Black Voices

From Accessible Gathering Spaces to Educational Opportunities, Young Chicagoans Share Their Hopes for Brandon Johnson’s Administration

From Accessible Gathering Spaces to Educational Opportunities, Young Chicagoans Share Their Hopes for Brandon Johnson’s Administration

The future of Chicago will be in the hands of Brandon Johnson. 

Between choosing the city’s next police superintendent, a growing migrant crisis and concerns about crime as summer approaches, he has a long list of priorities before he even takes office. 

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For young people in the city, the start of a new administration at City Hall is both a chance for progress and a moment to call attention to the issues most important to them. 

Chase Ervin, 20, is a prevention specialist with BUILD Chicago and an Austin resident. He said the people in his community are looking forward to something new from this administration, and seeing Johnson following through on his campaign promises.

“I grew up in Chicago all my life, all I’ve been hearing is that we want to see change,” Ervin said. “We would love to see the commitment that you really want to honor these people’s words and create change.”

Kaziah Burks, 14, a resident of West Garfield Park, said she is hoping to see more resources made available for her and her peers.

“I would like to see more opportunities for us where we can just go and get what we need, more safe things to do in our city and to explore our community,” Burks said. “There is so much going on in our city and with all of the gun violence and everything that is going on around us, it is hindering us from becoming what we could be. And I feel that if we had the opportunities and the connections where everyone had it, the city will look better as a whole and us young people, we can turn into better people ourselves.”

Austin resident Kentin London, 17, said he would like to see more investment in the Chicago Public Schools.

“Educating the youth is educating the next generation of leaders, educating the next generation of environmentalists, activists, entrepreneurs,” London said. “More investments into schools and programs that help cultivate the new minds of the next generation. After school programs, summer programs … abroad studies. Those opportunities for youth would be, I think, an excellent investment.”

London added that creating the physical places where those opportunities can be offered should also be a priority for the Johnson administration.

“Investing in infrastructure or buildings that can host programs like summer programs or host programs like the after school programs,” London said.

When it comes to improving the relationship between young people and the police, Ervin said that the city could take a page from the book of the organization he works for, BUILD Chicago.

“We make sure that we reach out to a district…and we have events surrounding police so their kids can now have a one on one conversation with the chief or the commissioner and just have that one on one bond so that they know that the people that are serving to protect us, are actually here for us,” he said.

Burks said the mass gatherings of young people downtown known as “trends” could be made more manageable by offering more recreation opportunities in the neighborhoods.

“I do believe that the curfews are a step towards ending the trends, but I do believe that the trends happen because we aren't busy as young people, if that makes sense,” Burks said. “I believe that if we were busy doing good things, doing what we love, whether it’s doing an internship or having a job to go to or a sport or some community event, then I think that those trends would change and become trends for better.”

She also points out that the unreliability and safety concerns surrounding public transit make taking full advantage of what the city offers difficult for young people.

“Sometimes I see that my friends … miss out on a lot of opportunities where they can better themselves or better what they're trying to do for the community and for what they love,” she said.

Ervin said BUILD Chicago is making strides towards being a resource young people need on the West Side, and encourages teens to check out what they have to offer.

“We have an art program that we are in the works of trying to … extend those hours, so kids have longer to do what they love,” Erivin said. “We also have a media program because a lot of kids are really focusing into social media, so we're leaning into more podcasts, helping kids become more entrepreneurs.”

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