Communities of color flocked to the polls Tuesday, with optimism and hope for change for a nation reckoning with race. With their anger and frustration, they came.
And on the South and West sides, Black voters exiting polls expressed an overwhelming sentiment: They want a new president leading America in this post-George Floyd era.
“I’m hoping and praying Donald Trump loses, and that all the racist senators who have supported his policies lose along with him,” said Cellie French, 71, of Forest Park, who had voted a week ago but drove to the West Side Austin neighborhood Tuesday to ensure a millennial nephew would vote as well.
“We can’t leave this election to chance. Everyone has to be counted,” she said outside the 29th Ward’s 6th precinct at Michele Clark Magnet High School, 5101 W. Harrison St.
“I have seven brothers and sisters. We all voted already, then each one of us was assigned to get all the grandchildren to the polls. We need change in America.”
Poll watcher Danice Galen, at Michele Clark since 6 a.m., said voting had been steady, a deluge in the morning, then a constant flow all day.
“I just hope people understand what’s at stake here,” Keith Bloomingberg, 43, of Austin, another voter exiting the school, said. “Trump has got to go!”
In the West Side K-Town neighborhood, Arion Brown, 25, was working the 37th Ward’s 2nd precinct at Chicago North Side New Hope Church, 4255 W Division, there since 7:30 a.m. He’d started his day casting his vote at the 19th precinct’s Orr High School.
“It was busy where I voted. It’s been busy here, especially 7:30-9 a.m. This election is critical, because our elections are a reflection of the views of the American people and of which ideology will prevail,” said Brown, a historian.
“It all goes back to the Compromise of 1877, which settled the disputed 1876 presidential election and pulled troops out of the South. We are in these times because Black people were emancipated — different from self-determination and independence.”
Of note at most polling places we visited were an inordinate number of millennials and Generation Z’ers. They marched in steadily, from early afternoon through evening.
“The presidential election was easy. We’ve got to get that crazy man out of the White House,” said Israel Sotelo, 26, of K-Town. “I just hope I didn’t make a mistake on some of those other people.”
On the flip side, Edward El, 68, of K-Town, was quite confident there’d be no mistakes.
“We’re going to vote for all the right people this time. It’s time to elect those people who care about our issues, who will address the inequities plaguing our communities, and move this nation toward treating everyone like human beings and equally,” the older man said.
Precincts on the South Side mirrored the lack of long lines on the West Side.
Voters and poll workers speculated the smaller crowds were linked to the high rate of mail-in voting that Illinois and the nation have seen, and high numbers of people voting early.
Sarah Hubbard, 50, of Englewood, had just voted at the 16th Ward’s 9th precinct at Providence Englewood High School, 6515 S. Ashland Ave. — despite the misfortune of being involved in a car accident en route to vote.
“I literally left the car where it was and continued on to get here. That’s how serious this election is,” said Hubbard. “Nothing else mattered more today. We need a new president — period. Now I can go worry about the car and the insurance and all these other headaches.”
John Tremble, another voter exiting the school, agreed with her on the importance of this presidential election.
“Trump has got to go. Enough with the racism. Enough with a president who has no idea what he’s doing. We’re going to get the right man into the White House,” said Tremble, 60, of Englewood.
And as dusk approached, a few miles away, in Bronzeville, the 4th Ward’s 30th precinct at Mandrake Park, 3858 S. Cottage Grove, was hopping, the lines starting to form.
“I’m hoping this is the beginning of a new direction for America. Never before have we seen such division, such hate, such disregard for the loss of human life,” said Rodney Parham, 60, of Bronzeville.
“But once we get rid of him, Black people are going to have to keep the pressure on whoever replaces him in the White House to get change in America.”