Christian Johns, MPP Class of 2024

As a part of Harris Public Policy’s celebration of Black History Month, we asked what Black Radical Imagination means to members of the Harris Community. These are their opinions and perspectives, informed by their own life experiences and worldviews (and do not necessarily reflect the views of Harris).

Imagining the impossible is something that Black folks are uniquely accustomed to. We often laugh to keep from crying, but we imagine to stave off hopelessness. Black radical imagination is more than trying to find hope. It is our minds and spirits pursuing and attaining a life that is beautiful, boisterous, joyful, and liberating.

Our radical imagination has yielded profound results amid demoralizing odds. One of my favorite imaginations turned realities is the election of Harold Washington as the first Black mayor of Chicago in 1983. His vision and movement were rife with Black folks dreaming of a city where access, hope, and opportunity was for all people and not just the white and wealthy.

Mayor Washington inspired a racist and unequal city with messages and policies that were direct products of his own Black radical imagination. He held fast when the press and stale naysayers attempted to derail the visions of his imagination from becoming reality. The opposition he faced was strong, but Black Chicagoans were finally able to dream of a government that worked for them and supported their dreams.

We must continue to imagine a liberated life even when reality is telling us to wake up. It can be difficult to imagine when some within the grand realm in blackness continue to perpetuate sexism, homophobia, transphobia, colorism, xenophobia, and much more. I believe that we must defy the ills of our reality by imagining a society free of what has oppressed our beings. Our defiance of reality will be rewarded with a society where love is abundant, and everybody can be what they want to be.

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