Leaders Network recognizes Rev. Wilson | Francia Garcia Hernandez

A group of prominent West Side faith leaders favored mayoral candidate Brandon Johnson Tuesday after urging Chicagoans to vote in the upcoming runoff election. 

At the monthly Leaders Network meeting president David Cherry emphasized only a third of voters participated in the Feb. 28 election, with an even lower number on the West Side. The Chicago Board of Election Commissioner’s latest data shows a citywide turnout of 35.81 percent, with 30.66 and 23.83 percent respectively in Austin’s 29th and 37th wards. Garfield Park averaged 27 percent for the 27th and 28th wards while Lawndale saw a voter turnout of just 25.84 percent. 

Cherry said Johnson is the candidate who brings new ideas to Chicago. The West Side faith leadership group had not publicly favored a mayoral candidate in this year’s election. Last month, five of the nine mayoral candidates, including Johnson joined the monthly faith-based meeting. 

“As toxic as Mayor Rahm Emanuel was, he was not as right-wing as Paul Vallas [is],” he said as he urged attendees to participate in the April 4 runoff. He called it  “one of the most important elections” in Chicago’s history. 

Guest speaker Rev. Janette C. Wilson, pastor of Maple Park United Methodist Church on the South Side, urged attendees to “turn up the vote” for Brandon Johnson across Chicago. 

“He can’t be in all 77 Chicago communities every day, but we can,” Wilson said. “Here am I. Send me!”

Wilson attended the meeting to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award for Social Justice from The Leaders Network. The former senior advisor to Rev. Jesse L. Jackson added the upcoming mayoral election is pivotal not only for the city but potentially for the whole country as Chicago is “the lighthouse of the nation.” Wilson also served as national director for Rainbow PUSH and special assistant to the chief administrative officer of Chicago Public Schools.

Calling Wilson a mentor and sister to many in Chicago’s faith community, Rev. Ira Acree of Greater St. John Bible Church said years ago she was one of the first female pastors he met. He said he then realized not only should women be allowed in the pulpit, but women have always been in the church’s front row and spearheaded movements calling for police reform and justice.  

Rev. Marshall Hatch of New Mount Pilgrim Baptist said voters can’t allow a candidate who has spoken publicly about ‘letting police loose” to win, adding “this is not a generation that will endure” police brutality. 

Hatch expressed his support for Johnson, whom he has simply known as Brandon for years living as neighbors in the Austin community. A video on Brandon Johnson’s Twitter page shows Johnson attended Hatch’s 65th birthday celebration Sunday at Hatch’s church in Garfield Park. 

Johnson, who could not attend the March 14 meeting, sent a video message thanking The Leaders Network for their social justice-oriented leadership. 

“I really wish I could be with you all today but I’m moving around the entire city as we build for a stronger safer Chicago,” Johnson said in the recorded video message. “The type of city we envision has been discussed and has been built within the Leaders Network.” 

Hatch said while it’s still an adjustment to see Johnson through the screen, he understands why the candidate could not attend. “I think we understand… and I think he knows we got his back.”