The Chicago Votes Monthly: August 2023

Since last month’s newsletter, lots has happened! The Illinois Supreme Court ruled the Pretrial Fairness Act is constitutional, three finalists for CPD superintendent were named, Chicago held community budget roundtables#TreatmentNotTrauma passed out of the City Council committee…. And aliens were discovered??? 

Anyhoo, keep reading this month’s newsletter for volunteer opportunities, upcoming events, and programmatic announcements! Happy August!

The Clique

Chicago Votes is a grassroots community organizing organization. We were founded to be a platform for the youth voice and to empower the next generation of Chicagoans to create the change they want to see in their city. We can accomplish nothing alone, and we always strive to work in collaboration, be in the community and be an active part of the movement. 

Join our membership program, The Clique, and get access to exclusive Fuel The Movement social events! We appreciate whatever time and resources our community shares with us, and we created this program to intentionally thank everyone for their support!

Unlock Civics

Judges wield a lot of power over people’s lives. They can decide who gets custody of a child, if a family gets evicted, or how long to sentence someone to prison.

Chicago Votes and the Illinois Alliance for Reentry & Justice have launched a court watching program, sending community members inside Cook County Criminal Court to watch judges and collect data on bias and misconduct. The data collected will help in the creation of a judicial voter guide in 2024.

Court Watching will take place from August through the beginning of October. Shifts take place on weekdays during the day. Volunteers are asked to complete five shifts in total. If this program fits with your interests and capacity, please complete the online, self-paced Court Watching training!

 Cook County Jail Votes 

In July, our small but mighty team of volunteers registered 19 folks to vote in Division 11 of Cook County Jail. Many of the people we spoke with were already registered and had voted in the mayoral elections! 

We are ALWAYS seeking new Cook County Jail Votes volunteers. To become a volunteer, you must complete the fully online, self-paced Cook County Jail Votes training. To access the training, go to our volunteer portal. Once you complete the training course, you will start receiving monthly CCJ Votes opportunities in your inbox! 

Reimagining Democracy

This past weekend Chicago Votes popped out to the West Garfield Park CRIME DROUGHT Installation: Re-imagining Health and Wellness in our Communities. CRIME DROUGHT is a unified collective within the Black and Brown community in Chicago to show the true meaning behind CRIME DROUGHT: to bring an end to the crime and violence in communities of color, in our hometown Chicago and throughout America.

The event featured an entirely free grocery store, health screenings from Rush, community resources, peace circles, music, art… and the list keeps going. Chicago Votes engaged folks in conversations about city government & voting, registered folks to vote, and gave out lots of prizes!

Earlier this summer we said we’d be outside and we really meant it. This weekend we’ll be at Lollapalooza registering people to vote and making sure they know Chicago Votes is a resource for them. Following that, on August 12th we’ll be at the Bud Billiken Parade and Picnic. 

Sponsor our tent at the Bud Billiken Parade & Picnic! We’ll be setting up the Chicago Votes tent and giving out school supplies. You can also donate school supplies and drop them at our office. Just DM or email us to set up a time for drop-off.

Give A Sh*t

 Don’t miss the Intersection! 

Don’t miss your chance to connect with some amazing musicians, artists, and advocates at The Intersection event in Chicago on August 5th! We’ll have cultural enrichment through music, fashion, and food for $10 a person! Get your tickets here. 

 C Space 

Each month, we open up our office to artists to share space and craft alongside and in community with one another. We call it C Space. Light refreshments are provided! The next C Spaces are Friday, August 18th, and Friday, September 15th from 7-9 pm. RSVP for office location!

Sign up for C Space updates here!

Give A Sh*t Creative Collective 

Our Give A Sh*t Creative Collective is a hub for creatives to rethink how we engage young Chicagoans in the political process. The Collective is made up of a diverse set of artists, including designers, musicians, poets, and videographers. Joining gives you access to paid opportunities, including mini grats. August’s Give A Sh*t Creative Collective will take place during C Space, on August 18th from 7-9 pm in our office. 

Join the Creative Collective here.

Sh*t Talkin’ Central 

The latest piece, written by Stephen Yoshida, examines “affordable housing” and the impacts of it being a statutorily-defined category designed out of political expediency and not actually an accurate description. Read “That Development is Affordable Like Pizza is a Vegetable” on Sh*t Talkin’ Central. 

We publish stories submitted by young Chicagoans, a.k.a. you! You can submit op-eds, digital content, poems, and photos. Selected contributors will be paid $100 per published piece. Pitch us a story here. 

That Development is Affordable Like Pizza is a Vegetable

By Stephen Yoshida

A lifelong Chicagoan, Stephen is a proud graduate of Lane Tech with an architecture degree from the Illinois Institute of Technology. He covers the City of Chicago development and housing policy through the City Bureau Documenters program. 

Vegetable (Noun)One of the required components of reimbursable meals; 2. A quarter cup of tomatoes served as two tablespoons of tomato paste. As defined by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA)

For those unfamiliar with the “pizza is vegetable” meme, here’s some context: in 2011, the Congressional spending bill allowed the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to define the tomato puree in pizza as a vegetable and count it towards nutrition requirements in tax-funded school lunches. President Obama signed the bill on December 23rd, 2011. Merry Christmas, public school children.

This is the most famous case of the government’s game of tricky, statutory definitions. The public says, “We want nutritious meals for the kids,” the Feds play with the definition of “nutrition,” and what we get is a “statutorily nutritious” styrofoam tray of pizza, a fruit cup, and chocolate milk. This game is also played with affordable housing.

According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), for rent and utilities to be considered “affordable,” they should cost no more than 30% of the household gross income for households earning less than 80% of Area Median Income (AMI).

The trick here starts with how HUD defines the “area” in Area Median Income. In Chicago, our “area” is the “Chicago-Joliet-Naperville Fair Market Rent Area.” This means the median incomes in the most affluent Chicago suburbs are included, inflating the overall median income of the “Chicago area”. For example, the median income for the ZIP codes HUD counts as the “Chicago area” is $81,000 per year. In Naperville, it’s $130,000. In Chicago, it’s $66,000. In the Englewood ZIP code 60621 it’s $24,000. Applying HUD’s inflated regional average income places “affordable” housing out of reach of working people.

Let’s consider a hypothetical statutorily affordable housing development in Englewood for people making 60% of AMI. The law limits the rent for a one-bed apartment to $1,173 per month. An Englewood household interested in renting that unit needs to make $46,920 to afford to spend 30% of their income on rent, per HUD statutes. Even when dual-income households are included, $1,173 in rent is out of reach of three-quarters of the neighborhood. What’s more, the project’s developer gets big tax-funded grants!

For families, the outlook is even worse. Let’s say an Englewood family has two adults and two teenage kids and the parents want to give them their own rooms – a standard amenity among the middle class. That family needs to earn $65,040 per year to afford a three-bedroom apartment. But HUD limits how much applicants can make to qualify for “affordable” housing. The maximum income for a 4-person household that’s eligible for that apartment is $62,520. You’d need to earn too little to afford the rent to qualify. And this is even worse for three- and four-bed units.

The City of Chicago knows this system doesn’t work for poor families. In the January meeting of the Chicago Plan Commission, then Chicago Dept. Housing Commissioner Marisa Novara spoke on a “mismatch” between the cost of family-sized apartments and what poor families can afford. Plan Commissioner Guacolda Reyes, also Chief Real Estate Development Officer of Pilsen’s Resurrection Project, says she’s never even seen four-bed affordable units because there aren’t any qualified applicants. The City’s development agenda is raising property values and tax revenue by replacing poor Chicagoans with rich out-of-towners. “Affordable” housing is a performative charade. 

The truth is, that statutorily-defined affordable housing houses our communities as effectively as rectangle pizza nourishes kids. Like pizza sauce being a vegetable, “affordability” is nothing more than bogus, legalistic wordplay. It’s a taxpayer-subsidized distraction from the ongoing displacement of Chicago’s working families by a colonial gentrification industrial complex. Now is the time to quit the greasy “affordable housing” game. In Pilsen, they say “El barrio no se vende” or “Our neighborhood is nor for sale.”  Through organizing for power, we, the people of Chicago, can put an end to the destructive practices of the real estate speculators by removing the land our communities sit on from the market. This strategy is called “decommodification.” It is when neighbors own and manage their land together from building to building through cooperatives and from block to black through land trusts. Only when we find ways to take our ball and go home can we stop playing.

The Chicago Votes Monthly: Volunteering is easier than ever!

Summertime Chi is officially here and the people are outside! We hope you are finding time to get outside and enjoy yourself, reading in the park, meeting up with the girls at the Point, or volunteering with your fav organizers at Chicago Votes 🙂 

In this month’s Chicago Votes Monthly, we introduce you to our newest staff member, announce our new volunteer portal, update you on our programming, and tell you how you can tune into the work this month. 

Introducing Camille Williams, Senior Programs Manager and Diversity Equity Inclusion and Accessibility Lead!

(A belated) Welcome back to the team, Camille! Camille Williams has been a part of the Chicago Votes family for years, first joining the team for the 2016 Spring Primaries Project. In the fall of 2022, Camille was brought on to lead our elections fieldwork, managing our fellows and getting young folks to the polls.

Now, she is back permanently as our Senior Programs Manager and Diversity Equity Inclusion and Accessibility Lead! Camille was born and raised on the South Side of Chicago and is incredibly passionate about serving the community. When she isn’t working on field plans and building political power, she is busy at Rush University studying to pursue medical school and women’s health.

Camille is dedicated to building our volunteer base up and would love to connect with you. If you have any thoughts or suggestions on volunteering at Chicago Votes, please email her at

Volunteering with us is easier than ever! 

You can sign up to volunteer and get trained on your own time, at your own pace. All of our volunteer opportunities can be found on our new volunteer portal. You can sign up for Cook County Jail Votes, summer tabling opportunities, the GAS Creative Collective, C Space, and more here. 

The steps to becoming a volunteer are simple.  

  1. Learn about the programs: Chicago Votes has three initiatives: Give A Sh*t, Reimagining Democracy, and Unlock Civics. Each initiative houses several programs with volunteer opportunities. Read about each program to find a program that aligns with your interests and capacity.
  2. Get trained: Complete the required training (at your own pace, on your own time!!) for the programs you are interested in. Once completed, you will be prompted to join the program’s email list.
  3.  Check your email: Volunteers will receive opportunities regularly through email and text. Some programs occur on a regular schedule (ex. CCJ Votes), but others take place on an ad hoc basis.

Unlock Civics

House Bill 39, Voting in Prison

During the Illinois legislative session, a subject matter hearing for Voting in Prison (HB 39) was held in the House Ethics & Elections Committee. Committee members heard testimony from Representative Lashawn Ford, Illinois Alliance for Justice and Reentry’s Avalon Betts-Gaston, Chicago Lawyers’ Committee’s Cliff Helm, voting rights experts Dr. Christina Rivers, and Chicago Votes Co-Executive Director Stevie Valles. We also rallied in the capitol rotunda, making lots of noise! HB 39 remains in the House Ethics & Elections Committee, with a shot at passing during the fall veto session. 

To learn about the laws passed throughout the spring session, we recommend you read Amanda Vinickey’s “Legislative Session Roundup: Updates on Chicago’s Elected School Board, Red Light Cameras.”

That being said, our grassroots coalition advocacy continues! We won’t let the momentum for Voting in Prison subside. The Unlock Civics Coalition (made up of organizations, directly impacted people, and advocates) meets weekly. In this space we discuss strategy and needed advocacy. If you are interested in joining our weekly Unlock Civics Coalition calls on Tuesdays from 4:15 to 5 pm, email

Cook County Jail Votes 

We registered 75 people to vote in May and another 71 in June. Some of the people we spoke with had attended our civics talks with the University of Chicago ahead of the municipal elections. They reminded us of their election predictions, gave us feedback on our voter guide, and told us about more programming they wish to see. 

To become a Cook County Jail Votes volunteer, you must complete the Cook County Jail Votes training. You can now get trained as Cook County Jail Votes volunteer on your own time, at your own pace, using our new volunteer platform. To access the training, go to our volunteer portal. Once you complete the training course, you will start receiving monthly CCJ Votes opportunities in your inbox!

Reimagining Democracy

Summer Tabling 

This summer Chicago Votes is popping out to festivals and block parties to engage folks in civics conversations. Our tent features a prize wheel with civic actions and questions, a storytelling station, and some #UnlockCivics artwork by local artist Ewrks. View our recap of Sueños Music Festival!

Political engagement doesn’t need to start with voting. It can start with conversations and small actions. We’ll be at Lollapalooza, Silver Room Block Party, Bud Billiken, and more for the remainder of the summer. If you are interested in volunteering, which comes with free event entry, take the training course and sign up for shifts!

Give A Sh*t

Introducing C Space! 

Each month, we open up our office to artists to share space and craft alongside and in community with one another. We call it C Space. Light refreshments are provided! The next C Spaces are Friday, July 21st, Friday, August 18th, and Friday, September 15th from 7-9 pm. RSVP for office location!

Sign up for C Space updates here!

Give A Sh*t Creative Collective 

Our Give A Sh*t Creative Collective is a hub for creatives to rethink how we engage young Chicagoans in the political process. The Collective is made up of a diverse set of artists, including designers, musicians, poets, and videographers. Joining gives you access to paid opportunities, including mini grats.

We meet monthly to strategize, share opportunities, and craft alongside one another. July’s Collective meeting will take place during C Space, Friday, July 21st from 7-9 pm in our office (1006 S. Michigan Ave. Ste 606). 

Sign up for the Creative Collective here.

Sh*t Talkin’ Central 

Sh*t Talkin’ Central got a makeover; check it out (: It’s a hub for think pieces, stories, and Sh*t Talks. 

We publish stories submitted by young Chicagoans, a.k.a. you! You can submit op-eds, digital content, poems, and photos. Selected contributors will be paid $100 per published piece. Pitch us a story here. 

Ideas for stories to pitch:

  • The need for safe spaces for youth to congregate evenings/weekends
  • A photo series of your neighborhood
  • A interview with a local creative
  • An interview with your alderperson
  • A pitch to voters to stay involved in the summer’s city budget process

The Clique

Sustainable givers are automatically given membership to the Clique–our membership program. Members of the Clique have access to exclusive concerts, member-only virtual and in-person events and trainings, and more than a few surprises! Oh yeah, you also get access to discounted merchandise from the G.A.S. Station.

Earlier this year, Chicago Votes hosted “Fundraising for Movement Work,” an interactive workshop around raising funds for your initiative. This session is the first part of a series of workshops. This session covers the basics for applying for funding from foundations through grants, navigating funding relationships, and pursuing tax exemption status for your organization.

The workshop was recorded and is available on Youtube. Stay tuned for more fundraising workshops to come! 

Fuel the Movement Mondays 

Put your fundraising skills to the test! We are a grassroots organization powered by grassroots money. Help us raise funds to keep organizing, paying young creatives, passing laws, and breaking down barriers to civic engagement.

Monday, July 17th from 6-8pm CT. Join on Zoom

Reading Recommendations

Correspondence From a Disenfranchised Citizen

This poem was written by Charles Hill, currently incarcerated in an Illinois prison.

My Dear Legislators,

I’m excluded from the voting process/ in a land that is founded

on the inhumane free labor of someone who I love/ someone who fought and died for me to have this right/an ancestor whose spirit dwells in the innermost parts of my being/

and you think that a childhood mistake that I made before I was old enough to vote justifies me being disenfranchised?/

You think that justifies me, as 17-year-old boy, being snatched out of my crying mother’s arms and my community, to be relocated in some petty ass gerrymandering town, that has been extinguishing the power of my vote in a ballot box since the birth of my civic life!/

While the people of the judicial system are regularly making the mistake of wrongfully convicting people and burying them in the graves of their system for a literal lifetime/ and the government is treasonly shackling our minds by instilling the carceral mindset that our civic participation is obsolete/

Without ever being disqualified from taking part in the electoral process/

But I don’t get to vote!/

I don’t get to vote for a judge who will impartially adjudicate my case/ or for a governor who has the compassion to let me and people like me out of this unproductive place/ that is overflowing with more power than it has the capacity to contain/

Even after we have conjured up the strength to miraculously sprout during the era of this man-made plague that we have been planted in called mass incarceration/

My vote is the antibody that combats every cell of this bacterial structure called prison, that has aggressively infected and repudiated America’s egalitarian vision/

and become the perfect example of the type of constructs that manifest from the dialectics of unity and division/

My comrades’ votes will reveal the self-evident truths’ that were declared on July 4 of 1776; that all men are created equal, that they are endowed with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are; Life, Liberty, the Pursuit of Happiness

and it would be remiss of me if I didn’t specifically include the Right to Vote!

The Chicago Votes Monthly: May 2023

With one election after another throughout the past year, we are relieved to say the next election won’t be until 2024, phew! Until then, we have the opportunity to reflect on our past efforts to get young people to the polls!

Between the February municipal elections and the April runoff, voter turnout from young people ages 18-24 increased by 32%, with ages 25-34 increasing by 24%. That is no small accomplishment. In six weeks’ time, grassroots organizations, campaigns, and nonprofits hit the ground running– door-knocking, phone banking, hosting voter mobilization events, and more. 

After conducting a robust get-out-the-vote (GOTV) campaign ahead of the February municipal elections, Chicago Votes continued to turn out voters with an energetic GOTV campaign ahead of the April runoff. We released our March-madness-themed voter guide, which included a poster from Chicago artist Ewrks, a mayoral candidate questionnaire, and other helpful voting information. On top of that, our fellows organized dozens of voter mobilization events, including open gym & mic nights at the community colleges, phone banking, mayoral forums, phone banking, and canvassing. It’s been a lot, but with such a significant increase in young voter turnout, it’s safe to say that it is paying off!

In this month’s Chicago Votes Monthly, we recap the April runoff election, update you on our programming, and tell you all the ways you can tune into the work this spring.  

Celebrating Our Spring Fellows!

Shortly after the runoff elections, we wrapped up our ’22-’23 Get Out the Vote, Give A Sh*t, and Digital Organizing fellows. Throughout these programs, they have organized 3 robust get out the vote campaigns, contributed to 3 voter guides, hosted an entire GAS Weekend, mastered wheat-pasting, phone banked, hosted events at community colleges & high schools, made countless TikToks, written op-eds, and even more.

Denzel, Jazmine, and Emoonah thank you for your months-long on-the-ground work to get young people to the polls. Mena and Temi, thank you for your innovation and commitment to voter education in the digital realm. Tre, thank you for your creativity, vision, and energy. The number of creatives you have brought into civic spaces has been priceless.

Unlock Civics

House Bill 39, Voting in Prison

Chicago Votes is working with the Unlock Civics Coalition to pass legislation to restore the right to vote to people serving time in prison. House Bill 39 (HB39), is under consideration for the Elections Omnibus bill in the Ethics and Elections Committee led by Chairman Maurice West. HB39 will be scheduled for a subject matter hearing before the session ends in May.

If you are interested in joining our weekly Unlock Civics Coalition calls on Tuesday from 4:15 to 5pm, email

Cook County Jail Votes

Each month Chicago Votes goes inside Cook County Jail to register people detained in the jail to vote. The overwhelming majority of people detained in jails have the right to vote; that’s because they are awaiting trial. The next time we are registering voters inside the jail is May 14th from 4-7 pm. To attend, you must complete the CCJ Votes training and email I’m in for Sunday, May 14th and I’ve attended the training.

New to the program? Attend a Cook County Jail Votes training. Cook County Jail Votes trainings occur virtually, on a monthly basis. Attending a training is REQUIRED in order to enter the jail. 

The next training will be Friday, May 5th at 5 pm.

Reimagining Democracy

Are you an Illinois educator? Sign up to introduce the Illinois legislative process to your students in an engaging, relevant, and influential way. The only way to learn the legislative process is to directly engage with it! Chicago Votes’ Legislative Tracking curriculum.

So, what does the legislative tracking curriculum entail? 

  • Learning how a bill moves through the House and Senate
  • Selecting a bill to track and either support or oppose
  • Creating a campaign plan for the bill
  • Reaching out to lawmakers

The curriculum takes place now through the end of the legislative session, May 19th. Sign up to bring bill tracking into your classroom

From passion project to full fledged curriculum, our legislative tracking activities in CPS bring students into the legislative process! Alex Boutros, community organizing manager, dreamt up the legislative tracking curriculum to demystify the legislative process and ensure young people have input in the policymaking process. 

Give A Sh*t

 Sh*t Talks 

Thursday night Instagram Live Sh*t Talks are back! Beginning May 4th, each Thursday at 8pm, we’ll be on IG Live with community members, artists, electeds, and many more, discussing issues that are most pressing to young people in Chicago today. 

If you would like to be featured or have a topic you would like to see discussed, feel free to fill out this form. We would love to connect and make it happen! 

Catch up on previous episodes on Youtube or wherever you stream your podcasts!

Guaranteed Income and Its Possibilities in Chicago

Guaranteed income is the direct cash payment to community members below a certain income, with no strings attached. Guaranteed income redistributes wealth to people who need it most and who’ve historically been impacted by disinvestment and lack of opportunities. Hear from Rachel Pyon, Research coordinator and E.A.T (Equity and Transformation), and Deonte Baker, artist, and cash payment program participant, about guaranteed income in Chicago.

Police & Prison Abolition Pt. 1

In the wake of the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin, the movement for Black Lives re-ignited, gaining support and action globally. Defunding police departments and even abolishing the police entered mainstream conversation. As we pay homage to our ancestors and the work that came before us envisioning a new world, Damon Williams, Chima “Naira” Ikoro, and Jordan Esparza break down abolition, the history of police and prisons, and how we are that much closer to actually getting free.

Police & Prison Abolition Pt. 2

In the wake of the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin, the movement for Black Lives re-ignited, gaining support and action globally. Defunding police departments and even abolishing the police entered mainstream conversation. As we pay homage to our ancestors and the work that came before us envisioning a new world, Damon Williams, Chima “Naira” Ikoro, and Jordan Esparza break down abolition, the history of police and prisons, and how we are that much closer to actually getting free.

People Power & Electoralism 

It’s no secret that politics as usual typically means young people aren’t included. The result is policies that fail young people and distrust between elected officials and young folks. Sit down with abolitionist organizers Jen Nava, Catlyn Savado, and Alderwoman Rosanna Rodriguez, as they chat about Chicago city politics, electoral organizing, and movement building. This episode is presented by Chicago Votes Give a Sh*t program in collaboration and produced by SoapBox Productions and Organizing.

On April 4, 2023, Chicagoans elected the next mayor–Brandon Johnson, endorsed by the Chicago Teacher’s Union.

We asked Brandon Johnson about the role of police in the city, protecting and empowering the transgender community, cannabis equity, and more.

Sh*t Talkin’ Central 

Sh*t Talkin Central amplifies the voices of young bloggers who create online content from videos and trainings, to op-eds and blog posts, allowing us to view the world through their lens or pen. The goal is to create a culturally relevant and engaging space for civil discourse. 

If you are a writer, poet, or storyteller of sorts, you could be paid $100 for your submissions. Go to to submit your story/article/blog post for consideration to Sh*t Talkin’ CentralSelected writers will be paid $100.

Ideas for stories to pitch:

  • The need for safe spaces for youth to congregate evenings/weekends
  • A photo series of your neighborhood
  • A interview with a local creative
  • An interview with your alderperson
  • A pitch to voters to stay involved in the summer’s city budget process

Volunteer Opportunities

 Give A Sh*t Creative Collective 

Join our collective of young Chicago artists passionate about creating change in their communities. The Give A Sh*t (GAS) Creative Collective meets twice a month, in addition to various paid and volunteer opportunities.

Sign up for updates and ways to tune into the GAS Collective. 

Cook County Jail Votes 

New to the program? Attend a Cook County Jail Votes training. Cook County Jail Votes trainings occur virtually, on a monthly basis. Attending a training is REQUIRED in order to enter the jail. 

The next training will be Friday, May 5th at 5 pm.

Fuel the Movement Mondays

The third Monday of every month from 6-8pm CT

Join on Zoom!

We are a grassroots organization powered by grassroots money. Help us raise funds to keep organizing, paying young creatives, passing laws, and breaking down barriers to civic engagement.

The New Rainbow Coalition

By Caleb Dunson

In the 1960s a young man from the west side of Chicago transformed Black, Puerto Rican, and  white gangs into political organizations that sought to build the kinds of community institutions the city refused to provide. They established free day care centers, free food pantries, free breakfast programs, free clothing programs, and free community health clinics across the west and south sides. They challenged the hegemonic order imposed by Chicago’s machine politics, openly opposing the corrupt Police Department and building support among the city’s working class. Fred Hampton and the Original Rainbow Coalition exposed the weakness of the old Daley regime, and forced the establishment to respond through violence to stop them. 

Mayor Richard J. Daley and his allies at newspapers like the conservative-leaning Chicago Tribune characterized the Rainbow Coalition as violent and criminal, a movement which required a forceful response to be defeated. Of the Coalition, Mayor Daley said, “These criminal gangs extort money from businessmen and also from school children. They burglarize, assault, rob, rape, and murder…They seek to cloak this criminal activity under the guise of social involvement and what they advertise as constructive endeavors.” This character assassination eventually turned into an actual assassination, that of Fred Hampton, done by the FBI and the Chicago Police Department, which effectively ended the Original Rainbow Coalition. 

It would be another 15 years before another Rainbow Coalition was formed, and that one propelled Harold Washington into office. And from Mayor Washington onward, the city has been largely controlled by the Democratic machine. The result of this has been the development of a city so profoundly unequal, segregated, and over-policed that the creation of a new Rainbow Coalition has seemed almost impossible at times. 

And yet, nearly 60 years after the rise of the Original Rainbow Coalition, and 40 years after the political movement that carried Harold Washington to office, we once again have the opportunity to build a new Rainbow Coalition. The city has been eager for this chance, the chance to send to the fifth floor a mayor that will demand better for the parts of the city that aren’t awash in cash and opportunity. That is what’s at stake in this election. The promise of investing meaningfully in communities long ignored by city government, in giving neighborhoods on the south and west sides the opportunity to create institutions that center equity and humanity rather than ruthless capitalistic growth. With this election, we can set this city back on the path started by Fred Hampton and lead the city in a truly democratic, community-centered fashion. We can do this by electing Brandon Johnson for mayor of Chicago.

Now it must be acknowledged that electoral politics only offer a limited opportunity to create the transformative, liberating change many of us seek. But this election is certainly a step in the right direction. At the very least, it is a chance to reject an unimaginative, dangerous vision of Chicago, one guided by a desire for punishment and domination. By rejecting Paul Vallas at the ballot box, we reaffirm our desire for a new set of politics, hopeful and not cynical. 

So I am asking that everyone who can vote today, vote, because it is no exaggeration to say that whoever becomes mayor will determine how the city will look for decades to come. And while we still have the chance, we should return that power to the people.

Party at the Polls, March 28th

Paid for by Chicago Votes Action Fund.

The Runoff Election is in the Hands of Young Voters

By Temi Akande, Digital Organizing Fellow

With one of the most consequential elections just days away, the future of Chicago is in the hands of Chicago’s youngest, and most unlikely voters. 

I was reminded of my generation’s power this past week at Chicago Votes’ Party at the Polls. With over 400 high school seniors at a block-club style voter mobilization rally at the Maggie Daley early voting site, it was evident that we have the numbers and we have the passion. 

We’ve seen it many times throughout the history of this city–when youth are mobilized and standing together on issues, we show out. We saw it during the 2020 uprisings after the murder of George Floyd. We saw it in 2021 when 13 year old Adam Toledo was killed by the police. Anger is an emotion that drives people out. But hope for a better future can also be a catalyst for change.

During the Party at the Polls’ student power rally, a student speaker from Simeon high school correctly informed his peers that the 18-24 year old vote only comprised 3% of total votes cast, with just 16% of voters in that age group voting. There are a list of factors contributing to this–insufficient civics education in schools, lack of access to trustworthy voting information, and a disillusionment with our systems of government to name a few. 

But at the same time, young Black and brown people are disproportionately affected by the decisions made by our mayor. When our schools and neighborhoods aren’t invested in and mental health facilities are closed down, we are the ones suffering. This is why it is so important to not leave the fate of our city up to chance. 

As a young Chicagoan myself, I admit that I don’t associate Chicago politics with feelings of positivity. We have witnessed firsthand how the rich, wealthy, and well connected are oftentimes put into positions of power and not held accountable for their actions. I didn’t grow up in Chicago, but in my past 8 years here I’ve lived in a few different neighborhoods and seen the discrepancies. I lived in Little Village for two years and firsthand witnessed gun violence and how it’s impacting the young people in that neighborhood. There is so much beauty in that neighborhood that is often overlooked because it is associated with violence. That is a common theme of Black and brown neighborhoods on the south and west sides of Chicago. 

We can’t change our city overnight, but we can take steps in a better direction if we simply take charge. If we change our mindset from “things are just happening to us” to “we are happening to this city” we’ll see that there’s more power within us than we think.  Voting is on of the main tools we have to ensure our voices are heard. 

The results of this mayoral run-off election will be largely determined by the 18-35 age bracket because when we show up at the polls we affect the numbers drastically.  We are so much more powerful than we could even imagine, especially because we are expected to be civically unengaged.

Davion from Simeon Academy professed, “this generation will continue to be a revolutionary symbol in this country. We have significant power. We must utilize it so generations after us continue to progress society forward”

In the next four years I and many of my friends could have children of our own. What type of quality of life do we want the next generations to have? I am proud to be able to tell my children that I mobilized around getting young people civically engaged for multiple election cycles. Voting is essential, and I want to encourage all of my friends, colleagues, and anybody who cares even a LITTLE about the future of this city to vote. 

If you are ineligible to vote, continue to spread information so that we can combat the misinformation that is so easily and commonly spread. Keep encouraging those around you to not only vote but to hold elected officials accountable when they are elected into office. 

Four Reasons Why You Should Vote in Chicago Municipal Elections

By Mena Enuenwosu, Digital Organizing Fellow

A lot of people believe that the most important elections are the ones that elect the seat to the highest office in the nation; the presidential election held every four years. However, there are a set of elections that actually affect your day-to-day life a lot more–we call those municipal elections.

So what are municipal elections? Municipal elections are held to elect local governing officials. In Chicago’s case, this would be the Mayor, the City Clerk, the City Treasurer, Alderpeople from all 50 wards, and Police District Councils.

Here are four reasons why you should vote in the upcoming Chicago municipal elections.

  1. Local government offices and their decisions can, and will, affect your day-to-day life

Upset that 40% of Chicago’s budget goes to the police? Well, the mayor is responsible for creating the city budget. 

Upset about how traffic caused by construction in your neighborhood has added an hour to your daily commute to work? You’ll need to talk to your alderperson.

Want to introduce a financial education program in Chicago Public schools? You should talk to the city treasurer!

Need a sticker for your car? You’ll be heading to the office of the city clerk.

Upset about the heightened police presence in your neighborhood? Police District Councils have a say in how police engage with the community. 

Let’s break down the offices on the ballot. First up, let’s talk about the executive or the manager of the city–the mayor. The person elected Mayor of Chicago following Chicago’s 2023 municipal election, is in charge of the city’s daily operations. They have the power to appoint and dismiss key department heads–such as the Chief of the Chicago Police Department. The mayor is also responsible for presenting a yearly budget to the City Council. They have a huge say on what the city will spend its money on for the fiscal year. They should address the needs of the community: gentrification and housing, transportation, and parks and recreational areas, etc. 

On top of that, Chicago is divided into 50 legislative districts or “wards”. Each district is represented by an alderperson, who is elected by citizens to serve a four-year term. Together, 50 aldermen from Chicago’s 50 districts make up the Chicago City Council, which serves as the legislative branch of the government of Chicago. Alderpeople vote on city ordinances, zoning changes, traffic control issues, mayoral appointees, and the budget.

Next up we have the treasurer. The treasurer is the city’s banker; they keep track of the city’s finances, managing all cash and investments for the City of Chicago, the four City employee pension funds, and the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund. The treasurer’s office also manages a number of programs that promote financial education and small business growth in Chicago’s neighborhoods.

The City Clerk is in charge of record-keeping for the city of Chicago and its elections. The position is central to government transparency because the clerk is responsible for keeping and making official records and legislation accessible to city residents. They also run the CityKey program-providing free government-issued  ID card to Chicagoans regardless of age, gender, immigration status, or housing status.

Lastly, Police District Councils are a newer one! The newly created Police District Councils establish community oversight of the police. There are 22 police districts. Every four years during municipal elections, three community members will be elected to each of the 22 Police District Councils. Council members must live in their respective police district and cannot have been a member of the Chicago Police Department, Independent Police Review Authority, Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA), or the Police Board for at least three years before they assume office. 

Council members are supposed to keep an eye on the police, hold monthly public meetings, work on the implementation of restorative justice practices, and build stronger relationships between police and community members. 

With that in mind, it is clear all five of these offices have a very real impact on each of our day-to-day lives. 

  1. When we don’t vote, decisions are made without our input.

Young people typically vote at lower rates than older people. There are a lot of reasons for this including lack of access to voting resources and civics education, and disillusionment with the current system. However, if we don’t vote, we are allowing other people to make very important decisions about our lives. 

Our experience as young people is unique; we are coming of age during a pandemic, an increased awareness of racial injustice, and extreme climate change. We are also the youngest voting bloc, meaning we will be dealing with the repercussions of decisions for the most time. 

When young people do not vote, other people get to decide the future we will live in. 

  1. We are literally paying for the city.

Anyone who lives in Chicago pays taxes to the city. Buying a bottle of soda at 7/11? Paying the city. Got a parking ticket? Paying the city. 

All of the taxes we pay go towards the city budget. The city budget is created by the mayor and voted on by city council or alderpeople. So, the people who are elected to office decide how to spend the money that comes from us–people in the city.

In 2012, Mayor Rahm Emmanual closed six of the city’s twelve mental health clinics, four of which were located on the South Side. Still, ten years later, the city only has six public mental health facilities. This is due to “lack of funding.” However, 40% of the entire city budget goes to the police department. If we vote people into office who share our values, we can create a city that doesn’t prioritize police, incarceration, and punitive responses over investing in healing and restorative spaces. 

  1. You have the right to vote in Illinois

In Illinois, all citizens over age 18 who aren’t serving a conviction can vote. Still, that means community members without citizenship and those in prison are locked out of our democracy. When people aren’t viewed as constituents or voters, elected officials aren’t pressured to hear and address their needs. That is why it is important we fight for a democracy that includes all of us. 

In the meantime, though, it is our responsibility to vote for people who will create a future where all people are valued and included. 

Go Vote

By Caleb Dunson

This is a peculiar moment in time. We have only partially emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic, and we have yet to fully understand how it’s affected our country socially, politically, and economically. Donald Trump was defeated in 2020, and yet the threat of authoritarian control looms with his return and Florida Governor Ron Desantis eyeing the presidency. We have stood against dictatorship by sending military aid to Ukraine, but the coming months of the war, the results of which will alter the global democratic movement, seem the most decisive yet. In essence, we have lived through a series of history-defining events, and now we stand on the other side with the task of determining a way forward. 

This moment is crucial. We must address the questions created and elevated in the past few years. How will we solve issues of inequality worsened by the pandemic? How will we fight back against politicians who seek to obscure history and oppress the disadvantaged? How will we build an economy that serves everyone? Because the answers to these questions are so consequential, we must take seriously the task of selecting people to answer them.

It might seem that the sole power to make key political decisions rests in the hands of our national representatives, but the people we choose to speak for us at the local level are just as, if not more, influential. They have the power to answer those crucial, nation-shaping questions, and to do so in a way that has a direct bearing on our day to day lives. They determine who can afford to live in the city, how our education system serves our youth, and how economic opportunity is distributed between our neighborhoods. They influence what our justice system looks like, how we offer mental health support, and who receives access to public health resources. 

Because of this, the stakes are high in this election. The past four years have been marked by controversy, chaos and turmoil. We are trying to figure out how we will address the longstanding problem of police violence, how we will reduce crime without punitive measures, and how we will invest in the development of our underfunded neighborhoods. And we are doing this while trying to emerge from the pandemic as a world-class city. The leaders we elect today will preside over the effort to address these problems. They will set the priorities for our city and set us on a path toward a future Chicago.

This is not to say that voting will automatically solve all of our problems. It’s not a silver bullet. But nevertheless, it’s a crucial action among many that we all must take if we want to change our city. It’s an opportunity to voice our desire for a better Chicago, and we cannot waste it.

I am currently writing this from the United Kingdom. I ordered a mail-in ballot over a month ago and it never made it to this side of the Atlantic, so I have been disenfranchised in this election. This has reminded me of just how precious the vote is. Though I cannot vote this time around, I hope that you will. I hope that you will take the opportunity to have your say in the direction of this city, and to prove that when the community calls for change, it does come.

Love Letters to Chicago

Young Chicagoans were asked, “what do you love about Chicago?” These are their responses.

From Temi Akande

Dear Chicago,

Summer in Chicago is a dream. Whether I’m going to the Garfield Conservatory, biking near the lakefront, shopping on Michigan, or living my best life on a yacht. Summertime Chi makes you feel like life is worth living for real. I wasn’t born in this city but it has truly embraced me and shaped me into who I am in so many ways. I’ll forever be indebted to you and you’ll always be considered home, Chicago.



From Jelena K

Dear Chicago,

Chicago is about culture. There’s not many places where you can be in one room and hear 4 different languages at once. I love it! The food is better than anywhere. I think another thing that makes Chicago special is, we all go through the seasons together. We’re all goin through it in the winter months, but as soon as the sun comes out we are ready to grow! As someone in customer service, I think we help hold each other down through the tough times, mentally/spiritually, and then celebrate with each other, without even really realizing! Chicago is connection!


Jelena K

Love Chicago & committed to its betterment? Vote!

Chicago Votes’ complete 2023 Voter Guide is out and available on The Vote Center!

Take our love-themed, teen magazine-inspired voter guide with you to the polls. It breaks down important election dates and processes, like voter registration and vote-by-mail deadlines. On top of that, the guide includes a mayoral candidate questionnaire and explanations of the offices on the ballot.

From Demerike Palecek

Dear Chicago,

Chicago has always been so welcoming and loving. It’s inviting to educate each other and share cultures with food, holidays, and beautiful conversations. I live in uptown and the diversity when I walk down the street makes me beyond proud to be here and share with my neighbors.



From Rosalyn Murga

Dear Chicago,

From eating pizza Nova, checking out as many festivals as I can, to discovering new murals, playing soccer at the lake and a having a carne asada BBQ right after. Summertime in Chicago is the best!

I was born here, grew up in Pilsen in the 90’s. Summer was about playing in the streets until dark. Waiting for the ice cream car to pass by, for the elote cart to honk it’s horn or the paleta man to pass by with his frozen cart ringing it’s bells. As I grew up and explored the city, I realized how lucky I was to take a 10 minute bus ride and get to Chinatown or a 20 minute train ride and I’m in the loop. I can go south, north, east and west, and I would discover so many rich and vibrant communities with so much to offer.

Yeah it’s fun to look at the fountain light up in Grant Park or see your reflection at the bean and check out all the tourist attractions. But honestly, there’s nothing better that cruising down DuSable LSD on a summer night with good music, great people and finding a new spot to eat and chill. Would I leave Chicago? No- although the cold can change my mind from time to time. Even with a polar vortex, Chicago is and will always be home.



From Kim Sanchez

Dear Chicago,

I moved to Texas last August, and I miss the DuSable lakefront and 606 bike trails. I miss bike lanes in general. I miss being able to take the CTA bus or train virtually anywhere. I miss the murals on every other block. I miss not having to travel very fast to find an assortment of delectable cuisine. I miss Chicago house music and my friends’ DIY shows. I don’t miss the way CPD and Mayor Lightfoot interacted with the Black Lives Matter demonstration participants.



From Claude Hill

Dear Chicago,

What do I love about Chicago? I love the sunrises, sunsets and the people. I love the memories. Those things no longer here. I love the Taste of Chicago and the evolving bus and train lines. I love to watch folks riding their bikes most of the time. I love to sit on the bench and sketch, as birds tickle the tip of their beaks on the lakefront’s watery waves. I love when the Chicago Bears won the Super Bowl back in the 1980s and their win printed on the front page. I love the Chicago bulls 6 championship basketball wins in the 1990s and its exciting parades. I loved when the White Sox, the Black Hawks and the Chicago Cubs won their championships on their greatest days. I love the ingenuity of our brilliant youth, and the diversity of our neighborhoods. I love my Chicago because it is my home, and it is my living breaths. It is a loving mirror of my roots and it’s cultural depths. I have lived through it’s first woman and black mayor, as Chicago took it’s first diverse steps. And I get to share my love for Chicago with you. I am looking forward to what comes next. I love you, My Chicago.



We love you, Chicago!