Angelique Collins has been a small business owner and lobbied in Springfield. She is one of a crowded field of candidates vying to replace retiring State Representative Barbara Flynn Currie in the 25th district. Collins' challengers are William Calloway, Grace Chan-McKibben,, Adrienne Irmer, Anne Marie Miles, Flynn Rush, and Curtis Tarver II: Windy City Times was able to speak with Chan-McKibben, Irmer, Miles and Tarver as well as Collins.
Windy City Times: What are the main issues of the 25th District?
Angelique Collins: Equality. I want to join the district together. The district starts at 43rd St and we go all the way to 118th Street, so the north end of the district and the southern end of the district look completely different. So, joining resources together so that the whole 25th district can thrive equally.
WCT: Let's talk a little bit about your background
AC: My mother is a former state legislator, Senator and Representative. She always tells me that nothing prepares you to go to Springfield other than actually being down there. I've lobbied before and shadowed my mom. It's going to take me some time to get acclimated and to learn some things from the older legislators. But I think that it doesn't take a know-it all. We want someone who definitely is knowledgeable and educated and prepared, but we also want someone who's a young millennial that's willing to learn some things. Springfield is a place [where] you actually have to work collectively together. In order to get anything done in Springfield, we're going to have to have new millennials. We're going to get about 30 new legislators in Springfield, and it's so powerful and it's so great, because we're going to be able to work together in a new way.
Anytime you've been somewhere for a long period of time, you kind of get used to the old regime and way of doing things. The former representative that held this seat, she had been there for 38 years. Sometimes you have a bill that sits in committee for years before it even makes the house floor just because of people's different agendas and stubbornness. So I think what makes me qualified is my passion. I'm the youngest millennial with no hidden agenda. I don't have any machines or politicians behind me, I don't owe anything to anybody, except for the voters and the people who live in this district.
I'm a Howard University graduate, I finished in 2009. I came back and got my MBA at Roosevelt University. I owned the first African American beauty supply store on the near West Side. I worked with Chicago Area Project, and through that program, I worked with different entities around the city. I've worked in education—CPS Schools, I worked in an archdiocese school where I was an employment advocate. I employed youth later on when I opened my own business for summer jobs and summer internships. I worked with truancy and After School Matters, I worked with high schools in the inner city, just helping kids in underserved communities kind of appreciate what it's like to have a shot at a better life through education and afterschool, programs and being able to get compensated for the things they work hard for. I've just always been very active in my community, being a voice. I'm always busy, innovative, trying something new, to do something better, to be a role model to the people that live in my community, especially to the new generation of people that are coming up.
WCT: What would be first on your agenda were you to get to Springfield?
AC: Like I said, I want to learn. I think a lot of times politicians make promises, "the first thing I'm going to do is pass this legislation…". But if you've worked in government before you know that sometimes things stay in committee for a very long time before it comes to the house floor for a vote. So my first item is going to be to learn some stuff and make some friends on both sides of the aisle. I want to work with both Republicans and Democrats. I want to make sure I know the staff, I want to make sure I know the lobbyists, I want to make sure I know the policymakers that are down there. In order to get things done, you've got to make friends.
I'm very passionate about small businesses, so I definitely want to work closely with the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity to be able to bring resources to the 25th district. I think there's very little evidence that the Department has done anything to shed light on businesses in the 25th district. The things that are going into Hyde Park are great, and the things that are coming to Jackson Park with the library and golf course are great, but I also want the Southern part of the district to equally have those businesses.
I think that with small business, the return offers us so much.If you live in the district, you own a business in the district, you shop in the district, the money circulates all throughout. We're paying property taxes here, we're shopping here, we're living here. It will just make for a more holistic community, a better place to live, cutting down on violence. We can pay people wages that can feed their families, we can control our property taxes. Community small business are something I'm very passionate about because of the possibilities that they offer the community.
WCT: What is your experience with the LGBTQ community?
AC: I believe love is love. I don't have any ill will or any negative stances against the LGBTQ community. I admire their strength and their sacrifices to be able to choose a way of life that not everyone agrees with. But I think that everyone should have equal rights, no matter your sex, your gender, or who you choose to be with. I am definitely all in support of equality and rights of all people, no matter your sexual choice of preference.
WCT: What do you think is the biggest issue for the LGBTQ community?
AC: I know at one point [the LGBTQ community was] having issues with health rights, making sure that making sure that you were covered on your partner's or spouse's health plans. If that's not the most pressing issue, I want to learn more about what is, and how we can work together to advocate for whatever it is people want.
I'm in a district where the University is very big, and young people especially who are coming out, they're experiencing a new way of life. I want to make sure that we're comforting young people who are coming out on college campuses and high schools, to make sure that when they do decide to come out, when they do decide to stand up for equal rights for the LGBTQ community, that they're supported.
WCT: What do you think is the most important part of addressing HIV/AIDs in minority communities?
AC: I have an uncle who has the AIDS virus, so it touches very close to home. I know healthcare is a very concerning issue in the LGBT community. We have to work together to brainstorm better practices and healthcare systems, especially specifically in the 25th District in the LGBT community. The district is definitely black and brown, and I know that sometimes [undereducation] is a disadvantage. If you don't know, you can't do better. So being able to educate people even more on not just the effects of HIV/AIDS, but the healthcare that is out there for them to receive.
WCT: What is your position on laws that criminalize HIV/AIDS transmission?
AC: I mean, if you're knowingly giving away a serious virus such as HIV/AIDS, I think there should definitely be some kind of punishment for that. Now, it's different if you don't know. You can't necessarily be held accountable for something that you don't know. But if you're knowingly transmitting a virus to another person without telling them, I do believe there should be some consequences.
WCT: What protections would you put in place for trans and gender-nonconforming employees?
AC: I can see that there would be discrimination based on your sexual preference or even the color of your skin—it's not fair, and it's not right. We definitely have to put something in writing and pass legislation that says no one should be discriminated against because of the color of their skin or because of their sex preference. In my opinion, it's getting a little better. It's taking some time and some adjustment. The reality is that some people just aren't used to it. As time goes on, it becomes more of a reality and people are more accepting, but we definitely don't want people to feel excluded at all.
WCT: What would be your view about how to have a safer district, overall?
AC: I also work with a company called Family Guidance centers, an outpatient clinic and a methadone clinic where we take in clients who are trying to have a better life. You have to be able to give people a second chance. I work with former drug addicts that are trying to re-introduce themselves in the workfield, re-introduce themselves to being a normal member of society, trying to get life back on track. I think it's unfair and unjust to not give out resources to these people. We have a clinic and we're providing them services, but we're not allowing them to work, or get schooling, or get section 8 housing because of their past record. Once you've served your time and done your due diligence, you should be able to enter society for a second chance. In order to have an effective community, we have to allow people to work. People need to be able to work to take care of their families. We can't jail people and punish them and not give them a job and then expect them not to be violent, to turn to the streets, dealing narcotics.