Two years ago, when Chicagoans were horrified by the graphic video images of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald being shot 16 times by CPD Officer Jason Van Dyke, Ja’mal Green adorned a “Rahm Failed Us” t-shirt and protested on Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s front lawn in Ravenswood. One can argue that he popularized the famous protest slogan “16 Shots and A Coverup.”
The 22-year-old activist now sets his sights on 2019, hoping to defeat Mayor Emanuel and claim the title of “youngest Chicago mayor”–creating a new air of leadership that represents Chicago’s communities. After his run as a public-speaking advocate for Senator Bernie Sanders, Green wants to bring forward a “progressive vision” to Chicago.
“I’m running for mayor because it’s hard to find a candidate that can relate to the needs of everyday residents in the city of Chicago,” says Green. “Those who usually run for office talk about what they’re going to do; but when they get in office, they don’t prioritize the needs of everyday people.”
Green continuously bashes Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the current city council in every public appearance. On an MSNBC Town Hall, Green cried that “Rahm Emanuel doesn’t care about Black people.” In a CNN interview with Don Lemon, Green declared that Mayor Rahm Emanuel “has to go” and that the city council is doing the mayor’s “bidding.” As recently as a month ago on Chicago Tonight, Green accused the current mayor of “pay-to-play politics” and misappropriating the use of TIF dollars.
Green believes the change he desires will ultimately come with him winning office. “I’m running because the city needs new leadership, refreshing ideas, a new slate of politics,” says Green. “It’s going to take someone anti-establishment. It’s going to take somebody young and that can unify the communities in Chicago.”
“I think it’s time. I’m the only in the race who has been out in the trenches protesting hours a day and fought on behalf of families.”
But Green has not always been a soldier in the current movement for police accountability. At the age of 15, the anti-Rahm activist shared a relationship–what Green refers only to as “business”– with Mayor Emanuel when the city chose him to be an ambassador for the anti-violent “Put the Guns Down!” campaign. Green was paid to promote a safe summer in Chicago Public Schools.
Green cites renowned clergyman Father Michael Pfleger as a mentor in his community. Father Pfleger, stalwart peace activist and community organizer, has had a tremendous influence on Green spiritually and politically. However, Evan Osnos’s profile on Father Pfleger in The New Yorker reveals that he and Mayor Emanuel have a candid relationship, even sharing text messages regularly. After the Laquan McDonald video surfaced, Mayor Emanuel took it upon himself to call Pfleger to plead his innocence. It is not confirmed whether Green was conscious of this.
When voters look to Green’s experience, they will more than likely find his non-profit organization “Majostee Allstars” and his public speaking. Majostee Allstars, which was formerly Skyrocketing Teens Corp, is an organization dedicated to creating youth leadership and role models. The organization has created coat drives and scholarship opportunities for Auburn-Gresham residents. On the organization’s Facebook page, notable figures such as Chance The Rapper and Arne Duncan are recognized for their previous speaking engagements with Majostee Allstars. Willie Wilson, another mayoral candidate, donated $1000 to Green’s organization.
Green says he maintains a positive relationship with Wilson and adamantly dismisses critics who say that the many Black candidates will split the “Black vote.”
“Me and Willie Wilson are friends. We’re not against each other,” says Green. “At the end of the day, Black people don’t vote. We haven’t voted since Harold Washington–85 to 90 percent during his days and now we’re talking 30 percent today. The question should be ‘How many candidates need to run to get people to vote?’ We’re not technically cutting each other out because we all have our own bases.”
Green’s priorities as mayor include: an elected public school board; a complete audit of the city’s finances by an independent auditor; city-funded insurance for police officers (private insurance companies will assess the liability of individual officers); termination of the tax-increment-financing plan; decriminalizing cannabis and push for state-wide legalization; a “triangular initiative” that pushes community college, trade school, and entrepreneurial boot camp for graduating CPS high school students who have the required number of community service hours.
City-funded police insurance is a policy that has been seen discussed before and is held as “radical” by Green. After chanting for (and winning) new tasers for all of CPD post-Laquan McDonald, Green wants private insurance companies to assess the liability of individual officers in an attempt to prevent “bad apple” police officers on the force and curb massive payouts in police settlements. “We’re paying 500 million dollars a year just in corruption,” he says. “We’re losing out on the progressive city that Chicago can be.”
Green attributes his current run for mayor to a conversation with an unnamed mentor and his disenchantment with the current political landscape. “I would always say I would never be in politics,” recounts Green. “I had a conversation with one of my mentors. I said ‘It’s either me or you.’ I got so fed up with what was going on. I didn’t see real mobilization or candidates that speak to our problems.”
Green does not plan on going away anytime soon if he fails to secure the mayoral seat. With this campaign, win or lose, he believes his platform will increase and be large enough for future causes and interests. At 22, he has many options to choose from. He could go to college, revitalize his R&B career, reassume the position of CEO at Majostee Allstars, or continue to do the community work he says he was called to do. “I have a plan but I can’t predict my moves,” says Green. “The long-term vision is to be mayor and then to be President.”