Northwestern Pritzker School of Law’s Community Justice and Civil Rights Clinic (CJCR) and community organization GoodKids MadCity (GKMC) hosted a youth-led town hall with Chicago mayoral candidates on Wednesday. In the event, young people from Chicago’s south and west sides led a conversation with the candidates focused on youth violence prevention, education, recreation, and other issues that affect young people.
Thorne Auditorium was packed with community members listening to what the youth and candidates had to say. Candidates in attendance were Brandon Johnson, Kam Buckner, Sophia King, Ja’Mal Green, and Roderick Sawyer. Jesus ‘Chuy’ Garcia, Willie Wilson, Paul Vallas, and current Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot were absent from the event.
“I am honored to welcome you to the Law School for this youth-led town hall for Chicago’s mayoral candidates, focused on the issues of youth violence prevention, education, recreation, and other issues that largely affect young people. This is an important event—entirely conceived of and organized by young people from Good Kids Mad City (known as GKMC) and their allied organizations,” said Dean Hari Osofsky. “The Bluhm Legal Clinic’s Community Justice and Civil Rights Clinic has represented GKMC for years—providing the organization’s young leaders with legal support so that they can fulfil their mission of ending all forms of violence and creating safe and healthy neighborhoods across our city, but especially in the city’s south and west sides.”
During the two-hour event, youth and community members expressed their concerns about the leadership in the city. They also shared testimonials about the great work that GoodKids MadCity has been doing for people on the south and west side of Chicago. “What we decided to do was see if we took some funding and start giving people trauma support, financial resources, will they start their holistic healing?” said Camiella Williams, an adult mentor for GoodKids MadCity. “It’s hard to get trauma support in this city.”
The youth organizers of GoodKids MadCity laid out their six-point “Pillars of a Progressive Chicago” plan to build a better Chicago: Bring Chicago Home Ordinance, Treatment Not Trauma, Rideshare Living Wage & Safety, Cumulative Impacts Ordinance, Loving & Liberatory Schools, and Violence Prevention. The plan was created by the People’s Unity Platform, a city-wide coalition of neighborhood groups, community organizations, and labor unions that work on the issues around violence prevention, public health and safety, housing, public education, air and environmental quality, community safety, and workers’ rights. GoodKids MadCity is one of those community organizations.
One of the efforts in the plan’s Violence Prevention pillar is city investment in the Peace Book. As a part of their policy advocacy, CJCR and Good Kids/Mad City created the Peace Book Ordinance, a legislative proposal that would fund young people to work as peacekeepers in their local neighborhoods. The Peace Book Ordinance also promotes the use of city funding for mental health and community-based resources. In June 2022, a coalition of Chicago City Council members introduced the Peace Book to City Council. The ordinance is currently pending.
Kina Collins, former candidate in the 2022 U.S. House election for Illinois’ 7th congressional district Democratic primary and community organizer, spoke about the need for violence prevention. “Before the age of 10, I witnessed a young person being gunned down in my community. I knew the shooter, I knew the victim, and it changed the entire trajectory of my life,” she said. “That’s the story of so many kids, not just here in the city of Chicago, but across the country and across the globe.”
Collins also highlighted that America often focuses on the crime of the city, but never the defunding of critical institutions that cause the problems. “There’s no way that all of this national conversation about how violent [Chicago] is, people don’t talk about the defunding of our schools, our healthcare, our mental health services,” she said. “We’re used as a political punching bag. It is imperative that whoever sits in City Hall supports the Peace Book and we’re not going to accept anything less. Those who are closest to the pain should be closest to the power and the solution.”
The Chicago Municipal General Election is Tuesday, February 28. Early voting remains available through Monday.