Gabriel Piemonte is running for the 5th Ward Alderman seat in Chicago and he’s clearly stated that he’s not only a pro-reparations candidate but one who will work to put Freedmen first.
Freedmen is a term used to refer to formerly enslaved Black Americans and their descendants. Today it is used to describe native Black Americans with that lineage.
In a recent Twitter thread, Piemonte called out big landlords, the Obama Foundation and the University of Chicago for having too much influence over the fate of the predominately Black neighborhood.
“We’re building a #FreedmenFirst future here in the Fifth Ward,” Piemonte wrote on Tuesday, Jan. 10. “This ward has been dominated by the voices & decisions of the University of Chicago, the big landlords, & most recently, the Obama Foundation.”
“We have a platform that acknowledges the decades of work Freedmen have put into this Ward, building commerce, maintaining historic homes, developing first-rate schools, all of it under assault by external predatory forces. We will fight back by putting power, property, and prosperity back in the control of #Freedmen residents,” Piemonte’s thread continued.
“Everyone benefits in our agenda, but the fact is that even locally, a debt is owed to the descendants of enslaved Black American citizens. #Reparations is a federal policy program, but reparative justice is required on every level of government,” Piemonte concluded.
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Piemonte is facing steep competition in the race. Alderman Leslie A. Hairston, a native of the Hyde Park and South Shore communities, currently represents the 5th Ward. Hairston is retiring this year and 12 candidates hope to replace her.
In addition to Piemonte, they include Wallace E. Goode Jr., Adrienne Irmer, Martina ’Tina’ Horne, Kris Levy, Joshua Gray, Dialika ‘Dee’ Perkins, Robert Palmer, Jocelyn Hare, Renita Q. Ward, Desmon C. Yancy and Marlene Fisher.
This isn’t the first time Piemonte has run for the seat. He also ran in 2019, where he placed third. He said he’s running again to help restore the 5th Ward to its former progressive status.
“At this moment, I feel like you’ve got to pour everything into this, and that’s what I’m going to do,” Piemonte said in an interview with the Hyde Park Herald. “It’s an opportunity for the 5th Ward to reenter the fold of progressive Chicago politics and not just be kind of resting on its laurels.”
There have been mixed reactions to Piemonte’s candidacy and advocacy for reparations, but several grassroots activists are supporting him.
A couple of Freedmen from Chicago said though they don’t know much about Piemonte, he is the only candidate they’ve heard talking about reparations thus far.
“I don’t know dude. I just heard about him, but I know it’s probably gon’ be a play. But the question is what the Chicago lineage gon’ get out of his play? The chances of him winning is real slim,” one user said during a Twitter Space.
“I ain’t heard nobody in Chicago, no politicians, talk about the lineage and getting the lineage resources. If he gon’ get the message out, I’m not gon’ get in the way. … He’s pretty much the only cat talking about doing something for the lineage,” he continued.
“I’ve known Gabe, as far as being in the reparations movement, for a while … He gave me a follow a long time ago,” another user said. “I know a lot of people in Chicago … but he’s the only one that’s talking about reparations.”
Reparations activist Nyhiem Way is hosting a talk with Piemonte on Thursday, Jan. 12, at 7 p.m.
PHOTO: Chicago residents at a meeting at the South Shore Cultural Center with 5th Ward Alderman Leslie Hairston and other officials on June 3, 2014. (Flickr via Eric Allix Rogers)