Lori Lightfoot: Meet Chicago’s First African-american Female Mayor

May 20 - Sheena Sharma


As we enter into a 24/7 news cycle of presidential campaigns, don’t get sucked into hyperbole without being armed with some serious knowledge about how the media can operate. The podcast "On the Media" offers a few tips:

If you hear about a female or person of color’s ambition in a seemingly judgmental way, remember that every candidate seeks power. Avoid calling everything sexist, as it waters down the real moments of misogyny. Take “horse race” journalism with a grain of salt, as it usually focuses on polls and the public’s perception of a candidate, rather than actual policy. It also obsesses about candidates’ differences rather than their similarities.


Officially confused? Yeah, you’re not alone. Even millennials can remember a time when politics wasn’t covered exhaustively. The horse race approach in journalism is important, because it often undermines women, particularly women of color. But let’s look beyond media coverage and into actual elections. Districts in which black voters are the minority account for one third of areas in which black congresswomen and female state legislators are elected. What’s that mean? That there’s no better time than now to run for office.

WOMAN TO WATCH: Lori Lightfoot,Chicago Mayor 2019

In the third-largest city in the United States, a woman of color achieved victory. Lori Lightfoot was elected mayor of Chicago on April 2, 2019.

Lori says her commitment to social justice and her outlook that we’re all equal was shaped by her father’s disability. Before Lori was born, her father was very sick and in a coma for a year. He survived, but his hearing did not.

Unfortunately, Lori’s upbringing wasn’t one of financial stability. She learned that struggling wasn’t failing; in fact, it was the opposite. Her father worked two or three jobs, while her mother worked two. She adopted her parents’ work ethic and went to the University of Michigan. After graduating, she worked as a legislative aide in DC for a couple years before attending law school.

Lori’s since been the voice of police accountability in Chicago, where she investigates police-involved shootings, deaths in custody and excessive force. Lori revised Chicago’s certification and compliance programs for minority and woman-owned businesses.

Her campaign message is loud and clear: Bring in the light. In an era of ‘the more negative the media coverage, the better,' Lori offers messages of hope and clarity, along with a robust moral compass. When she entered the mayoral race, she ran against 13 other candidates. The runoff race proved historic, as she competed against another black woman, Toni Preckwinkle.

There’s another important aspect to note here: Lori is married to a woman and has a young daughter. When Lori won the race, she kissed her wife on stage. It was an act of courage, even in 2019. It also signified something that gives us great hope.

The Chicago Tribune says that Lori “preaches state-wide unity,” but I think it’s more than that. We can’t make progress alone, state by state or even country by country. Lori symbolizes a new era, one of tolerance and diversity, one of valor and optimism.


Another groundbreaking woman in politics, Condoleezza Rice, said:

"I think the truth of the matter is, people who end up as 'first' don't actually set out to be first. They set out to do something they love and it just so happens that they are the first to do it."

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