Loyola senior Ugochukwu Okere, 21, announced his campaign to run for alderman of the 40th Ward in the 2019 elections Saturday night.
Okere will be running against Patrick O’Connor, the current 40th Ward alderman who’s held the position since 1983. The 40th Ward includes neighborhoods such as Lincoln Square, Edgewater and West Andersonville.
Okere’s event, titled “Ugo’s BIG Political Announcement,” brought in a crowd of about 120 people at Steingold’s of Chicago deli in Ravenswood and centered around the theme of millennial politics.
Okere has leadership roles within Loyola and the Chicago community. On campus, he was involved in University Senate and the Maroon and Gold Society, and he helped bring diversity into the Core Curriculum, in addition to receiving the President’s Medallion for the College of Arts and Sciences last semester.
In his speech, Okere said running for office wasn’t in his career plan growing up, but he realized he wanted to get involved after seeing disparities in his community. Okere named three important aspects of his campaign: co-governance, equity and interconnecting struggles.
Co-governance is the idea that political decisions are made by everyone, and that each individual’s ideas are heard, Okere said, while equity is investing in programs that need help the most, such as public schools and affordable housing. Okere said his third tenet, interconnecting struggles, stresses the importance of understanding issues that affect others and have a broad impact.
Okere, who identifies as a Democratic Socialist, said he advocates for a system that supports as many people as possible.
Three guest speakers spoke before Okere about their own political involvement. Liz Kersjes, founder of She Votes, an organization which aims to engage, educate and support women in politics, discussed its history. Kersjes also emphasized the importance of voting in local elections.
Bushra Amiwala, a sophomore at DePaul University, is running for a seat on the Cook County Board of Commissioners. She shared her experiences as a Muslim in politics and discussed her campaign for the Cook County Board.
Devon Reid, 24, also spoke about his experiences with politics when he ran for alderman of the 26th Ward when he was 18. Although he didn’t win, he stayed involved and became a city clerk in Evanston. Reid had attendees name societal issues he felt everyone could rally around, such as poverty and gun control, and then named solutions to those problems.
Each speaker highlighted how millennials can play an important role in politics by participating in elections and running for office.
Okere also said he will launch a program in February to educate more millennials on how to organize in their communities.
Many of the attendees knew worked with Okere or knew him at Loyola and said they were confident in his campaign.
Amiwala said she felt valued when Okere asked for her support in his campaign.
“I was very humbled … that he held my support to such an utmost standard, and I loved the idea of millennial politicians in general,” Amiwala said. “The theme of the night was so in line with what I agree with.”
First-year Loyola student Sania Kanji attended the event and said she supports Okere because he will stick up for others.
“He’s extremely passionate about what he does, and I really want to fully support him with what he’s doing,” the 18-year-old political science major said. “He really cares for communities that have been marginalized, and I know he is going to do everything in his power to lift up the voices of others.”
Yesenia Velazquez, 26, worked at Fuerza del Sol, a non-profit with Okere and said she thinks he will be a strong aldermanic candidate because he has strong convictions.
“He stays with his views and his values and he doesn’t budge on those, which I think [is] very great,” said Velazquez. “I know he’ll remain true to his political views.”