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Eight miles from the site of Saturday’s Women’s March Chicago sits the Cook County Jail, speaker Chakena Sims ’16 told the march’s more than 300,000 participants.
“It’s where women in multi-colored jumpsuits paint the walls as bright as the black and brown bodies that occupy them. It’s where voices are silenced and opinions are deemed unworthy,” said Sims, a voting rights organizer with Chicago Votes, a nonprofit organization dedicated to making democracy more inclusive, especially for young people.
“These women press their palms against the concrete walls. They are searching for a pulse, looking to feel freedom once more.”
Chicago Votes launched the Cook County Jail Votes Project to offer another form of freedom: electoral freedom.
“In just four months, CCJ Votes has led 100 volunteers to Cook County to register 1,000 voters in the Cook County Jail. That is 1,000 more voices that are no longer silenced. That’s 1,000 more people to elect leaders to pass policies that bend the moral arc toward fairness and equity,” Sims said.
A Connecticut College Young Alumni Trustee who serves as political-organizing liaison on the political team for JB Pritzker for Governor of Illinois, Sims was part of an impressive lineup of speakers for the 2018 march, which was held in conjunction with other women’s marches across the country on the anniversary of President Donald Trump’s inauguration. Other speakers at the Chicago event included K. Sujata, president and CEO of the Chicago Foundation of Women, and Suzette Wright, an ex-employee of Ford who recently told her story of sexual harassment at the company to The New York Times.
(A video of Sims’s speech is available on the ABC 7 Chicago Facebook page. Sims begins speaking at the 19:30 mark.)
Increasing voter participation and encouraging more women to run for elected office were two of the standout themes from this year’s marches.
“As women, we are far too familiar with individuals who make decisions about our bodies; who make decisions about our pay; who make decisions about our livelihood—on behalf of us, but not for us,” Sims said.
“Through civic education and voter registration, Chicago Votes has equipped thousands of young people with the tools necessary to make informed decisions. … Chicago Votes is standing on the shoulders of our ancestors, and extending a hand to those whose voices have historically been excluded from our democracy.”
At Connecticut College, Sims majored in history and was a scholar in the College’s Holleran Center for Community Action and Public Policy. She was the recipient of the College’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Service Award and the Dean of the College’s Harriet Buescher Lawrence ’34 Prize. A Posse Scholar from Chicago, Illinois, Sims served as chair and treasurer of Umoja: The Black Student Union, and as a floor governor through the Office of Residential Education and Living. Off campus, she volunteered as a teacher’s assistant at New London’s Winthrop Stem Elementary Magnet School and at the New London Homeless Hospitality Center.
After graduation, Sims returned to Chicago, serving as the deputy press secretary for Chicago Public Schools before taking her current position with JB Pritzker’s gubernatorial campaign.