Gun-violence prevention and healthcare advocate Kina Collins is once again running against longtime Democratic incumbent U.S. Rep. Danny Davis in the June 28 primary for a seat in the U.S. Congress. She recently spoke with Windy City Times about her campaign and potential plans for office.
Windy City Times: Why did you decide to run against the district's incumbent again?
Kina Collins: Simply put, it's time. It's time for new leadership. It's time to fight for bold, progressive platforms and policies. U.S. Rep. Danny Davis has been my representative since I was 5 years old. I'm a daughter of this district.
WCT: What are you doing differently in this election compared to the last time you [ran] against Davis in 2020?
KC: First off, I think that when you run a second time, you don't make the same mistakes that you made as a first-time candidate. We haven't just united the progressives on the national space; we've also uniquely united progressives locally here in the district as well.
We've also [raised more funds than] U.S. Rep. Davis, and we know the way to win these elections is to organize people and organize money.
WCT: What are your biggest goals or priorities if you are elected?
KC: We've heard a lot from folks in the district about public safety. My background is as a gun-violence prevention advocate. I'm a part of the survivor community. As a child, I witnessed a shooting in my community that resulted in a murder. I knew the victim and the shooter in that situation. That's something that's, unfortunately, continuing today for a lot of young people in my district.
So, I'm coming in with a unique background as a survivor, as an advocate, as a public policy expert and as a leader in this space around common-sense gun safety. I also want to make sure we amplify the voices of victims and survivors.
The second thing I would say is that people are concerned about the economy. They want relief and recovery from COVID and from inflation.
The final thing I'd say is healthcare. Healthcare is everything. It is the food we eat, the water we drink, the air we breathe.
WCT: Why do you feel it's important to have someone in office who has personal experience with gun violence? How does that make you stand out?
KC: The gun-violence prevention movement, which is one of the most important public health emergencies we're dealing with in the United States, needs to be victim-centered and survivor-led. When you elect people impacted by these issues, it allows for solutions that are preventative instead of reactionary.
Ultimately, when I witnessed that murder, I knew that bullet was flying through the air long before anyone pulled the trigger. When we shut down public schools, when we don't have access to things like mental health facilities, when we don't have proper grocery stores, when there's lead in the water and toxins in the air, that's bullets flying.
WCT: Do you believe in defunding the police?
KC: The right has created an echo chamber around the term defunding the police to create fear, but healthcare advocates and physicians have been advocating for the reallocation of resources for decades.
Investment has to go into scaling public health models [and] prevention instead of reacting after tragedy strikes. The truth is, as somebody who is a survivor of gun violence and saw that murder, the police were not there to stop that murder from happening. And as a matter of fact, one of the most traumatic memories that I have of that moment wasn't even just the shooting. It was the fact that the victim, as he was dying, wasn't sent an ambulance. They did not send a paramedic. They sent a police wagon. And he died.
When we talk about the solutions and what violence looks like in these communities, it's not just physical violence it's structural violence. In order for us to stop that, we have to put our money into housing, healthcare, employment and models that include violence interruption.
WCT: You've talked about how all of these things are connected to each other. What do you mean by addressing systemic issues to alleviate violence?
KC: The root cause of issues like gun violence is poverty. When we don't invest in people and communities, they slip through the cracks. A lot of my work has been focused on how to get people the mental healthcare they need.
We have a majority-minority district and a lot of people of color often feel like their voices aren't being heard. The LGBTQ+ community, specifically the Black trans community, doesn't have resources in our district. And what do we see? Black trans women, in particular, [come] up missing. We see them being murdered instead of seeing them being advocated for. So, it is the job of elected officials to speak up on their behalf and fight for those resources.
When I say striking at the root causes, I mean, how are we raising the standard of living and providing people every single possible resource to prevent violence from happening in the first place?
WCT: Which issues that specifically impact the LGBTQ+ community are you passionate about addressing?
KC: There's a high population of unhoused LGBTQ+ people in our district that do not have resources specifically for them. We need to advocate for those resources boldly and say those are exclusively for the LGBTQ community because we know we know the discriminations they face.
I will fight to get the Equality Act signed into law. I think we need to abolish the filibuster in order to get that done.
We also need to talk about healthcare. If I'm going to be a healthcare advocate, that care needs to be culturally competent and include the LGBTQ+ community so they can get access to prescription drugs and resources for transitioning.
We need to highlight that hundreds of anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been filed in 2022. Many of those are anti-trans bills and our leaders have not spoken up enough about this. Being a fierce advocate means speaking up on these issues but also training volunteers to phone bank and educate the community about how we can push back and fight as co-conspirators to the LGBTQ+ community. We need boots on the ground. We need to be knocking on doors, holding town halls and educating the public.
For more information about Collins' campaign, visit www.kinacollins.com .