Chicago Inaugurates First Black Woman and Openly Gay Mayor

The Honorable Lori E. Lightfoot was sworn in as Chicago’s 56th mayor on Monday, May 20 at Wintrust Arena.

When Lightfoot’s name was announced, Wintrust Arena erupted in applause and standing ovations. A person from the audience shouted, “Bring in the light,” a reference to Lightfoot’s campaign slogan.

Lightfoot’s road to the mayoral office has been one of historical proportions. In the runoff, she faced Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle, and ‘herstory’ was made as two Black women were in the running to be mayor of Chicago. When Lightfoot was elected as mayor in April, she became Chicago’s first black woman and openly gay mayor-elect.

During the ceremony, there were performances from the Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus, After School Matters choir, Native Veterans group of the Trickster Art Gallery, and Miguel Cervantes, star of Chicago’s “Hamilton: An American Musical,” who sang the National Anthem.

In his invocation, the Rev. Dr. L. Bernard Jakes implored, “Teach us to walk gently with our elected officials.”

During the prayer for peace, the Rev. Dr. Beth Brown said, “Being better together means no one gets left behind.” Brown also offered the refrain, “We are enough, and we have enough.”

“Help us to wage peace by our commitment to create one city where we are truly better together,” she said.

Brown also called for people to be “repairers of the breach and restorers of the streets to live in,” as it is stated in Isaiah 58:12.

“There is no peace that is an easy peace, and we will not settle for a false peace,” she said. “Transform us and transform our city, we pray, so together we will let our light shine.”

Members of the City Council of all 50 wards of Chicago, including 12 newly elected alderman, took the oath of office as well. This included Melissa Conyears-Ervin as treasurer of the city of Chicago and Anna M. Valencia as city clerk.

Lightfoot’s wife, Amy Eshelman, and daughter, Vivian, were on hand as she took the oath of office.

“For me, this has been a city of opportunity. It’s been a city of hope,” Lightfoot said during her inaugural address.

Lightfoot also noted the historic moment for Valencia and Conyears-Ervin.

“For the first time in the history of Chicago, women of color now hold all three of our city-wide elected offices,” Lightfoot said. “I congratulate you, City Clerk Anna Valencia and City Treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin, on your inaugurations, your victories and on all you’ve overcome to reach this historic moment.”

Lightfoot thanked former Mayor Rahm Emanuel for his assistance during the transition. She also thanked the people of the city of Chicago.

“We stand today at a time of great hope and possibility. And, I can’t help but feel the spirit of the late, great Mayor Harold Washington,” Lightfoot said.

Lightfoot talked about the creation of a Mayor’s Office of Public Safety, which will be led by the Deputy Mayor. The aim of the office is to develop and implement a comprehensive violence prevention strategy. She also talked about gun violence and the development of a new, proactive strategy.

“All of our stakeholders must be committed to this work. This is not a challenge that can be solved by law enforcement alone,” Lightfoot said. “This greatest challenge demands all of us, united together.”

Lightfoot also spoke about education, affordable housing, and police reform and accountability. She then said her administration will work to expand early childhood education.

Lightfoot also talked about stability. She said the city dug itself into a giant financial hole for many years.

“We must get our financial house in order,” she said. “We will lay out a plan to put Chicago on the path to solvency.”

Lightfoot talked about the four stars on the city of Chicago’s flag. She said each star stands for building and rebuilding. The second star is education, the third is stability and the fourth is integrity.

“Get ready because reform is here,” she told the crowd. “I will sign an executive order to end the worst abuses of aldermanic privilege.”

Lightfoot said problems of housing, poverty and isolation must be addressed.

“We all have to be a part of the solution,” she said. “Each of us need to ask: What can I do?”

The Rev. Janette Wilson, national director of PUSH Excel, said it was an exciting day and a moment of much needed change.

“We have a mayor who’s committed to justice for everyone and investing in neighborhoods — particularly underserved and undersourced,” she said. “She has high moral standards and integrity.”

Ja’Mal Green, a community activist who ran for Mayor, said Lightfoot’s inauguration was an historic moment.

“I’ve been somebody who was critical of former Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Mayor Lori Lightfoot,” he said. “After seeing her defeat the odds, we became best friends.”

Green said he thinks Lightfoot will do well.

“She has a lot of challenges in front of her,” he said. “I’m going to do all I can to help her.”

 

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