CUSP Magazine: Winter Issue 2014


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She believes that small-scale community

driven development is necessary to renovate our

economically disadvantaged city.

Unlike others who take a hard line against

gentrification, Amara has a more nuanced

approach. “I believe that you can change the

community and keep the people there,” she told

us. “One of the biggest things that I talk about

is community-driven development as opposed to

developer-driven. Right now, a developer comes

in, talks to alderman, signs a contract, cuts a deal

and afterward holds a community meeting and

tells them what happens.”

She believes that community members need

to be given more say when development is planned

for a neighborhood. What to do about education,

affordable housing, and even the aesthetic of an

area should all be collective decision of the city,

the developers, and the people who already live


Public safety campaigns modeled on privatized

police forces and increased policing have Amara

worried as well, especially the expansion of red

light and speeding cameras that replace officers

on the ground. These may seem like petty issues,

but Amara sees it all as being intrinsically linked

to decreased investment in public goods. “You

address violence through investments.

Conditions of poverty create conditions

where violence is allowed to thrive,” she remarked.

To get to the root cause of violence, Amara

believes that we need to focus on investing in

Chicago’s neighborhoods. According to her, “The

first step is to put our education system back into

the hands of education professionals.

We need a moratorium on charter schools,

our public neighborhood schools need to be fully

and adequately funded. This issue of testing, the

fact that we overtest our kids is bad policy.” It’s a

message that polls well, but that has been hard to

implement for progressives all across the country.

Coming off the tales of another catastrophic

midterm loss, progressives are desperate for a

win. While the Mayor of Chicago may consider

himself to be in their camp, his defeat would send

a strong message to corporate America that the

progressive movement still has teeth. Polling shows

it’s possible, but only a candidate that can galvanize

a young and diverse audience to compete with the

Mayor’s entrenched advantages will be able to pull

it off. Perhaps Amara’s candidacy is a roadmap for

doing just that.

Writer’s note: When this article was originally

written, it was done so under the assumption

that Dr. Amara Enyia would be a candidate for

Chicago Mayor in the 2015 municipal election.

Upon her regrettable departure from the race,

we decided to edit this interview, but keep much

of the original commentary. Amara’s ideas are

inspiring to youth and we can only hope that

she will run for office again in the near future.



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