Kina Collins: From Activist to Policymaker

6 mins read
Kina Collins, 2015. Photo from the author.

Three and a half years ago, I was standing on the Magnificent Mile in downtown Chicago linking arms with other activists and organizers across the city, protesting the murder of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. People mocked us, they spat at us, they pushed us, but for 12 hours straight they couldn’t move us. We stayed the entire day outside businesses from open to close enacting an economic boycott, and at the end my toes and fingers were frozen and I couldn’t feel my face, but my heart and soul were full. I knew we had done something special, and we did it peacefully and in solidarity. That day, we collectively changed the course of history in Chicago.

Before the Black Friday shutdown happened in November 2015, there had been an immense amount of strategic organizing going on behind the scenes. Seeing the video of Laquan being shot 16 times, I physically felt a burning sensation in my back as I watched Officer Van Dyke pull that trigger. I remember feeling like time had stopped. Within 24 hours of the video being released, we had a plan. We knew what we were capable of, and that we did not want our rage to result in burning the city down because that would not further our collective movement.

In order to take bold action and put the power back into the hands of the people, we wanted to stop the city from doing business on the biggest financial day of the year. We knew that direct action would not suffice on its own; we wanted policy changed, laws rewritten, and we wanted elected officials to be held accountable. We had no idea on that day that this was the spark that would eventually lead to Chicago getting a new police superintendent, electing a new state’s attorney, ousting the mayor responsible for the cover up, and actually seeing a police officer convicted of murder — something that no other major city has accomplished in the Black Lives Matter era.

It was the activist community in Chicago that showed me that we have the collective power to fight for what is right in this country, and to keep pushing until we can put an end to corrupt, immoral, and unjust systems. Organizing alongside other powerful movement leaders, I have seen that not enough people are being brought to the table. The voices of the most marginalized in our community are being left out of policy making, and it is time for the Democratic party to elevate new leaders with fresh perspectives to be on the front lines in Washington.

Since that cold day in November, I’ve turned my activism into action, I’ve written and passed state policy, and I’ve organized on a national scale for a single-payer Medicare for All plan. Now I am ready to take this same energy and coalition building all the way to Capitol Hill. The most important actions we can take are not just focused on resistance but focused on solutions, and putting in place accountability measures to prevent what happened to Laquan McDonald from ever happening again. There are real life battles going on in small towns and big cities across our country, and we need fighters in Congress who will bring the spirit of their community with them.

At the national level, this is the same bold action we need to take to abolish ICE, to support Dreamers, to preserve reproductive freedoms, to protect the rights of transgender folks, and to get real about the climate crisis. I will bring a new approach to the Illinois 7th Congressional District, speaking up for the concerns of everyday citizens and not shying away from difficult political fights. That is why I am running for Congress — to bring a new voice to Washington, and to directly confront the most pressing issues of our times.

We are running a people-powered grassroots campaign, and we’re not going to win with big money — we’re going to win with big organizing. I will not be taking any corporate PAC money related to the fossil fuel industry, pharmaceutical or insurance companies, nor from any groups associated with private prisons or the gun lobby. I know that with your help, we can work together to bring about change in our country. Find out more at and @Kina4Congress on social media, and thank you for your support! #ItsOurTime

Originally posted on Medium. Re-posted with permission.

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National organizer for Medicare for All | Gun violence prevention advocate | Coalition director | Candidate for IL-07 | #ItsOurTime |

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