Since the Presidential election, the political climate in the U.S. has been thunderous and cloudy with a small chance of “snowflakes”. Millions around the world have gathered to protest the 46th President in an effort to preserve basic human rights that are no longer being taken into consideration by the new administration.
It has sparked movements on social media platforms to be more vocal about our concerns and to push ourselves to be more aware of our surroundings. These movements are thriving off of the younger, more technologically-advanced generation.
And it begins at the local level. The ‘movement’ is about taking action in your own community.
No one knows that better than Bushra Amiwala.
Bushra is from Skokie, Illinois and a freshman at DePaul majoring in Marketing with a double minor in Community Service and Public Policy. She enjoys public speaking specifically speech, debate, and DECA–of which she is a part of at DePaul.
At 19, Bushra’s decided to run for Cook County Commissioner of the 13th district. It is one of seventeen officials who sit on the Cook County Board of Commissioners for a four-year term and represent around 300,000 residents. They manage Cook County affairs and appropriate funds for county operations.
She’s up against Larry Suffredin who has been that commissioner for the past sixteen years. He was elected in 2002 and has since been re-elected three times.
He’s known for voting to approve the infamous sugar tax and sales tax increase after promising voters that he saw “no need for any increase in taxes.” Where that money goes is a good question. But thanks to that tax increase, Chicago now has the honor of having the highest sales tax in the nation. (Yes, that was sarcasm.)
Suffredin is also fifty years older than Bushra, white, and male. An example of the homogeneity that infects our local and federal government with no sign of pushing for more diversity.
Bushra’s campaign is a challenge to incumbent Suffredin.
“Cook County has made mistakes, and even just recently, a mistake in the grant funding application has costed taxpayers 1.6 million dollars.” said Bushra in an interview with Teen Vogue.
“That is 1.6 million dollars that should have been allocated to funding a program for the youth aged 16-24 who are not enrolled in college, nor have a paying job. That 1.6 million dollars could have helped start up a program that seeks to assist people who have recently been released from prison and need aid, or a job. It is no coincidence that Cook County had the highest net- out migration in the past year.”
Her platform is to keep the county fiscally responsible as one of the main tasks is to decide the annual spending budget. It’s a task she believes is an opportunity to get fresh voices in our government–especially young Muslim women, such as her.
“I want to show people, that even during one of the most intense Islamophobic period in history, I am not letting that stop me from getting involved within politics. Ignorance clouds judgement, and if the only Muslim person people see is on the media after a terrorist attack, then one can expect generalizations, stereotypes and prejudice to arise. However, if a Muslim person is seen as a leader, seen as empowered, and seen as an inspiration, then we are rewriting some of the predisposed beliefs people hold for Muslim people. And even if I do not win the election, that is an outcome I expect to see regardless.”
Bushra is, most of all, an activist.
“I became immersed in activism specifically with issues that pertained to myself. As a Muslim woman, who wears the hijab, there is no question of what my faith is, and I firsthand witnessed the way I was treated because of this. Some people did not do a very good job in masking their discomfort when I would sit next to them while on public transportation for example. Because of this, I became a strong opponent of Islamophobia and often spoke at our school about what it means to be a Muslim woman in today’s climate. With this, I got the opportunity to speak at a rally held against Islamophobia, where the theme of the night was “WeStandWithMuslims.”
I first met Bushra through a friend and then later on found out about her campaign through Facebook. Soon enough almost everyone on DePaul’s campus was talking about her.
Bushra represents the seeds of much-needed change beginning to take place, not just at DePaul or in Chicago, but in the world.
It’s something we should encourage and continue encouraging our youth to be–the change we want to see.
If elected, Bushra would be the youngest Cook County Commissioner and the first Muslim woman in the seat. While you should definitely remember to take that into consideration, also remember that she’s a student activist who believes strongly that the people who represent us should be as diverse as the populations they represent.
And like most of us, she’s growing up in a world designed by “old white men” that only benefits the one percent.
She deals with that the same way the rest of us do too–by watching Gossip Girl, reading all things Nicholas Sparks, experimenting with makeup, and enjoying a nice, simple Caesar salad.
She’s a student too–and knows the struggle of paying too much for an education that will hopefully train her to be best version of herself possible.
These are the reasons why I choose to write about her and support her. I encourage you to support her too.
Her opponent, who is a professional lobbyist, is promising to make this a challenge for her and today I ask that we help Bushra take on this challenge.
“There will always be barriers and it will never be easy, but the right thing to do and the easy thing to do, are never the same. I hope young Muslim girls specifically realize that the hijab and Islam is a symbol for empowerment, not oppression. This is what we want to be normative, and this is how we will embark change.”
The primary election is March 20, 2018.
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