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For the fifth time in his political career, Mike Madigan has delivered a speech to a Chicago gathering of the NAACP. The last time was two years after Barack Obama took a deep dive into the white vote with his second presidential election. This year, Madigan is doing what Obama did in 2008 — he’s bringing African Americans and Hispanics in his corner to the core of what Chicagoans like the mayor want: a city built on a strong commitment to social justice.
The first half of this interview, in his office on the city’s south side, was conducted by email.
You’ve had the opportunity to speak to groups ranging from black clergy to a Catholic priest, but this is your first meeting with the national NAACP, and it still rankles that you have to wait for a seat on their board. Why should we expect some sort of accommodation if they want you to play an advisory role for the next 10 years or so?
“It’s really a matter of fairness. I’ve been on all of these boards. I’m from Chicago, and I’d hope that these folks — at the end of this process, at this time, at these places, they’re going to have the same view that I have. And they want me to do my best job, but there’s a process and they want to have that process. And that’s what’s happening.”
What will the process be?
“Well, it comes down to membership. And I’ll give you an example: one of the reasons that the national organization, the NAACP, has an advisory board and a chair is because the membership of that board isn’t representative of our communities and I understand why that’s a very difficult place to be. You know, I was born in the southside in the ’60s. I know a lot of folks in the southside. I’m aware of the fact that some of the folks who are working for the NAACP, or working with our organizations are from other places. I am not. Some of those folks, who have a sense of what is happening with these communities, they’re saying, ‘Why do they have to say that we get it so badly in a place like Chicago?’ I’m an old-fashioned guy. I grew up with it, my grandparents came to America with our great freedom fight, and, like the rest of America, I knew what it meant when it was
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