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LGBTs discuss Lightfoot victory, future
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times
2019-04-10

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Lori Lightfoot scored a significant mayoral victory in Chicago on April 2—becoming the first African-American woman and first openly LGBT individual to be elected to the post.

Windy City Times asked various people about this achievement, as well as their hopes for the future.

—David Johns, National Black Justice Coalition ( NBJC ) Executive Director: "As NBJC continues the work of reshaping narratives about Black lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and same-gender- loving people, we are excited to celebrate the mayoral election of Lori Lightfoot. Mayor Lightfoot's victory comes at a time when ignorance and hate too often trumps hard working public servants trying to ensure we all get free.

"There is still much needed discussion about Lightfoot's past and what she will accomplish in the future. As an organization, NBJC will continue to watch and stand ready to support efforts and investments that ensure all Black people in Chicago have access to the resources and support they need to be happy, healthy, and whole. This is how we all get free!"

—John Peller, AIDS Foundation of Chicago president/CEO: "On April 2, Chicago voters made history when they elected Lori Lightfoot as the first openly-LGBTQ Black woman to serve as mayor. The AIDS Foundation of Chicago congratulates Mayor-Elect Lightfoot on her landslide win, and we stand ready to help as she puts her ambitious policy agenda into practice.

"We especially thank her for expressing her support for the Getting to Zero Illinois plan to end the HIV epidemic by 2030 while she was a candidate. AFC wishes Mayor-Elect Lightfoot all the best as she and her team work to reduce community violence, improve public education, strengthen neighborhoods and improve the health of Chicagoans. Congratulations, Mayor-Elect Lightfoot!

—Kelly Cassidy, Illinois state representative: "Having known and worked with Lori for almost as long as I've been in Chicago, I am thrilled by her victory and by the possibilities that lay ahead. I said it when I endorsed her and it remains true: Representation matters. We have a lot of great allies in Illinois, but at the end of the day they only take us so far.

"Having an openly queer woman leading a city like Chicago sends an incredibly powerful message—especially to young people who may not see people like themselves in such public roles. Lori assembled an amazing coalition to propel this victory and keeping everyone together will be challenging. I am hopeful that we can continue to row in the same direction with this mandate to help solve some of the challenges the city is facing."

—Sandi Robinson, Godfrey Hotel Chicago director of sales: "The fact that two African-American women were in the runoff to be Chicago's next mayor was historic. Taking it a step further, the fact that Lori Lightfoot—an African-American lesbian—won is a game-changer.

"It is a new day for wueer women and, definitely, for queer African-American women. This means that we have another seat at the table. This means that certain conversations will no longer be swept under the rug. This means that her sexuality had nothing to do and, in some areas, everything to do with her winning. This means another historic moment for African-American queer women. This means that African-American queer women have one more thing that makes them proud—and her name is Lori Lightfoot."

—Modesto Tico Valle, Center on Halsted CEO: "A Black lesbian is leading the city of Chicago and we are rooting for her success in doing so. Lori Lightfoot's election is historic and representative of the steps this city has taken to give everybody a seat at the table. Center on Halsted takes great pride in our mission to advance community and secure the health and well-being of the LGBTQ people of Chicagoland. We look forward to continuing our work and our journey with Lori Lightfoot's leadership.

"Identity politics aside, now is the time to get on the ground and in the community—to create space for the rest of our community to also have a seat at the table. As we continue to grow and evolve, we must take steps in building a Chicago rooted in visibility, equity and inclusion. We are excited for what is ahead."

—Ken Mejia-Beal, activist and writer: "The election of Lori Lightfoot is relevant and important on two levels.

'1. Representation matters.

'2. She was the best candidate for the job, based on her own experience and background."

—Perri L. Irmer, The DuSable Museum of African American History president/CEO: "It's difficult to fully express the joy, pride and thankfulness I felt on election night, watching the results flash across the big screenthat Lori Lightfoot had won this election [substantially]. As with Obama in 2008, our hopes and prayers for victory had been strong yet tempered by a fear that if the win were not decisive then a mandate might not be achieved. But then as the votes were quickly tallied. Hallelujah!

"Thank you, Chicago, for ignoring the fear-mongering, for demanding change, equity and accountability, for showing the world who we really are and not the caricature of a city on the take. We voted- loud and clear and happy and proud—for our families, our neighborhoods, and the soul of the city we love.

"As a Black woman, president of the nation's oldest independent Black history museum, daughter of Chicago's South Side and proud mother of three strong daughters—the youngest of whom is also gay—Lori's election holds a special meaning for me. I admire her deeply, and I know exactly who she is: the same brilliant, kind, principled, fearless woman she was in her 20s when we were both law students at the University of Chicago. She was making her mark even then.

"I have absolutely no doubt that Lori will govern this world class city the way it deserves to be governed: with integrity, equity, empathy and high expectations for all of our people, all of our children, and all of our institutions. She will level the playing field for us black and brown folk to finally see green, with access to our fair share of business, economic and educational opportunities. Yes, it may be a tall order for a diminutive powerhouse.

But Chicago's spirit is strong and now we can see a hope-filled future rather than surrendering to a bad system that can't be changed—because it already has."

—Mona Noriega, Chicago Commission on Human Relations chair: "I am brought to tears when I recall the number of people I have known that were smart, charismatic, strategic, but were denied opportunities to make meaningful and life affirming contributions.

"I am old enough to remember when it was legal to fire someone because their LGBT identity was revealed, when it was socially acceptable to deny all things of importance, family, housing, jobs, even your life, because of your color, gender and or LGBTQ identity.

"Yes, we now have laws that prohibit violence and discrimination, but we still live in a world where any of those identities stop real decision makers like police, judges, teachers, parents, social workers, employers, hospital staff, from seeing a person's totality. Thus, I am ecstatic to see that Mayor-Elect Lightfoot was recognized for all of who she is, and I am hopeful that her governance will be infused with her lived experience of the deeply entrenched violence and discrimination that our many communities face. Yes, I have hope."

—Lamont Robinson, Illinois state representative: "Growing up in Chicago in the 1980s and 1990s, I was the son of civil servants, my mom, a schoolteacher, and my dad, a building inspector. One of the touchstones of their lives was the election of Harold Washington as mayor in 1983 and seeing how he inspired so many African-American kids in the city.

"Using their experience, I, too, aimed for public service, and I was elected last November as the first out gay black member of the Illinois General Assembly. But the one guiding star that was missing for me growing up was awareness of historical figures or current leaders who were gay.

"Two things will change that. One is the election of Lori Lightfoot as mayor, whom schoolchildren will be able to look up to. The other is learning in school about LGBTQ historical figures, which is why I am the chief co-sponsor of the LGBTQ curriculum bill."

—John D'Emilio, historian: "Without question, Lightfoot's election is a marker of significant historical change. Forty years ago this spring [in 1979], the Chicago police engaged in a series of raids on gay bars, making arrests and physically and verbally abusing patrons. Who could have imagined then that, someday, an African-American lesbian would become mayor?

"Also, one of the most fascinating aspects of the campaign is that Lightfoot did not feel the need to advocate in a major way for LGBTQ issues. When the first candidates from the queer community ran for elective office, LGBTQ issues figured prominently. Yes, there are important issues that still need attention, but the fact that they weren't front and center in Lightfoot's campaign is another form of testimony to how much has been accomplished in the last generation."


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