Ep. 90 - Electoral & Radical Politics 4.0 ft. Alderman Byron Sigcho-Lopez & Alderperson-elect Jessie Fuentes
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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.
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 25thward.org.
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 Jessiefor26thward.com.
Mentioned or alluded to in episode:
- Previous installments: (1.0 with Camille Williams (2018), 2.0 with Ald. Maria Hadden (pre-COVID 2020), 3.0 with Stephanie Skora (fall 2020))
- Chicago’s Progressive Alderpeople Retain Seats, Look To Expand Influence On City Council — And Even Mayor’s Race (Block Club Chi)
- Caullen's election Instagram highlights -- memes and commentary :)
- Commentary | An appeal to Chicago’s Black voters: don’t fear your liberation by Damon Williams (TRiiBE)
- The Revolutionary Column | The War on Gangs stunted our growth by Bella BAHHS (TRiiBE)
- Midwest Socialist Article on 2023 Municipal Elections by Chris O.
- Brandon Johnson’s Ground Game Defeats Obama Machine in Chicago by Luke Goldstein (The American Prospect)
- Election Night Coverage: Morgan Elise-Johnson (of the TRiiBE) on WTTW
- Eve Ewing’s Instagram post on electoralism and movement
- Benji Hart's Twitter post -- election highlights and reflective thoughts
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.