Today will forever remain a day of significance in my life for many reasons.
Exactly one year ago today, I was elected as the first African American woman to serve as the Mayor of the city of Kankakee. I recall being exhausted, excited, and determined to start working toward solutions for our community. I remember being interviewed by the local newspaper and their caption of my statement, "this is a movement." Some people did not understand my statement, but I could feel the energy from the community and I was proud to be a part of such a big moment. I witnessed the hope of people who had worked hard, committed to a new vision, and were ready to move Kankakee Forward.
Well, Kankakee IS moving forward. The boards, commissions, and committees of the city more accurately reflect the demographics of the residents. There is an increased level of government transparency and access. The staff have become more diverse. Opportunities for those who are qualified have expanded. The business community is growing. There is a collaboration to develop the Kankakee river and initiatives to address public safety are being formulated. But most importantly, there is a disruption to a system and city that was not always inclusive and considerate of all of its residents.
And while there is noise from the naysayers, I am staying focused because I understand when there is a movement, there is also struggle. And as the youth say, "the struggle is real." With that being said, I am not discouraged. And for those who wish to impede progress and foster negativity, I am reminded of a quote, "when you are accustomed to privilege, equity feels like discrimination."
Today more than ever, I am committed to keep moving Kankakee Forward.
Also on this day, our country lost a great man. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee during his visit to support sanitation workers who were on strike for better working conditions. Despite the opposition and resistance by those who wanted to maintain the status quo, Dr. King remained diligent in his efforts to expand social justice for all human beings. I think of him often and am inspired by his legacy of compassion, peace, and efforts toward equality.
Last but not least, one of my sheroes, the late Maya Angelou was born on this day. During her childhood, she endured trauma entailing abuse, neglect, and abandonment. She utilized her talents for writing and dancing to cope with her pain. As an adult, she became a community activist and a voice to those who were under-served, under-valued, and under-loved. She is an icon in the arts, civil rights movement, and black community. Her legacy is one of resilience and brilliance.
This is OUR home and we need to understand that when one does better, we all do better. It is my hope that we will look to the examples of those who have gone before us and follow their lead to bring hope, healing, peace, and transformational change to our community.
I am grateful for the opportunity to serve and I thank you for taking this journey with me.