[Adapted from a speech by Margo Gislain on August 24, 2020. Featured photo by Deana Rutherford.]
What led up this moment right now was a series of seemingly simple interactions between neighbors, from beers at Moody’s to chance interactions on the picket lines of last year’s CTU strike. Over time, we realized that we weren’t alone in our struggles, and these single interactions grew into an entire organization.
Neighbors within the 48th Ward have begun organizing to build each other up and tell the working class that we’re here to fight alongside them to imagine and create the city that we deserve.
We’re here to unapologetically champion the multiracial working class within Edgewater, Andersonville, Uptown, and Rogers Park. We’re abolitionists, unionists, artists, leftists, organizers, and residents of the 48th Ward here to provide for each other in ways that the government has failed to.
People in positions of power want us to believe justice can only come from above. That if we ask nicely or go through pre approved channels, we can create positive change.
But those of us that organize in opposition to those in power know that’s not true. Those that organize against structural state violence in housing, policing, immigration, and other battlegrounds know that these institutions were designed to resist change.
Right now, the city of Chicago is in a battle of imaginations. For too long, the people of Chicago have been subject to an imagination that centers the views and safety of the wealthy, their property, and their class standing.
George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rekia Boyd, Laquan Mcdonald, and many more are dead because in that white, power wielding, status quo imagination — these people were considered threats.
That imagination puts up signs in ward offices that say “We Call Police,” it raises bridges to segregate the city of Chicago, it allows for ICE to raid the Red Line and hold a Citizen’s Academy in our city. This imagination allows for a man to be shot 7 times in front of his children, only to be labeled a “police-involved” shooting by the Chicago Tribune. This imagination sells the false reality that working class people can become billionaires if they just work hard enough.
We’re here to imagine a better world and then create it ourselves. One where we’ve abolished police and developed public safety alternatives that center community care. One where everyone has a home.
Our imagination dreams of a future where everyone is free to thrive, not just barely survive. One that centers joy over productivity.
Our future will be imagined by the people who have to live in it and live with its consequences. The multiracial working class of our city is tired of the constraints that capitalism puts us in and we are imagining and building a world without it.
To center joy in a ward and city that values property over people is an act of rebellion. Our organization exists to rebel against the state, and with every action we center the joy and well-being of the 48th Ward of Chicago.
We’re changing the way we live and interact with our ward to center solidarity, well-being, and happiness. We’re doing so to build the world we deserve.
We must constantly, loudly advocate for that future. We must talk to our neighbors.
What do they need? What do they care about? What do they want for their children? We organize around that together.
We show up to Senn, for LSC meetings and for football games. We show up for our neighbors who are evicted, deported, and incarcerated, and we show up for their graduations, birthday parties, and anniversaries. We build power and utopia through constant conversations, relationship building, and direct action against our oppressors.
Our struggles are intertwined with our joy, and we grow stronger when we see our existences as tied together.
One day when people move into our ward, the first thing they’ll do is turn on the electricity in their apartment, and the second will be to join the 48th Ward Neighbors for Justice. Let’s build that future together.