Because their inaugural fundraising dinner is tonight -- at Ashyana Banquets, 1620 75th St. in Downers Grove, IL according to the tickets I've seen -- I doubt if Christine Cegelis will mind if I post a slightly edited version of her Q&A post about the Greater Chicago Caucus.
And I'm sure they will let you buy a ticket at the door:
Q & A about the Greater Chicago CaucusSo if you are looking for a way to put your money where your mouth is -- and to put your mouth where the food is -- swing by Downers Grove this evening and see what all the fuss is about.
by: Christine Cegelis
I get a lot of questions about the Greater Chicago Caucus and I thought I might answer some publicly here.
Q: Who all is involved in the group?
A: Many of the people that worked closely with me in my congressional campaign have also been working with the Greater Chicago Caucus. We have leaders from the African American Methodist churches and peace and justice area, we have several leaders from the Muslim community and we have leaders of the immigration movement from the Latino community. All of us are committed to peace and economic justice.
Q: Was the Greater Chicago Caucus your idea?
A: No, though I have put a lot of time into making it a success. Leaders from various organizations came together because of the realization that we need to work together if we are going to accomplish our goals. I was invited to join because I have a long history of working on peace and justice issues even prior to my running for Congress.
Many of our leaders met during the immigration march in Chicago It is important to note that the immigration movement could mobilize a half million people but it did little to change the dialog on immigration.
For me prior to the Iraq war I protested, organized prayer vigils, said novenas, and circulated petitions to send to Washington. I know that many of you did similar things as well; We still went to war and our Government did not listen to us. It was then I decided if my representatives would not listen I needed to do what I could to change the representation in Washington. As you know I ran for Congress unsuccessfully but it opened a door to work in other parts of the country and to help get other anti-war candidates elected.
I am hoping with the Democratic majority we will now see a change in the policy toward Iraq for the better. The rejection of escalating the troop level will be the first test.
Q: I heard this is a faith base group. Is this a religious organization?
A: No, we are not religious organization we are a 501c(4) because we intend to have an affect on the political climate. Many of us, myself included, come from a religious perspective. There is often a frustration about how far a church or religious based organization can go before it crosses the line. We believe in the separation of church and state but many of us also feel strongly that as people of faith we are to work for the least among us. Others in our organization are more secular in their views but they also believe in justice and building a world where we can live in a sustainable peace. We do not all agree on any one faith or any faith perspective but again there are many things that we can agree on and have committed to work together for that purpose.
Q: Why another group? There is already ADA, IVI-IPO, and DFA in the Chicago area, why not just work with one of these?
A: There is a different philosophy with the Greater Chicago Caucus. We are not really a progressive group, nor will we consider ourselves as affiliated with one political party or the other. We will identify issues that we all can agree on such as the need for a living wage, adequate funding for public education and fair immigration policy and support candidates that support our issues. We will work on a consensus basis and talk with our communities about not letting the wedge issues divide us. We recognize that there are some issues we will not have consensus on but the underlying social justice and peace issues are at the heart of all of us.
Q: Why take this approach?
A: Because we are bringing to the table leaders from various communities. Each group will determine what the best way to reach their own constituency is. It is not about getting out the vote in the Latino or African American community but getting a seat at the table to help determine public policy. I can tell you that a politician will listen to only two groups, people that can deliver money or people that can deliver votes. It is easy to find people willing to deliver money for a say in the direction of policy. It is harder to show that you have the ability to deliver the votes. However, there are many races across the country that have proved that the electorate will respond to issues and deliver the vote regardless of the how much money is spent on TV and mailers.
Q: Will you be working just in Chicago?
A: No. Many of us are suburbanites and we will be looking at races both inside and outside the city.
Q: How can we help?
A: Our inaugural fundraising dinner is coming up on January 27, 2007. Tickets are $40.00 and you can get them by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Congressman Danny Davis will be a keynote speaker but it will also give you the opportunity to meet some of the other leaders that are helping to put this together.
This is going to take funding and we will be looking for grant money but the initial start up funding will have to come from our communities.