After 25 years of serving the public behind the scenes, Dr. Dilara Sayeed decided it’s time for her to step to the forefront and run for Illinois’ 5th district seat.
Sayeed’s path to Springfield opened when incumbent Juliana Stratton opted to not seek reelection in hopes of securing a larger office as a lieutenant governor when she joined J. B. Pritzker’s ticket for governor in August.
Sayeed, the former CEO of the , a non-profit which strives to develop and inspire the best in teaching and school leadership throughout Illinois, said her decision to run for office was made “unapologetically” in light of the results of last year’s election cycle. She traced her memories back years ago to when her fire for politics was first ignited after attending a dinner with now former President Barack Obama. She said his example even back then helped mold the type of politician she aspires to be.
“It is character, it is integrity; what will define our politicians now is not going to be our partisanship, people are tired of that,” said Sayeed. “They’re not looking for the Republican, the Democrat who won’t move, that won’t collaborate. People are looking for public servants with integrity. That’s what we want for our politicians and public servants.”
Sayeed said she wanted to run for the Illinois House because she wanted to impact the largest number of Illinoisans with her “Build A Life” agenda. The lifelong educator said through her agenda she will work toward creating safer neighborhoods by stopping illegal guns from entering into her district, working on criminal justice reform with a focus on reentry, equitably funding education, investing in neighborhood schools, bringing businesses to the district, and more.
“Building a life means we are going to have to work together as a team, and we’re going to have to do it term after term until we get it,” said Sayeed.
A Chicago native through and through, Sayeed became fluent in the various rail and bus routes throughout the city through her father who worked as a ticket agent for Chicago Transit Authority. She said during her adolescence in the 1970’s she grew up around the Montrose & Lake Shore Drive area, which at the time was a predominantly African American community, where she attended Joseph Brennemann Elementary School. She said she loved that community. However, her family would later move to N. Elston Ave. & N. Milwaukee Ave., a predominantly White community, where she attended Hitch Elementary School where she learned a few life lessons about feeling safe and accepted in different environments.
Life has taught Sayeed not to pull punches, especially when addressing what could be the elephant in the room for some with concerns to her gender, ethnicity and faith. Sayeed carries herself as a proud brown skinned American Muslim woman. In person as in all of her photos, she wears beautifully colored hijabs, the traditional head dress for Muslim women. She was direct in acknowledging that she’s asking for residents of not just the 5th district’s northern communities (which include portions of the River North, South Loop, and Bronzeville neighborhoods) but also portions of the southern communities i.e. Englewood, Woodlawn, and South Shore neighborhoods for their vote.
Sayeed said she is keenly aware the hue of her skin may play a role even at a subconscious level with Black voters, however, she pointed to her history as an educator in various communities and an ally to the African American community to demonstrate that she can be trusted to serve the community faithfully. She said her campaign headquarters is located on 55th & State in the Washington Park neighborhood and that she has personally asked people to sign petitions of support for her candidacy all throughout the 5th district.
“I’m able to even do this because of the struggle of African Americans and Black Americans,” said Sayeed. “I’m at the table because Black Americans fought for all of our civil rights. That gives me the right to come here in 2017 and say I’m going to run for office, but I understand parts of that struggle because as an American Muslim, it’s been a struggle in the United States to find our own belonging in this community.”
Sayeed also pointed out that as an American Muslim in a time where her faith has been a lightning rod for what she calls “divisive rhetoric,” she hopes that voters will see beyond the chatter to get to the real issues.
“If there’s an opportunity to be an ally across faiths, across races, across backgrounds, let’s seize it because there’s too much divisiveness, so let’s seize it and become allies,” said Sayeed.
For more information about Dr. Dilara Sayeed, visit votedilara.com/.