Lamont Robinson, Jr.a Chicago business owner and insurance agent who became the first openly gay Black state legislator in Illinois historyis running for a second term representing the 5th District in the Illinois House. According to his website, Robinson wants to "help residents protect and grow their prosperity by helping to shape a community built on economic growth and development, employment and support for essential social services."
Windy City Times: What do you feel like you've accomplished in your first term?
Lamont Robinson: I learned about the legislative process, and worked to bring resources back to the districtresources that, because of the budget impasse, had not been in the district for many years.
WCT: What resources are you referring to, specifically?
LR: I secured $15 million to bring an LGBTQ center to the South Side, which is much-needed. It'll have a health center and it will have a space for organizations which are already doing work on the south sides. Also, housing resources, which are very much needed.
Secondly, [I helped secure] two million dollars to the South Side Community Art Center. That was founded by Margaret Burroughs, the creator of the DuSable Museum. Then, a million-dollar for economic development development at 39th and State Street. That's going to bring a Pete's Produce, jobs and retailers to an area that was formerly public housing. I've also been working with my colleagues to bring a senior center to the Bronzeville community.
WCT: What's been the most challenging part of the job?
LR: Probably moving things along at the state. Because of the budget impasse, we're really trying to get the state back on a secure footing. That has been tough. A lot of organizations have closed. We've lost staff. One of the biggest frustrations has been is things are not moving as fast as I'd like them too.
WCT: So what kind of work would you like to get done in a subsequent term?
LR: Putting more funding intoand working alongside the governor forputting an end to HIV by the year 2030. Specifically, that means adding more funding to the African-American Response Act. Secondly, working on housing for the LGBT community, especially for our trans brothers and sisters. Also irradiating lead, which is something I'm also working on, and then creating opportunities around minority contracts and jobs.
Jobs are a key staple of my legislation for this year, because I believe jobs will stem the violence that we're seeing, particularly in the South end of my district, and jobs will be able to improve our communities.
WCT: What kinds of initiatives would be successful in materializing those jobs?
LR: My lead bill would create jobs, because we are removing lead pipes from the streets to someone's home. Also, creating opportunities for minorities to have contracts with the state would create jobs. I'm a small-business owner, so if I look at the agencies that I own, employees are the folks that I hire. Small businesses are the backbone of a community. Helping someone to get a state contract is very important because that person will go out and hire folks from within the community.
WCT: What's it been like being openly gayand the first openly Black memberin the state legislature?
LR: I've received a lot of love and a lot of support. Passing the PrEP bill was frustrating. That gives youth the opportunity to obtain PrEP without parental consent. That was a bill that I was a sponsor fill. Also the bill [requiring LGBT-history] be taught in schoolsboth of those were very challenging to get through. People still have a stereotype of the LGBT community. My plan of attack is to figure out a way to circumvent that, so that we can get the same opportunities as anybody else.
WCT: How do you circumvent that?
LR: A lot of one-on-one meeting with my colleagues, telling them my story and how I cam out. Telling them that we have the same issues that they haveputting out an olive branch and not being closed-off. I've tried to be open and to be a conduit to building relationships in the General Assembly. That hasn't always been easy.
WCT: You alluded to them previously, but what are the biggest challenges facing LGBT residents of the district?
LR: Housing, jobs and educational opportunities. Healthcare services and safety are issues as well.
WCT: What are issues for the district itself that you may not have mentioned?
LR: As I move around the district, people are frustrated with us overtaxing them, and safety. Those are the two largest issues I hear. The district goes as far north to North Avenue and Old Town and as far south as South Shore, but the common threads are overtaxation and safety.
WCT: How do manage having such diverse neighborhoods and residents in a sprawling district?
LR: It is walking the district regularly. It is having coffees regularly. It is working with the aldermen as well as my county representatives, and folks at the federal level, to get out and make sure that they understand the needs to the community. I'm also very fortunate in that I have a chief of staff and a community liaison that split the district up. We're very visible within the district.
See facebook.com/vote4lamont .