Redefining the Status Quo – Meet Amara Enyia
Chicago is America’s third largest city, and it takes a combination of conviction and strength to govern it, as with any major city. Despite the city’s location in America’s Midwest, Chicago’s popularity is worldwide. That
Chicago is America’s third largest city, and it takes a combination of conviction and strength to govern it, as with any major city. Despite the city’s location in America’s Midwest, Chicago’s popularity is worldwide. That is why the word unflinching comes to mind at the mention of thirty-one year old, Dr. Amara Enyia. She is a woman of conviction, and this, we assert from her actions.
In 2014 Enyia, who holds a PhD in education policy studies, and a law degree from the University of Illinois, made her intention to the United States, when she filed her petition to contest in Chicago’s upcoming 2015 mayoral election. Chicago’s current mayor is Rahm Emmanuel. Since her announcement Enyia has been actively holding campaigns with a strong following of supporters. She currently has endorsements from some of the city’s strongest organizations including Illinois Veteran Party of America, Democracy for America- Southside, Justice Party of Illinois, and Northside Democracy for America to name a few.
Historically, only one woman has ran and won a mayoral position in America’s top three cities which are New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. If Enyia wins mayoral seat come 2015, she will become the first African-American woman to become mayor of Chicago.
Applause Africa reached out to Enyia who discussed her experience and resilience thus far. Here’s Amara Enyia, in her own words.
Paulo Coelho once said, “Be brave. Take risks. Nothing can substitute experience.”
And so far Enyia says: “My experience so far has been amazing. I’ve been all around the city in every neighborhood talking to residents and community groups and sharing the vision of what a thriving, equitable Chicago can look like. The message resonates with people and I think that’s why we have such strong grassroots support. It’s clear that the people of Chicago are ready for change. They want something different. They’re ready for a new chapter – and that means new leadership that’s qualified to lead but also has the insights and innovative ideas to move Chicago into a better future. There have been challenges, to be sure. Of course we expected naysayers who did not believe that running was possible or that winning is possible. We also had a burglary at our campaign headquarters where our office was destroyed. But in spite of those challenges, we stay focused on the goal and keep pushing forward. The best part of the campaign has been meeting so many fantastic people across the city who are excited about charting a new future.”
Change is exactly what the world wants to see. In fact Enyia says, “For far too long we’ve lived in a system that has prevented new ideas and new leadership that could move the city in the right direction. This city has been mired in cronyism, corruption and the notion that only those who have money to buy political influence or are connected to political insiders are deserving of participating in the democratic process either as candidates or as voters. In my opinion I think that’s part of the reason why voter turnout is so low. People have checked out because they don’t believe the system would ever work in their favor. I represent not only what the city needs now, but what the city needs in the future. I’m not the “anti-mayor.” I have a vision for Chicago that replaces what we currently have. I’m also a breath of fresh air to voters. They finally have a candidate with no political baggage and no ties to corrupt insiders. They want someone who’s not just complaining about the way things are, but who has bold ideas to move the city forward in terms of the culture of our government but also on key policy areas. I think that’s why my campaign has been so refreshing for so many.”
Warren Bennis said, “Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.” And Amara Enyia’s platform is “A campaign about bold ideas that take into account not just what Chicago needs now, but what we need for the future. Our economic plan is key to making sure the city is fiscally sound. We’re proposing not only a fiscal audit of the city to identify waste, but also a Financial Transaction Tax to bring in much needed revenue. We’re pushing for a public bank for Chicago. We want to expand worker owned cooperatives to increase the number of businesses and owners in neighborhoods. In education, we’re pushing for an elected school board, a moratorium on charter schools, and emphasis on vocational education and arts instead of excessive testing in schools. My public safety platform addresses violence through investments in key areas that the city has not really invested in for decades. But we also have a strategy to address policing which includes addressing the training (overly militarized), accountability, and diversity of the police force. I push for community-driven development, which puts residents at the forefront of what development looks like in their communities. I also push for affordable housing and significant investments in workforce development to ensure we have a highly-skilled population that is prepared for the realities of the economy.”
Hope for something new: “I hope that Chicago breaks out of the rut we are in. We are in a rut of disbelief that has set in since the historic Harold Washington win thirty years ago. Everyone who was around during that time talks about the excitement, the anticipation of electing the first African American Mayor. They talk about how hopeful they were. How optimistic. And yet, hope seems few and far between these days. We seem to be in a rut of “reality” where we count things as impossible before we even try. I hope – no, I know – that we will break out of this rut. The way we do that is by moving forward. We know what’s possible because we’ve seen examples of it throughout history; Jane Byrne as the first woman to run the city, Harold Washington as the first African American.
According to Albert Einstein “The only source of knowledge is experience.” And for Enyia: “This experience has really illuminated just how much work we have to do to push back against a narrative that is destructive to communities. Many people – especially those in the most challenged neighborhoods – had such a defeatist attitude about even challenging the mayor. It’s almost as though we don’t believe they themselves are worthy of participating in democracy, perhaps because we’ve been ignored and disappointed for so long. So, part of the challenge had been to show people that it was possible – to crack that wall of inevitability that people had about the way things are. I’m not just thinking about myself with this campaign – this is about generations that will come behind me. They need to know that a different future is possible and that they can, in fact, create it. This is the power we all have. My goal is simply to help people realize the power that they were born with to create change (and of course, my goal is also to win!).
Conviction, determination and victory resonate for Enyia who says: “My Winning the 2015 mayoral elections would be historic for Chicago too, because it would signal the fact that we’ve moved into a new era – not one of corruption and politics-as-usual, but a new era of optimism and opportunity, of great ideas and the energy to see them through to fruition. My victory is a victory for the present AND future of Chicago because it moves us away from the cynicism of the way things are, to the excitement of the way things could be.”