Action Now held a political forum titled “Movement vs. Machine” on May 10th, 2014 at Beautiful Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Englewood. We hosted speakers Jay Travis, a former candidate for State Representative who almost beat incumbent Christian Mitchell by 477 votes even though he outspent her 8-1, and Alderman Toni Foulkes, a grassroots community leader who was elected to the Chicago City Council in 2007. In the recent March 2014 primary elections Action Now leaders saw that grassroots organizing can help a fresh face defeat the political machine’s incumbent. Foulkes and Travis shared their experience going up against the current political machine in our city and state and how grassroots organizing can change the way we interact with our elected officials.
First, Alderman Toni Foulkes and Jay Travis shared how they first got involved with politics. Both have a community organizing background. Alderman Foulkes has lived in Englewood for 44 years and has been a long-time advocate for living wages. She helped lead the campaign to raise the Illinois minimum wage while she was a Jewel employee. She began getting involved in organizing when she saw her mother and neighbors become victims of predatory lending by big banks. Jay Travis said that her mother's hard work moving from the South to Chicago inspired her to get involved in her community. She was the Executive Director of Kenwood Oakland Community Organization for 12 years and recently ran for office this past March.
Both speakers shared excellent advice to potential candidates as well as long-time volunteers. When asked what they would say to people disillusioned with politics, Travis responded, "It's frustrating is to watch so-called Democrats, claiming to be progressive, who don't vote in the interests of the people. I know it's hard seeing politicians sell us out, but the political machine is banking on us being tired & giving up & not voting. The political machine wants us feeling powerless. But we have the power to reach people & that's what the machine is afraid of."
Alderman Foulkes stated, "If we work on talking to people door to door and touching their hearts, we can win. We can change politics... The last mayoral election only had 22% voter turnout. We need to work on getting out the vote. The days of giving out turkeys for votes is over."
We are excited that our first political forum was such a success! Action Now is currently in the process of creating a Political Committee of Action Now members that will focus exclusively on identifying, supporting, and cultivating candidates that take direction from their constituents and remain accountable to communities instead of corporate interests.
Chicago Reporter, "A new political player: Home-grown aldermen" by Curtis Black