Brandon Johnson delivers the 2023 Mansfield Lecture

Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson spoke about the intersection of activism and electoral politics at this year’s Mansfield Lecture. Titled “The Progressive Movement: Building Chicago for All,” the event featured a panel discussion focused on community activism and a speech from the mayor, who also joined the panelists for a Q&A session.

Johnson was elected in March 2023 on a progressive platform that emphasized investment in Chicago’s neighborhoods, mental health facilities, public transportation and affordable housing. During his appearance, he discussed the unique challenges and advantages of his background as a Chicago Public Schools teacher and union organizer. He also credited the growth of progressive politics in the city to previous organizers who developed diverse coalitions for social change including Harold Washington, Jesse Jackson, Fred Hampton and former Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis.

“Our campaign was the reflection of a social movement that brought together all races, genders, generations and communities working towards a common goal,” Johnson said. “This movement was spearheaded by generations of Chicagoans who always wanted Chicago to be better than what they inherited. So we amplify the voices of the most marginalized people, and we establish what real solidarity looks like.”

In addition, the mayor discussed early accomplishments of his administration that included the Treatment Not Trauma initiative to fund mental health facilities, increased time off for Chicago city workers and phasing out subminimum wage salaries for tipped workers.

Preceding Johnson’s appearance was a panel moderated by Amisha Patel, the executive director of Grassroots Collaborative, and comprised of Alex Han (executive director of In These Times magazine), Andrea Ortiz (director of organizing for the Brighton Park Neighborhood Council), Benetta Mansfield (a lawyer with 40 years of labor union representation) and Richard Wallace (executive director of Equity and Transformation). The panel discussed strategies for worker solidarity, engaging citizens at a neighborhood level and developing co-governance strategies that create equity for all.

“We know what we want to dismantle, but what we want to rebuild we haven’t mastered yet,” said Wallace. “We need to build alternatives to replace these systems, and there’s a lot of joy in that work.”

Mayor Johnson's appearance and panel discussion can be viewed here, and the entire Mansfield Lecture can be seen on Roosevelt's YouTube channel

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