By Chinta Strausberg
It was a family affair Tuesday night, April 12 at the Washington Mayor’s Legacy Centennial Gala held at the Harold Washington Library, in honor of the late mayor’s 100th birthday. Five hundred diverse supporters showed their love for the late mayor, with expressions of thanks for uniting and grooming so many ethnic groups for Chicago’s raw and sometimes cheeky politics.
“The mayor of Washington was loved 35 years ago, and he was loved last night,” said Loisteen Walker, who along with Sasha Daltonn produced the celebration.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot hailed Mayor Washington’s legacy of reforming Chicago politics, including hiring women of different ethnic backgrounds and giving contracts to those who were traditionally locked out. She said the Washington mayor has transformed the city and she intends to continue her unfinished business of being fair to all communities.
To show their continued love for the Mayor of Washington, State Senator Mattie Hunter (D-3rd) surprised the audience when she held up a whopping $400,000 check she donated to build a life-size statue nature of the popular mayor which will be erected either on the State Capitol grounds or inside the Springfield building.
“The money will go to the Harold Washington Legacy Committee or we may decide to give it to the Landmarks and Statues Committee in Springfield,” Senator Hunter said. She said someone in the state will have to bid for an artist to produce the statue of the Washington mayor.
When Josie Childs, Chair of Mayor Harold Washington’s Committee, asked Senator Hunter to do something for the Mayor of Washington’s 100th birthday, the Senator decided to use some of her capital to build a statue in honor. of the late mayor.
Senator Hunter, who was on the Washington mayor’s political staff, said she was part of the small, secretive strategic committee that she credits with the Washington mayor’s victory. “It was a secret strategic committee that controlled this election from start to finish.” She worked for the late Vince Bakeman, who was CEO and President of the Human Resource Development Institute (HRDI). “I was part of the voting group.” Echoing what Peggy Montes, who chaired the Washington Mayor’s Women’s Commission, in that he was the first mayor to convene such a body. “The Mayor of Washington has provided many different groups with opportunities that we see now. Without him, his vision and his leadership, many things would not have happened. »
The centennial celebration of Mayor Washington’s 100th birthday took place on the same day he won the historic race for mayor in 1983. His actual birthday is Friday, April 15. The celebration was hosted by Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot and First Lady Amy Eshleman, in partnership with Mayor Harold Washington Legacy Committee led by Josie Childs, who serves as its chair. The honorary co-chairs were Governor JB Pritzker, Cook County Council Chairman Toni Preckwinkle and the Reverend Jesse L. Jackson, Sr.
The late mayor served in both the Illinois House of Representatives and the Illinois Senate from 1965 to 1976 and the United States House of Representatives from 1981 to 1983 in the First District before being elected Chicago’s first black mayor in 1983.
Governor Pritzker presented honors to the Mayor of Washington, as well as a check for $10,000 of the $100,000 the Harold Washington Legacy Committee asked Roosevelt University to establish for scholarships.
It was an evening where members of Block 21 of the Mayor’s Washington City Council hugged, made five and took photos of each other while sharing memories and laughter of the days they fought against the racial conflicts – legislatively and legally – for political control during the city. Council Wars.
At that time it was Vrdolyak Block 29 against Washington Block 29, until April 1986 when a court-ordered special election was approved giving the mayor a 25-25 tie with Mayor Washington as tiebreaker. Delighted to see his former aldermen seatmates were Cook County Chief Judge of the Circuit Court and former 4th District Alderman, Judge Timothy C. Evans; former congressman Luis Gutierrez, then a city councilman for the 26th arrondissement; U.S. Representative Bobby L. Rush, then 2nd Ward Councilman; U.S. Representative Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, then city councilor for the 22nd arrondissement; and others, including Alderman Pat Dowell (3rd), who was not part of Block 21.
Justice Evans told the Chicago Crusader“The city will never forget Harold Washington. He was the first African-American mayor the city ever had, but he was the best mayor the city ever had.
Congressman Rush spoke fondly of the Washington mayor saying, “I was elected alderman the same day Harold was elected. He had a profound change in my life. He’s proud to be sitting in the same seat as Congressman Washington sat in DC “I remember him telling him being a congressman was the best job he ever had, and I’m from agree with him.” Congressman Rush is retiring from Congress after serving more than three decades.
Gutierrez told the Chicago Crusader that the mayor of Washington “brings together people of different nationalities. I came here to thank you, Harold. You pulled me out of the dark. There is nothing wrong with driving a taxi. It’s a decent way to make a living. That’s what I was doing. I don’t know what you saw in me, my future, my leadership, but you did and you gave me an opportunity. Without you, I would never have been on city council. You authenticated me,” Gutierrez said of Mayor Washington’s confidence in him. “It transformed my life. I would never have made it to Congress.
He reflected on the day reporters asked for Mayor Washington’s reaction to the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund suing the city of Chicago because Latinos didn’t have enough seats (aldermen). “What do you have to say about that?” Gutierrez said, “The Mayor of Washington is so beautifully and poetically in one word, ‘Guilty.’ Wow, how powerful he could say that.
“In the Latino community, we said to ourselves that we had a mayor who could see us. We are no longer invisible,” Gutierrez explained. “He wanted us to have our rightful place in leadership.” In 1987, Gutierrez claimed to have won the election, as did the mayor. In 1983, Mayor Washington got 15% of the vote in the 26th Ward, and in 1987 he got 60% when he was elected.
“We all stand on Mayor Washington’s shoulders. Remember when we had a Latin alderman? Well, today we have 12. You (the mayor of Washington) have opened the doors for so many of us.
Congressman Garcia said the Washington mayor will always be remembered for reaching out and caring for neighborhoods and because of his leadership, Hispanics were no longer left behind. “The coalition he formed helped transform this city. He leveled the playing field. It is his legacy that we commemorate on this anniversary,” he said.
Others present who worked with the Mayor of Washington were the Reverend Walter “Slim” Coleman, who said, “We’ve been working very hard on voter registration. We registered 45,000 new voters in three weeks. “We worked with Harold on a lot of issues. He brought out the best in us. He taught us how to win and I miss him.
Former U.S. Senator Roland Burris has told how some people wanted him to run for mayor when the Washington mayor initially refused to run. He, too, called the Washington mayor one of the city’s best mayors who transformed politics. He and the Reverend Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. praised the Washington mayor for “dancing on the grave of patronage.” “He got rid of that system,” Reverend Jackson said, “and that was good for everybody.”