Mayor Lori Lightfoot giving her inauguration speech at the Wintrust Arena on Monday | Photos by Morgan Elise Johnson [The TRiiBE]

Mayor Lori Lightfoot knows her audience well. She’s dealing with a people run ragged by years of leadership that prioritized the interests of Chicago’s elite while leaving Black folks behind to writhe in the dust. She seems to understand that her constituents are suffocating, slowly being choked out of their neighborhoods through unyielding gun violence, massive school closures, a racist police state and insufferable property taxes. That’s why, it seems, she was able to turn supporter Willie Wilson’s Black voter base into her own, sealing her fate as the first Black woman — and openly gay person — to serve as Chicago mayor.

Lightfoot knows Black Chicagoans are in dire need of fresh air after eight years under predecessor Rahm Emanuel. On Monday, as Lightfoot took the mayor’s oath, she made clear her plans to breathe new life into the city’s neglected communities.

“I’m looking ahead to a city of safe streets and strong schools for every child regardless of neighborhood or zip code,” Lightfoot said during her inaugural speech. “A city where people want to grow old and not flee. A city of sanctuary against fear where no one must hide in the shadows. A city that is affordable for families and seniors and where every job pays a living wage.”

Lightfoot stood on the Wintrust Arena stage before her wife, daughter, siblings and 90-year-old mother, a product of the Jim Crow South, as an example of what a Black girl from a working-class family can achieve through faith and sacrifice. She leaned on the oratory traditions of former president Barack Obama, whose message of hope mobilized an entire nation to vote for change in the White House in 2008, and Black preachers, whose masterful wordplay can turn even the strongest doubters into believers.

Majority of the Black women in attendance, all dressed to the nines of course, whooped and hollered each time Lightfoot’s words touched their spirit. When Lightfoot likened herself to Chicago’s first Black mayor, Harold Washington, some Black women in the crowd felt so moved to respond in divine agreement, “Amen.”

“Most importantly, thank you to the people of Chicago, who had the courage to put their faith in a newcomer and the optimism to join this moment. We stand today at a time of great hope and possibility,” Lightfoot said. “And I can’t help but feel the spirit of the great Mayor Harold Washington here with us this morning.”

Black women cheer on new Mayor Lori Lightfoot at Monday's inauguration

Washington holds a special place in the hearts of Black Chicago. His 1983 mayoral campaign united Black and brown communities in ways never seen before or since. His campaign set the record for the highest voter turnout with 82.07 percent, which led to his 1983 win over Republican Bernie Epton. His legacy still lives in the homes of many Black Chicagoans, where you’ll find his photo perfectly framed on the living-room walls.

So Lightfoot’s comparison to Washington is hyperbolic at best. Given Lightfoot’s history as a federal prosecutor and former Chicago Police Board president, there’s no guarantee that Black Chicago’s needs will be met. In fact, many activists fear that Lightfoot has adopted their progressive rhetoric to maliciously increase the policing of Black and brown people.

At Monday’s inauguration, Lightfoot outlined a plan that appears to keep Black people in mind as she transforms Chicago into an inclusive world-class city. In her inauguration speech, Lightfoot reimagined the four red stars on Chicago’s flag. The stars currently symbolize Fort Dearborn, the Great Chicago Fire, the World’s Columbian Exposition and the Century of Progress Exposition; four defining moments in Chicago’s history.

During the Lightfoot era, the four stars will symbolize the areas she promises to improve during her tenure: safety in every neighborhood, education, stability and integrity.

The fourth star served as a reference to Chicago’s corrupt politics, which she will work to eliminate through an executive order to end aldermanic privilege.

“I heard a century-old hymn in church the other day. A song that I know from my youth of so many Sundays sitting in church, listening to the working class people in my congregation, who toiled in factories, kitchens or outside and came to the church for a respite from their otherwise hard days,” Lightfoot said.

Then she recited the lyrics of “Pass me not, O gentle Savior,” before reassuring the people that she will fight for equality for everyone in Chicago.

“To those who are alone, we are with you. To those who need a home, we will shelter you,” Lightfoot continued. “We see you. We hear you. We are your neighbors. And, so help me, we will not pass you by.”