By Matt Simonette
Ebonie Davis simply says that the reason she is deciding to run for the post of 25th District state representativea post being vacated by longtime state Rep. Barbara Flynn Currieis "now is the time."
Davisa longtime advocate who has worked as an instructor and facilitator for Illinois Department Human Rights' Institute for Training and Developmenthas also been active in a number of community LGBT organizations, among them Affinity Community Services and Equality Illinois. In a recent conversation with Windy City Times, she explained her priorities for the district and her commitment to the area's LGBT community.
Windy City Times: Why are you running? How and why do you think you can bring about change at the state level?
Ebonie Davis: I've been involved in state government for about 12 or 13 years, and I've seen a lot of the changes that have happened on the state level. [But also] it is because just being "on the ground," when the budget came to an impasse, I saw how so many single parents, for instance, lost their jobs because they couldn't afford their childcare, because those subsidies weren't being paid anymore.
I also saw how children with disabilities aren't able to receive full services and a quality education because of that. I saw communities here and around the state that were drastically affected. I thought that, if the opportunity became available, I would really want to run for Illinois state representative, so I could be a voice for the people and address their issues and concerns on the hill, and be an advocate for them. The opportunity became available for when Leader Currie steps down, and so I thought now is the time.
WCT: What experiences and achievements would you be drawing from? What does "working on the ground" mean for you?
ED: I'm the board president for Affinity Community Services. In that role, and being on the board, and the community advisory board for Equality Illinois, [it means] really understanding the issues that affect the LGBT community and the many intersecting identity issues in the community. It means working to help to pass legislation by informing voters [about it] and talking to legislators, and explaining why a bill needs to pass. It also means going to the capitol and lobbying for different issues that directly impact different communities. That experience informs the work that I am going to do as a legislator.
WCT: What are the most pertinent issues for the 25th District?
ED: The first is economic development and infrastructure. Bringing jobs to the district, for example. I currently live in South Shore, and South Shore is a food desert. I'm thinking about groceries and other businesses that could help rebuild South Shore and other parts of the South Side. When you bring in an infrastructure, it also brings jobs into the district … and dollars stay in the district.
Criminal-justice reform is important as well. We have to consider what criminal justice looks like, not only in the 25th District but at the state level with regards to gun control. Also focusing on making sure that we don't continue to just fill our prisons with Black and brown young men. All that is a reformation that has to take place and it's going to take time, but it's a concern for the 25th District.
Another of the most important issues is education reform. Making sure that our public schools stay open and are funded. One of the things that Leader Currie was instrumental in was ensuring that our state programs funded pre-K services for Illinois children. The 25th District has a lot of children who are in pre-K, so making sure that those services continue, as well as early intervention services, is important. We know that early intervention and things like that can help to give our children a quality education. But we also know that money is getting to privatized schools, taking money away from our public schools.
Those are things that I know are key concerns of the 25th District and I want to make sure that they are brought to the forefront and addressed on the hill.
WCT: How do you feel about the representation that Rep. Flynn Currie has offered up? How might your representation be similar or different?
ED: With the work that Leader Currie has done, we share some of the same ideologies in terms of the way the district should be represented, especially with regards to youth and making sure there is affordable health care and comprehensive legislation protecting nursing home residents from abuse. … These are some of the things that are of great concern to me, so I would want to ensure that the work that she has already put in continues, and nothing is dismantled or disrupted. The work that she did was to protect the most marginalized of the 25th District.
WCT: What do you see as the most pertinent issues for the LGBT community in the district?
ED: The most pertinent issues are [involving] maintaining our rights.
When you think of what happened federally, a license to discriminate was pretty much issued by this administration. And with what happens federally, the states sometimes try to follow suit, so I think that the most important issue for the LGBT community right now is to preserve the wins that we have already made. Even though Gov. Rauner signed a lot of the bills in favor of the LGBT communityin terms of banning conversion therapy, for examplewe have to remember that this is a new era.
So it is very critical that we have legislators on the hill making sure that they are advocating and representing the needs of the LGBT community to preserve those rights. Special-interest groups will come about, and they will have bills that [they will try to use to] dismantle the rights of the LGBT community. It's time to be prepared. The way to do that is have allies on the hill, supporters who will make sure that your rights are preserved.
Note: Friends of Ebonie Davis will hold a campaign kickoff fundraiser on Saturday, Oct. 21, 12- 3 p.m., at Porkchop Hyde Park, 1516 E. Harper Ct. For more information on the event, visit bit.ly/2xHumfK .