Kina Collins, from Chicago campaigner to aspiring Congresswoman

By Beatriz Pascual Macías

Chicago, US, May 2 (EFE).- Kina Collins says she became political when she witnessed a fatal shooting outside of her Chicago home at the age of seven.

This moment set the course of Collins’ trajectory from activist to an aspiring member of Congress.

“I tell people that the moment that I got politicized was most literally witnessing a murder in my community, I knew the victim and I knew the shooter,” Collins, 31, tells Efe in an interview.

The young, Black campaigner forms part of the youthful and progressive movement embodied by the likes of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and that in recent years has revolutionized the Democratic Party.

Collins has set her eye on the upcoming primaries, where she hopes to unseat veteran congressman Danny K. Davis, who has represented Illinois’ 7th congressional district since 1997.

And she hopes to do so with her policies of tackling poverty, which hit Chicago’s African American and Latino neighborhoods disproportionately hard.

“The bullet was flying long before anybody pulled the trigger,” Collins adds.

“When our public schools are shut down, when there’s environmental racism happening, when we’re living in food deserts, all of that is the bullet flying.”

A campaigner against gun violence, Collins says she respects the right to bear arms, as per the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution, but believes guns require stricter regulation.

A daughter of union workers, Collins says that activism runs through her veins. As a child she campaigned to end school violence and, years later, she was at the forefront of Chicago’s Black Lives Matter movement.

She helped organize the marches for justice that took place following the murder of Laquan McDonald, an African American teen who was shot by a white police officer.

Police allegedly tried to cover the incident up until video footage of the shooting emerged in 2015, 400 days after the murder.

“I learned a lot, I learned the power of community, I learned that we could transform our pain into power at that moment, but most importantly I learned that we could hold elected officials accountable,” she says.

“An entire system conspired to cover up Laquan’s murder and it was young people, it was people from working-class backgrounds, it was people who are traditionally not invited into the rooms of power who basically brought the whole system down.”

The ensuing protests brought central Chicago to a standstill, sent heads rolling in the city’s institutions and prompted the erstwhile mayor Rahm Emanuel to decide against standing for re-election.

In 2017, Collins founded the Chicago Neighborhood Alliance to tackle gun violence in the city. A year later, she began working for an organization pushing for universal healthcare in the US.

Collins first took on Davis in 2020, but came second in the primaries.

She is now back to finish the job, she says.

Collins describes her district as a microcosm of the US, due to the fact it encompasses Westchester, one of the wealthiest suburbs in Illinois as well as some of the city’s poorest communities, including Austin, where Collins grew up.

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