Amara Enyia, also known as “The Municipal Maven,” is known for her community work in some of Chicago’s most dangerous neighborhoods. Through her company, Ace Municipal Partners, she works with mayors of surrounding counties and cities to work toward rectifying issues like unemployment, and lack of education and resources, which contribute to high crime rates and poverty.
“I’ve always had a mindset of going where the work is. I feel like I have a responsibility and I need to be however I can be useful and helpful,” she tells HelloBeautiful. “So, the idea of starting a municipal consulting firm working with those cities, those mayors and city managers that are dealing with those sorts of issues and being able to leverage whatever resources and knowledge I have to do was why I started the company.”
Enyia made headlines last year when she announced her plan to challenge Rahm Emanuel in 2015, in an attempt to become Chicago’s next mayor. Stating the obvious, she’s aware of her race and sex but she’s also not the easily intimidated kind.
“Doubters would say she’s young, she’s Black she’s a woman, she’s not independently wealthy, all these reasons that we list for someone not being able to do something. But the bigger question is, “Why not me?” she says. “I have not, to this day, gotten a satisfactory response to that question. Why am I not the person who can take the city in another direction.”
Enyia inherited her warrior spirit from her parents, whom she says were very intentional about instilling a certain set of values and integrity in their children, based on their own experiences in Nigeria’s civil war in the 1960s, and then against dictators Ibrahim Babangida and Sani Abacha in the 1980s. Her dad as a soldier, and her mom a frontline nurse.
“When my dad enlisted in our civil war, he was 21 at the time, and this is when I always tell people who say, ‘You’re too young, wait a few years.’ He said that when the genocide was talking place in our country, it wasn’t the fact that the Igbo people were being killed, it was the fact that there was injustice taking place,” she says. “It doesn’t matter who it is. He said himself, ‘I just can’t stand oppression,’ and so it was that principle of standing up for the poor, standing up for those that are being marginalized, standing up for the principles of equity that influenced him.”
Enyia’s parents continued their work as activists even when they immigrated to the United States, and now she feels it’s her turn to be just as courageous in the pursuit of a better Chicago.
“I accepted that my life is not about me and it’s not for me. Whatever I have, whatever I’ve been given is supposed to be for the purpose of improving the lives of other people,” she says. “People’s lives and livelihood depend on those of us who have been equipped to take our rightful places in making society better in whatever way that looks like. So, for me, the bigger tragedy would be having been given the resources, the knowledge, the skill sets, the gift and to not maximizing what I’ve been given for the purpose of improving the lives of others in society. That’s a tragedy that I cannot bear, me not living in my purpose.”
GET INVOLVED: Sign up as a volunteer with the Amara For Chicago team at amaraforchicago.com and if you live in Chicago, vote!
FOLLOW AMARA ENYIA ON TWITTER: @MunicipalMaven
Pramila Javapal has been an award-winning leading advocate for immigrant, civil and human rights for over 20 years. She was born and raised in India, Indonesia, and Singapore but migrated to the United States for college.
She is the founder of OneAmerica, where she served as Executive Director for almost eleven years. Under her direction, OneAmerica became known for its successful efforts to fight discrimination immigrants, advocate for immigration reform, to advance pro-immigrant policies and programs in Washington State, and building strong coalitions that support its mission.
One of Jayapal’s many career highlights includes working with pro bono attorneys and leading a successful effort to file a nationwide class action lawsuit against the Federal government to prevent the deportation of 5,000 Somalis across the country.
She stepped down from OneAmerica in May 2012, to focus more on national issues and campaigns and to write more. She a published author, with a book and several articles and essays in numerous magazines, newspapers and websites, and a regular teacher of writing workshops on writing and social change.
Her next undertaking is running for the 37th Legislative District Senate seat being vacated by Adam Kline.
GET INVOLVED: Visit www.facebook.com/pramila.jayapal for more information on her senate campaign.
FOLLOW PRAMILA JAYAPAL ON TWITTER: @PramilaJ
HEATHER MCTEER TONEY
Heather McTeer Toney was appointed by President Barack Obama, as Regional Administrator for EPA’s Southeast Region in January 2014. Her work there keeps her focused on advancing the Administration’s priorities of protecting human health and the environment and when she isn’t on the nation’s clock, she spends her time focusing on health and wellness issues, and general empowerment for young women.
Toney is committed to service and a legacy of excellence, as a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Prior to the EPA, this woman of the Mississippi Delta was the first African-American and first female to serve as Mayor of Greenville, MS (2004-2012).
She has appeared on news outlets like CNN, Fox News, MSNBC and C-Span. She’s a published author in, Voices of Historical and Contemporary Black American Pioneers Vol. 2, and featured in the May 2005 issue of Essence magazine as one of the “50 Most Remarkable Women in the World,” as well as the November 2011 issue of Marie Claire magazine as the “Top Politician” in their annual “Women On Top” awards.
FOLLOW HEATHER MCTEER TONEY ON TWITTER: @HeatherMcTeer
See The Rest Of The List!