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Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2023-02-22



Mayoral candidate forum centers BIPOC LGBTQ+ issues, Vallas declines to participate
by Carrie Maxwell

This article shared 2738 times since Thu Mar 23, 2023
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Chicago mayoral candidate Brandon Johnson participated in a March 22 virtual LGBTQ+-focused forum co-hosted by Affinity Community Services (Affinity), Association of Latinos/as/xs Motivating Action (ALMA) Chicago, Brave Space Alliance, Chicago Black Gay Men's Caucus, Equality Illinois, Life is Work and Task Force Chicago. The event was watched by over 150 viewers.

Both Johnson and his challenger Paul Vallas were invited, but Vallas declined to participate. Pride Action Tank Executive Director and AIDS Foundation of Chicago Policy and Advocacy Operations Senior Director Kim Hunt and Transformative Justice Law Project Admin and Court Support Coordinator and Chicago Therapy Collective Board Chair Alexis Martinez served as the event moderators.

ALMA Executive Director Manuel Hernández-Nuñez reminded viewers that the forum would specifically focus on Black and Brown LGBTQ+ issues. He added that the event "came together [because] our organizations are at the forefront and work directly with our community. The LGBTQ+ population in Chicago is 7.5% and we make up a big part of this community [with] 70% of the [LGBTQ+] population identifying as non-white. We as a community live and thrive at the intersection of these identities, so the next mayor is in a position to really be leading the charge in including the LGBTQ+ BIPOC community in everything it does."

Hunt said this forum was vital since Black and Brown LGBTQ+ people are a 'very important population in the city of Chicago." She added that both Johnson and Vallas were at an in-person debate just before this forum, and only Johnson accepted this invite; Johnson had plans for yet another event shortly after this forum's conclusion.

Ahead of Hunt's questions, Johnson spoke about his background as a Chicago Public Schools teacher in Cabrini Green and Garfield Park on the west side of Chicago, where he and his wife are raising three children.

"We recognize that in order to have a better, stronger, safer Chicago, we have to be committed to investing in people," said Johnson. "That is what this campaign has been about, from one end of the city to the other. Where people are coming together around our hopes and dreams, [and] turning our hopes into votes, and our votes into policy."

Hunt asked how Chicago can be rated the best city in America for the past six years when "this does not ring true for" everyone who lives in the city.

She added, "Chicago leads all other U.S. cities in deaths of trans and gender-nonconforming people, making it one of the deadliest cities in the world for TGNC individuals, especially Black trans women, according to the Human Rights Campaign, ABC News and the Chicago Tribune in 2022 reporting. Almost 80 percent of these murders go unsolved. If elected, what will you specifically do to not only improve the solve-rate of murders of trans people, but [also] to ensure the safety of trans and gender-nonconforming individuals?"

Johnson said the first thing that must be done is make sure that "every single [city] agency is affirming of our trans community." He added that it is important for Black trans women especially to feel affirmed, get proper mental health support, and be provided with vital services, including housing, so their vulnerability is reduced or eliminated. He added that, in terms of solving the violence that is committed against the trans community, he is pledging to train and promote 200 more detectives to solve these crimes.

Hunt asked whether Johnson would commit to increasing funding for Black, Latinx and people of color-led LGBTQ+ organizations operating in Chicago and he said yes.

Johnson added that oftentimes the funding that gets released by the city goes to the areas where it is least needed, and that has to change. He said this includes creating and staffing an office focused on LGBTQ+ people and their issues—and ensuring those issues are addressed correctly.

Hunt pointed out that Black, Latinx and other communities of color are often pitted against each other in a "fabricated zero-sum game, fueling the false narrative that advancement for one community is at the expense of the other. How would you ensure that does not happen in your administration?"

Johnson said these accusations are indeed fabricated, and added that there is proof of these marginalized communities having worked together on occasion. He said that making sure these divisions are lessened or eliminated involves "planning, being intentional in conversations and being collaborative in our approach," so the resources and services are distributed in an equitable way.

Hunt followed up with how Johnson would work with the various factions in city council should he be elected.

Johnson noted that there have been challenges there and also pointed out the coalition-building he has been doing with alders—which even pre-dated some of them being in elected office, he said—as a strength that he will bring to the Mayor's Office.

Hunt asked Johnson if he would commit to parity in ensuring that LGBTQ+ representation are in positions at all levels in his administration, and on boards and commissions he would control, and he said yes. He added that everyone working for him would have to be "compassionate, collaborative and competent. You have to love people, listen to people, and as my mother would say, 'Don't be raggedy.'"

One question—how he squares being endorsed by some anti-LGBTQ+ pastors with the rest of his campaign's ethos—did not elicit a direct response. Instead, Johnson spoke about his religious history, including his parents and grandfather being pastors and the fact that some in the faith community "do not get it right" when it comes to LGBTQ+ people and issues, and added that this is an opportunity to educate and challenge them.

Life is Work Executive Director Zahara Bassett introduced Martinez, who echoed Hunt's queries about resources not being distributed properly in the South and West Sides for both the unhoused and trans populations.

Johnson said he wants people to get beyond the funding spreadsheets and see the human lives that are affected by these decisions. He added that his budget proposals have been "picked apart over and over again because we believe in loving people enough to invest in them … We are going to do $1 billion in new investments, and do it without raising property taxes … [And also make] sure we pass the Bring Chicago Home proposal."

Martinez noted that many people are concerned about public safety and want to increase the number of police and asked for Johnson's take. He called what has been happening "the failed politics of old—that does not work and has left families behind."

He added that youth employment is one way to ensure violence reduction, and his plan calls for doubling the number of young people he will hire. Johnson also mentioned treatment, not trauma initiatives and working mental health centers. He spoke about the recent Woodlawn neighborhood summit to revitalize their community and noted that the display plan they showed had no police station featured.

Martinez also took a question from an audience member who asked about solving queer and trans youth experiencing housing insecurity.

Johnson reiterated that passing the Bring Chicago Home will help these people secure safe housing and also get full wraparound services like social workers and restorative justice programs in all Chicago Public Schools.

Chicago Black Gay Men's Caucus Executive Director Dr. Keith Green introduced Hunt at the opening of the program, while Equality Illinois Deputy Director Mony Ruiz-Velasco reviewed guidelines for the viewers in attendance.

Affinity Executive Director Latonya Maley, Brave Space Alliance Interim Executive Director Jae Rice and Task Force Chicago Executive Director Christopher Balthazar were also present during this virtual forum.

This article shared 2738 times since Thu Mar 23, 2023
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