Skip links

Meet Chama

Early Life

“I had realized Peoria was the tale of two cities.”

We moved to Peoria when I was 10 years old. My mother was looking for a better, safer life for us. It wasn’t until my adolescent years that I began to notice the racial and economic differences. By this time I had realized that Peoria was the tale of two cities, economic inequity; the haves and the have-nots, and racial disparity.

I grew up in a union household on the South End of Peoria, my mom was a stay at home mom and my step-dad worked construction. I moved a lot. I have lived in 17 different places in Peoria. Instability is a direct result of poverty.

Read more

When I was 14 I was sent to the boarding academy. What we thought would be a better, safer school option opened my eyes to a completely different type of overt racism. Being only one of 10 black students out of the school’s 250 population. I had to work two jobs too. Most of the poorer children, like me, worked in the factories and cafeteria or other labor-intensive jobs.

The opportunities and available resources to children in boarding academy didn’t exist for children in low-income communities back home.

Experience

“Working for Equity and Racial Equity was the passion that motivated my drive.”

Chama’s actions bring positive change physically and socially in the quality of life in our neighborhoods and the City of Peoria. Click a title below to learn more.
  • Spent over 30k in resources to organize and lead a team that knocked 12,211 doors in less than 50 days to GOTV increasing voter participation 26% in Peoria’s core neighborhoods (Districts 1, 2, & 3) in 2018 and an additional 28k in district 1 (area with historically low voter turnout) for door knocking and phone banking to increase civic engagement. Currently spending over 30k to lead a team for GOTV efforts in the November 2020 elections. Chama has advocated and received almost 90k in three years to employ people at a living wage to help get out the vote.
  • Trained and educated the community to create over 60 grassroots leaders in central Illinois.
  • Summer internship in partnership with the teachers union and SEIU resulting in 96% recards for the union. Especially important after the Janus ruling. 
  • Educated the public on TIFs, 8,000 palm cards, which led to $300,000 in TIF money being returned to the schools
  • Town Hall on vote yes for a Fair Tax which included support from State senator and state Rep
  • As public relations director for the Couri Thomas For Mayor campaign Chama was able to connect the public to the campaign increasing voter participation winning 46% of the votes which was the closest mayoral race in Peoria’s history.
  • Hosted women’s empowerment summit with Vivica Fox 2017 inspiring women in Peoria
  • MC’d Beauty Brunch Expo 2017 teaching women how to care for themselves inside and out
  • Owned XFactor Agency which cultivated model talent from the Peoria area allowing models to have professional modeling careers
  • Central Illinois Black Expo Assistant Director and have worked with Expo for 16 years. Educates people about business, promote business growth in the black community, free haircuts for kids, free food, free entertainment, and free workshops. Great prizes
  • East Bluff Community Center Board of directors, food pantry feeds over 1600 people a year, provide space for boys and girls club, community meetings, and rental, holiday food baskets, host free community meals
  • Mentored a group of 43 girls ages 6 to 17 teaching self-esteem and confidence through modeling and dancing. Performed at events including Black Fashion Week USA. Founded Illinois Kids and Teens Fashion Week which showcased local designers and models at the Peoria Museum. 
  • Former Team Leader on Senator Weaver’s Thousand Pound program which challenges teams to create projects that will make a positive change in the community. Chama’s project is to provide career mentorship by exposing students to new careers they may not normally be exposed to. 
  • Restore the Shaft Springdale Cemetery committee
  • Neighborhood safety walk in the East Bluff on the 4th of July 2018
  • Escorted a veteran to Washington DC as part of the Greater Peoria Honor Flight which recognizes American Veterans for their sacrifices and achievements by flying them to Washington D.C. to see their Memorial 
  • Collaborated through her job with Peoria Mutual Aid Network to provide food and essential items to over 150 families during the COVID Crisis 
  • Sunset Hills Neighborhood Association President 
  • Started the jail bailout initiative in Peoria 2018 and has bailed out 2 mom and 3 dads for Father’s Day and Mother’s Day. Bailed out 4 protestors during the uprisings and helped start a participatory defense team to support during court.
  • Former chairwoman and president of the Peoria Black Chamber of Commerce
  • Co-chair with NBC’s Blacklist actor Harry Lennix of ILBCC sports and entertainment committee 
  • Provides expertise to candidates running for office and elected officials
  • Regularly sits on discussion panels engaging the community around issues such as police relations, criminal justice, Social justice
  • Organized community discussions called Moving Forward with City Council linking members of the community to City Councilmembers to discuss areas of concern
  • Founded Black Justice Project with a mission to fight for equity, equality, and human rights in the black community. Black Justice Project has partnered with other organizations, to raise awareness on police brutality, speaking up for people in situations of Injustice, organized candidates forum on racial equity, raises awareness of existing racial disparities in Peoria

    Organized:
  • Mike Brown March 2014
  • Eddie Russell demonstration vigil sit-in
  • Daniel El protest outside the police station
  • Luis Cruz city council sit-in
  • Organized block party and protest at PPD 2020
  • Lobbied in Springfield for issuing impacting Peoria area businesses
  • Regularly contributes to Traveler Weekly writing on issues like race, economics, 
  • Speaker at Peoria Women’s March 2018 & 2019
  • Speaker at BLM march in 2020 after the death of George Floyd 
  • – Regularly advocates against human trafficking
  • Sam Belfer Award: in recognition of outstanding service in the cause of Human Rights and Civil Liberties 
  • Muse Award: in recognition of community organizing work in central Illinois 
  • Unsung Shero Award 
  • Grassroots Award from the City of Peoria: in recognition of knocking 12,000+ doors and increasing voter participation in districts 1, 2 and 3 by 26%
The Movement

“A New Normal.”

To see the vision for Peoria I so desperately wanted to become a reality, I would have to be willing to get uncomfortable with being comfortable. When my mother packed us up to move to Peoria 24 years ago, she had a vision for her children to thrive. I too have that same vision for my own children. It is our job to make things substantially better for the generations after us.

 

And this is how I ended up here. Doing what is abnormal. A 34-year-old black woman announcing her run for a position that has always been occupied by white men. Taking a risk but a necessary one to move the city forward towards a New Normal. Where economic status didn’t determine opportunity. Where decisions are not made without real community input. Where bad policy and poor stewardship of residents money was not the expectation. A community where one could leave their house on any part of town and have everything they need to live a good, quality life within walking distance. Where it was normal for elected leadership roll-up their sleeves and get involved when the crime occurred.