Mia Henry says she’s going to do all she can to ensure the 7th Ward gets a good leader. She is even planning on going after the spot herself.
Henry was one of the most vocal critics of former 7th Ward Alderman Sandi Jackson. Shortly after Jackson’s Jan. 11 resignation, Henry said she wasn't planning to apply. Now she's stepped forward to vie for the seat.
It all started last year when Henry’s South Shore home was broken into – twice.
“There was a lot of violence happening in the neighborhood around this time last year,” Henry told The Chicago Reporter.
Henry, 38, has lived in the ward for eight years. She’s the director of special initiatives for the national social justice group, Safe Places for the Advancement of Community and Equity.
After her home was broken into, she didn’t want to put up bars on her windows as others had. Instead she decided to try and build a stronger community.
“I didn’t want to fortify my home with bars, I wanted to fortify my life with friends,” she said.
She began to encourage people to come over to her house and meet each other – which
eventually became the community group Reclaiming the South Shore for All.
A key focus of the group was “ensuring that the neighborhood is led by actively engaged and accountable public officials.”
Henry contended that Jackson was not living up to the role. The group created #SackSandi in the fall of 2012, a campaign calling for Jackson to step down.
“We needed to remind people that we hired her and we pay her alderman’s check,” said Henry, “and we are the only ones who can hold her accountable.”
Jackson resigned from her position on the Chicago City Council, following a period of prolonged absence. Her husband, U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson, stepped down from his position in the House of Representatives in November.
Emanuel’s office did not respond to the Reporter’s requests for comment on how community members will be chosen.
Dick Simpson, a professor of political science at the University of Illinois at Chicago and a former 44th Ward alderman under Richard J. Daley and Michael Bilandic, said there is a natural tension between the job of a community organizer and that of an elected official.
“It’s a very different role serving as a public official than being a public leaders,” said Simpson, “and it takes a somewhat different set of skills. Experience in community activism is usually a good beginning point. They know something about media attention, and organizing community support, and this tends to be positive.”
Activists are also “more likely to be less of a rubber-stamp vote for the mayor,” he said.
Candidates who have confirmed that they will apply for the seat include Henry, investment consultant Carlos Maxwell, Chicago Mercantile Exchange information technology worker Gregory Mitchell, and chef Dorian Myrickes.
No matter who Emanuel appoints, Henry said she will still be working in the ward.
“I look forward to working with the new alderman, to their bringing new visionary leadership,” she said. “I’m not going anywhere regardless of how this pans out.”
Photo credit: Eric Allix Rogers