Early on April 25th, 150 SWOP leaders boarded buses and travelled to Springfield to engage with elected officials. While there, they spoke about the impact the Teen REACH program has on young people, how Parent Mentors are helping improve schools, and how we need to secure the rights and dignity of all people, including immigrants.
Keana Lindo spoke about how she lost her apartment when her landlord was foreclosed on. She was able to move back to Chicago Lawn when the State supported SWOP’s Reclaim Southwest campaign to address housing abandonment. Rep. Dan Burke congratulated SWOP leaders for their good work and wished them well in their future endeavors.
After the speeches in the Rotunda of the Capital building, the leaders broke into well organized groups and headed off to meet with legislators. In these small group interactions, leaders engaged elected officials in discussions about SWOP’s work, about the challenges ahead, and about plans SWOP has to address these challenges. To wrap up the day, leaders viewed the Legislature in action from the gallery and then boarded buses back to Chicago.
The trip is emblematic of the work of SWOP. Community organizing is about giving people the skills and opportunities to exercise their own power. During this trip, parents, students, and community residents all had the opportunity to build their leadership skills by speaking on issues they cared about and to talk about solutions they themselves had helped develop.