Kina Collins Wants To Represent Chicago In Congress And Bring Accountability To Washington
The Chicago native is looking to bring her extensive record of activism and gun control advocacy to Washington.
June 13, 2022 at 1:20 pm
As the 2022 midterm election approaches, the balance of power within the U.S. Congress is currently up for grabs. The election will be a contest between Democrats who currently hold power in both houses of Congress and Republicans who may well regain control of the House and possibly the Senate as well. It will also be a test to see whether the moderate or progressive wing of the Democratic Party will be better able to appeal to voters this year.
One race that highlights this latter competition is happening in the 7th district of Illinois, where progressive activist Kina Collins is challenging long-term Democratic Rep. Danny Davis. Blavity spoke exclusively with Collins about her activism in Chicago, her plans to represent her city and state in Congress and her ideas on gun control and other issues.
"We deserve a fighter"
Collins, a 31-year-old organizer and activist from Chicago, believes “it’s time for a generational change in the Illinois 7th congressional district.” Collins noted that Rep. Davis has been in office since she was five years old. “With all due respect to the congressman, anything that you could have done, you should have done in 25 years.”
Pointing toward pressing issues, such as the potential overturning of Roe v. Wade, workers’ rights, healthcare reform and climate change, Collins said that “we deserve a fighter” representing her district. She described the 7th district and why she represents its people. “When you look at [the demographics of the 7th district] — the median age is millennial, supermajority woman district, plurality African American district and overwhelmingly working class — that’s me.”
When asked about the legacy of the 7th district, which historically included the area represented by Abraham Lincoln in Congress and has seen significant activism throughout its history, Collins took a humbled and community-centric approach to her campaign to represent the area. “I want to minimize myself,” she said about her place in the legacy of the district. “From Black Lives Matter to March for Our Lives to the Women’s March to the Sunrise Movement, we are in a resurgence of the Civil Rights Movement.”
Collins believes that elected officials should serve “the heartbeat of these movements, which are everyday people who don’t run for office.” Her role in office, she explained, would be that of a “convener in the district and as a co-conspirator in this work with movement leaders.”
Discussing the lessons she has learned from her years of activism, Collin said that “it taught me the importance of accountability and being accountable to the community. “The whole system failed Laquan McDonald,” she points out as an example of lack of accountability, discussing his murder and the subsequent cover-up surrounding the 2014 killing of the Black teenager by a Chicago police officer. She also cited the 2012 killing of Rekia Boyd as another systemic failure.
All too often, as Collins noted with cases like these, it takes concerted outcries from the Black community for any attention to be aided to these issues. “Why does it require a viral consumption of outrage from Black folks in order to shame and embarrass our criminal justice system into action?”
"The opposite of violence is anti-violence"
Collins is most known as an advocate against gun violence, a mission born from her own experiences in Chicago, including witnessing a murder in which she knew both the shooter and the victim. “People have nationally used the city of Chicago as a punching bag around gun violence,” she said of the debate over gun reform. “They need to keep Chicago’s name out of their mouth. That’s how I feel,” Collins said bluntly about conservative politicians, adding that “none of these folks actually talk to the survivors” and that they instead push a false narrative that people in Chicago don’t want to prevent gun violence.
These same politicians, she pointed out, fail to acknowledge larger issues that feed into gun violence, such as school defunding, lack of access to healthcare, inadequate housing and police violence. “When we shut down public schools, when we eviscerate mental health services, when we blockade the ability of people to have access to affordable housing, when we place entire communities in situations where they’re food insecure — that’s violence. Those are examples of violence to me, structural violence.”
Collins cited her training as a “violence interrupter,” which she defined as “somebody who knows how to deescalate tensions in the community without the involvement of police officers.” In her community work, Collins described that her goals are to “identify high-potential shooters and those who have the high risk of being shot at and deescalating those situations.” Taking these lessons to the level of policy, Collins noted the need to shift the conversation from reaction to prevention.
“The opposite of violence is anti-violence,” which includes livable wages, food security and other quality of life and social safety net issues. Real progress, Collins notes, requires political leaders to “invest in treatment and not in trauma,” which will only happen under elected leaders who have experienced and survived gun violence and other challenges.
The other key to tackling gun violence, Collins argued, is to target the supply of weapons. She noted that she has seen police conduct raids against gun runners but that “we never see white healthy gun manufacturer owners being arrested.” Collins proposes holding gun manufacturers accountable for the violence committed with their products.
Pushing back against conservative arguments that gun control has failed to stem gun violence in Chicago, she points out that nearly all of the guns used in violent acts in the city come from outside of Chicago, either from neighboring Republican-controlled states with lax gun laws or “one to two gun shops in the suburbs of Illinois.” Despite Republican rhetoric, Collin pointed out that “we’re not trafficking guns into places like Texas or Mississippi but red states have trafficked a lot of guns into Chicago.”
Speaking of Republican violence in light of Thursday’s public hearing of the Jan. 6 congressional committee, Collins stated that “we can continue to turn a blind eye or we can point out the root of many of the problems in our country, which is white supremacy.” Collins argues that “no one can convince me” that a similar uprising from Black organizers wouldn’t have ended in a “massacre.” Seeing the hypocrisy in response to Black protestors and white insurrectionists, Collins reiterated that “I think it strikes at the root cause of a lot of what we see as policy inequity, economic inequity and as a moral in this country, which is white supremacy.”
Collins believes that she is the person to help fight white supremacy, gun violence and the other issues facing Chicago and the country as a whole, and that she can do so while remaining true to the principles she developed throughout her life and career. Discussing her principles and borrowing a phrase from her father, Collins stated that “we can be in these positions and we don’t have to sell our souls, our communities or ourselves out in the process. We can remain sucker-free in this process.”
Collins faces off against Rep. Davis in the June 28 Democratic primary election. With no Republican running in the 7th district general election, the primary will essentially decide who represents the district in the next congressional term.