When Separate Equals Hungry

A 2-part feature exploring food insecurity.

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The SOUL of Chicago

Photo Credit:
Photo by Kai El'Zaber

If you were anywhere in the city the night that decided who the  next mayor of Chicago would be you can still feel the excitement in the air.  For many it was a night of victory  and others not so triumphant. As the new Mayor elect Brandon Johnson stepped on the stage to give his acceptance speech the freshness of the new and everything to come permeated the atmosphere and imbued the hearts and minds of Chicago’s populace.  The sun was shining brightly even in the night radiating the hope and much needed new way of doing politics.  The thirst was felt.

Meanwhile at the Paul Vallas camp people were contemplative and mauling over what the future held for them. Business owners big or moderate were concerned about taxes. If they were wealthy, they questioned if they were in or out? Very watchful of the new mayor’s plans to tax the rich weighed heavily on their minds.  Lowered shoulders filled the room like defeated sportsman who had played by the playbook. So, what happened?  What’s new?

“It just seems so heavy,” said a friend, “Now coming out of covid with everything still on the mend, you know, Who needs higher taxes? I mean $128,000, is relative, It doesn’t make you rich. It does mean I may be a little better off compared to the man making  $60,000.”

I laughed thinking.  'See, player that’s your privilege talking. So many people are living at the poverty level, way below sixty grand and most likely  they have a few kids running around.  As a matter of fact, a man making $128,000 with four kids ain’t rich for sure.”


It is difficult to provide a precise percentage of people in the United States who are rich or upper class, as definitions and criteria for these terms can vary. However, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, as of 2019, the top 5% of households in terms of income had an annual income of more than $250,000. This group comprised approximately 6.6 million households, or 5.1% of all households in the country. Additionally, the top 20% of households had an annual income of more than $150,000, comprising approximately 24.5 million households, or 19.3% of all households in the country.

My friend laughed and said “Exactly. In what reality is that number a rich man’s salary?”

All I could think is . . . it could be a lot worse. We must see just how our new optimistic youthful mayor is going to move forward working the soul of Chicago.

And that’s the way it was. The talk continues after the election night and the tongues were wagging. Everyone had so much to say.  What do you think Chicago’s new mayor is going to do? How do you think he’s going to fare? Will he or won’t he deliver on his promises? Is he experienced enough? Will he fold under pressure, or will he rise to the occasion?  Will he end the violence that has become a banner for Chicago. Will he make Chicago the  city of ‘Big Shoulders’ that it was once fondly referred  to? Will it ever become the ‘city that works,’ again minus the patronage tax?

Unfortunately, too few people understand how government works. Fewer know how the different branches of government work in tandem with one another. Less understand the legal  jurisdiction of each branch and what each is responsible for. And even less of the voting public understands their real responsibility to hold elected officials accountable and how.

Monday, May 15, 2023, Inauguration arrived and the UIC Pavilion Stadium was filled to the rafters  with representation of city reflective of a rainbow coalition and the program was equally inclusive touting the ever expansive changing of the guard. Chicago truly is an urban city in our view where everyone is welcomed.                                                                                                                          

The newly elected 57th  Mayor of Chicago took the podium and said,  “As you look out over Lake Michigan, it's not just the outstanding food from pizza to Italian beef to the vegetarian tacos. It's not just our art and music that pushes the boundaries and redefines genres. Oh, I believe what truly makes us great is our people .  ...”

The ‘soul of Chicago was the theme  of the Mayor’s speech.
CNW took a moment out to ask several people their thoughts about what the Mayor's Inaugural Address conveyed to the city.

The Gist

The 57th Mayor  continued  following his intro and  went on to get to the nucleus of his address.

“There is something special about this city. I like to call it the soul of Chicago.  .   .  It is alive in each one of us here today. And it's always been the strong and the heart of everyone who has ever called this land home. I'm talking about the soul of Chicago to live in the hearts of the Miami, the Salk, the Potawatomi who lived on this land for centuries. The soul of Chicago sent a Black Haitian man named Jean Baptiste Point du Sable to establish a city at the mouth of the Chicago River.

Robert Curington, Chicago, Hospitality Manager, age: mature

I think that the Mayor’s intention to bring everyone in sync is a major task that can’t be done in one term. But I think he either will or he won’t. The soul of Chicago will demand of him major anxiety either way, whether he succeeds or not. But to make it happen in one term, in my opinion is not doable.

"It is the soul of Chicago that brought immigrants from all over the world to work, to organize, to build the first sky skyscraper, to flee persecution in one country and create an entire industry. . . I'm talking about the soul of Chicago. . . ."  - Mayor Brandon Johnson."
William Buzz Browne IV, Hyde Park, Sales & Marketing; age 50

"When I first heard him, the  first thing that came to mind was I don't know if he's an Obama. And Obama could do that. I know after Obama, the country was polarized. My first impression of Mayor Johnson was that I could dig what he is talking about.  The people are the soul of Chicago if you think about it. But can he pull it off? It’s a major goal. Huge.  The old guard worked hard to keep the folks separate.  I’ll say this, my original gut feeling is kibosh,  because I think he is more than what I thought he was. There’s a possibility that he can pull it off. So, with the right counsel he will succeed. He has a diverse team of folks around him so it’s a real possibility."
""His position on taxing the rich is a hurdle, he must handle gingerly. Otherwise, he can scare some folks away. I mean they can just choose to pick up their toys and go downstate or to Indiana. He’s got to find a delicate balance.

"That, my friends, is the rich soul of Chicago. That soul is what strikes me today.  .   . as we debate and discuss the solutions to these crises, I want to remind us that we have the real conversation." - Mayor Brandon Johnson
Jo’ Bowie, South Shore, Marketing Director, Private sector; 35

"I think that Mayor Brandon is well meaning and enthusiastic. His enthusiasm is infectious and that is what got him elected. The people are desirous of change, and he made big promises, to bring people together across racial, ethnic, religious and community lines because the people are the soul of Chicago. The people loved it. They never asked how he was going to do it, and he never provided the details. Maybe . . . he said he’d raise taxes on the rich and fund summer jobs for youth.  But everybody running for office says that to the poor. I think that if he has people around him that think outside the box, he can pull it off."

"And that conversation is about the soul of Chicago. It's a life. It's alive and well in each one of us. We have so much in common, you all. They really do. And we know that we all suffer when these ills are allowed to fester and grow. These problems don't just affect particular neighborhoods. One community or an ethnic group affects all of us.  .  ." - Mayor Brandon Johnson

N. Muni, South Side, Chicago,  Engineer; 66

"It seems to me that he ran on the Harold Washington platform of inclusivity and diverse representation reflecting Chicago as a win, win for all. That is what he’s calling the soul of Chicago. It’s going to take major ‘playa’ charisma and skill.  If he wants change now in Chicago, he’s got to be  willing make a dramatic change  that is so radical yet good for everyone.
I think there's a breakdown in his conscious understanding; I don't know if he has the support or the charisma to pull it off.  We’ll wait to see because at the same time, he's talking about what rich people with big money don't like-- that he wants to tax them. So, you have to  know, that a lot of the rich are like trying to flee Chicago. That's one of the reasons why he needs to have an infrastructure that is seriously improvisational and stable in seeking balance to end that nonsensical crap. To bring the people together he’s got to fill that gap."

". . .Is that what our story will say?  That Chicago was unable to, . .    that we did not invest in all the people and all the communities that make our city great.. . . We get to tell a different story. I'm talking about a story . . ." - Mayor Brandon Johnson
D. Hodge, South Side Chicago, CNW Food Editor, mature

"The soul of Chicago is, bringing the heart of community together because, Chicago is a microcosm of a variety of cultures. That's who we are. And it's bringing the soul of each community together to be a better Chicago for today's society, but also addressing the issues that have plagued our city and how we can become better together as a community in a more holistic manner. pragmatically.
I think he may. Under Harold Washington we made major strides. And given that we are coming out of a world pandemic, there are new issues that we are facing, that requires the Mayor to surround himself with people that will help him identify and address those in the best way for today.
For instance, what's different about the violence? As opposed to four years ago, or 24 years ago. Whether it's gangs, whether it's kids who don't have direction, how do we address those issues? In 2023, what are some of the remedies that we would use now to help? We will never eradicate it, but to help address it, so that it makes it a little easier. It makes Chicago the city that people want to come back and visit not be afraid of visiting."

Mayor Brandon spoke it loud and clear, 'the soul of Chicago is its people and if we the people want to win and be the city with big shoulders  then we must work together across the aisles, and communities together."

Are you ready?

Photo Credit:

About Author:

Visionary Kai EL´ Zabar has worked as CEO of arts organizations and as editor, writer and multimedia consultant accumulating a significant number of years in experience as an executive, journalist,publisher, public relations, media training, marketing, internal and external communications. Kai currently continues her life’s work as Editor-in-Chief Of Chicago News Weekly where she has resumed her column, “E NOTES.” She is ecstatic to be in the position to grace Chicago and the world with a publication that articulates the Black voice.



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