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Grace Chan McKibben May Break The Mold For 25th District

By Lee Edwards

Defender Contributing Writer

In the hotly contested race for Illinois’ 25th district seat, appearances can loom large, especially for Grace Chan McKibben, an Asian American woman running for political office in a predominantly African American section of Chicago’s South Side.

McKibben is fully aware of her heritage. She told the Defender she’s an immigrant and English is not even her first language. However, she does not hide from truth, wish it away, or even apologize for it. In fact, she believes it is her differences that makes her an excellent candidate and, if elected, a great representative for the community.

“My experience as an Asian woman, an Asian American woman, is that I am usually the only Asian wherever I go,” said McKibben. “I’m used to being the only person that looks like me in various different arenas and I can’t change the way I look, I can’t change my background, but what I can bring is my own unique story, my own unique set of experiences, skills, personality, story, and everything to the table.”

The Hyde Park resident acknowledged the emotions some may have to her candidacy, but in turn she offered this response:

“I completely understand the desire someone has to have someone who looks like them represent them. My general approach is that once someone gets to know me and knows my record and my vision and my skill-set, not only the technical skills in policy and getting things done but the ability to relate to different people [they will support me],” said McKibben.

Her resume states she clearly has the experience to perform well in positions where leadership, advocacy, and character are in high demand. In terms of advocacy for minorities, she worked in Chinatown for six years with the Chinese American Service League where she championed the rights of the Asian community. While employed at the University of Chicago, she was the associate dean of students at the university where she was charged with the safety, security of all students as well as health issues and disability.

“I have worked with different communities, the African American community, Hispanic community, Asian community, everything working from downtown to working with foster children, and I think I can bring a unique perspective and definitely a breadth of skills and qualities to bridge communities across lines but also real-life skills and experience,” said McKibben.

As a mother to African American children (her husband is Black), McKibben is well aware of some of the concerns African American families face when they send their children out of the door at the start of the day.

“We joked about it when [our sons] were little; they’re cute little boys and then all of a sudden by the time they’re 12-13, people look at them on the street and then they become dangerous men,” said McKibben.

McKibben’s political background with Hyde Park includes time spent working with the current incumbent Barbara Flynn Currie while the two were on the ACLU board together.

When asked about how she will impact the district, McKibben said her priorities are education and social services. In particular, fully funding all public education without solely relying on property taxes is significant, too. Addressing the state budget was among her key priorities because of what has transpired over the past few years.

“Not having a budget for two of the past three years has been devastating not only to the agencies but also it’s been completely devastating to people’s lives, seniors who depend on the services, child care education so I decided to be a part of the solution instead of part of the problem,” said McKibben.

While on the campaign trail, McKibben heard from voters in both the northern and southern portion of the district. For instance, saving parkland in the northern section of the district is a priority for voters. However, in the southern portion of the district she learned crime, jobs opportunities, and issues stemming from manganese are major concerns.

On the incoming Obama Presidential Library, McKibben lent her voice to the chorus of support for the signing of a community benefits agreement. She wanted to see an open and transparent process coupled with a comprehensive plan that would benefit everyone.

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