago that are actually global issues. They're playing out in countries all around the world. That's why it's so important what we do in this election, because it's going to send a message worldwide about how people engage with their government and how they push for systems change.

WCT: What work have you done with the LGBT community in Chicago and how do you plan on reaching out to them in the future?

Amara Enyia: The work that I've done so far extends back to my community work, just working with community-based organizations. A lot of the issues that we're dealing with—some of them are unique to the LGBTQ community, but there's some that I think are overlooked. One of the things that I was doing, even before I was running for mayor, was looking at economic disparity. I had a couple of colleagues that were in that community and we would talk about those issues. There was this perception that if you're in the LGBTQ community that you're wealthy, that you don't have any economic challenges. Everything is just great.

But I spent a lot of time on work searches that found that many individuals in that community are caretakers, and have children, and are at the lower end of the socio-economic scale, and that it's actually not the case that everyone's wealthy and fine economically. It's these facts that need to be pulled out because we don't hear this dialogue happening as much. There's a misperception about the LGBTQ community in the work that we do, this community-based work.

I also did some work in public health, analyzing the disparities in that community in terms of access to public health services, making sure that everyone had adequate healthcare access in that community.

Then there's this issue of just amplifying the issues in communities not necessarily as tied to the core of the LGBTQ community's work. For example, one of the stories that really resonated with me was a two-part [series in Windy City Times] on transgender women who were killed on the West Side of Chicago, and what happened with the investigation, how they were treated by police during the investigation, how their families were treated during the course of the investigation and I thought it was so crucial because, at least in the community work that I do, you don't often hear about those kinds of stories. We hear about the usual shootings. But having a closer analysis on the plight of transgender women, who are right here in our community, whose stories are not being told, was powerful, because it exposes people to someone outside themselves that they should be concerned about, because we're in this together. What affects that transgender woman is just as important to me as what affects a heterosexual man or woman. I think that that work being incorporated just into the overall advocacy work is important, because we all have to advocate for each other. Even within the LGBTQ community, making sure that we're advocating for each other, that no one is left out. … We don't want to leave anyone behind. I think that's what I want to convey. That we recognize our connectedness, and advocate for each other and recognize the struggles that we have, even if they're unique, [and see] that they're part of a bigger struggle. That's something that I've always tried to do, even on the ground level.

WCT: Could you speak a little bit about the interactions you've had with the transgender community?

Amara Enyia: One of my favorite people works with an organization that helps transgender individuals get access to services, and we have been talking for a couple of years now. One of the things I had the privilege of being able to do was participate in a panel about a year ago [at Chicago Urban League]. It was a coalition of all those different organizations—I think it was Chicago Black Gay Men's Caucus, Affinity, several others—and she and I participated on the panel together talking about economic issues in the community. I was able to bring the perspective of someone who just does community work, and she had the expertise of working directly with the transgender community. I thought it was a very good fit because we were able to play off each other. … On the ground level being able to be a voice for community organizations who don't generally focus on the transgender community and sort of exposing them to why this is important. …

WCT: What have you worked on in your community work in the area of HIV/AIDS, especially in communities that are disproportionately affected, including trans women and African American men who have sex with men?

Amara Enyia: The most recent is on Monday [World AIDS Day]. I work with an organization called Monday Night Mingle. They try to expose people to the importance of getting tested in an environment that's not clinical. This is important because, particularly in the African American community, for example, getting them to go to an HIV clinic can be daunting. The goal is to create these safe, relaxed spaces where people can come together—there's food, there's music, we have hosts who play trivia games. In a very comfortable environment where people feel comfortable getting the test. We actually have the tests on site. It's just the swab test—very simple, undaunting. We find that that's very effective. We just find that we have to reach people where they are. In the Black community, that's always been a challenge, getting people to feel comfortable getting getting tested. That translates over to other communities as well.

WCT: Homelessness is of course a serious issue in the city, and a disproportionate number of youth who are homeless are LGBT. What can be done on that?

Amara Enyia: Definitely access to centers where they are welcome. One of the big challenges is that, if you're homeless, and you go to a center that doesn't feel welcoming, or you feel would be judgmental or you don't feel safe—that's an issue. What's the point in having that center if you don't feel comfortable going to that center? The people who are supposed to be reached don't feel comfortable going to that center. Creating more safe spaces around the city, even in areas that we don't traditionally associate with the LGBTQ community, so we know that, yes, there's access to some spaces on the North Side. But what about spaces on the West Side? What about spaces on the South Side, where individuals are really dealing with homelessness and they have nowhere else to go? In communities where if you are transgender, if you are lesbian or gay, there are few safe spaces? So we have to create those safe spaces for them, so we have to be more intentional about that, and recognize that we have to meet people where they are. With homeless youth, many of whom were kicked out their homes, many staying with friends [but] all probably struggling economically, how do we create a safe space that's welcoming to them? We have to be intentional about it.

WCT: For that issue of homelessness in general, we've been talking about lack of affordable housing across the city for students, young people, veterans, etc. What's your take on the need for affordable housing and how the city can get engaged on that?

Amara Enyia: It's absolutely critical. Again, we lost 200,000 residents over 10 years. We also found that CHA [the Chicago Housing Authority] had been sitting on hundreds of thousands of dollars that had been allocated for affordable housing in the city. We know that we have a waiting list that is running into the tens of thousands and that there was no explanation as to why those dollars were not used to create more affordable housing. That is completely unacceptable. We have to demand the kind of transparency and openness with funding that the city already has. We had the money but we did not use it for what it was supposed to be used. So, one [point] is transparency and holding the city accountable to use the funding for affordable housing. The other is about the paradigm of development. Right now, we have developers [determining] development, which means that a developer comes in, they'll say what they want, they'll make whatever deal with the alderman, then they'll notify the community about what's already been decided upon.

What we need to have is community-driven development, where the community actually has a voice in determining what that development looks like, to make sure that it actually works for the community. Affordable housing almost always comes up, so we see this happening in Logan Square, we see this in Uptown, where communities are losing access to housing but because they don't have leadership that is advocating for affordable housing nothing is being done about. It this is why populations are changing in Uptown, Logan Square, even in South Shore. We don't have that paradigm that prioritizes the community's needs, and affordable housing to make sure that people who live there can stay there. This is tied to gentrification. If we're not intentional about saying that, as these developments are occurring, we are preserving affordable housing, we're going to see these communities change and people who have lived there for decades are getting pushed out of these neighborhoods.

WCT: Mayor Emanuel is going to be well-financed in the election, with a war chest of about $9 million-$10 million. How are you going to get the word out?

Amara Enyia: We do it the old-fashioned way. We get out. We hit the streets. We talk to people. We've been on this unity tour for the last year. We go into every neighborhood. We're talking to big groups, small groups in living rooms, coffee shops, spreading the word about our vision for Chicago. It's not enough to be against something. We have to tell people what it is that we are for. It's resonated with people, and they tell their people, and then their people tell their people, and that's how we've been able to get so much support now—just knocking on doors, getting out into neighborhoods, being accessible and open. When people hear the message, they're very enthusiastic about it, and that's one thing that no amount of money can buy: passion. The people who have gotten involved with this campaign and are spreading the message feel very passionate about it, and they're so committed. They've been doing so much work on behalf of the campaign to spread the message and I think that's how we've been able to get as far as we have.

WCT: Oftentimes, I see you listed as "other" in the media. What's your media strategy?

Amara Enyia: We knew going in that the media was not going to be our best friend. We try to be aggressive with the media. Everything we send out, we send to the media. Unfortunately it's up to them whether they follow up or write anything about it. What we're finding is that other people are talking about us, and as other people talk about us, then they have to pay attention.

The other thing is, a defining moment is getting on the ballot. So last week I finally officially submitted my petitions to get on the ballot. I think that changes the game, because, once you're on the ballot, the media does have the obligation to actually cover all of the candidates. That takes away the convenience of not paying attention or putting us in a box as "other."

WCT: Do you have anything final you want to say, in particular to the LGBT community about what you would do as mayor of Chicago, to make this city more unified and egalitarian?

Amara Enyia: The key word is unity. We have, for the last four years—and maybe the last 22 years before that—lived under a system that divides, based on our race, our gender, our class. A system that makes us feel that our differences are bigger than the things that bring us together. So my message is that the things that we have in common are so much greater than the perceived differences amongst us, and only when we unify can we really change the system. We have to believe that it's possible. Everyone can find that they're connected in some way, so that if I happen to live in Edgewater, I care about what happens in Englewood because my children will ride the bus with someone from Englewood. If I go to a school in Roseland, I care about what's happening in Hegewisch because I'm going to go to a grocery store with someone who lives in Hegewisch. The violence affects me wherever I live in this city. Even if I'm not lesbian, I know what it's like to be discriminated against. If I'm not transgender, I know what it feels like to have my voice silenced, even as a candidate. There are all these things, these experiences, that I think we can all draw upon to show that these things that we have in common are so much greater and if we unify we can actually change the system, but we have to believe it. I believe it, and I think that as we spread our message, more people are believing it, and I think that belief is going to change the course of the city's history in the upcoming election.

The full video of this interview is with the online edition of this article, and the Windy City Times' Youtube channel. The interview was conducted by Matt Simonette and Tracy Baim.

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