Illinois 7th District Congressional Candidate, Kina Collins, is a lifelong activist and nationally recognized gun violence prevention and health care advocate with a proven record of policy making, coalition building, and working with communities to improve public health and safety. Collins is running against longtime Illinois congressman Danny Davis in the primary.
Kina began organizing in the wake of the murder of Laquan McDonald. In 2017, Kina founded the Chicago Neighborhood Alliance, empowering activists to end gun violence in Chicago through civic engagement. She co-authored the Illinois Council on Women and Girls Act, which created a council to advise the governor and state lawmakers on issues concerning women and girls, and served as the Council’s inaugural chairwoman. During her tenure as the Council’s chair, Kina was also selected by Chicago City Clerk Anna Valencia to serve on the Status of Women and Girls in Chicago working group.
During the 2019 Chicago aldermanic election, Kina helped form a coalition of organizations called Brand New Council, which aimed to elect progressive candidates of color to the Chicago City Council. In 2016, Kina was also selected as a member of Generation Progress’ #Fight4AFuture National Leadership Council, which developed campaigns on gun violence prevention and criminal justice reform. Most recently she served as a stakeholder on President Biden’s transition team and task force for gun violence prevention.
The Chicago Defender spoke with the IL-07 Congressional Candidate about why she believes it’s time for some new leadership in Washington.
Chicago Defender: When candidates run for office, typically they talk about the black agenda and campaign in Black neighborhoods, churches, etc. However, when they get elected those issues seem to get pushed aside, leaving voters disillusioned. What can you say about your commitment to keeping the issues important to Black Chicagoans and Black Americans in the forefront if elected?
Kina Collins: If we have all these black elected officials in power, how was it that Rahm Emanuel was able to shut down 50 of our schools? How is it that gun violence is sky-high at 1000 homicides in Cook County and 78% of those are Black folks? The answer is simple-complacency. We need to pull political outsiders to the forefront of everyday people. I’m not a politician, I’m somebody who had to survive the horrors of everyday gun violence. What I also like to tell Black voters is to follow the money. Follow the money of who’s funding our elected officials, and that’ll give you a very clear description of what their priorities and their agenda will be and what they will and will not vote for once they’re in office.
My campaign took the stance that we would not accept corporate PAC dollars as donations, no lobbyists money, no real estate development money, no private equity money, and no individual donations from executives who work at these major companies either. Even with that, we have managed to out-fundraise every candidate in the race including Danny Davis. So, it can be done, it just takes political courage to do it.
Chicago Defender: Will this be your stance even after elected?
Kina Collins: Yes, my first commitment is to run a clean campaign and not take any corporate PAC money. My second commitment is to build collaboration with groups on the ground that impact the community on affordable housing, gun violence, sexual assault, and predatory lending practices. We need the stories and the raw truth from the people who live in these communities. The people who bear the brunt of many of these decisions are typically black Chicagoans and major urban cities across the United States that have high concentrations of Black folks.
Chicago Defender: What about public safety? It’s not just our communities that are impacted, the rise in mass shootings is reaching from urban areas to smaller rural communities. What is your plan going into Congress to really get some things done when it comes to passing some sensible, common-sense gun laws?
Kina Collins: I’m a gun violence survivor and I always tell people in the state, that as a child growing up on the west side, I actually witnessed a homicide in front of my childhood home, and I knew the victim and the shooter. That’s the story of so many young people across the country, and especially in our city.
I want to be very clear because nationally, people have made Chicago the political punching bag for this conversation around gun violence. In fact, Greg Abbott, who’s the governor of Texas, the first thing that came out of his mouth was there are more shootings in Chicago than in Texas schools, abdicating his responsibility of failed leadership around these issues.
To address this issue first we have to speak truth to power about how there is a disparity between how gun violence and public safety are covered in Black communities versus communities of other races. Second, we need to hold these gun manufacturers accountable. No one in this country should be able to access an AR-155 with 100 rounds in a clip. That makes absolutely no sense. It is nonsensical, it’s not logical for anybody to have that much power in a weapon. In addition, the conversations around gun manufacturers don’t happen because these are millionaires and billionaires. Oftentimes the people who own these gun manufacturing companies and gun shops are wealthy, white, and male. These people are not being held accountable. Third, we need to look at the supply side of this problem because a lot of money is being made and 60% of the guns recovered in Chicago come from out of the state from states like Indiana, Wisconsin, and Mississippi. The other 40% of guns recovered here can be traced back to one or two shops in the suburbs. It’s not just who has illegal guns but how did they get these guns in the first place? We must put common-sense gun safety laws in place and hold those who traffic guns illegally accountable.
Chicago Defender: It’s not just access to guns that cause the violence. How will you address the root issues of crime?
Kina Collins: Absolutely, the root causes of a lot of the violence we see today is poverty, not having access to mental health services, stable housing or a strong local economy. So, we must be sure we are attacking those root causes. However, on the federal level, I believe in universal background checks, banning assault rifles, red flag laws, and closing the boyfriend loophole.
I served as the executive director for the largest gun violence prevention, nonprofit in the state of Illinois and on President Biden’s transition team. I think I offer a new lens to the situation as a survivor here on the west side of Chicago.
Chicago Defender: I’ve said this to other candidates. This is a new kind of Congress. This is not the Congress of our parents or earlier generations. It is hateful and full of open white supremacists. Candidates often talk about heading to Washington DC to reach across the aisle. They tend to want a kumbaya moment, but it is not happening so nothing gets done. What kind of Congressperson will you be when it comes to standing your ground on issues like women’s rights, voters’ rights, gun laws, and other civil rights issues?
Kina Collins: Make no mistake about it, the GOP and Trump Republicans have made it very clear they are not invested. We are interested and working with communities of color, working-class people, and people who experience these disparate outcomes in their neighborhoods and in their communities and so we don’t do ourselves a favor as Democrats that continue to water down our agenda. We need to activate the people and have boots on the ground to apply the pressure on these elected officials and in some of these swing districts across the country.
The good news for those in my district is I’ve been doing this work and will continue to. I believe we need to use our platform and position to make sure that we’re organizing people across this country to hold their elected officials accountable. A lot of these states are not Republican or red states, they are under-organized, and voter suppressed. We need to make sure that we’re organizing those folks to apply the pressure on their elected officials to get things done in Congress.
Chicago Defender: How do you do that with such a divisive Congress?
Kina Collins: I support eliminating the filibuster in the Senate. The filibuster is blocking and obstructing the ability for us to push for common-sense gun safety, women’s rights, health care, housing, and voting rights laws. These are all on the chopping block because our Senate refuses to move on these issues. I believe in old-school tactics like boots on the ground, door knocking, phone banking, postcard writing, and making sure that we’re educating the public and building coalitions to apply the pressure.
Chicago Defender: We are living in a moment where our children may have less civil rights than their parents and grandparents. What will it take for Democrats to stop the erosion of our civil liberties?
Kina Collins: You know, it’s a scary time and I think that a lot of voters are disillusioned with our government because we have candidates and elected officials who run and say one thing, and then get in office and do a completely different thing so they believe that their vote doesn’t count.
We have to be disciplined at this moment, to just make sure that we are pulling people in, we’re doing the organizing work, we’re doing the education piece with voters, and that we’re fighting for the issues that are important. I tell everyone, that our entire lives are political. Your entire life is being legislated now more than ever. We have to get everyone involved.
Chicago Defender: Your opponent, Congressman Danny Davis has held his office for many years and is respected in the community. Why do you believe a change is needed in the IL-07?
Kina Collins: Representative Davis has been my congressperson since I was five years old. So, coming to the decision to run against him was not an easy decision but in this watershed moment, where we are seeing urgent crises break out everywhere, particularly in the Black community, we need urgent leadership. That requires the energy to ensure we are pulling people together.
The one thing I love about our district is that there’s not a shortage of good folks across this district, fighting for violence prevention, fighting for reproductive health care, fighting for economic equity, fighting for things like reparations, and criminal justice reform. However, we do have a shortage of leadership. There is no reason the west and south sides of Chicago do not have the economic housing and health care opportunities that the North side and downtown Chicago have. Our children should have equity in their education. It just has not happened.
I’m not just running for the IL-07, I’m running because we need a new vision for the Democratic Party. That vision has to include people of color, women, young people, people in the disability community, people who come from all different walks of life, but especially people that are survivors of some of the most pressing issues.
We have to be honest about what this moment requires. This moment requires a movement, and I’m willing to build that movement for the people here in Illinois. The job description for Congress has changed and unfortunately, I think that some of our leaders don’t understand when it’s time to pass the torch.
The Illinois primary is June 28, 2022, with the general election happening on November 8, 2022. The Chicago Defender encourages all readers to register and vote in the Primary and General Elections. For more on Kina Collins and her campaign, visit her website at www.kinacollins.com