Bourbon 'n BrownTown

Ep. 90 - Electoral & Radical Politics 4.0 ft. Alderman Byron Sigcho-Lopez & Alderperson-elect Jessie Fuentes

Episode Summary

BrownTown continues to dialogue about the relationship between electoral and radical politics with Alderman Byron Sigcho-Lopez and Alderperson-elect Jessie Fuentes. With the historic 2023 Chicago municipal elections in the rearview, the team situates what this never-before-seen cohort of socialist and progressive alderpeople and new mayor means in terms of the city's social movements and political history. If electoralism is a mere tool in the toolbox in the work towards collective liberation, what potential does this new energy from Chicago's Left have to facilitate the conditions for political and social transformation?

Episode Notes

BrownTown continues to dialogue about the relationship between electoral and radical politics with Alderman Byron Sigcho-Lopez and Alderperson-elect Jessie Fuentes. With the historic 2023 Chicago municipal elections in the rearview, the team situates what this never-before-seen cohort of socialist and progressive alderpeople and new mayor means in terms of the city's social movements and political history. If electoralism is a mere tool in the toolbox in the work towards collective liberation, what potential does this new energy from Chicago's Left have to facilitate the conditions for political and social transformation?

In this fourth installment, BrownTown and the alders discus everything from the decades-long history of mayors and movement, voter turnout, the power of relationships in organizing, to pop culture-saavy internet memes. We've witnessed the number of socialist and progressive alders grow exponentially from 2015 to 2019 to 2023. As insiders, Byron and Jessie share about going from movement to municipal government while all four unpack the nuances of sustaining a liberatory praxis in relationship to the state apparatus. Originally recorded April 6, 2023, two days after the municipal run-off elections.

Full Transcription Here!

Alderman Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th Ward) came to the US alone as a teenager where he found care in teachers, coaches, and community members who gave him shelter, guidance, taught him English, and a pathway to a good education. He eventually settled in Pilsen, a historic immigrant working class neighborhood in Chicago, and worked as an adult education teacher, founding the bilingual adult education program at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Byron became politically active when he successfully lead community efforts to keep a neighborhood public school open after then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel attempted to close it. Later, he served as the Director of the Pilsen Alliance and co-founding the campaign to Lift the Ban on rent control in Illinois. As alderman, Byron was the Chief Sponsor of an ordinance to curtail harassment of homeowners who have been targeted by predatory developers. He is a member of the Chicago DSA. Byron holds a BS in Mathematics and Business Administration, an MS in Economics, and is currently a PhD candidate in Urban Education Policy. Follow Byron on Facebook (political), Instagram (personal, political), and Twitter (personal, political). Stay up to date with his City Council work and 25th ward services at

Alderperson-elect Jessie Fuentes (26th Ward) is a queer Latina grassroots organizer, educator, and public policy advocate with over a decade of experience in education, criminal justice reform, affordable housing, community development and sustainability. A child of Humboldt Park and a seasoned organizer, Jessie’s lived experience overcoming poverty, violence and generational trauma, coupled with her professional accomplishments, prepared her to serve the residents of the 26th Ward. Through personal resilience, community support, and restorative justice she was able to turn her most challenging life experiences into tools to uplift others facing similar life circumstances. Jessie sees her new role in City Council as a message to young people that transformation and change are possible and that one’s life circumstances do not dictate their destiny. Follow Jessie on Facebook (personal, political), Instagram (personal, political), and Twitter (personal, political). Stay up to date with her upcoming City Council work at


Mentioned or alluded to in episode:

Episode Note: Byron SIGCHO-Lopez is NOT RAYMOND Lopez, despite what David may say...


Opinions on this episode only reflect David, Caullen, Byron, and Jessie as individuals, not their organizations or places of work.


CREDITS: Intro soundbite from Brandon Johnson's April 4, 2023 mayoral election victory speech. Outro song Chi City by Common. Audio engineered by Kiera Battles. Episode photo by Davon Clark.


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Episode Transcription

Ep. 90 Electoral & Radical Politics 4.0

BrownTown continues to dialogue about the relationship between electoral and radical politics with Alderman Byron Sigcho-Lopez and Alderperson-elect Jessie Fuentes. With the historic 2023 Chicago municipal elections in the rearview, the team situates what this never-before-seen cohort of socialist and progressive alderpeople and new mayor means in terms of the city's social movements and political history. If electoralism is a mere tool in the toolbox in the work towards collective liberation, what potential does this new energy from Chicago's Left have to facilitate the conditions for political and social transformation?


(Intro soundbite from Brandon Johnson's April 4, 2023 mayoral election victory speech.)

[00:00:50] Brandon Johnson: Chicago, we can show the country, we can show the world what's possible when we stand on our values as one people. We can reject the false choices that have been presented to us for so long. We don't have to choose between Black, Brown, white, young, old, poor, rich. We get to do it for everyone, Chicago. 


[00:01:17] David: I want to welcome everyone to another installment of Bourbon 'n BrownTown. It's your boy, David, coming here today live. You're hearing it as a recording. From the beautiful city of Chicago, though... I don't know, man, and I don't know about y'all, but my step's a little lighter. The air's a little fresher. You know what I'm saying, Caullen? Like, it's feeling good. We- for anyone who doesn't know- Chicago's coming off of one of the most historic mayoral campaigns in history. And so... I think we're definitely riding this W. At least all month. So that's why we poppin bottles here today. But Caullen, bro, how you doing here? How you doing today? 

[00:01:54] Caullen: I'm doing good. Very, very similar to you. Highs and lows; and I'll get into it. A lot of highs, mainly highs, but I think I have done a decent job of staying off of social media as of late.

[00:02:04] David: Bless.

[00:02:05] Caullen: Only engaging when I want to. And after certain things happened a couple days ago with the mayoral election and automatic runoffs, I'm back on social media hard. Tweeting. Posting. Shitposting. That's my contribution to the movement, as a way of just shitposting other people. Yeah, I think there's some context too, especially for our non Chicago listeners, non-Chicago privy listeners, right?

[00:02:26] So, Chicago's weird for a lot of reasons but we do our elections in February. In 2023, 2019, and so on and so forth. And so, we had municipal elections. The 28th of February was the first round. What happens if you don't get 50% plus one vote, it goes to a runoff. So the top two vote getters go to runoff election, like a second round, or they call it a primary sometimes, which I think is a weird phrasing, but that's beside the point. Like a month later or so, those two folks go head to head. And so with Lori Lightfoot, the current mayor, but soon-to-be previous mayor, not doing fantastic- and we'll get into that in a little bit. 

[00:03:05] But also being really a historic mayorship as far as the past 50 years, this is a really open race. A lot of folks were candidates for mayor. Nine folks made the ballot. Two folks moved on. One being Brandon Johnson, which we mentioned earlier; comes from the CTU, Chicago Teachers Union, has been an organizer and activist in many different fashions outside of that as well. Was a teacher, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Very much comes from movement, as a countermovement, which I think is important, was one of the folks. 47 year old Black man. Other guy, Paul Vallas- 

[00:03:34] David: if you haven't seen the news. 

[00:03:35] Caullen: If you haven't seen the news lately. It'll be news for a while. Other guy, Paul Vallas, former CEO of CPS. The term CEO of an educational institution, tell you enough about that being a thing. I will say former, from the 90s. I feel like when you say- like, my job in the 90s- well I was a child- but I thought it was so interesting media wise. It was like, oh, former CEO of CPS. I'm like, yeah, for 20 years what's he been doing? Getting fired from all these fucking jobs he's bad at. Anyway, an administrator of education for many years. He's run before, has never made it this far and so he has been the "great white hope" so to speak. He got the most votes, 33% in the first round, and lost a couple days ago. And so I think that we'll get into all of that, but I think that's... for non-Chicago folks, that's what's happened this week, which is why we're kind of feeling really good. Us at Bourbon 'n BrownTown, Soapbox, us in this room coming from movement, seeing a lot of good things come out of that. But with that, there comes more work and more analysis, which I think is important before we move forward with a lot of this work. 

[00:04:37] David: To continue grounding us here in Chicago, as of May 2023, will find itself with a never before seen cohort of progressives and left leaning elected officials ready to be sworn in and serve the people, which is incredibly exciting. And so one of the things that we want to make sure we discuss and continue to engage in is how do we situate this new energy and power dynamic within the context of our collective struggles for liberation. And I think something that was incredibly encouraging for me was- Bernie and Brandon had their rally, and Brandon literally was like, this is about Black liberation. And like, I can't recall in that type of a stage, that type of person conveying that type of message. And it was just very powerful to be like, yes, this is what it's about. And we've been saying that. Which.... and like we hadn't seen. And I think it's important for us to center where Brandon came from- not where Brandon came from, but what we saw earlier this year, right?

[00:05:35] Speaking of the February elections, the primaries leading off into the runoff. And I think from someone starting with the 2% like, hey, This is how many people fuck with you. To ending with like 51. 4. And then with the mail-in ballots still trickling in. I think there's a lot to talk about and there's a lot to engage in. And it's important to talk- to think about. And so without further ado, I'll allow our guests to introduce themselves. First, we have Byron Sigcho-Lopez. Go ahead, bro-ski. How you doing, man? Talk to us. 

[00:06:07] Byron: Oh, it's great. Thank you. It's good to be here. And also happy, not only for the results, but happy to be with a great future colleague; with Jessie Fuentes from the 26th. We're going to be sitting next to each other. So we're looking forward to see more colleagues - more progressives in office. So, and I've been in office since 2019. I was elected an Alderperson in 2019. You know, these last four years have been rough, right? Rough for working people, rough for the city of Chicago. So we're really glad to be moving in a different direction. And you know, just, I actually had the opportunity and pleasure to work with Brandon. As a former teacher, I was an adult education teacher. I'm grateful that we have a mayor, mayor-elect, who work with us to keep schools open.

[00:07:02] Unfortunately, 50 schools shut down in the poorest areas of the city of Chicago. But Commissioner Johnson, at the time, the former president of the Chicago Teaching Union, Karen Lewis, who we are always forever in debt for her work, her leadership. And her memory and her legacy still lives on with us. So, had the opportunity to organize with them. As a former teacher to keep our schools open, we were able to successfully kept- we kept Pilsen Academy, Jungman, and Smith Elementary open, but 50 schools did shut down in the poorest areas of the city. Half the mental health clinics were shut down, including a location in the southwest side where it's critical for us. So we've seen the aftermath and a crisis that was exacerbated by the pandemic. And in a time where we needed government and funding and support, we just didn't get it. We saw police budgets double and triple over a short period of time in a time when we needed relief and investment. So for us it's been, again, this crisis is not new to us. We've been living in a crisis; when we shut down schools, mental health services, public transportation, schools get privatized. And the alternative was privatization on steroids. That was what was going to happen with us.

[00:08:21] So it's just very glad we've been fighting again with Commissioner Johnson before he was Commissioner, before he was mayor. So I feel hopeful, again, we have a lot of work ahead of us. But as a former teacher, elected official; and to have this historic moment, I think comparable to what the coalition was built in the 80s under Harold Washington, I think that we have an opportunity. So we're excited to be here and in this beautiful space where we can really talk about what's next. But I'm incredibly grateful to be here with Jessie looking forward to working with Jessie as well. 

[00:08:58] David: Yeah. Awesome. And Jessie, go ahead. Tell the people. 

[00:09:00] Jessie: Yeah. Jessie Fuentes, 26th ward, alderperson-elect. Super excited to have Byron Sigcho-Lopez as my seatmate in city council. Born and raised in Humboldt Park, I spent an overwhelming majority of my life fighting. I tell folks all the time, I'm a daughter of an incarcerated parent. Both my parents suffered from substance abuse. I have a juvenile and early adult record, right? I know what it means to be a victim of the justice system. And it's why I went into education. I spent ten years in education as a restorative justice practitioner, really trying to eliminate the school-to-prison pipeline in the city of Chicago.

[00:09:40] And I'm also an Independentista. And so I come from a very historic Puerto Rican movement in Humboldt Park. And it is with those anti-colonial practices, and really trying to center healing in our community that allowed me to see the possibility of running for office. There is this dire need for people in city council to be able to come from these lived experiences and not just have these governing experiences and these policy and political experiences- but to have lived experiences so that when we're going to City Council and we're saying we're fighting for working families and we're seeking to heal from historic oppression and colonialism that you actually can have someone who was on the other side of that pain trying to provide that healing through policy and city council.

[00:10:31] And so it's how do we shift from administrative governing to be able to do real collective work? And so I'm super excited- not only to have run for the first time and to have won the seat, to stay out of a runoff because it speaks to how our message is resonating with folks. But then to pick up so many seats in this runoff that are for the progressive left; and then to have someone like Brandon Johnson, who was polling at 2% at the beginning of the mayoral race, not because people weren't riding with him, but because he just wasn't a known name. But it was the message, it was the collective effort, and it was the movement that got him across the finish line. And we cannot ignore the power that we have built in the city of Chicago. Now, it has scared some folks, right? And we'll talk about that as we get into this episode. But we have to have a real conversation about how do we keep the momentum going? What is needed from us as elected officials? And how do we ensure that we continue to stay true to the message that we had on the campaign trail as we are legislating in city council? 

[00:11:40] David: Cool. Well I just want to thank y'all for taking time to hang out with us. And you know, it's always an honor to make these spaces happen. Cause we- that's what we have to do, we have to help make these spaces happen so that these conversations could take place. And for all of our listeners this is 4. 0., and so we've had an opportunity to kind of talk with folks. And my learning has been real- and unlearning! My learning and my unlearning has been very real in the world of electoral politics. Truly understanding it as a tool in a toolbox rather than a solution, as a first step. But I'm just thinking, Caullen, taking a little down memory lane with, I think Camille Williams, shout out,- originally 2018, they had joked about, Oh, we're going to be running for mayor. You're going to see us out here in 20- 

[00:12:26] Caullen: no, running for governor. I think she was like, she was low key serious. It didn't end up happening, but I was like, Oh, okay. 

[00:12:31] David: But to your point, Jessie, it's about individuals who can have that story, who have that experience, beyond business or capital experience. Cause that's what's seen as more important, right? Like, are you qualified? Where'd you go to school? This type of shit. And then 2.0, which is a couple of years after, with Alderwoman, Maria Hadden, right before COVID started. And I think at that moment they were the historic, first Black openly queer Alderperson in city hall.

[00:13:01] And they spoke to us a little bit about their struggles and how they were going to meet the moment. Interestingly enough, that was right before COVID, and so I'm just- I'd love to talk to her again. Be like, Hey, so what- 

[00:13:11] Caullen: and just to put some sauce in there too, not only her identity was one of the rare identity in City Council's time, but she came from movement. BYP100, some other organizations and fights that I can't name right now. And so for me, there's always the liberation versus representation argument. Like, Raymond Lopez exists. You know what I'm saying? Latino queer man, not from movement, to say the least, you know what I mean? So it's like, not only was she Black queer woman there, but also came from movement; so those questions as far as like- the work we're gonna get into today too- as well as this moment, what this means, but also... 

[00:13:46] The couple of days before the run-off too, I was seeing a lot more stuff from movement folks who I know and love and trust. They were saying like, Hey, y'all like, this is cool, but the mayor's still part of the system. So are elected officials as far as city council, and all these things that we have to consider and understand who they're accountable to, and how we push, push, push.

[00:14:06] One of my learnings from what Maria said was even less about staying true to ideological praxis of movement and liberatory stuff and "radical politics" or whatever, it was all that, but it was like, she was saying how she really relied on certain groups to kind of do the work and serve her what's going on. I think a lot- there was some climate change- some climate 

[00:14:29] David: environmental 

[00:14:30] Caullen: organization, environmental organization. Cause she's close to the lake. So it's like, that really matters for my ward. And she's like, I'm all about it, but I ain't got the time to know all the things. Whereas all these orgs, that's all they do. I could lean on them just to know what's happening, right? And we've seen that with Defund CPD, same with Stop Shotspotter, we've seen that with other stuff that we've been a part of as well. And so I was like, oh yeah, sometimes you're just human, and you have an office and a team, but just... capacity. Like, hey, y'all what's going on? Cause I'm with you, but I just need to- give me the... what's the one sheet? Cause I don't have time. 

[00:15:00] And we've been in- like, "we" being Soapbox/ David and I have been in those conversations and the Zoom calls, and in city council hearings texting Carlos, or texting people, hey, say this!... So that was something I thought about too. It wasn't just the officials that we know and like, and knowing that chasm between being in movement and being elected, but also sometimes they ain't got the time. Capacity is real for everybody. And so like, where's that? That was my one bigger learnings from that conversation with Maria. That was in 2.0. 

[00:15:33] David: And then it's crazy cause COVID hit, 2020 uprisings happened, and then our 3.0 was with Stephanie Skora- writer of the Girl, I Guess progressive voter guide that came out as a result of Trump. And so we- it's been an interesting swing, swinging back and forth that we've been doing with this series. And so for this 4.0, I think to Caullen's point, I think something that would be awesome for us to center is, what were the starting points for each of you in organizing, and that then led you to your political work? 

[00:16:05] Byron: Hmm. So well- and the thing Jessie mentioned well, I think many of us come from a lived experience, right? We represent communities like working class communities- in our case in Pilsen, Little Village, immigrant undocumented communities that oftentimes get marginalized and ignored. We don't have a voice. Even though we may have even elected someone. I mean the thing under this administration of Mayor Lightfoot was very obvious that, really who were in charge was the same people, the same status quo, right? Outside of identity politics that I think that we should be careful with. So, I think that's a big lesson, of how identity politics and this neoliberal establishment, how that is being used to deceive, to portray an image of care and healing or support; but behind that is the same agendas and we see it played out. So I think, Caullen, when I come in this morning was like, this is the first thing that we're talking about. Trying to differentiate what people say versus what they actually do.

[00:17:13] And when we have a whole system established, I mean, corporate media makes it very difficult for us to have a voice that is truly talking about the issues. In our communities, again, as an immigrant myself, we understand someone like- and I would say even mayor-elect Mayor Brandon Johnson understands by spending time in the classroom, by living in the west side of the city of Chicago, in Austin- the realities of our community and the need to support our communities and really provide solutions. 

[00:17:45] But in how we got here, again, I think Mayor Johnson says that often, it's not overnight. We come from the struggle. The struggle to try to keep our schools open- because we know what that means for our undocumented, for our Black youth, for our communities across the board. And what it also means when they privatize those spaces, we're seeing the effects of that. So, we get here, and again, it's like many of us, I think Karen Lewis is a big factor in all of this. When Karen Lewis- and I think she should be paid tribute for her efforts, really. Because one thing is to challenge- and with all due respect to Mayor Lightfoot, but to challenge Rahm Emanuel at a time when he had Barack Obama as president, the most popular elected official in the country who just installed a mayor with a lot of popularity, and to stand up and say, Hey, things are not going well in our schools, and I'm gonna threaten you with a strike. I mean, it takes some real courage. 

[00:18:54] And again, when they take a quarter of the time when we, at the time, challenged the status quo, challenged the way the schools are being run, and by winning an election, not only first- I've seen this before; when the movement starts taking and organizing people. And then Karen Lewis, I think, would have been the first mayor, the first progressive mayor, hadn't she gotten sick, right?

[00:19:17] Caullen: Cause she was planning on running, right? 

[00:19:18] Byron: Yeah, and again she was already in the race and then she gets sick, and then in the last minute- at the time Commissioner Garcia, now Congressman Garcia, was the person that kind of filled in for her. But the real person and the leader, that at least I saw, driving a lot of that was Karen Lewis. And Karen Lewis gets sick, but she doesn't go away. And again, the person, ironically enough, who she- and again, Stacy Davis Gates and many of the leaders there, have to organize in the schools, is Commissioner Johnson. He was an organizer. I think that you see some of the questions, and then again, when we started organizing our communities in Pilsen to keep our schools open, who was there behind us? It was Karen Lewis, but I mean... These are the people who were fighting for us behind the scenes. A lot of people don't know that. The media won't cover that. But the union, I mean CTU, that was later tried to be demonized by the interest groups was the only space that was challenging the status quo.

[00:20:18] I mean, like I said, imagine the tremendous power that they had at the time, right? And these efforts didn't really go away. I mean, people continue to organize; United Working Families grew, DSA and other groups start coming in, right? We start now challenging capitalism. I mean not long ago where we heard even President Biden saying the capitalism is under scrutiny. That is... right, but you will never hear-

[00:20:42] Caullen: Yeah, Joe, yeah, it is. And it should be.

[00:20:43] Byron: I mean, it's been for a long time. But when you start seeing the acknowledgement from this guy's level of government then you got to look at Chicago as the place where a lot of these efforts started to fight back for schools. Now, the teachers union was correct, I mean, all along, that by us shutting down those schools, we're going to create tremendous suffering and damage, and they did. But like I said, I think that Karen Lewis and then, of course, Commissioner Johnson, who was the organizer that, I again, I've seen there schools- but it was not only about that. They talked about housing, they talked about-. Karen Lewis and Commissioner Johnson and Stacy Davis Gates, I mean, in the leadership, challenged even- I remember at the time when I had some... the Democratic Party under Rahm Emanuel had tremendous, not only power, but the ability to fundraise. Like, you never see- 

[00:21:29] Caullen: They got that bag. 

[00:21:30] Byron: Oh they got a lot of power. So when they see them challenge metal shredders...the- I remember at the time, they wanted to put a metal shredder right in front of Benito Juarez. Karen Lewis goes in public, very only elected official- only leader when she was already ready to go run for mayor, goes and says, I'll stop that shredder if I'm mayor. Next thing you know, Rahm Emanuel goes and stops that. The reason why we don't have the metal shredder today in Pilsen is because of Karen Lewis, and the Chicago Teachers Union. So, when you see the same privatizers and people who are with all these agendas trying to tell us that they're gonna change things around, we gotta know who was that. So, I tell you... I am very proud and I feel very confident that we have someone who cares because I've seen with the actions, like Caullen said, not their words, but with their actions. And I'm really excited about what we can now do collectively with wonderful people and new electeds. 

[00:22:20] Jessie: Yeahyeahyeah. Well, so I'll tell you about a unique moment I think that turned me into an organizer. I was 17 years old. I went to Carl Schurz high school. It was at a moment where no family in Humboldt Park would send their children to Clemente. Cause Clemente was... it wasn't the place for young people. At least it wasn't a trusted institution by families across the community. And as I mentioned earlier, I come from this lived experience, particularly with my parents, right, that took a long time to heal from. And I remember being in a classroom and another student makes some comments about my mother's drug addiction. And I'm filled with anger. I'm 17 years old, no one's taught me how to socially and emotionally regulate. I wasn't engaging in the process of healing of what it meant to be in a cycle of historical and generational trauma. And so I physically respond in this moment, right? And it became the beginning of my encounter with the justice system because I had a physical altercation.

[00:23:28] So I get expelled. First fight, first discipline issue in a Chicago public school. And it was the first time that I realized that you could go from a classroom to a cell in the city of Chicago as a young, and in my case, masculine presenting Brown woman. And I had the privilege of going to an alternative school called Albizu Campos. Puerto Rican high school rooted in self determination, self actualization, self reliance of Puerto Rican young people across the city of Chicago. And I learned about the colonial reality, not just of our island, but of every Puerto Rican family across the diaspora. And for the first time my mother's drug addiction made sense to me, because she was a product of colonialism and had internalized that mindset. And so it was in that moment where I was just like, I will not be a part of this vicious and very violent cycle of what colonialism has done to Black and Brown people in the diaspora across our country. And so what am I going to do to undo that hate, that self hate, and that pain in the immediate family? But then what was that going to do for every young Brown person across the city of Chicago that look like me? 

[00:24:53] And so I chose to be an educator. But being an educator is not enough because we know what it's like to sit in classrooms and not to have someone see you. We know what it's like to sit in classrooms and have someone perpetuate the same type of white supremacy in your books that causes self hate. So it was about, how do you be an educator, but how are you a different educator for young people in the city of Chicago when our public school serves Black and Brown people across the city? And so I chose to do just that. 

[00:25:22] And then COVID hit nine years into my career. And young and Black and Brown folks just went missing from our school systems. Quite literally disappeared. And our city was doing absolutely nothing to find these young people. Not only was COVID killing families, particularly Black and Brown families, but it was killing young people's spirit; and we didn't take that seriously. And so I decided to leave education and pursue policy. And still at that time, I had no idea I'd be running for office. It was just like at a greater level, I needed to help shake some things up. And then we had a double homicide in Humboldt Park in our tennis courts. Broad daylight. Never forget that day, because our community was terrified. And it was two young Black men who were just gunned down. And we just didn't have folks that thought we needed to do something differently in our community in order to change this dynamic, right?

[00:26:34] Where Black people kill Black people, Brown people kill Brown people, not because we don't like each other, but because we've learned to despise the own color of our skin and that is deeper. And we have to be able to have those conversations, not just in community, not just in classrooms, but in our legislative spaces. Because if we're going to legislate differently, then let's have the real conversation about exactly what's happening in the city of Chicago. And so then I chose to launch my candidacy not having a clue what I was in for.

[00:27:15] David: Oh man, this is dark. *laughing* 

[00:27:19] Jessie: right? It's an entirely unknown world to me, right? And then... What the machine, the FOP, and everyone to the right would do to try to take me down in that process. And we can talk a little bit about how the right and the FOP, man, they'll toss the entire kitchen sink at you because they're scared.

[00:27:41] David: Jessie, what's the FOP?

[00:27:42] Jessie: Fraternal Order of Police. Particularly lodge seven. 

[00:27:45] Caullen: Doesn't that sound daunting? *grumbling* "Fraternal Order of Police". You know what I mean? Like, Fraternal Order of Care Bears, that's not a thing. You know what I'm saying? Like, "fraternal order" just sounds daunting... all right, what's after that? You already wrote the book. I'm sorry, continue. ...initiated for those who don't know that.

[00:28:00] Jessie: No, you're good. But that to say, when people who come from movement choose to run for office, like, let's understand we ain't business folks, we ain't capitalists, we're not attorneys, we're not in this for self-interest nor for the money bag, right? We're in this for a greater reason. And often that means having hard, long conversations, but also legislating for the long term. And we'll talk about the critiques that come with that in a second. But let's understand we can't continue to put Band-Aids on social issues that have, for centuries, handcuffed our people. *laughing*, we can't keep doing that. 

[00:28:44] And I think that we've seen it in the mayoral race. Brandon against Vallas. And we've seen all the rhetoric that the Vallas can't put out around defund police, around all of these things that are utilized as fear mongering tactics to try to get Black and Brown folks not to come out and vote. Because one thing that we are for certain, is that our people are still concerned with survival and not liberation. And as long as you continue to use those fear mongering tactics, unfortunately money and the machine can win. But what we are seeing in the city of Chicago is that our folks are so exhausted by traditional politics, they are waiting for something different; and we have arrived. 

[00:29:34] Caullen: Damn. There's three tracks in my mind are going from what y'all said. 1) just thank you for that context of CTU and movement from Karen Lewis to now. I think your experience, Jessie, everything that you've gone through, then why you chose to go this path. I think a lot about, I mean, I told you before this episode started, I was on a friend's podcast asking about Lightfoot- this was like two years ago, and so I couldn't just be like, Oh, I feel this way about Lightfoot. I was like, in the 50s, Daley Sr., you know what I'm saying? Because I think with the... there's two tracks in my mind as far as history in Chicago. And like... just electoral politics in general. 

[00:30:12] On the movement side, kind of what you mentioned, Byron- and I didn't even... I knew about Karen Lewis, obviously, but as far as her going to run, then Chuy kind of filling her place, so to speak, then Brandon being there and seeing that. And like, okay, we kinda picked up where we left off, in a way with Brandon. That's reductive. But in a way, that's kind of what happened a little bit, right? And I think that wouldn't have happened without a lot of things happening between ten years ago to now. We see Trump happen, and I think one of the few, few pros of Trump is that, oh, Anyone can be elected official. You know what I mean? *laugh screaming*. Unfortunately, it sounds fortunate, right? You don't have to be a career politician, which is why I think it's so funny when folks are just like, I'm not a career politician. We've had Trump, we've had Lightfoot, like... you know? But what are you? Which I think matters. Coming from movement that's what matters, right? 

[00:31:01] Byron: That's right. 

[00:31:02] Caullen: We see Bernie is unsuccessful, unfortunately, when he runs for presidency. We see DSA as an organization grow, but also just the idea of democratic socialism, and/or just socialism, or just anything left of that really being talked about; people have been poured into it, young people especially. This, I think, wouldn't have happened without those kind of flashpoint moments. If we look before that, Rahm, the backing of Obama... I wouldn't say a shoo-in to win. I wasn't as politically active then, I was in Chicago a couple years. But he wins, it's not that much of a surprise. Before him we have Daley Jr., 20 years in this office, right? So for a lot of us, that's... he's been one of the main mayors while we've been alive. A little placeholder gap a couple years. We have Harold Washington's flashpoint moment of multiracial coalition. We've heard a lot of Harold Washington rhetoric as late as we should. 

[00:31:53] David: The connections to... 

[00:31:54] Caullen: The connections between him and Brandon. Just the moment itself. Even Epton and Vallas. And we'll have all the resources if you don't- if you're unaware, in the episode notes. We don't wanna go too long. But that's- cause several years, and he dies in office unfortunately. It's like, if he didn't die, what would Chicago be like? Before him, another placeholder year. Jane Byrne and someone else, I forgot his name.

[00:32:14] Then we have Daley Sr. for 20 years plus. And so when you think about it, we have three mayors of actual like, a sustained amount of time, and two placeholders in the past 70 years, if my math is correct, in this city?

[00:32:29] David: Math is mathin'. Yeah. 

[00:32:30] Caullen: And if you think about the Democratic Chicago machine, Daley Sr. builds that "coming from an immigrant family", you know, "Irish having to earn the whiteness", which there's a different podcast episode on that. And the Irish gangs before World War II, and there's a lot of history there as far as how the Daley's, in general, come to power. Two decades. We get Harold Washington who was not supposed to happen by a traditional political logic at the time. Happens. Dies in office. Gap years. His son [Daley Jr.], who... him and Jon Burge were in cahoots, we can go into that in a different episode too. And we have him 20 years. And so it's like, when I even think about 2019 and Lightfoot's cycle, that was the first truly, truly open race in decades. Obviously, we have Chuy giving Rahm to run-off, which is a big moment, right? 

[00:33:19] David: Giving him a hand in backing him, yeah.

[00:33:19] Caullen: But when you look at the long history of machine politics and just politics in Chicago in general, at a somewhat reductive level, I'm leaving a lot out obviously- it's, 2019 is big. And we see the identity politics, like you mentioned Byron, come to play a lot. I mentioned from the episode start, David and I were knee deep in the No Cop Academy campaign, and we're learning a lot about organizing in general, but also putting the radical movement, politics, and liberatory and police and prison abolition with elected politics. Electoral politics rather. And seasoned organizers I knew were kind of like, this is outside of my bag. I'm like, well, it's real outside my bag. I'm learning as you learning. And so just learning about the city process and how the municipality works, and rooting for some alders to win, some to lose was just interesting for me. But in that... for lack of a better phrasing, bubble, I'm like, oh, Lightfoot, she's a corporate lawyer, she laughed in the faces of folks coming out for Rekia Boyd... Like, there's no reason why this person should be mayor. What are we doing? But then like, Oh, white liberals exist, and they be voting. They be voting voting. And so we see Lightfoot win and so on and so forth. And so I think of those macro generational flashpoint moments as far as movement, also as far as electoral politics happening at the same time, I think that's important to consider.

[00:34:41] And that's why this moment, again, Lightfoot does not do a good job... by anyone's metric, right? And so we have this open race again, and luckily we get someone from movement in. And it's, other than Harold Washington, which was again "was not supposed to happen", this is the first- second time in 70 years that we've had this. And so it's taken me a while- I mean, in the past couple of weeks, maybe month or so, I've kind of really been in it more so. But before that it took me a while, but, oh, this is.... this is big. And not trying to swing so hard and be like, yes, we'll elect our champion and the work is done! You know what I'm saying? Not that I think I would get that far, but just being like, okay, honoring movement always being number one. And liberation always been number one. Like, no, but this is still huge. 

[00:35:24] David: I do think 2019, while it was this first... you know I think it was interesting with Lightfoot because not only did we identity politics play but it was also like... it was at least for me it's like, they blatantly lied to us. They're like, oh, I actually haven't been about this No Cop Academy since Blah, blah, blah.

[00:35:44] Caullen: Signed the board of the church! 

[00:35:46] David: And then they told us in front of a church and everything. And then- so I'm like, okay, well fuck, okay, fuck it. Like, fuck Rahm. But I do think 2019, that's when Lopez came in. Rosanna came in... I'm missing somebody. 

[00:35:59] Byron: Jeanette Taylor.

[00:36:01] David: So I do think 2019 brought about that kind of change. Lightfoot we wish was that changed, but they didn't... to their point- 

[00:36:09] Caullen: But we knew. We knew she wasn't going to be it. 

[00:36:11] David: Well, you know.

[00:36:11] Caullen: You know what I mean? 

[00:36:11] David: You're right. You're right. And I think that's where we dig into it. And that's why sometimes these campaign trails are so important. These fights are so important. And then here we are with the third class, 2023. We were talking about it before the episode started, but like, how many more progressives or left leaning folks have we now included into city hall? And not only that, but let's also name how many Latinos we got. And first of all, there's three- there's two of y'all, plus me. There's three of us in here. That's... we the majority, bro! That doesn't happen here that often, man! 

[00:36:43] Caullen: I'm alone. 

[00:36:45] David: Where y'all been?! #### todamente en espanol porque no los entienden. But I think to the points that we've been naming, I think this... the last few months have been so pivotal for so many reasons. And I think it's so wonderful to constantly see people and the way they get engaged. I think the one thing to name from the mayoral to the runoff is we had more people, specifically between the ages of 18 and 35, vote for the runoff than they did for the mayoral. And a lot of that comes from, once again, from the primaries. And that comes from the organizers, right? And really being able to see- cause to your point Jessie, you were like, Brandon was 2%, I swear I saw him and eight other people and I was like, I don't know who this man is. My guy in the beginning- and we... we could throw shit out one, but I was like, Ja'Mal. Ja-mal. I was like, what's up, brother?

[00:37:35] Caullen: Oh my god!!!!! That's a two part episode.. Just on Ja'Mal.

[00:37:39] Byron: That should be a whole episode on him.

[00:37:41] David: But as we know, and as we speak... as we say, bro, skin folk ain't kin folk. And my brother out here fucking sold out and lost it. But you know what I'm saying? So to your point, it's like, here I am- *laughing*. I'm just, I mean... we're going to have a drink for my brother. 

[00:37:55] Caullen: Curb Your Enthusiasm music right now. 

[00:37:59] (Curb Your Enthusiasm meme sound bit)

[00:37:59] David: I think it's just... It's so important for people to name. Because I do think the other thing that we've tried to talk about is how much of our city actually engages in electoral politics, right? Jessie to your point, how many people are actually completely, like, not even dumb, but they have no hope. You know what I'm saying? They're like, naw, fuck this. It's gonna be the same motherfucker. It's like, you're right. There's always the same motherfucker. But I dunno, I think to everyone's point and just to keep the conversation going towards how the machine- media machine influences and challenges what is actually happening in the streets. Pertaining to y'all's campaign, specifically during the last few months, but- just as you've been doing this work for four years now, and even during electoral season they're still coming at you. And so, I don't know. I think it's important to definitely celebrate the W's.

[00:38:52] I think it's important to really look at who's around us. Oftentimes we're so reactionary. It's like, all right, cool, here's- this was gonna happen to me. What are we gonna do? How are we gonna present it? How are we gonna come forward and manifest everything we've said? Because I think in my eyes- and just to transition us, cause now I've been talking.... But after the Bernie- after the the Bernie and Brandon Johnson rally, we get out, I'm walking around with my little brother, we get into our Lyft, and it was a African-American man, Black dude, and he was like, oh, so what, you like Brandon, huh? But he's not Brown. I'm like, well it's like Chuy- I wasn't a Chuy fan anyway, low key, but we'll say this on the mic; my man, he's always 10 years too late. But he's like, Oh, but you know, Vallas said... and the the police said there's going to be blood in the streets. I'm like, where'd you hear that? He's like, Oh, they interviewed the FOP president or something like that, who I thought was gone, but they revoted his ass in. Like, y'all motherfuckers crazy to begin with. 

[00:39:56] (*laughing*)

[00:39:56] David: But the whole thing there is like, I'm talking to this gentleman, and I'm like, I hear that. I'm like, so is that a threat? Are they going to let our people die? Are they going to start killing people? And he just kind of-

[00:40:07] Caullen: Or both? Because that is what's happening right now. So what is the difference? 

[00:40:11] David: It's so interesting because he chuckles it off. He's like, no, I hear it. And I'm like, to be honest, man, I know nothing about Brandon Johnson, all I know that he cares about the same things I care about. I care about my little brother going to a good school. I care about my dad being able to have access to a hospital. You know these are things that have been removed from us. He's like, no, I hear that. And I was like, and Vallas... we keep pumping money, we're at 41% for the budget. How much you want? 42? 43? 44? 45? He's saying, no, no, that's messed up. And so here we are. Here's this moment where my man has been captivated by this bar he clearly has hit, where there's going to be murder in the streets. And here's someone else who finally has opportunity to engage in it, but I don't know if it wasn't- I mean, I don't know if my man voted. I don't know who he voted for. But I feel like those are these moments where we have to challenge that type of narrative which is very prevalent. And I don't know. 

[00:40:57] I'm curious to hear either of y'all experiences this last campaign run on things that came up as challenges, but ways in which you overcame those adversities, I think would be the more important highlight.

[00:41:10] Byron: Yeah. I mean- so... this fear mongering that we see oftentimes is not new, right. Almost you see it in every cycle. I mean, if you look...if anybody- if you have a chance to read, for instance, The Shock Doctrine, by Naomi Klein. So, in a time of shock or crisis or difficulties you find a community, especially in the pandemic, an unprecedented crisis, right? You got- we saw the police brutality played out on top of that. And the George Floyd, and all the- the Adam Toledo cases, and the many things that happened during this period of time. 

[00:41:52] At the same time, how government across the country responded, we got Trump in office, and then you have neoliberals that work together in a very neoliberal framework to meet the crisis and the needs of a community with policing. So, we saw in 2020, as we see this unfolding. And again, I know Jessie mentioned how you feel and how you live this experience as a teacher, when you see the suffering, you see the suffering of the parents, when you have now people who- I mean, we have literally people who lost at least one family member. A parent. We've been in cases where they lost all their support system. Young people who are on their own, and then how we respond to this is with more policing. So Mayor Lightfoot, under one of the first actions that she takes, was to try to give herself unlimited emergency powers. So, I mean, fortunately we fought that because in New York they got it, and it's been terrible. When you are responding to mental health crisis now even more aggressively than before. That could have been Chicago. 

[00:43:13] Now, we're fortunate that at least even it was a few of us, but we made a lot of noise. And we challenged the Anjanette Young case, we challenged the emergency powers, and we won certain things, right? Now, in the eyes of the public of course the suffering continued, the disinvestment, the pain that was met with fines and fees and taxes and all sorts of stuff. So you know, so our community was really suffocated in a time of crisis. And how we responded was by organizing.

[00:43:48] And I think that's what- I think it's easy for neoliberals to push agendas when people are traumatized and shocked. And it's the neocolonialism. We have even just as recent as months ago, well, this is three years ago- during this time, our families are trying to survive, trying to make, it's incredible the resiliency of our communities. It's really incredible. Because despite of all this- I mentioned for instance, a specific issue in a ward, for instance, the Discount Mall. Just to show you how these developers and corporations and politicians all operate under the same system. An umbrella and all that. And they may try to portray themselves as something else, but deep inside it's the same old.

[00:44:28] Caullen: They'll put their pronouns in the Zoom call. We're one of you. He/him.

[00:44:34] Byron: Exactly.

[00:44:34] Caullen: Halliburton: he/him. 

[00:44:36] Byron: And you just see it get played out. How that is trying to co opt and stop and undermine movements. But we continue to organize and continue to have faith in our message to the people, that there is an alternative and that we are building it. And again, we started with a smaller group, now we're going to have a much bigger group. But not only that, we thought we could challenge the mayor. And we can challenge the mayor because we do know what's going on in our communities. And again, we now have a mayor that, as I think Alderwoman Rossana Sanchez said, he's one of us. I mean, just he's not all of us, well, he's one of us, right? 

[00:45:11] So I was talking with some of the members, even in the business community, and when they were trying to- I mean, this is incredible, the audacity that these super rich have. But they're making an issue of Mayor Johnson not paying his water bills. And if you talk to people on the ground, what they tell you, well if anything, some of that actually play an advantage where people are now more paying attention because... how many of us have not been on a payment plan? I mean, if it's tickets or whatever that is.

[00:45:44] Caullen: I'm on one right now.

[00:45:44] Byron: College debt, you name it. And then you're making this commissioner "the enemy of working people", because he's behind on his water bill. But that's how desperate they became. So when we see, like I mentioned, going back to this situation that happened with the Discount Mall in Little Village, you got 150 registered licenses, successful small businesses that survived the pandemic, that survived the disinvestment, that has survived all of these odds; yet when you're trying to make ends meet and you have families that depend on this, hundreds of families depending on this income, this is a successful commercial corridor. 26th Street is today the more- the most vibrant commercial corridor in the city of Chicago. Yet the city allowed a developer, not only to purchase the Discount Mall vendor- again, a successful incubator. Like how the state is saying, Oh, talk about support the small businesses, support... but when it came down to, they allowed the developer to go and kick them out.

[00:46:47] We quantify that just in one month, a million dollars in losses in a month. On an ecosystem that works. But that's the neocolonialism, right? Neocolonialism is how that they with the facade of improvement, and improving the communities, investing in our communities, but deep- that's the narrative, right? The BS, right? 

[00:47:06] Jessie: Yeah. 

[00:47:06] Byron: That comes quantified because now they invest in public relations, consultants, and all... a whole apparatus to try to BS people. But people did not- 

[00:47:16] Caullen: "our market research truly states..." 

[00:47:18] Byron: Exactly. I was like, Well, but what does that work for us? I mean, at the end of the day we got people who are going hungry. We got families who- and the little that we have you want to take away. In the things that we have built. And then overnight you got people, again, back in a worse position than we were before. So for us when we're organizing people- I remember when people said, Look, and they were like, Are you sure we can win this? Absolutely, we can win. So we got to believe. And that's the thing sometimes I feel that in our spaces sometimes we lack that little bit, because we think that all of it is electoral- and electoral policy is a part of what we have to grow. Organizing, teachers were on the ground. Like, the movement is much- that's why I mentioned Karen Lewis, right? We got to contest labor spaces. And what Commissioner Johnson says is beautiful, and it was so symbolic because in the anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, and the indictment on trump happened the same day. And then you have the most progressive transformational mayor in the history- or in the recent history of the country I would say. Not even 

[00:48:17] David: Chicago.

[00:48:18] Byron: So when all those things are happening, and things like, how do we respond to that is by organizing ourselves. In the 25th ward, like I said, we deal with these... like, I think it's every cycle. Because you see the powers of developers and corporations trying to take over communities. That's what's happening, with the help and aid of elected officials. Instead of representing the best interests of our communities, they're allowing our communities to be taken over. And they also, what the message they send to our kids when they shut down school, when they shut down programs like they did- what Jessie mentioned is true. Our kids feel when... the pandemic has been rough. When we have so much pain, family members, friends that are lost.

[00:48:57] And then we meet that with police repression and police brutality. And then when we talk about, you know- we gotta take, and to change that we gotta reckon with the history of this institution. And we must, too. There's no way around it. The fear that is trying to be instilled on us is the fear of the oppressor to reckon with this history. That's what it is. And we gotta take it head on. And this election is so beautiful because now we have said- and this is beautiful, the city of Chicago said, you know what? We needed an option. So that's what I feel optimistic because the community has organized. We have unforgotten about our small vendors and we will not forget about that. Commissioner Johnson actually was the only one who actually visited them, that talk to them, that listen to what their problems were. And said, you know what, we will find different ways, we will build cooperatives, we will build a different economy. We have a different vision. So I think that helps to at least continue to start to see a different reality. A reality where we talk about critical race theory instead of banning it. 

[00:49:51] Jessie: That's right.

[00:49:51] Byron: Because that's what was going to come to our city too. So, when we empower, when we help our kids- especially, and I will say, especially when a lot of the violence that we see is the disinvestment- it is also like, I think Jessie said it beautiful, that we start internalizing these things. And if we don't give our kids an option... I mean, we talk about violence, and this- and then Vallas has the audacity to talk about violence, when they closed down 50 schools? I mean, I would say this, that the status quo, mentally. So the same people who created the crisis now are going to think that we're gonna fix it. So the irony of that. But on top of that, the irony and also the beauty of history, like I said, is that Karen Lewis legacy lived on strong enough. And it's so strong it continues to give us a second chance to get this opportunity and now we will not waste it. I'll tell you that. 

[00:50:40] We'll work with everything in our hearts, because we know, as a former teacher, what it was in a classroom before COVID. And post COVID has even gotten worse. Like entire school systems that are dismantled. Kids that are gone completely. Or after school programs. Or alternative schools completely gone. So what are we offering our kids? The identity they could crush when you're listening to the newspaper and the news and all that how they treat, how they dehumanize our communities. But then when you see young people coming out and making the difference, that's a powerful thing, right? Because that's what happened. Young people did come out. Maybe not in the numbers that we want, but enough to get us here. And I think that's a powerful thing and a message of organizing despite of the trauma that we're dealing with. I think we got to heal. We got to understand the neocolonialism and capitalism, how these -isms work. And racism, environmental justice; I mean, there's so much going on. 

[00:51:31] Caullen: So much. 

[00:51:32] Byron: But I tell you that- and it seems overwhelming. We just talked about a little bit about Cop City in Atlanta. But we see the relationships between our communities. And when you start seeing that people from Chicago were going there and vice versa. 

[00:51:43] Caullen: It costs the same price. 99 million dollars is their price too. I'm like.... it's just... come on. 

[00:51:49] Byron: But now you see communities that perhaps now can fight together. 

[00:51:52] Caullen: Exactly. 

[00:51:54] Jessie: Well, you know what I will say before I get into the nuances of how difficult the campaign trail was and all of the challenges, but also the many wins. Is... we have restored hope, and for me it came through Wednesday morning; and we had a long night Tuesday for those of us who are celebrating. I get a text Monday morning from my mother, and my mother has been sober for almost a decade now. And her text was, "we won." 

[00:52:27] Caullen: *We* won. 

[00:52:27] Jessie: We won. 

[00:52:28] Caullen: *We* won. 

[00:52:29] Jessie: We won, right? Someone who was never engaged in electoral politics before. Someone who didn't understand the power of their voice or the power of their vote. Someone before I had decided to launch my candidacy for office, for all intents and purposes, had lost hope in people's ability to govern. On Wednesday morning felt like, we won. And we have to pay tribute to the many individuals that had conversations way before us about what it would mean to build a movement. What it would mean to get Black and Brown folks to the ballot to exercise their power of their vote. But more importantly, what it would mean to restore trust in our ability to govern.

[00:53:13] So like, let's talk about the challenges that we've seen at the doors and in the field when we're running a campaign field program for a Black man who was going to make history on April 4th. And we make many connections between Brandon Johnson and Harold Washington. And the connection of what it would mean to build Black and Brown coalition. But there's a history before us that has been working on Black and Brown coalition for a long time. And the reason it takes so long to work at is because of that internalized neocolonialism. The amount of anti-Blackness we see in Latino communities and Latine communities and how we- and colorism and how we have to confront that.

[00:54:07] And so... the 26 ward is a majority Latine ward, right? Almost 70% of our ward has Latine residents and voters. And when we're knocking on doors and we're having conversations about who our candidate is, a lot of it is like, Why would I vote for the Black man? Right? Like, let's be honest. Let's have the conversation. Let's talk about what is the next four years of work. We have elected the most Latine alderfolks that we're going to see in city council, right? And so- but let's be honest about what our work is when we're talking about Black and Brown coalition because there's so much work to be done. Black individuals have worked tirelessly to ensure that there's representation in all legislative sectors across the state of Illinois. They have grown the Black caucus. They have done the work, right? The Latino community is doing the same, but we also have to understand that we're not battling for power here. We're battling for collective will. 

[00:55:12] And we have to begin to change the language around our movements. Because if we don't begin to do that, how can we expect the residents across the city of Chicago to believe in our collective effort? That having a Black mayor does not mean that Latines are not at the table. Does not mean that we have no voice. That does not mean that we have less. But rather- and Brandon said it best- until we see the liberation of our Black trans sisters, we are not free. We are not free. And so we have to do that work together. But it's also the amount of impact we have watched fear mongering tactics have on our community.

[00:56:03] We've seen the defund police mailers. We've seen the defund police infomercials. We've seen it all over our social media pages. So when you knock on doors and you have families that are solely concerned with survival- because they want to make sure that their 13 year old daughter can go to school, come back home, and not be shot on the way. They want to make sure that when they send their son off to drive to work, when they come back in the evening, they're not going to be pulled over and shot in their vehicle. Our families are concerned with survival, they don't have capacity for liberation. But it's because we have not done the work in terms of raising political consciousness in our city, because these seats are so accustomed to having business folks sit on them. Not movement folks. 

[00:56:58] And so when we talk about what is the work in the next four years, was everything that we've seen at the doors. How do we combat anti-Blackness? How do we ensure that our families understand that when we talk about opening mental health clinics and funding our schools that we also mean that that is their safety? When we talk about banning guns instead of books, that that means their freedom. But those conversations have to be had. We must be consistent. We got to continue to be on the doors. I can't tell you how many folks would tell me, well, you're knocking on my door cause you need my signature and my vote, I won't see you again. You're going to take these four years and you're going to do what you want. You're going to make your money. You're going to claim a name, you're going to build power, and you're going to forget how you got there. 

[00:57:47] Caullen: How do feel about that when someone says that to you? And they're not like, maybe not to you, but when they say that to an elected official, they're like, also not wrong by what they've experienced.

[00:57:55] Jessie: They're not wrong. 

[00:57:55] Caullen: Your data is... yeah. 

[00:57:57] Jessie: Yeah, their data is correct. They are well informed. 

[00:58:01] Caullen: Exactly. 

[00:58:01] Jessie: Like, let's not be confused, right? But I feel saddened, disheartened, and angry for them. I can't tell you, we picked up several precincts on the west side of our ward. I won't name the person that gave us those precincts. I've never seen a community so disinvested in the way those precincts have not seen a dollar, a relationship, or love. Some of their roads are gravel. If you door knock past six o'clock, you're door knocking in the dark. Their schools don't have resources: after school programs, or extracurricular activities. But then we wonder why we've seen an increase in gun violence in these same communities, right? Because there's a direct correlation between historical disinvestment, the lack of presence, and the increase in crime. 

[00:58:56] And so when our families are exhausted and they don't want to hear from you. And they don't want to listen to this narrative about why we are engaging in liberatory political practices is because they have no idea what it even means to come close to freedom. Because they are continuously oppressed. And so we have to do so much work around, not only restoring trust, and unfortunately, at the bare minimum, it means showing up. Like, think about it. It means continuously knocking on those doors beyond the campaign trail. That's bare minimum. That's what we're talking about here. And so. 

[00:59:41] David: See, that's that new class energy though. You know what I'm saying? That's a freshman energy, right? 

[00:59:46] Caullen: Give it a year! Byron's like, give it a year!

[00:59:48] Jessie: I don't know, Byron's still got freshman energy. 

[00:59:55] Caullen: I'm just playing. I'm just playing.

[00:59:55] David: Naw, we're just teasing.

[00:59:55] Jessie: But you know, it is to say that, yes, we are here and we are- and I'm still processing the win by the way. 

[01:00:03] David: Take it. 

[01:00:03] Caullen: Take a couple weeks, maybe a month. Month and some change.

[01:00:06] Jessie: I'm just seeing so many glimpses of hope and joy and just getting joy out of this conversation because to be living in this historical moment is beyond anything I've ever hoped and dreamed for. Coming from where I come from, I would have never foreseen a moment like this. And to be living it is historic. And to know that we are a part of it just brings me absolute joy. But we also know there's a lot of work to do. And I think that the beauty of what we are going to see in this city council- and not just with our mayor, but with every alderperson who has been elected in after April 4th- is that we're gonna do it with love and joy. Because that's the radical thing to do. To love on our people. To educate our people. To share collective space. To disagree, and do it in a healthy way because look, I tell folks all the time, we're not going to agree on everything. We're not. But to enter that conversation with love for your comrade is what's going to make the difference. And so I'm excited to see what we do in the next four years, and how we do it collectively. 

[01:01:29] Caullen: And also on that, from what I've read, I haven't talked to Carlos or Rossana or anything about this, but you all will have more power- for lack of phrasing- as council members. And previously as I was saying on the Chicago charter weak mayor system, it's not really been the case the past little bit. But from what I'm hearing is that both Brandon and Vallas were for an actual kind of weak mayor system, as far as more aldermanic prerogative, or just some more powers that you all will have appointing committee members, things of that nature. Can you speak a little bit to that as far as what that- what it's been and what it will potentially be come May 15th when the new folks are sworn in? 

[01:02:09] Byron: Yes. So- and under Lightfoot, I'm not so sure exactly how, but what I hear that under Emanuel was similar. Lori Lightfoot came into office and first thing that she did was, I'm deciding who the chairs are. Who is going to... who is- what the structure of the council is going to be. So it was not even a conversation. It was... Here are your assignments. 

[01:02:36] Caullen: You want to talk about it?? 

[01:02:38] Byron: Exactly. 

[01:02:38] Caullen: You must be new here. *laughing* 

[01:02:40] Byron: Exactly. You may not know how this actually works. So, but I think that when we came in there was like, here are your assignments. It was not a conversation. Here's what you're going to... here are the committees that you're going to be part of. So, under- and last week when the council met before- I mean, there are some of us who believe that it would have been good to maybe wait some time to have a conversation with the mayor. And have enough time for an independent council that is mediated. Quite honestly, it seems like to me, that the same status quo does not want to have that conversation. Because they want guarantees. They don't... some of them, in my opinion, don't really believe in democracy unless it works in their favor. 

[01:03:23] Caullen: Which is not democracy. 

[01:03:24] Byron: Which is not democracy, right, by definition! But I do think under Commissioner Johnson, I think with new mayor Johnson now, I do think that we will have a more independent council. And that we will discuss with the council in terms of how we will be more effective in delivering. I think Jessie was mentioning, it's in our best interest to provide a space where we work with each other- council meaning legislative branch, with the executive branch- to deliver for constituents.

[01:04:05] What we had under Lightfoot was chaos. Because at some point the same chairs that she appointed were against her. So we have bills that never get heard, things that were sent to rules.

[01:04:18] Jessie: The voter rules to die. 

[01:04:20] Caullen: Exactly. *laughing*

[01:04:21] Byron: And the consequences are because there's some stuff that was critical. So, I think that we will hope, like, I am optimistic that, and I'm confident, that will not be the case under Mayor-elect Johnson. But also, I do think that there's willingness, at least from the progressive side, to have a conversation on committees that really reflects the contributions that each member can make; but also with the intention of working collaboratively, collectively, with the best interests of their- or all their constituents at heart.

[01:04:59] I think it would have been very difficult under Vallas because he was talking already- like, I almost see Lightfoot and Vallas very similar, when he starts talking about aldermanic prerogative and... Putting conditions and well, yes, but under this condition. Yes, but- 

[01:05:14] Caullen: It's always a "yes, but". 

[01:05:16] Byron: You know, that, but. 

[01:05:17] Caullen: Always a caveat. 

[01:05:17] Byron: You know, I heard it a lot with Lori Lightfoot when she said like, oh, yes, I respect self-determination, but... this, this, and that. And that didn't play out well. I do think that we will have a reorganization that sees that there's a desire in the council. I hope that some of our colleagues do not repeat the mistakes of the 80s, to instead of working towards independence, it is really working for themselves. And that that can create what we saw in the 80s, were the council wars, and making it difficult to have governability. And I've seen already some aspects of that.

[01:05:54] You also see that in the FOP side, when they're already saying, oh, a thousand officers will leave, and naanana.. That is... that's again the fear mongering. That is again, going to the same playbook of creating anxiety and fear in constituents and making it difficult for us to make the necessary changes. I haven't had- we haven't had a direct conversation, I think we'll be mindful of waiting. But it's our goal, and I think at least for some of us, is to have a collective conversation where we respect the independence of the council but by providing a space when we can really find a path forward. I do think that we want to have debates. We don't want to hold bills. We don't send bill to rules. We want to have democratic debates. 

[01:06:36] I think that that is the intention of having chairs who, like, I would love to see Alderwoman Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez for instance, as the chair of the Health Committee. Why? Because then we can vote on treatment not trauma, right? I mean, we haven't been able to even have votes to be had. I mean, the Bring Home Chicago ordinance- there was a point where we couldn't even have a quorum because a number of our colleagues basically were in the other room waiting for the clock to run out, and they left without us even having a debate on the matter.

[01:07:05] Caullen: It's like a football game. 

[01:07:06] Byron: Exactly! 

[01:07:07] Caullen: A basketball game, you gotta foul me to stop the clock. 

[01:07:10] Byron: Exactly! I don't think that we see that under Mayor Washington, right? I do hope that- and these are cultural colleagues, right? Especially some of the senior Aldermen, right? To learn from history that we're here, committed to get to work. We also gotta be mindful that there's a whole- I mean, in fact, today, there was in political, I was reading how some of the business, big business, was already calling Lori Lightfoot, Oh, what are we gonna do now, Commissioner? Now with Mayor Johnson? Perhaps they're afraid of how the new vision is going to play it out.

[01:07:42] And again, we are for what's best for the city of Chicago. So we must have a conversation with everybody, including them. What we cannot have is the richest people of the city of Chicago, as before, dictating what's possible. They killed the progressive income tax, even though we knew that we needed it.

[01:07:58] David: Oof.

[01:07:58] Byron: They have killed, you know, key initiatives, like the Bring Home Chicago- the mayor committed to do that; it was killed during the administration. They committed to reopen the mental health clinics. They committed to reopen the department of the environment. They didn't get any of that done. They committed within the first 100 days in office to pass the Empowering Communities for Public Safety, which was watered down but passed. But that was towards the end of the administration, I think, more for her reelection, more than for actually doing it.

[01:08:25] So in general, I do think that what we need is to have governability. We must allow the mayor-elect to work with us with independence, but with the best interest of the community at heart. I do think that the extent that some of the colleagues that are not particularly known for independence, right, that they do not play the game of Michael Sachs, that they don't play the game of Ken Griffin... Some of these billionaires have already left town, quite honestly. I don't know what they want to do here, but I do think that our city needs us working together with independence and respect to each other, which did not happen under Mayor Lightfoot. Mayor Lightfoot did not respect the council, to be honest. But I think that Commissioner Johnson does- I mean, Mayor Johnson does. So what we need is to make sure that we as a council are reciprocal with our willingness to work together. I think, Jessie was talking maybe about, 18 progressive members that I think could work together. 

[01:09:19] Caullen: Class three. 

[01:09:19] Byron: Class three, right. 

[01:09:20] Caullen: 2019 was what? Like, eight to 10? No, well, I guess, like, socialist plus left-leaning folks or progressive folks, like- 

[01:09:27] David: "left leaning". Air quotes. 

[01:09:28] Caullen: Like, 12 or something? 

[01:09:29] Byron: Yeah. Maybe it's a 10 to 11, I'll say. 

[01:09:31] Caullen: Yeah, depending on the bill, 10 to 11. And this third class- and shout out Carlos Ramirez-Rosa; 2015, the only- I mean... Progressive Reform Caucus was in 2013, but he was really the only, real left-leaning DSA-backed socialist in 2015; which was a firebrand of a campaign. Then 2019 comes, comes more. And then, now we're here, 2023, and we have a block. A more... a bigger block.

[01:09:55] Jessie: Say it again, it's a block.

[01:09:55] Caullen: Yeah, it's a block. Yeah, it's a block. It's a bigger block. It was a square, now it's a rectangle. You know what I'm saying? Got a little longer. Y'all took geometry, you know what I'm talking about. 

[01:10:04] Byron: Yeah, and there's really important things to do. I mean, Mayor Johnson talked about the Consent Decree, right? He talked about some important things that we need to get done. I understand why, especially the extremists, are worried about that. Because Commissioner- Mayor Johnson has talked about the concerns, huge concerns about having right-extremist, white supremacist groups with ties with Chicago Police Department, and this is a prevalent problem. This is not a... it's not exception. It is not only have been proven ties with the oath keepers, proud boys, three percenters. And it's a widespread problem. When you have someone Catanzara in the FOP making these crazy remarks about basically sabotaging government.

[01:10:48] And it's in line to what they've done, because many of them actually, with proven ties with the insurrection of January 6th. So these are people who do not believe in government. They believe in sabotaging government. The Southern Poverty Law Center was testifying in a panel with public safety in the Public Safety Committee. So this is a serious issue. And I'm glad that we have someone who wants to talk about it because we cannot dismiss it, ignore it, or pretend it's going to go away on their own while this affects, directly, our public safety. For, especially, Black and Brown communities, we're going to be in the hands of such extremists. 

[01:11:21] So, I think that there's a lot here. And again, I see where the fear mongering is coming from. I think that in the council, I think that we have with new members, or we can organize so that we can put the facts and the best interest of the public before this propaganda, because that's what it is, you know? And this information to instill fear, and making it difficult for the next mayor to govern. I think that it will be our job, as council members, to organize and use your community to build a majority. And I tell you that I think there's a path to do that, and I think there's a path for us to work even with people we don't agree with. Because we do have- like I said, we're leading with love and care for our communities. And I think we should be at the table. We may not agree on everything, but at the table I am convinced that we will make the right choices if we're truly, as some of my colleagues said, interested in independence and democratic values. 

[01:12:12] David: And then whatever y'all do, y'all gotta hire whoever did Jessie's website. It's very clear, concise, 

[01:12:17] Caullen: the link tree! 

[01:12:17] David: to the point. 

[01:12:18] Caullen: The link tree! I'm a big fan of a link tree. 

[01:12:19] David: Cause to your point, Lopez, it's like information and how is it that you get it across? Not only get it across but then retain. 

[01:12:26] Jessie: Let's just call him Sigcho-Lopez so we don't get confused with the other one. 

[01:12:29] Caullen: I know, he was saying, I was like, hmmmm... 

[01:12:32] David: Ohhhhhh. Sigcho-Lopez.

[01:12:33] Caullen: Can you imagine Raymond on Bourbon 'n brownTown? 

[01:12:35] David: That would be fun. I have a couple questions for him. *laughing* ohhh my goodness. 

[01:12:39] Jessie: I'd pay to watch it. 

[01:12:42] David: Oh my goodness. But no, I think everything we're saying is so important. Thank you guys for providing a little bit more insight to all of our listeners on how the game is played. Because I think as we continue naming and stating, Chicago right now is being highlighted throughout the nation. And all eyes are on like, how do we step forward into this new sunrise, so to speak. And so I think it's interesting to hear what y'all are seeing on this opposition side versus what we're seeing. The internet is constantly winning. So. 

[01:13:20] Caullen: The memes! The memes! The memes on top of the LSU winning, and the- "you can't see me" and the ring kiss... it's been... the amalgamation of memes and political consciousness the past couple days, I've just been having a great time. 

[01:13:32] Byron: Oh yeah. The creativity is awesome. 

[01:13:33] Jessie: It's the Ja'Mal Green memes for me.

[01:13:37] David: Ohhhhh!!!

[01:13:37] ("Curb Your Enthusiasm" meme sound bit)

[01:13:37] Caullen: With his bus getting stuck... aww.. 

[01:13:43] David: I don't know who told him it was a good idea to stand behind taller people. You know what I'm saying? Like, bro, don't be- don't get off the stage! 

[01:13:50] Caullen: We love our short kings and queens and non-gender conforming royalty on Bourbon 'n BrownTown- it's not... let me name that. But also, yeah, you're right.

[01:13:58] David: Somebody. But I do think it's such a wonderful time. And I do think, Jessie, your naming it, it's like, Let's live and bathe in this joy of bringing hope back. And thank you so much for sharing that story with your mom, cause I think those are the connections that we can make. And I think... and this is something that- I don't know if we'll be able to fully discuss on Bourbon 'n BrownTown, but it's like, I hear to the point of like, we want to be able to create these tables for discussions and bring people in. But you just named certain groups of people who want our people gone or dead. 

[01:14:35] Caullen: Literal white supremacists. Obviously white supremacy as an institution and an ideology, that's important, but also these are literal white supremacists. 

[01:14:45] David: Within systems. Within systems that are already in place. And so I think... I think while it's great and it's wonderful because we're coming in, to y'all's point, with love and care for community; I'm curious when it's going to get to the point where it's like, it's blatantly obvious that there's X amount of people who are not coming with that mentality. I'm curious on what will happen then. And electoral politics, specifically. Because, I mean, I'm hearing that y'all are finessing and like, we'll see what these next four years tell us, and hopefully eight years, you know I'm saying, and beyond. 

[01:15:20] You were saying that this will be the biggest in our lifetime, and I truly hope that we continue to go. And not only- I think one thing that hasn't been named is the intergenerational malady of where we've been, right? And how we're constantly spreading, not only to our younger communities, but also trying to educate our older communities, even though the majority of them voted for Vallas, you know we'll talk about it... But I think it's important to constantly be able to create these levels of awareness and communication with our communities. But just curious on what's that going to look like when they put their foot down and is like, nahh.. Like, I don't know. 

[01:15:59] Caullen: Do you mean their colleagues who may not exist? Or like folks who are in a progressive circle who don't agree? 

[01:16:06] David: Noo..

[01:16:06] Caullen: I'm trying to understand your question. 

[01:16:08] David: No, no. Yeah, you're right. No, no, no. I think I was more particularly talking about those that don't want to be at the table type situation. Those that have made up their minds about how they feel about Black liberation, about Brown liberation, about undocumented folks, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. I'm just curious on where they fit into this political system. 

[01:16:29] Caullen: I've been thinking about this for a while now, but with Jessie talking about your experiences coming to where you are now, professionally and personally and all that, and then that with what Byron mentioned contextually with movement organizing past decade and so. And like, obviously our politics are personal; our personal are politics. And that those are realizations for you- kind of thinking about your family, it's like oh man, this shit... I'm not the only one who's been through this, and this is where that comes from, is super important, right? 

[01:16:53] I think about... we tend to use... we tend to- at least I tend to talk about folks' lived experience when it's folks with marginalized identity, or marginalized through class status, whatever, and because that's what the powers that be in systems of oppression don't honor. Bill Conway has lived experience. Ed Burke has lived experience. You know what I'm saying? These folks that like, we... like, Bill Conway isn't in yet, but I would put him in the op category. Hopefully it's not the case. Hopefully he makes it. Who knows? But folks who have come from privilege and class and white privilege and what have you and money and all these things, their experience going to really good schools and being shoo-ins through legacies, and then people get mad about affirmative action. Like, you were "legacy"? Okay. Folks get into good schools and that's the norm for them, folks that have money, that's the norm for them. Folks who get opportunities because of their family and friends connection is the norm for them. That's an experience! You know what I mean? That we have to understand.

[01:17:51] And I think... I use the royal "we", I think we, as we do with any kind of identity, identity, privilege, whatever, we invisiblize that. And that's like, normalizes. Like folks that don't have that, they're different. And it's like, okay, the benefits you have aren't necessarily bad, but everyone should have those things. And you're lived experience also matters because you come from privilege and come from families and institutions that are maybe have lots of power, whether that's money, whether that's militarism, whether that's whatever, on the backs of Black and Brown folks. The country's history? Like, not only is there a violent history there, whether it's class-wise or outright oppression or outright violence, that comes from something, and you need to reckon with that.

[01:18:34] So I think when I think about and talk to white folks who are in the mood, and white folks who are liberal, but looking left like, oh, that looks interesting. Like, alrighty you're going to have to reckon with these things through yourself and others. And it's the same thing when I talk to men or straight folks too, it's like, you have to reckon with this. How you, not only is your privilege just there, but it's built on violence. And you have to reckon with that, and war against that. And so I think about, yeah, how do we visibilize the invisibilized privilege that folks carry, and what that's built on? 

[01:19:06] David: So Caullen's gonna talk to the skinheads. I'm sorry, go ahead. *laughing*.

[01:19:11] Jessie: But David, that's real, right? And I think that when we say that we have to lead with love and care, we have to consistently be in conversation. And we have to, to Sigchu's point, really have conversations that are rooted in democratic debate. That also means that we have to have conversations that's rooted in love and care with our colonizers. And it won't be easy. And I tell folks all the time, Look there's so many Black and Brown movement folks that are like, well, that's exhausting. Yeah! Absolutely, it's exhausting. 

[01:19:53] Caullen: I gotta think that day.

[01:19:54] Jessie: This this work, all around, is not easy by any means. But even when I think about someone like Bill Conway, who is also an Alderperson-elect, is coming in to city council. And by the way, he's going to be sitting in between Rossana and Carlos and so I'm really interested to see the type of education there. But what I would tell all of my colleagues is that we have a moral obligation to engage one another, right? Because Bill Conway does have a lived experience, that unfortunately does not make him as left-leaning- or left-leaning at all- in the way that we approach and engage in our electoral seats, but we must bring Bill Conway through the journey with us. And he must begin to understand lived experiences outside of his whiteness. 

[01:20:46] David: So he gon learn. 

[01:20:47] Jessie: He gon learn. 

[01:20:48] David: Okay, okay. 

[01:20:49] Jessie: A lot of our colleagues will have to learn. Because we can no longer continue to govern the same. And for those who don't want to, will weave themselves out. That's just where we're at. Like, let's understand that, they will weave themselves out. And so there's a lot of folks, let me tell you, in city council, that have a choice to make. Will you learn? Will you empathize? Will you lead with love and care? And will you understand the moment and the movement that you are living in? Or you put your deuces up and say this ain't for me. 

[01:21:25] Caullen: Which is totally fine. 

[01:21:26] Byron: That's right. 

[01:21:27] David: Totally fine. 

[01:21:28] Byron: Fifteen members already done that. 

[01:21:30] David: There's Florida. There's Florida and Texas. Y'all can go ahead and take them. But for reals, Byron, Jessie, thank you guys so much for sharing this awesome space with us and just creating such wonderful dialogue. Incredibly excited. I'm about to- whatever you lead in, we're going to watch you talk. Because clearly people need to see it. But incredibly grateful for the work that y'all have been doing and will continue to be doing. Yeah, those are, that's kind of... Any last words for the people's, Caullen? 

[01:22:00] Caullen: Please just read the episode notes. There's going to be copious links...

[01:22:03] David: education. We're talk about awareness. 

[01:22:05] Caullen: To all these things. I've been just getting all the links and tidbits for this episode and also for my own understanding of how this city and system and world works the past two couple months. So, read the episode notes, y'all. 

[01:22:18] Byron: Read the episode notes. 

[01:22:19] Caullen: Follow Bourbon 'n BrownTown on all the things. Soapbox PO on all the things as well. If y'all got some leftover campaign money, the campaign's over, you wanna toss us the bag. You know what I'm saying? You can do that. All good. 

[01:22:32] David: 501c3. 

[01:22:32] Caullen: We'll take it. We will take it. We're trying to grow.

[01:22:39] David: I love it. And from Bourbon 'n BrownTown, as always, stay Black, stay Brown, stay queer. 

[01:22:42] Caullen: Stay tuned, stay turnt. 

[01:22:44] David: And we'll see you next time.


(Music “Chi City” by Common.)