“A rainbow is often a sign of hope, the beauty after the storm, a pot of gold and good fortune at the rainbow’s end. For many, a rainbow carries a personal symbolic meaning–representing inclusivity and diversity, an all-embracing image of love and friendship.”

The rainbow has been used as a sign of unity for more than 50 years, starting with Fred Hampton and the Black Panther party. Hampton united friends and foes alike across Chicagoland who were bonded together in a shared struggle for freedom and liberation. The Young Patriots from uptown, the Young Lords from Lincoln park — then a Latino community — the Black Panther Party fought arm in arm with them for affordable housing, food, health care, living wages, and an end to police brutality. These issues impacted all poor and working class people then and they still do today.

In 1983, Harold Washington united the city of Chicago as the first Black mayor with his historic victory under the rainbow sign. In an eerily similar political atmosphere as our brother and mayoral candidate Brandon Johnson now faces, Harold was up against an unpopular female incumbent, Jane Byrne. He beat her in the first election, which at the time was a Democratic primary, and then, in the general election, defeated Republican Bernard Epton. A year later, the Reverend Jesse L. Jackson resurrected that rainbow fight in his 1984 pursuit of the oval office. 

Hampton, Washington and Jackson all understood one thing, the only way forward is together.  

We are at a precipice again where we are forging a bond of brother and sisterhood under the sign of the rainbow. Brandon Johnson is surging in the polls late in the election because his campaign is charged with the energy of that rainbow, uniting forces across the city for the common good of all Chicagoans. 

From Uptown to downtown Brandon has stoked the flames of justice and they are fanning out across the city, from the West Side to the North Side to the South Side. He has charmed the residents of Chinatown and buoyed the hope of marginalized men in Boy’s town. 

Brandon’s sincerity, affable nature, rapier wit, brilliance, and genuine commitment to improving the lives of all Chicagoans is the best example of Black excellence and it is fitting to celebrate him and his march towards the delivering the city we all deserve this Black History Month. 

As Brandon has said repeatedly, his best job was that of a classroom teacher, at Jenner Academy of the Arts in Cabrini Green, where he was my friend and colleague. He saw his students and their families chasing an economy that was behind them, literally while the neighborhood before them was crumbling. Looking into the faces of those Black children, who had been forgotten and pushed out, ignited the fire for justice and equity that burns in Brandon today. 

The CTU, in collaboration with our coalition partners, have created an ecosystem where hope has been reborn and a Mayor Johnson is possible. We have listened to cries that were ignored by the power structure. We have seen the invisible and made real the intangible and, because of our work over the last decade, Brandon can! 

We have an opportunity to vote for the future that was promised to the slaves. We have the privilege to vote on the manifestation of Dr. King’s dream, the marriage of labor and civil rights. Finally, we get to move this city into a real new millennium where its wealth will be shared by a mayor for the many, not the privileged few.

I believe our city will make the right choice because if we fail to do so, I am haunted by the words of the great griot James Baldwin, who wrote, “God gave Noah, the Rainbow sign, No more water, Fire next time.”

Tara Stamps is CTU’s director of new teacher development.