How did you celebrate your 23rd birthday? Party with friends? Hoist a beer? Listen to music? Play a few video games?
Chicago’s millennial mayoral challenger Ja’mal Green was holding a birthday fundraiser for 200 guests in Bronzeville Thursday night, where he hoped to raise up to $10,000 and showcase a biographical video titled, “It’s Up to Us” to be used as his first campaign commercial “on all of our platforms.”
That’s nowhere near enough to compete with fundraiser extraordinaire Rahm Emanuel, who raised and spent $24 million to survive Chicago’s first-ever mayoral run-off in 2015.
Nor is it enough to compete with the six-figure sums already raised by three leading challengers: Lori Lightfoot, Paul Vallas and Garry McCarthy.
But there’s nothing conventional about Green or his mayoral campaign.
Interspersed with family photos, the nearly three-minute video narrated by Green talks about the “unconditional love” he got from his parents while growing up on the South Side as the youngest of three children and the only boy.
“My mother and my grandmother, who are longtime employees of the U.S. Postal Service, understood the importance of community before self,” Green says.
“They, along with my dad, made sure I did not fall victim to Chicago streets. … They taught me that, where you live should not determine access and that it is up to regular people like us to bind our neighborhoods together. This has been the cornerstone of my parents’ life and I have committed myself to expanding this premise in our communities.”
The video then shows Green in a playground with his own two sons.
“I am running for mayor because, if we allow the same leadership to run this city, their generation will be doomed,” he said.
The video shows Green practicing a political speech as a young student, holding a news conference as a teen outside the mayor’s office and conducting a live television interview as a community activist who led demonstrations.
It also shows him walking the trash-filled streets of an inner-city neighborhood, staring at a shuttered and still-vacant school and walking past a playground with a deflated basketball.
As video switches to shots of Green shaking hands on the street, greeting people in a barber shop, tying his kids’ shoes and raising money for a youth center in Auburn Gresham, the millennial challenger talks about the principles he stands for and the programs he would implement as mayor of Chicago.
Community college. Trade schools. An “entrepreneurial booth camp that’s free to students who do community service.” Putting Chicagoans back to work. Making Chicago “marketable to businesses small and large.” Ensuring that, “even at the lowest level,” children have access to the “resources they need to learn.”
At least some of those ideas are already being implemented by Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
“Too much of our city has been neglected by people who have no appreciation for union-based values. City Hall has been held captive for too long by wealthy politicians who don’t service our people,” Green says.
“It is time for someone who values love and commitment for all people to lead this city forward. No more tale of two cities, but a Chicago where all neighborhoods turn into communities. It’s up to us.”
Tickets for the 23rd-birthday fundraiser at Slice of Bronzeville Hall, 4655 S. King Drive, went for — what else? — $23.
Access to a V.I.P section went for $200-a-head.
The entrepreneur/community activist had just $4,667 in the bank on June 30, according to his quarterly fundraising report.
He has received $17,000 in donations since then — $15,000 of it from attorney Michael Oppenheimer and his law firm, Erickson & Oppenheimer.