By her own admission, Chicago Urban League President Cheryle Jackson is not a politician.

By her own admission, Chicago Urban League President Cheryle Jackson is not a politician.

But then again, she didn’t set out to be a civil rights leader, either, she claims.

Still Jackson is chapter head of one of the most visible–and oldest–civil rights organizations in the nation. And she has set her sights on becoming one of the most powerful politicians in the state: the junior U.S. Senator from Illinois.

For some, the jobs seem vastly different. For Jackson, each job presents her with the challenge to do what she says she does best.

“I am a problem solver … I like bringing creative solutions to problems. And my passion is economic development,” Jackson, 44, told the Defender.

When she started at the Chicago Urban League in October 2006, taking the lead at an organization that had never seen a woman at its helm, Jackson did so because she saw an opportunity to effect a different kind of change in the lives of the people the organization served, she said.

Next month, the economic empowerment maven is expected to announce that she will run for the Senate seat that appointed-incumbent Sen. Roland Burris announced he wouldn’t seek re-election to.

Burris was dogged by his appointment from the start, accepting an appointment from Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who faces federal criminal charges alleging that he initially tried to sell the seat. Burris was later sucked into a swirl of controversy regarding his testimony to the panel that held Blagojevich impeachment hearings.

Then last month, the senator announced that he could only raise $900 and would not mount a reelection campaign.

While early critics of Jackson point to a trail barely blazed in executive leadership, the Northwestern University business school grad calls attention to a refocused Chicago Urban League that traded social service for economic empowerment under her leadership.

She had the organization abandon social service for its constituents’ own good.

She explained that certain urban and rural communities share a commonality. Each are disconnected from economic structures and, in turn, have social programs thrown their way to mask the chasm.


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