Cook County’s Board of Commissioners will soon be tasked with selecting a new Commissioner to replace Chicago Mayor-Elect Brandon Johnson. The 17-member board will begin the replacement process once Johnson resigns in early May. A committee of elected Democrats, most likely led by Illinois state president Don Harmon, will preside over the appointment. According to WBEZ, Brandon Johnson has not suggested a recommendation. 

Marshall Hatch Jr., the 35-year-old executive director of the MAAFA Redemption Project and the son of influential Pastor Marshall Hatch Sr. of New Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church in West Garfield Park, believes he is uniquely suited for this seat. 

The younger Hatch’s life journey is a manifestation of the line between the Black church and politics. He comes from a long line of pastors, educators and activists — one of whom, Jack Hatch, fought in the Union Army in 1863. 

An unapologetic supporter of Brandon Johnson during the mayoral race, Hatch also has direct connections to the Cook County Board of Commissioners. Robert Steele, who served as Commissioner for the 2nd District from 2006 to 2017, gave Hatch Jr. his first internship, which he credits as a vital part of his development. 

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

What are your origins? 

I’m West Sider through and through. My family originally settled on the South Side of Chicago after migrating here from Amory, Mississippi. My father is celebrating his 30th year pastoring New Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church, and my grandfather Elijah J. Hatch pastored a church in East Garfield Park for 42 years. 

My family line consists of preachers, teachers and activists fighting to preserve Black humanity, fighting to alleviate Black suffering, and also fighting for Black joy. That’s what the Black church at its best has always been about.

What do you do currently? 

I’m currently the Executive Director of the MAAFA Redemption Project, which is an extension of New Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church. This program focuses on providing Black men ages 18 to 30 mental health support, family wellness and mentorship, as well as helping young men heal from past trauma. I disagree with a lot of the so-called gun violence language. At their core, they’re looking for home. We try to shift mindsets, and the wraparound services are crucial. Relationship building is the life blood of the organization. We’re graduating our 6th cohort April 30th. 

Why are you pursuing a Cook County Board of Commissioners seat? 

I was really convinced on Election Night, April 4. [Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson] did a good job articulating the idea of trying to fulfill the dream of combining the civil rights movement and the labor rights movement. I was convinced that night because I really did feel something spiritual in the room. It wasn’t just a phrase when he said we’re building a multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-class movement — I saw it. 

The Cook County Board of Commissioners needs a perspective like mine. I would be the youngest African American member. Johnson brought a certain moral heft to the seat and I definitely want to continue a lot of priorities that he had. 

Marshall Hatch Jr. and Marshall Hatch Sr. stand beneath a rose stained glass window in New Mount Pilgrim MB Church, pews on either side.
Marshall Hatch Jr. (left) and Pastor Marshall Hatch Sr. (right) at New Mount Pilgrim MB Church in 2020 | Photo by Ash Nicole for The TRiiBE

Why are you suited for the Cook County Board of Commissioners? 

Brandon Johnson did a great job of informing and preparing community organizations like mine about opportunities that were coming down the pike. I want to continue that work. That takes a unique perspective. Not everybody has that priority. 

I think I’m best positioned to talk about behavioral health, the aftermath of the pandemic and how environmental racism is impacting communities like my own. Somebody with my perspective can get in there and evaluate the programs that are being put forth and also articulate the needs. 

We need Black leadership, both political and spiritual, that can bring all of us around the table to talk about our different issues. I hope to be a bridge builder. 

Have you talked to any of the current commissioners? 

Brandon Johnson is very busy, but I’ve talked to his staff and they’ve helped me frame some priorities. I’ve also contacted Don Harmon and Karen Yarbrough and am waiting on their responses. 

How do you campaign for an appointed position like this one? 

It’s a murky process. Insider baseball. I’m just trying to figure it out.

How do you see the Black church and spiritual community influencing Chicago politics right now? 

This is an opportunity for a rebirth, renaissance, and recommitment to the Black church’s original purpose: liberation in all its forms. Not just for Chicago, but nationally. Brandon Johnson of course talked about how he was raised in the church. Raphael Warnock ran as Reverend Senator Warnock. I think what it signals is that Black church influence, Black church rhetoric, Black church mobilization — it can be what it once was. 

What does the future of Black Chicago look like to you? 

I think one of the reasons Brandon Johnson’s election was so hopeful, particularly for Black folk, was because Black folks were at a bit of a crossroads leading up to it. Communities like mine have been significantly depopulated. West Garfield Park has lost 25 percent of its population since 2000. This Black exodus or reverse great migration has had great implications for Black politics and Black businesses. So what I would hope for in the next 5 to 10 years for Black Chicago is a sankofa, a coming back to Chicago.


is a freelance writer based in Chicago. She recently covered housing as a 2020 City Bureau fellow.