Martin Luther King once famously stated, “If you can’t fly, then run; if you can’t run, then walk; if you can’t walk, then crawl; but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.”

What Dr. King meant and what has be evident over time, is that the only way to fight for justice, is to continuously move forward in the direction of equal rights. Throughout American history, women, African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans, disabled Americans, LGBTQ Americans, Muslim Americans, lower- to middle-class Americans, and undocumented immigrants, have moved forward in the fight for equality.

In the midst of this fight, it is evident that many of our political leaders have lost their sense of direction. While the majority of our political representation continues to jostle for position moving toward the left or toward the right, very few have remembered to actually move forward — while some have moved backward. That is how we as Americans find ourselves fighting in 2017 for rights that should have been established and understood decades ago.

No matter party affiliation, American voters can no longer afford to vote for and support political candidates who are focused on the direction of party and self over the direction of the people. Communities are in dire need of transformative leadership, tapping into grassroot efforts that focus on inspiring and motivating constituents to rally around common goals.

As Americans, focusing on what makes us different has led to a revitalization of actions that are un-American. Transformative leaders are needed who are selfless and who are aligned with American values, which include equality, progress and change.

The current political establishment has not produced much in transformative leadership, or much in leadership period. The majority of politicians are individual actors, pursuing their self-interests, and the interests of political action committees.

The voice of the people is absent from decision-making. Though society is yelling, “Women’s Rights are Human Rights,” “Black Lives Matter,” “Science is Real,” “Let Them In,” “Si Se Puede,” “Marriage Equality,” “Fight for 15,” and “Equal Treatment and Equal Access,” those voices are being ignored.

To those constituents who say, “This politician votes the right way,” simply voting the right way is no longer enough. America continues to be vulnerable and stagnant, while politicians hang their hats on voting records with little substance. It is going to take transformative leadership and strong grassroots movements to move us forward and influence national policy.

As a Brand New Congress, Justice Democrats candidate, who supports not only with votes but in action, I am running because I truly believe, “no one is equal, until we all are equal!” We will reach that “all” by moving forward in the fight for Medicare for all, public education for all, living wages tied to inflation, supporting small businesses, closing loopholes, repealing Citizens United, investing in a green economy, criminal justice reform, and fighting for the rights of everyone and not just the 1 percent.

— Anthony Clark, Oak Park resident, teacher and candidate for U.S. Congress (7th District)