Recently, along with other Black media representatives, I had a meeting with Chicago mayoral candidate Willie Wilson in his beautiful lakefront penthouse home.
He introduced himself as a sharecropper who recognized the value of hard work. His beginnings were quite humble and he still carries a good old boy southern work ethic.
He told us that he grew up having one pair of pants, one shirt, and one pair of shoes. When they wore out, you received another. He said that at Christmas, they had two pieces of fruit. His humble beginnings remain with him today. He remembers where he came from. His poverty sense is ingrained.
Wilson is dedicated and committed to helping others as he can. He has been a hard worker and through McDonald’s franchises and various contracts with McDonald’s, he has made a nice buck to put him in the multi-millionaire class. His current company sells medical supplies.
But now, Wilson’s ambitions have turned to public service. He is running for the second time for Mayor of the City of Chicago and he ran for President of the United States in 2016. He admits he knows about business, but not much about politics, and in that way, he is trending with many other rich guys who jump into the political arena.
Wilson is very much his own man, with a very distinctive point of view, who firmly believes in himself.
At our meeting, Wilson talked about the weaknesses of Mayor Rahm Emanuel and how he has not served the Black community well. He speaks to an elected school board.
He said he met recently with over 200 schoolteachers and admits he was shocked by the conversation. They told him that in too many instances they are afraid to teach and discipline children for fear of being raped, beaten and/or have their tires slashed by angry parents and students.
Wilson is interested in fairness and economic equity in city contracts. He spoke about the racism in the city and how Blacks are treated disrespectfully, and says that’s why he is running. He talked about the construction projects in Chicago, particularly the ones in downtown Chicago, and how there are no Black workers on the sites.
Wilson says he will bring about change. He would reach out to those who have been jailed to offer second chance opportunities and he would do something about people losing their homes for taxes. In his own right, with his own funds, he has given generously to these efforts recently and these are his projects ongoing.
Pressing The Attack On Rahm
He recognized that political candidates ignore the Black press as they run for office and spend mega-dollars with major media, yet they want the Black vote. He has committed to building his base via the Black press and outreach. He was very respectful to Black press assembled in his home and addressed the potential power of the group.
Wilson addressed his speaking style, which has often been the subject of derision. He says he has no intentions of changing, because he knows many people who may be more articulate than he is, but are living lesser than he as he travels in private planes.
The Willie Wilson candidacy will be interesting. He will challenge the politicians at a very basic level in plain English. He will look at modest living in the City of Chicago and all its 77 neighborhoods, all of which he plans to visit. He is determined and has the personal traits for success, like hard work and determination.
Wilson is self-financed, but so are many others. Wilson’s campaign travels, however, will be from the bottom up and include a leap of faith.
Smartly, he has met with fellow mayoral candidates Paul Vallas and Garry McCarthy, and told both he wants them to stay in the race and that if they have money problems, to see him. Now that’s different.
Wilson has requested of them that as the campaign mounts, they should not attack each other, but focus of Emanuel. He said he has had several meetings with Mayor Emanuel and when Rahm asked Wilson what he really wants, he answered that he wants Emanuel’s resignation.
Wilson will keep his campaign for the mayoral election, which is still all of a year away, on track and assuredly will bring forth unpretentious issues as he confronts the status quo and the normal way of doing business and playing politics in the city.
It will be interesting to see the other politicians, particularly Emanuel, tiptoe with Willie through Chicago, so as to not offend the Black voting community.
It’s early and Wilson is no Harold Washington. But he is very much his own man, with a very distinctive point of view, who is prepared to spend his own money and firmly believes in himself.
He asked for the Black press to hold him accountable. He admitted that he is willing to learn. It will be stimulating to watch his campaign.