Chicago Votes Monthly: Primary elections are almost here?!

First and foremost, Happy Black History Month! This month offers us an opportunity to celebrate our accomplishments, reflect on our contributions, and continue to work towards equity and liberation. 

And there are plenty of ways for us to be in community with one another this month! Here are some February highlights: 

  • Brunch Banking is back every Saturday in February from 12-3pm. RSVP here for phone banking and complimentary brunch!  
  • Monthly workshops begin this month with our first training “Get Out the Vote 101” on February 22nd from 5:30pm to 7pm. RSVP here! 
  • Chicago Votes 2024 Primary Voter Guide will be released at the end of the month! Stay tuned for updates on the guide and our launch party!

Brunch with a side of phone banking, please! Brunch Banking is back every Saturday in February from 12-3 pm.

We’ll be calling and texting young voters to let them know Primary Election Day is Tuesday, March 19th, and voters are going to be nominating the top candidates for the November elections. And it’s more than just the president (thank god!!). It’s also state and federal lawmakers, judges, state’s attorney, and some county positions.

Become a CCJ Votes volunteer, in a few steps. Start by completing the fully online, self-paced Cook County Jail Votes training. Once you complete the training course, you will begin receiving monthly CCJ Votes opportunities in your inbox!

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.

Get trained to become a court watcher online, at your own pace. 

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-grants.

February 

Get Out the Vote 101

Learn tactics to get your peers to the polls! We will cover voter registration processes and rules, answering tough election questions, and all the resources Chicago Votes offers!

When: Thursday, February 22nd from 5:30 pm to 7 pm

Where: Chicago Votes Office: 1006 S Michigan Ave, Ste 606, Chicago, IL 60604

March

Phone Banking for Young People’s Political Knowledge and Train Takeovers

We know it’s election season, when we start getting texts and calls from campaigns Let’s talk about crafting messages people actually want to read. This workshop will go over text/phone banking, to ensure you are crafting engaging and accurate messages, and train takeovers (handing out literature on the CTA).

When: Saturday, March 16th from 12 pm to 2 pm

Where: Chicago Votes Office: 1006 S Michigan Ave, Ste 606, Chicago, IL 60604

Primary Elections Are Almost Here!

 Early Voting 

Early Voting in Downtown Chicago for the March 19, 2024, Presidential Primary Election will open at the Supersite (191 N. Clark) and Board Offices (69 W. Washington, 6th Floor) on Thursday, February 15 at 9:00 am. 

Early Voting in all 50 Wards of Chicago will begin Monday, March 4, 2024, at 9:00 am. Click here to view a list of early voting locations.

 Apply to Vote-By-Mail 


Vote By Mail is now open for the upcoming election on Tuesday, March 19, 2024. Fill out this online form so you can vote by mail in the next election only.

Join the Vote By Mail Permanent Roster: This ensures that you get mailed a ballot for all future elections. You can edit and opt out too.

Stay tuned for Chicago Votes 2024 Primary Voter Guide!!

It may be a chilly winter day, but ‘Freddie’s Leggie Review’ is filled with lots of tea that’s sure to warm you up!

In Freddie’s Leggie Review, our policy manager Frederique Desrosiers takes a look at policy moving in Springfield.

Get Paid to Create!

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. 

Follow us on social media @chicagovotes

Freddie’s Leggie Review

Frederique Desrosiers is Chicago Votes’ Policy Manager, where she focuses on the intersection of voting rights and the carceral system. “Most of my work is trying to build a more equitable society. I’m trying to figure out how to change our world to be more just and compassionate.” 

Hey folks!

Last week, lawmakers returned to Springfield from every corner of the state to commence the 2024 Session. Lets take a look at some of the most buzzworthy topics right now in Illinois:

Governing.com laid out some state policy trends to watch as legislatures all over the country begin to convene.

Transgender rights, abortion, AI, international relations, housing, and crime are some of the trending issue areas across the country.

The Migrant Crisis is becoming more dire, it’s estimated that since the summer of 2022, 15,500 asylum seekers have arrived in Chicago, after Texas Governor Greg Abbott began bussing folks from the Texas border to sanctuary cities.

Frederique Desrosiers in Springfield advocating for the expansion of voting rights.

Sanctuary cities became a thing in the 80s, when city governments said that they would not comply with federal immigration agencies, when it comes to undocumented residents. Beyond that, sanctuary cities often don’t use citizenship status as a requirement to get access to public services.

In Texas Governor Abbott’s view, he’s testing Democratically led cities on their values and giving them a taste of what goes on at the Mexico/Texas border. This is the sinister side of partisan politics, using human beings, many of whom have been subject already to violence and instability, to prove a point.

Naturally, Chicago, a city that has already failed to meet the basic needs of its residents, is not equipped to deal with the magnitude of folks that have arrived in our city. Our public schools need more support and resources, access to health care and mental health services are not great, and we already have a huge number of unhoused folks. If anyone passes a Chicago Police Department Station anywhere in the city, you probably see tents, air mattreses up against the wall, women with young children, people grilling–basically a community of people searching for a better life, just to be .

Government officials have been pointing the finger every which way. Chicago’s mayor and city council are looking to the Illinois government, Illinois leadership is saying the federal government needs to stand up and provide support.

Now winter is here, blowing her arctic breeze right on our city. Illinois Governor JB Pritzker sent a letter to Texas Governor asking him to stop sending migrants to Chicago during these frigid temperatures, but he probably won’t.

Pritzker did say that Illinois would divert $160 million for the migrants, but additional funding from the Illinois General Assembly doesn’t look promising.

This is what Senate President Don Harmon had to say: “The honest truth is, for generations we’ve been saying we don’t have enough money to tackle systemic problems that we’ve known about for far too long, such as homelessness, food insecurity, mental health issues. It’s really hard to convince the General Assembly to appropriate money to solve problems or a new cohort of people when we’ve been ignoring existing problems for far too long.” Okay Don, so what are you gonna do to tackle these issues for Illinois residents, is it finally time to deliver critical services to Illinoisans? Or is this a cop-out to excuse not supporting asylum seekers? We’ll see.

So, what exactly will the Illinois Legislature do in this session? I’ll preface by saying that it is an election year and every single state representative and state senator will be on the ballot for re-election on March 19th, which is smack dab in the middle of the legislative session. To answer the original question, though, typically in election years, legislators want to get things done quickly so they can have enough time to campaign in their districts. On top of that, they avoid voting on anything “controversial”… whatever that means. Mind you, every two years, house members are up for re-election, so every other year, they don’t want to pass certain types of legislation. Right now, following the the SAFE-T Act that passed in 2021, ending cash bail and several other criminal justice-related reforms, lawmakers are reluctant to vote on anything that pertains to crime, people in prison, parole, basically anything that would combat mass incarceration. Republicans relentlessly brought up the SAFE-T Act in the 2022 election year in thier attempt to paint democrats as “soft on crime” and allowing reckless criminals on the street putting us all in danger (whole time, the SAFE-T Act wasn’t even implemented until 2023).

Republicans were using fear and misinformation to discredit some of the most groundbreaking criminal justice reform to sway voters, they ultimately failed. Illinois Democrats won overwhelmingly and even gained seats in the Illinois legislature. This illustrates Illinois voters are willing to implement alternative approaches to criminal justice and public safety.

Unfortunately, the Republican fear tactics still did a number on Illinois Democrats, who have punted several other necessary reforms, like bringing parole back to our state, or restoring the right to vote to people in prison. Fear has been an effective tool all over the country and it’s been working. Republicans and right wing news outlets and social media accounts have been sharing videos of retail theft to rile up thier base. The lobbyist group for retailers in went as far as saying that “organized crime” was responsible for almost half of inventory losses in 2021, they were later made to retract that statement because it was untrue and had no reliable research to back it up, an article in the New York Times says the number is closer to 5%…. An article on The Hill wrote that “retail theft is robbing people of the American Dream” not inflation, poverty wages, student debt, but people stealing items from stores. Americans excuse stealing ancestral homeland and wiping out indigenous people, stealing natural resources from countries in Africa, but draw the line at people stealing merchandise from corporations. Okay…

Several states have been increasing penalties for crimes.

In 2022, when the Unlock Civics coalition attempted to pass the Voting in Prison bill, lawmakers ran in the other direction, saying they would revisit after the election, in fear that this vote would be used against them, but that never came to fruition even though almost everyone won their seat back.

To me, this indicates that many lawmakers are more interested in being re-elected than they are with passing legislation that would right the wrongs of the past and set our state on a new path. If democrats care about getting young people to the polls this year, skirting past important issues isn’t particularly convincing for the reluctant voter or skeptical young person.

Heres some legislation to watch:

IL HB4448 | 2023-2024 | 103rd General Assembly | LegiScan:

A bill introduced by Rep Suzanne Ness would make it illegal for restaurants and grocery stores to give or sell single use plastic or paper bags. I understand wanting to save the environment and to lessen the amount of plastic waste and promote reusable shopping bags, which I’m sure retailers will sell but at a higher price point. I can see this being potentially harmful to the elderly and homeless folks. Rep Ness, we are recycling the bags I swear! I got a bag of bags under my sink to prove it! Who knows if it will pass, but the grannies aren’t gonna like this one.

Rep. Gregg Johnson filed HB4417

Amends the Course of Study Article of the School Code. Provides that all public high schools, including charter schools, shall designate and annually observe a week known as “Workplace Readiness Week”. Provides that students shall be provided information on their rights as workers during that week, and sets forth what information must be included. Provides that for students in grades 11 and 12, the information shall be integrated into the regular school program but may also be provided during special events after regular school hours. Effective immediately.

I understand why this seems attractive, and I actually really like Rep Johnson and I wouldn’t be upset if it passes. The US school system is designed to create workers and train them to become participants in the hierarchy that ultimately supports the capitalist agenda. Schools teach students to be docile, conforming, and obedient. My hope is that one day schools will be truly a hub of learning, teaching kids critical thinking and supporting their creativity, in a democratic way. I hope for a system that doesn’t just churn out compliant students, but responsible, free-thinking, and compassionate citizens who can reimagine the systems that no longer serve them.

IL HB0001 | 2023-2024 | 103rd General Assembly | LegiScan

This is great day for my shroom girlies! This bill removes psilocybin from the list of Schedule 1 drugs like heroin and meth and creates an advisory board for the Department of Public Health on the use of psilocybin. It also decriminalizes and allows for expungement for folks who have a record of having psilocybin. If this concerns you in any way check out The Mind Explained on Netflix, they have a great episode on how psychedelics were criminalized and demonized in our current culture.

IL HB4285 | 2023-2024 | 103rd General Assembly | LegiScan

This bill would allow 14 and 15 year olds to work as long as the job doesn’t require any formal education, certification, or license; involve the use of dangerous machinery or chemicals, or require them to stay out past curfew…. This bill was introduced by a Republican representative, which tracks, as Republicans across the country have been pushing to weaken child labor laws. They are saying these bills are an attempt to fill the worker shortage.. I have thoughts but check out the article linked to learn more about why and the potential ramifications of amending our child labor laws.

IL SB2723 | 2023-2024 | 103rd General Assembly | LegiScan

This bill introduced by Democratic Senator Patrick Joyce, would require folks to have a valid photo ID to use a Link Card at the grocery store. It would also require the Department of Human Services to include the name of everyone in the household that is authorized to use the card.

This bill is really annoying to me. This could only lead to problems and potentially be a barrier to folks getting the food they need. Why are folks so hellbent on putting barriers in front of poor people trying to get groceries? Are there not more pressing things to do in Springfield than add more bureaucratic steps that low income folks already have to navigate? Gimme a break…

That’s all folks! Stay tuned for more updates throughout the legislative session. 

This is Freddie, signing out!


The Chicago Votes Monthly: What’s Your New Year’s Resolution?

It may be a new year, but Chicago Votes is steadfast in our commitment to breaking down barriers to democracy for young Chicagoans! 2024 is a jam-packed year with elections, legislative sessions, and more than a few happy hours, workshops, and programs. 

Before we get carried away, let’s lay out all the ways to tune into our work:

  • Tell your friends and family to sign up for our monthly newsletter
  • Follow Chicago Votes on Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok @chicagovotes 
  • Wanna partner with us? Fill out our Partnership Request Form! 
  • Get involved with our programs like Court Watching, Cook County Jail Votes, and Give A Sh*t on our volunteer platform
  • Donate and join our membership program, the Clique. Based off your giving level you’ll receive some exciting perks!

*New Year’s Resolution: Seek out knowledge, challenge injustice, fight for liberation, and let yourself feel joy*


Become a CCJ Votes volunteer, in a few steps. Start by completing the fully online, self-paced Cook County Jail Votes training. Once you complete the training course, you will begin receiving monthly CCJ Votes opportunities in your inbox!

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.

Get trained to become a court watcher online, at your own pace. 

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-grants.

At the start of the 2024 legislative session, we will be reintroducing a bill to re-enfranchise people in prison. More updates to come!

In the meantime, become an expert on felony disenfranchisement and the need to restore voting rights to people in prison here.

Season 4 of Sh*t Talks wrapped up at the end of the year and is available on Youtube and wherever you stream your podcasts. 

Sh*t Talks conversations feature young Chicagoans in conversation about issues impacting them and the city. They offer radical imagination, hope, and realness.

Season 4 Lineup:

More Than Music: The connection between hip-hop, rap, and community is indisputable, but how does it show up in Chicago? How are artists in Chicago using their platform for advocacy and change? Sit down with host Naira, MfnMelo, and Theresa Ashford to find out.

Finding Our Stories: Naira is joined by Makafui Searcy, the founder of Fourtune House, and David W Johnson, the founder of True Chicago, to talk about finding our familial stories, the challenges in documenting and preserving family history, and reconnecting with family members.

Judges & Lawmakers Are Supposed to Work for Us:  Naira sits down with two of Chicago Votes’ very own: Camille Williams, program manager, and Frederique Desrosiers, policy manager. Together, they break down the judicial and legislative branches in a way that actually makes sense and make sure you know how to be a part of changing/dismantling these systems. 

Black Hair, Our Superpower: Tre King and Elizabeth Tutu are two Columbia College Chicago graduate film students creating a documentary focused on young black individuals’ relationship with their hair and capturing it through film photography. Together, they discuss the cultural significance of hair in the Black community, and the importance of representation in media for shaping aspirations and self-confidence, and more than one hairstyle disaster… 

It’s budget season, baby! (Chicago City Budget need-to-knows): Together, Naira and Natalie, City Bureau’s Documenters Coordinator and City Budget expert, break down the city budget process, encourage residents to participate in public hearings, and highlight the impact of budget decisions on residents.

Language, Assimilation, & Immigrant Parents: Get ready to laugh, reminisce, and celebrate the power of language with Sh*t Talks host Naira Bills, and Chicago Votes staff Katrina Phidd and Kiah Sandler! The three of them–children of bilingual parents from the Black Diaspora– dive deep into their immigrant roots and the power language has to foster connections and shape barriers.

Battling Burnout as a Young Organizer: Organizing work involves a lot of pressure, guilt, and burnout. Let’s talk about it. Alycia Kamil, a multidisciplinary artist and freedom fighter from the south side of Chicago, joins Naira to discuss burnout, particularly for people who started organizing at a young age. 

What is Mutual Aid? Together, Naira and Trina, a Data Director at the Invisible Institute, a journalist, a native Southsider, and a mutual aid practitioner with Not Me We, delve into the importance of mutual aid and community support. They emphasize the interconnectedness of factors impacting safety and stress the value of building networks of care. Tune in to this thought-provoking episode as they explore the power of love and community in times of need.

Liberation from Chicago to Gaza: Naira engages in a timely and thought-provoking conversation with Shawnee Dez, Isra Rahman, and Stuti Sharma on freedom and collective liberation. The episode centers around the war on Gaza and the trio’s collaborative effort in organizing a youth teach-in on the topic.

Community Benefits Agreement and Anti-Displacement Organizing: Naira is joined by Dixon Romeo and Kiara Hardin to explore the ongoing battle against displacement and gentrification in Southshore Chicago. Dixon Romeo and Kiara Hardin are both at the forefront of the fight against the looming specter of gentrification, particularly in the context of the Obama Presidential Library development.

I Care, You Care, Haircare: Naira sits down with Chicago rapper, friend, and the brains behind Love and Nappyness, Matt Muse. They explore the artist’s role in social movements and community engagement. Matt Muse shares his insights on finding one’s unique place within these spaces, emphasizing the importance of contributing to the community while staying true to your individual strengths and talents.

On Class Conflict in the Japanese Animation Industry.

Kenneth Mazerat, a dedicated anime enthusiast and student, delves into the intricacies of class conflict within the Japanese Animation Industry in his piece “On Class Conflict in the Japanese Animation Industry.” By examining the dynamics of class struggle and the exploitation of workers in the anime sector, Mazaret sheds light on the need for organized labor. His exploration emphasizes the significance of addressing class conflict and ensuring equitable access to the means of production in the realm of Japanese animation and beyond.

Get Paid to Create! 

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.

On Class Conflict in the Japanese Animation Industry

Over the past few years, the world has fallen in love with Japanese animation or “Anime”. Yet, many don’t know the working conditions in which this great art is created. The animators in the anime industry are being hyper-exploited for the production of anime. This isn’t a unique situation, but rather a problem of class conflict and class contradictions. As such, these problems have solutions that particularly impact the sources of the problem.

An overview of the general problem is as such, the anime industry is overworking and underpaying its animation employees to make massive profits. This is not a unique problem, for this is a mere expression of class contradictions and the capitalist material interest under capitalism.  

However, before the class analysis, the exact labor conditions within the anime industry must be established. “ The low wages and abysmal working conditions — hospitalization from overwork can be a badge of honor in Japan — have confounded the usual laws of the business world.” according to the New York Times

“Harsh working conditions prompted many people who dream of working as an animator to give up. The reason is because the pay is not enough to cover daily expenses. Sugawara explained that a work system like this often causes many young animators to stop pursuing their dream of making a career as an animator. In fact, about 90% of Japanese animators decide to give up their job after three years.” according to TFR news.

Put simply, class is not defined by income, it is defined by one’s relation to the means of production. The means of production are the things that create things. An example of this would be a factory oriented towards the production of bread. Within this context, the means of production is the place in which animation is produced. 

Wherever people work, is a place that holds the means of production. It doesn’t have to be a factory, and it could even be something like a Fortune 500 company. The point here is, that within capitalism, the capitalist privately owns the means of production.

 This means that the workers who work within the means of production don’t have a say in how production is run, and are instead bossed around and given tasks in exchange for a wage. This creates an inherently antagonistic class dynamic between the working class and the capitalist class. The lack of self determination in work environments is a key problem for both the Japanese animation industry and for workers all around the world

The important part here is that because there is this class power dynamic, there are inherently antagonistic opposing material interests. The capitalist, to make the highest amount of profit possible, must overwork, and underpay their workers as much as possible. 

However, as a worker, one wants to be paid as much as possible, and to work as little as one needs to. Think about any time you have been asked to stay to work longer than agreed upon. This feeling is the manifestation of class struggle .The anime industry can be seen through this class dynamic. The owners of the means of production are overworking and underpaying their employees, specifically because the consequence of this results in greater profits for the animation studio. 

Yet, because this is a class issue, this issue has a clear solution. If the problem is that workers are being over-exploited, then the workers must organize together in solidarity. This is to say that the working class of Japan must unionize for greater working conditions. 

Unionizing is a great solution for this problem because it allows for collective bargaining and the organization to do things like strikes. The workers within the animation industry could refuse to draw another cell of animation, and therefore halt the means in which profit is created.

This means that if the workers within the anime industry want greater pay, they must do what workers in the past and present have always done. The workers of Japan must unite for a greater tomorrow.

Finally, the solution to the Japanese labor problem isn’t unique. Workers all across Chicago have been unionizing and striking for a higher quality of life. Furthermore, the working class has many tools in its toolbox for the fight for higher working conditions. It is then up to the workers within each of their unique material conditions to choose which tools work best for them.

Sources

  • New York Times: Anime Is Booming. So Why Are Animators Living in Poverty? By Ben Dooley and Hikari Hida
  • TFR News: The sad life of Japanese animators behind the booming anime industry by Rahma Yulita

Chicago Votes Monthly: Our Year in Review!

For those in a hurry, here’s your little update!

This season of Sh*t Talks is wrapping up with just three more episodes! Catch new episodes every Thursday at 8pm! Watch Sh*t Talks on Youtube or listen to them wherever you stream your podcasts. 

Become an #UnlockCivics volunteer! If you’re interested in observing Cook County Criminal Court judges, the Court Watching program is perfect for you. If you want to register people inside Cook County Jail to vote, join CCJ Votes. You can even join both! 

No C Space this month! ): However, you can fill out our partnership request form to rent our office space (free!)

  • We hosted 10 happy hours, cultivating joyful spaces to learn about issues impacting our communities. Most recently, we hosted a happy hour with City Bureau focusing on the Chicago City Budget. Folks watched the budget address, talked about their budget priorities, learned about the budget process, and enjoyed drinks and candy (: Other happy hours have featured election education, fashion shows, and performances by local artists.
  • During the municipal elections, we hosted 26 Parades to the Polls, organizing alongside 16 student leaders and 23 artists. Parades to the Polls bring young people around the city to vote with music, pizza, and great vibes. 
  • Over 90,000 voter guides reached young people throughout Chicago through direct mail, partnerships with organizations, social media, our online vote center, and drop-offs at Cook County Jail. 
  • Our Voting in Prison legislation received a hearing in the House Ethics & Elections Committee and a total of 2,050 proponent witness slips. 
  • Through Cook County Jail Votes, we have registered 1,615 inside the jail to vote. During the February elections, 927 votes were cast in the jail. That increased to 1,487 during the runoff elections.
  • We trained 177 incarcerated civic educators across Illinois prisons as part of the implementation of Civics in Prison. The Civics in Prison bill brings peer-taught civics education to the Illinois Department of Corrections. The curriculum was co-written by incarcerated colleagues in Stateville C.C., Dr. Christina Rivers, and Chicago Votes. It covers voting rights history, voting and elections, and government 101.

 CCJ Votes 

In November, we registered 191 people to vote inside Cook County Jail. The vast majority of people inside Cook County jail are being held pretrial (have been accused, but not convicted of a crime). That means they have the right to vote! 

Become a CCJ Votes volunteer, in a few steps. Start by completing the fully online, self-paced Cook County Jail Votes training. Once you complete the training course, you will begin receiving monthly CCJ Votes opportunities in your inbox! 

 Court Watching 

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.

Get trained to become a court watcher online, at your own pace. You can also reach out to camille@chicagovotes.com if you have any questions about the program.

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 grants.

We meet monthly to strategize, share opportunities, and craft alongside one another. Join the Give A Sh*t (GAS) Creative Collective and become a member of a community of change-making artists. 

Voting in Prison Bill

Throughout 2023, Chicago Votes has continued our advocacy around House Bill 39, known as “Voting in Prison.” We met with lawmakers and hosted advocacy days, power hours, and trips to Springfield–all in collaboration with coalition partners, advocates, lawmakers, and directly impacted community members. Despite our efforts, and those of so many others, we did not get House Bill 39 passed this year. 

That being said, we have taken the time to reflect on our campaign, have important conversations with our coalition, and strategize with community members in prison. We are taking all these conversations, meetings, and lessons and crafting a new campaign for the same legislation in 2024. 

Sh*t Talks

This season of Sh*t Talks is wrapping up with just three more episodes! Catch new episodes every Thursday at 8pm! Watch Sh*t Talks on Youtube or listen to them wherever you stream your podcasts. 

Latest Episode!!!!

When do you feel most free? What does that freedom feel like?

In this week’s Sh*t Talks episode, Naira engages in a timely and thought-provoking conversation with Shawnee Dez, Isra Rahman, and Stuti Sharma on freedom and collective liberation. The episode centers around the war on Gaza and the trio’s collaborative effort in organizing a youth teach-in on the topic.

They explore broader themes of liberation and freedom, emphasizing the interconnectedness of various struggles for justice around the world. They discuss the need for community liberation and how individuals can actively contribute to creating positive change. 

More Episodes…

 Get Paid to Create! 

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.

How to mourn someone who hurt you

By Gabriela Bosquez, a Chicago artist and organizer

I wish I knew the answer

In my heart is a gap of memories I never had
A painful reminder of the relationship we didn’t develop

Our relationship is of two people whose time was cut short And I can’t forgive myself for not forgiving you faster

I’m jealous of the people who knew you better than me, Deep down I don’t think it’s fair

That they got the best parts of you,
but when you were fading away slowly, they weren’t there

I think about how hard it was to plan my father’s funeral How no one can prepare you for that

I think about the arguments, the missed calls I wish I could take it all back

They say you should talk to your angels, but I don’t know what I would say

Losing you came first, then was my faith

As I try to walk my way back into my beliefs
I still can’t understand why this had to happen to me

Why did this happen to you?

I think about heaven more than ever, and I pray that it’s true

Almost a year has passed, and I’ve aged terribly

My whole world has changed, I don’t know what’s left of me

When I remember you, people don’t know what to say And after a while, no one remembers that I’m not okay

When you lose someone, your whole world stops But for everyone else, life goes on

Is there a way to grieve someone who hurt you? Cause I think I’m doing it wrong

Gabriela Bosquez is an interdisciplinary artist, organizer, and former host of Sh*t Talks, Chicago Votes’ interview series that brings young Chicagoans together to discuss political issues affecting our community. Gabriela is a graduate of Carleton College with a B.A in Latin American Studies and a concentration in Educational Studies.

Chicago Votes Monthly: Happy Hours, Sh*t Talks, & More!

Spooky szn is here and we mean that in both the cutesy Halloween sense and in the sense that Earth is literally burning. Anyhoo, it’s October and we have lots of updates to share with you. 

If you’re in a hurry, here are the topline items to know! 

If you have a little more time, keep reading for more ways to plug into Chicago Votes’ movement work in the city!

Photo Credit: @chicity_monstar at our second annual Partner & Funder Briefing 

Events!

 Give A Sh*t Happy Hour: Chicago City Budget 

The happy hour, cohosted by City Bureau and Chicago Votes, will catch folks up on the proposed 2024 City Budget and ways you can make your priorities heard. It won’t just be money talk. There will be music, drinks, and great vibes!


RSVP then pull up to our office (1006 S Michigan Ave.) from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm!

 C Space 

Pull up to C Space Thursday, October 26th, at 7 p.m. for light refreshments, music, and crafting alongside other creatives.

You’ll also get to sign up to be a guest on Sh*t Talks and/or host creative events in our office (1006 S Michigan Ave)!

Volunteer with Us!

 CCJ Votes 

We registered 30 people to vote inside Cook County Jail this past Sunday.

The vast majority of people inside Cook County jail are being held pretrial (have been accused, but not convicted of a crime). That means they have the right to vote! 


Become a CCJ Votes volunteer, in a few steps. Start by completing the fully online, self-paced Cook County Jail Votes training. Once you complete the training course, you will begin receiving monthly CCJ Votes opportunities in your inbox! 

Court Watching

Court watchers are in the building! We are training community members to observe judges seeking retention to Cook County Criminal Court in 2024. Get trained to become a court watcher online, at your own pace. You can also reach out to camille@chicagovotes.com if you have any questions about the program.

Give A Sh*t Creative Collective

Infusing art into movement work is absolutely necessary. Join the Give A Sh*t (GAS) Creative Collective and become a member of a community of change-making artists. 

The Collective is made up of a diverse set of artists, including designers, musicians, poets, and videographers. Join the community and receive access to paid opportunities, including mini-grants, meetings, and events. October’s Give A Sh*t Creative Collective will take place during C Space, on Thursday, October 26th from 7-9 pm in our office. 

Updates & More!

Voting in Prison Bill

We are in strategizing mode. We are meeting with stakeholders including incarcerated folks in IDOC, lawmakers, community organizations, and organizers to share ideas and tactics to pass the Voting in Prison legislation in Illinois. 

Watch Silenced: An Unlock Civics Documentary to understand the urgency of restoring voting rights to people in prison. Learn more and take action here. 

Creative Collective Member Spotlight at the Chicago Athletic Association!

Stop by the second floor of the Chicago Athletic Association to view Queen L. Hibbler’s art on display! Queen is an artist from the Westside and a member of Chicago Votes’ Give A Sh*t Creative Collective. As a proud Queer Black woman & artist, her work is representative of the beauty of what it means to be Black- as well as a woman. Hibbler is currently working on experimenting with different concepts and mediums to illustrate her aesthetic on a larger scale. Queen tends to be graphic and fluid with the marks she makes.

Learn more about Queen’s portfolio and how to commission her work on her website.

Season four of Sh*t Talks is out and new episodes are dropping weekly on Thursday nights. Hosted by comedian and TikTok icon Naira Bills and joined by different guests each week. We talk about Chicago’s rap and philanthropy scene, holding lawmakers accountable, and so. much. more.

Episodes out right now!

  • More Than Music: Naira sits down with MFnMelo, a member of the West Side-born hip hop collective Pivot Gang & the John Walt Foundation, & Theresa Ashford from G Herbo’s Swervin Through Stress. The connection between hip-hop, rap, and community is indisputable, but how does it show up in Chicago? How are artists in Chicago using their platform for advocacy and change? Sit down with host Naira, MfnMelo, and Theresa Ashford to find out.
  • Finding Our Stories: If you’re Black in this country, you’ve probably been asked, “Where are you from?” Followed by, “But where are you REALLY from?” Answering that question isn’t always straightforward. Naira is joined by Makafui Searcy, the founder of Fourtune House, and David W Johnson, the founder of True Chicago, to talk about finding our familial stories, the challenges in documenting and preserving family history, and reconnecting with family members.
  • Judges & Lawmakers Are Supposed to Work For Us: If you’re Black in this country, you’ve probably been asked, “Where are you from?” Followed by, “But where are you REALLY from?” Answering that question isn’t always straightforward. This week on Sh*t Talks Naira is joined by Makafui Searcy, the founder of Fourtune House, and David W Johnson, the founder of True Chicago, to talk about finding our familial stories, the challenges in documenting and preserving family history, and reconnecting with family members.

A new episode drops TONIGHT! Watch Sh*t Talks on Youtube or listen to them wherever you stream your podcasts. 

Sh*t Talkin’ Central

On September 19th, voting rights groups across the country celebrated National Voter Registration Day. In observance, we published, “Advocating for the expansion of voter access in jail and prison should be a part of your National Voter Registration Day” where our colleagues in the Stateville C.C. Think Tank share letters on the importance of voting and expanding access to people in prison. 

Head over to Sh*t Talkin’ Central to read a share stories from young people in Chicago. 

Get Paid to Create!

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. 

Advocating for the expansion of voter access in jail and prison should be a part of your National Voter Registration Day.

In Illinois, the last remaining group of disenfranchised citizens is people serving convictions in prison, contributing to the decades-long neglect of the state’s prisons and the needs of those in custody and overpoliced communities. When people in prison cannot vote, influence policy, or hold elected officials accountable, inhumane prison conditions proliferate.

However, this is not unique to Illinois. Across the country, people in jail and prison are disenfranchised, whether it’s written in statute or de facto inaccessibility. If increasing participation in our democracy is the goal of National Voter Registration Day, it is paramount that we advocate for the expansion of voting rights to people experiencing incarceration.

National Voter Registration Day was first observed in 2012, with more than 5 million voters registered to vote on the holiday to date. Across the country, this day is celebrated through voter registration drives and public education campaigns. But if we aren’t actually engaging and uplifting the voices of our disenfranchised community members, the holiday rings hollow.

William Jones, incarcerated in Stateville Correctional Center, reminds us, “It took years to get this right to vote, but we can’t forget that this is something that can be taken away. We must get out in the streets and let our voices be heard. We can’t rest, nor take a long break; this is a fight for our rights.”

Ahead of National Voter Registration Day, we asked our colleagues in the Stateville C.C. Think Tank to send us letters about the importance of voting and expanding access to people in prison. Here is what they wrote:

“Why Should I Vote” by William Jones

Because I don’t want to be up the creek when things go wrong without a boat. Why should I vote, because when things come up, I don’t want to be label the escape goat.

Why should I vote? Because I want someone to stand up for me, and for what I believe. I want to have in place a democratic system where my children can achieve.

This can’t be done if you stay home and allow others to participate. For Dr. King said, “It’s never too late.”

Dr. Margaret Burroughs said, “What will your legacy be?” How can you keep it strong? It all starts with you casting a vote. You can’t sit at home and laugh like this is a big joke.

It took years to get this right to vote, but we can’t forget that this is something that can be taken away. We must get out in the streets and let our voices be heard. We can’t rest, nor take a long break; this is a fight for our rights.

“To Vote” by Rob Guyton

A great majority of individuals in custody of IDOC have been in captivity since teenage years or their entire young adult life.

I myself was arrested at 17 years old and convicted for a class 2 felony of possession of a stolen vehicle. I was stripped of my constitutional right to vote then. Since then, 25 years later, I have never been afforded opportunity to vote on the very people that control not only my everyday life, but my future life. From judges, political figures to prison administrators such as review boards, etc.

Being in prison makes us wards of the state. This fact does not take away from our humanity and out voice. A voice should be heard, humanity that should not be ignored. This cycle of oppression tends to strip society of equality on many different levels.

To continue to deny procreation not only stops/mutes my voice, it kills the voice of my bloodline that has yet to come.

In America, Blacks are the minority in most states yet the majority in most state prisons. This takes away the Black voice and the Black vote.

Advocating for the expansion of voter access in jail and prison should be a part of your National Voter Registration Day. Get involved with #UnlockCivics and the #VotinginPrison campaign!

The Chicago Votes Monthly: September 2023

Summer may be coming to an end but the fun is absolutely not letting up. From events to volunteer opportunities, we have lots planned. 

If you’re in a hurry, here are the topline items to know! 

If you have a lil more time, keep reading for all the deets on our programming, volunteer opportunities, and ways to plug into movement work in the city!

Events!!

You are invited to the second annual Partner and Funder Briefing which will take place on September 14th from 3 – 5:30 pm at Chicago Votes’ office (1006 S. Michigan Ave. Unit 606). A Give A Sh*t Happy Hour (drinks, music, and art) will follow!

At the Partner and Funder Briefing, we will share updates on the work we have been doing as part of our current strategic plan, our vision for the upcoming year, the perspective of young leaders on the current state of youth civic and political work in Chicago, and have some fun!

Please RSVP and/or contribute to Chicago Votes at bit.ly/2023cvbriefing.

Unlock Civics

House Bill 39, Voting In Prison

In Illinois, the last remaining group of disenfranchised citizens is people serving convictions in prison, contributing to the decades-long neglect of the state’s prisons and the needs of those in custody and overpoliced communities. When people in prison cannot vote, influence policy, or hold elected officials accountable, inhumane prison conditions proliferate.

On August 25th, the Unlock Civics Coalition hosted a press conference on voter rights restoration in prison, kicking off the national voter restoration conference, “Civic Power: Challenging 50 Years of Mass Incarceration” at the Wit Chicago. Speakers included Illinois State Senator Mike Simmons and Senator Robert Peters, Illinois State Representative Lashawn Ford, Representative Theresa Mah, and Representative Marcus Evans, and directly impacted advocates, King Moosa, and Avalon Betts Gaston.

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 p.m., email freddie@chicagovotes.com

Interested in Court-Watching?!

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. 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. That is why observing them and their courtrooms is so important.

If you are interested in court-watching, please complete the online, self-paced Court-Watching training! You can also reach out to camille@chicagovotes.com if you have any questions about the program. 

Cook County Jail Votes

In August, we registered 100 voters inside Divisions 5 & 6 at Cook County Jail. 

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! 

Give A Sh*t

Sh*t Talks return on September 21st!

An all-new season of Sh*t Talks returns Thursday, September 21st with a new host 👀 Stay tuned for our host announcement coming in the next week!

Sh*t Talks are candid conversations with influential Chicagoans about issues young people care about. They uplift and center the voices of young Black and Brown Chicagoans, and provide viewers and listeners with opportunities to take civic action around issues. 

Episodes drop weekly on Thursdays at 8 p.m. You can stream them on Youtube, Spotify, and Apple Podcasts, or Sh*t Talkin’ Central. 

Sh*t Talkin’ Central 

What do you know about your Alder? Claire Kaczanowski, a Humboldt Park resident, interviewed Alder Jessie Fuentes, sharing their experiences growing up in the community and their hopes for it.

Read the full interview with Alder Jessie Fuentes on Sh*t Talkin’ Central!

Alders are elected to represent one of fifty wards (or city districts). Together, all 50 alderpeople serve on the Chicago City Council, passing ordinances and serving our communities. Look up your alderperson here!

Get Paid to Create!

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. 

Come Through to 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! September’s C Space is September 29th from 7-9 pm. Pull up for tacos and stay to craft and engage with other Chicago creatives. 
Sign up for C Space updates and reminders 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. Join the community and receive access to paid opportunities, including mini-grants, meetings, and events. September’s Give A Sh*t Creative Collective will take place during C Space, on September 29th from 7-9 pm in our office. 

Join the Creative Collective here.

An Interview with 26th Ward Alder Jessie Fuentes

This interview was conducted by Claire Kaczanowski, 24-year-old queer woman living in Humboldt Park. She teaches English to adults at the City Colleges of Chicago and is a drag performer who enjoys staying engaged with local politics.

“We don’t need multi-million dollar developments to beautify our community. We have artists, we have developers who build affordable housing, we can build things that do not include the displacement of our people,” said Alder Jessie Fuentes. I sat down with Alder Fuentes to talk local politics, art, and community development. Alder Fuentes is the first woman and the youngest person to lead Ward 26 (Humboldt Park) and is a strong advocate for uplifting young people through public school funding, developing the community through affordable housing and street beautification, and prioritizing mental health and public safety.

What was it like growing up in Humboldt Park?

Fuentes said, “Yeah, I was born and raised in Humboldt Park. My parents were separated. Both of them suffered from substance abuse. My dad spent a good chunk of my life in prison … And, you know, I think it took me a while as a young person to really know how to navigate my social and emotional temperament. I was really angry, about particularly my mom’s addiction, because that’s who I spent the most time with … as a young person, I think that you take on a lot of the responsibility for why your parent is the way they are.” Fuentes, who also uses they/them pronouns, further discussed the struggles they encountered as a young person, “Someone made a comment about my mother’s drug addiction because she would, you know, occasionally appear up at the school and it was very evident, right, that she was struggling. And I couldn’t take it … so I had gotten into a physical altercation that led to my expulsion from high school, and I ended up at a small alternative high school… And that school changed my life.” Fuentes is a huge advocate for cultivating a culturally and linguistically competent curriculum for public schools because of the experience she had at this alternative high school, “I remember sitting down with a mentor … The first comment that he made to me is, ‘We’re not here to treat you like a prisoner or an animal. You are a young person that’s worthy of an education.’ This is the first time I felt seen, dignified, humanized. And I didn’t feel judged for what I look like, how I dress, the zip code that I grew up in. … the Puerto Rican studies class really taught me about the colonial history of Puerto Rico and what it meant to be, you know, a colonial being of an island that had been a property of the United States for about a century. And then for the first time, my mom’s drug addiction, even my father’s, made sense to me, right, like what they were going through was a cycle of historical and generational trauma that they couldn’t break out of. And I feel conscious enough to want to do the work not just for myself, my family, but for our community. And I had become an activist thereafter.”

I love your ideas on street beautification and uplifting the community through art. What kinds of projects are you working on related to that goal?

Fuentes responds, “So we’re going to start convening monthly meetings to really outline our vision for North Avenue and that will look like several different things: murals on buildings, to pavers on the ground, to the type of light poles we want to see to really create a dramatic, artistic and creative corridor for North Avenue… North Avenue is really like a Latin American village. Right? And so it’s about how do we take art and creative architecture to really kind of make folks feel like they’re in Latin American village. And the reason that physical appearance is important is … it has an effect on your social emotional ability to find belonging in a space. And so when we do things like build affordable housing, it makes Puerto Ricans feel a little more at home.” Fuentes expounds upon why art is so important to them and the community, “I come from the culture of hip hop, poetry, and breakdancing and you know, all of those elements of art really saved my life … I acted in a couple of plays and those spaces were so liberating. And so it’s about like, how do we use our artistic community as a space of resistance, right? Like how do we use art to really articulate our experiences?” Fuentes concludes with, “We don’t need multibillion dollar developments to beautify our community. Right, we have, we have artists, we have developers who build affordable housing, we can build things that do not include the displacement of our people.”

I know you’re a big advocate of public school funding and supporting the development of a culturally and linguistically sound curriculum, what does that look like for you?

Fuentes said, “Yeah, you know, I attended public schools most of my life and I got expelled. And I didn’t realize the void that existed in my educational experience until I went to the Puerto Rican high school. And learned about black history, it’s so much more revolutionary than the version that you get in textbooks and Chicago public schools, or even when you learn about Latin American history, in this perspective, that is not really the Eurocentric version of what happened in those moments in history, I think if I had stayed in a CPS school my entire life, I probably would have never learned about the colonial experience of Puerto Ricans or the Spanish American War.” Fuentes explains the importance of multicultural education in CPS, “There’s an importance to have a bicultural and bilingual type of education in the city of Chicago. I mean Latino students make up the majority of Chicago Public Schools, and yet who they are, where they come from, is nowhere in the curriculum. I mean, think about how many students from Venezuela and Ecuador are going to be enrolling in the upcoming school year in the city of Chicago. Will they find who they are in those classrooms? Will they see a sense of belonging? Or will they get a version of history, right, that doesn’t speak to their humanity and their resistance. And so that’s that’s really important to me…. And if we are talking about healing the city of Chicago, healing young black and brown people, building a safe city, then that means providing proper education to our young people. Allowing them to politicize themselves and build consciousness so that they can become agents of change in the city of Chicago, not internalize… And for me, I think it’s extremely important to begin doing that in the classroom.”

The last issue I want to touch on is your advocacy for mental health resources. Can you expound upon your goals related to mental health?

Fuentes states that they believe that mental health should be a public service and states that, “There are no resources, mental health resources that we’re providing our young people that doesn’t require some comprehensive health insurance, or an insanely expensive copay that all families can afford … and the investment in the mental health of the residents of the city Chicago should be a priority for all of us. But more importantly, we just don’t have systems that allow us to de-escalate or create spaces of healing for individuals who are on the brink of a mental health crisis, or a breakdown. In fact, we have systems that exacerbate those situations and often go from an individual experiencing a mental health crisis to a crime real quick. And, you know, it’s unfair to the individual that is struggling with their mental health. It is unfair to the entire community, to not have systems in which we are able to truly care for our residents.” Fuentes also emphasizes that “We need to have a response system that doesn’t include the police. Specifically when it’s not needed, right. We need a police free system that allows experts who know how to de-escalate or know how to respond properly to individuals that are in the middle of a mental health crisis.”

Final question. It sounds like you deal with a lot of heavy topics every day, so what do you do to unwind after a long day of advocacy?

Fuentes said, “I’m someone who listens to a lot of music. My partner is really great… We have dinner together and reflect and decompress. And I like to work out.”

Thank you for all that you do for Ward 26, and for the city of Chicago, Alder Fuentes.

Post photo credit to The New Day \ Daniel Delgado

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