Ja’Mal Green is Chicago’s youngest mayor at 26

By Joshua Burrell

After a press conference at the Quarry on Tuesday, July 26, activist and mayoral candidate Ja’Mal Green spoke to the crusader about his campaign priorities. If elected in 2023, he plans to advocate for improved public safety, economic development, climate change and modern city government.

Green dropped out of the mayoral race in 2019 and is now the youngest candidate for mayor in 2023 at 26. After traveling as a surrogate for Bernie Sanders in 2016 and 2020, Green was forced to be serious and always a political advocate for the most vulnerable people in the working class.

“What’s important to us is that we need to invest in the communities that suffer the most. We need to change the public safety narrative,” Green said in an interview on July 26.

“Public safety does not start and end with the police. We can’t overload the police and think that means security. We need to make real investments.”

Since June 2022, Green has raised approximately $25,000 in campaign money. He is challenged by six candidates, including incumbent 56th Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot; state representative for the 26th district, Kam Buckner; and previous mayoral candidate, Willie Wilson.

His childhood experiences growing up in Gresham, on the south side, are the driving force behind his plans for the mayoral candidacy.

He advocates shared trauma, such as experiencing gun violence and poverty, with vulnerable communities along Chicago’s south and west sides.

Green admits to being a troubled youth thrown from nine different schools. He changed his life in high school, and if elected mayor, he plans to establish a youth intervention unit that would prioritize city resources to support troubled youth before their cycles of deviance intensify.

Green’s intervention unit would ensure that if 13- to 25-year-olds are triggered by arrests, school dropout or homelessness, they receive proper mentorship, curative housing, and specifically mental health care.

“I know relatives, as well as my late grandfather, who have mental health problems. We also have many people who experience trauma from gun violence or its consequences. We are in a situation’ said Green.

“Even our police have the highest suicide rate in the country. We can look everywhere and see how important it is for us to invest in mental health.”

Green proposes “healing homes” to holistically approach mental health solutions in safe spaces with psychiatry, yoga, boxing and massage therapy. He wants new mental health resources to replace the mental health clinics that were closed in 2011 by the previous mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel. Green wants Chicago’s mental health funding to be diverted to meet the city’s needs.

Even untitled, Green has advocated for vulnerable Chicago residents. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, he raised about $250,000 for small businesses hit by looting to restore and reopen their stores within a week of fundraising. In 2020, he stood up to Chase Bank to force a $1 billion investment in communities affected by structural inequalities such as redlining.

“One of those main things that really stabilize the community is increasing home ownership rates. You go to Lincoln Park and neighborhoods that are thriving in our city, and it’s usually 75 percent higher in homeownership rates.” said Green.

“Businesses excel, and the schools get the taxes they need from home ownership and it creates thriving communities.

“We want to give that to the entire city. I want to bring back the single-family mortgage bond that was used under a different government years ago,” Green said. “We will use our binding capacity as a billion-dollar-a-year city to support home loans to increase home ownership by 10,000 homeowners.”

Green is also the president and co-founder of My Turn To Own, a nationwide initiative that aims to increase home ownership and help current homeowners facing forced evictions. He started his first community organization at age 15 and ran anti-bullying and anti-violence programs throughout the city. He advocates universal 3K, which would allow children as young as 3 to begin development programs in schools across the city.

In addition to rejuvenating education across the city, Green expects to publish a plan for modernizing climate change and public transportation sometime in August. Chicago is calling on individual homeowners to remove lead service lines that would cost anywhere from $15,000 to $26,000 to remove. The majority of homeowners on the south and west sides cannot afford to completely fix the polluted pipes without city assistance; Green wants the city of Chicago to tackle the 400,000 lead pipelines that are negatively impacting the city.

Josh Burrell (she/them) is a freelance writer for the Chicago Crusader Newspaper and is pursuing a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University.

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