Solis Offers Hope For Mexican Americans

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Solis Offers Hope For Mexican Americans
By RAY HANANIA — No one could conceive of a successor to Mayor Daley. Today we know different. But at one time not too long ago, Danny Solis, the alderman of the 25th Ward, was a good bet to be Chicago’s first Mexican American mayor.

That doesn’t mean Solis, who is one of the brightest and most honest members of the Chicago City Council, should lower his political sights at all. Solis, in my opinion, would be a great candidate for national office.

He has something many Chicago aldermen lack — a vision for the future and great community ties. And he is Mexican American. And the Mexican American community continues to grow in Chicagoland. We saw how the district now held by Cong. Luis Gutierrez has grown encompassing more Mexican American voters.
So why has the 4th Congressional district always been represented by a Puerto Rican American and not by a Mexican American? It’s not an unfair question to ask since race and ethnicity play major roles in Chicago area politics.

The 4th Congressional District is shaped like an earmuff. The northern area is predominantly Puerto Rican. It is connected by a umbilical cord through the west suburbs to a large area in the southwest, which is overwhelmingly Mexican American.

Why has the north always controlled this important Latino District?

The Mexican American population of the district has been expanded under the remap and it is unfair to Mexican American issues. Puerto Ricans are by birth American citizens. Though they may champion the issue of immigration, non-Hispanics like Cicero’s Larry Dominick have done more for Mexican Americans than the North Siders.

(Again, for full transparency, I work for Dominick managing communications, not politics. But then, I helped elect Gutierrez when he first ran for office in the early 1990s — though he never paid me. No problem, that happens in politics.)

Dominick, whose wife is Hispanic, is very close to the Mexican American population. Solis could use that alliance to build a base in the divided 4th Congressional District.

Solis represents not only Mexican American communities such as Pilsen and Little Village, he also represents non-Latino areas such as Little Italy, Chinatown and University Village. He has a lot in common with Dominick.

Solis’ Web site (www.DannySolis.org) tells his story well.

Prior to becoming alderman and President Pro Tempore, Ald. Solis served in various leadership positions in Chicago, as a dedicated teacher, founder and executive director of Latino Youth Alternative High School and as the first Latino Executive Director of the Pilsen Neighbors Community Council. In addition, he served on the Board of Directors for the Eighteenth Street Development Corporation and Gads Hill Center.

However, it was his leadership as co-founder and executive director of the United Neighborhood Organization (UNO) that led to Solis’ greatest triumphs. Ald. Solis created and led the most significant and successful grassroots and policy campaigns within Chicago’s communities in history, including the 1986 IRCA campaign that allowed thousands of undocumented immigrants to seek amnesty as U.S. residents, and the historic 1992 naturalization campaign that eventually assisted well more than 50,000 immigrants in applying for U.S. citizenship. These successes became model programs, not only in Chicago but also on a national level.

In 1995, Solis was appointed as chairman of Mayor Daley’s Citizenship Assistance Council, which oversaw the naturalization for more than 70,000 immigrants from around the world.

Whatever Solis decides to do in the future, all of the region’s citizens, including Mexican Americans, would be well served.

(Ray Hanania is president of Urban Strategies Group. He can be reached at www.UrbanStrategiesGroup.com.)

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Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall reporter and Columnist who began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He covered Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992 (Mayor Daley to Mayor Daley) and has expanded to writing for newspapers around the world focussed on Middle East and American politics.

Hanania loves to write about American Arabs in politics, and focuses on Arab life in America.

Currently, he writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com. He writes on American politics for the Des Plaines Valley News, Southwest News-Herald, The Regional News newspaper and the Reporter Newspapers. He also writes for the online websites TheArabDailyNews.com and NewsAmericaNetwork.com (Illinois News Network at IllinoisNewsNetwork.com).

Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Hanania began in journalism as an activist publishing Chicago’s first English-language American Arab Newspaper “The Middle Eastern Voice” from 1975 through 1977. In 1976, he was hired by the Chicago community newspaper The Southtown Economist (Daily Southtown) and in 1985 was hired by the Chicago Sun-Times and covered Chicago City Hall for both. In 1993, he launched the “The Villager” Newspapers which covered 12 Southwest Chicagoland suburban regions. In 2004, he published “The National Arab American Times” monthly newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East ethnic food stores in 48 American States.

Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media;In 2009, he received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. Hanania has also received two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild, and in 1990 was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.

Hanania’s writings have been published in newspapers around the world. Formerly syndicated by Creators Syndicate, Hanania also has written news, features and Opinion Columns for Al Jazeera English, the Jerusalem Post, YNetNews.com, Arab News, Saudi Gazette, Newsday in New York, the Orlando Sentinel, the Houston Chronicle, The Daily Star, the News of the World, the Daily Yomimuri in Tokyo, Chicago Magazine, the Arlington Heights Daily Herald, and Aramco Magazine. His political columns are published in the Southwest News-Herald and Des Plaines Valley News, Regional News and Palos Reporter newspapers in Chicagoland. Hanania is the President/CEO of Urban Strategies Group media and public affairs consulting which has clients in Illinois, Florida, Michigan and Washington D.C.

Hanania is Palestinian Christian from prominent Bethlehem and Jerusalem families. His wife and son are Jewish and he performs standup comedy lampooning Arab-Jewish relations, advocating for peace based on non-violence, mutual recognition and Two-States.

His Facebook Page is Facebook.com/rghanania

Email him at: RGHanania@gmail.com