A couple of weeks ago I posted on my Facebook page which stated, “What questions do the people have for the next Governor of Illinois?” I received various responses, people were wondering what his views were on the “Fight for 15” movement as well as the would-be Governor perspective on unions. So I reached out to Tio Hardiman an activist and adjunct professor who did a lot of ground work with CeaseFire. In 2004 he founded “Violence Interrupters”, which is a program that utilizes ex-gang members and returning citizens to intercept street violence before it happens. According to one PBS Frontline article on CeaseFire,
“In 2008, the Justice Department hired independent researchers to evaluate CeaseFire’s work. The researchers found a 17 to 24 percent decline in actual and attempted shootings at four of the seven sites they surveyed. “I found the statistical results to be as strong as you could hope for,” said the study’s lead author Dr. Wesley G. Sokgan, a political science professor at Northwestern University.”
Now imagine if we had the adequate resources from the state to efficiently duplicate this program in the most violent areas in Chicago. It would definitely be a beautiful thing and a game changer in terms of how we interact with each other on a daily basis. Take a glance at some of the policies he plans and get an insight on the candidate below. And here’s an in-depth study on just how CeaseFire along with Violence Interrupters is: http://cureviolence.org/partners/us-partners/illinois-partners/
QM: Give us your story on where you’re from, how you got started with CeaseFire and expound on the role of Violence Interrupters.
Tio Hardiman: “Well my name is Tio Hardiman, I’m running for Governor in the State of Illinois and my running mate is Patricia Avery. My background consists of a Masters Degree in Inner City Studies and I’m the former director of CeaseFire Illinois. I’ve sat on various boards throughout the state of Illinois dealing with the public defenders board and federal defenders. I’ve done a lot of work to change some of the conditions in the Illinois Department of Corrections and make the conditions more humane for inmates. I’ve done a lot of work in the field of criminal justice reform and reducing gun violence. I’ve stood up for women’s rights, I’e helped rescue 12 young women from a prostitution ring some years ago. Along with that I’ve intervened and mediated conflicts with thousands of young men and women in the city of Chicago. The list goes on and on, I’m a father a family man doing everything I can do to make things right across the board for everybody. I have about a 25 year history in leadership positions and I’m currently serving as an adjunct professor at Governors State and North Park University. Not only that I’m the President of a non for profit organization called Violence Interrupters, that’s what I’m doing right now and that’s my history at a glance.”
QM: Exactly how did you get started with CeaseFire as far as you activism is concerned?
Tio Hardiman: “I’ve always been a community activist but now I look at myself as more of a seasoned community leader. I grew up in the Avalon Park community on the southside and the Henry Horner projects on the westside. So at an early age I looked up to people that were involved in community activism. People I never really met but I studied the Black Panther Party. I studied their motto and how they stood up against police brutality and excessive force. I wish I would’ve met Huey P. Newton but I was too young at the time, they were much older than I am and those were a group of people I looked up to for some reason. Fred Hampton, you got Bobby Seale, Malcolm X I read all of his books while I was growing up. My uncles introduced me to black leadership and that’s what happened. It just became a second nature for me and I was always interested in standing up for the under dog. I grew up around some pretty tough circumstances, I grew up in the heart of the ghetto. I’ve seen drug addiction up close and personal, I’ve seen violence up close and personal. I’ve seen people go through a lot of changes and started to take a look to see what I could do to help change some of the conditions of all people. I got involved with CeaseFire back in 1999 when we only had about 4 staff back then, and we helped build that program to the highest level ever. I became a household name known as Mr. CeaseFire, people still look at me as Mr. CeaseFire today. I created the Violence Interrupters in 2004 and it became a sensation, so to speak. There was a documentary filmed called “The Interrupters” that kind of went viral and it was on PBS. Basically I can put my hands on several hundred young men that I helped turn their lives around personally. A lot of them are still doing real good , they’ve re-enrolled in school they’re obtaining degrees and living their lives.”
QM: What are your priorities?
Tio Hardiman: “Our priorities are for the state we have a 2020 Plan which represents a Perfect vision to Move the State of Illinois forward. Our plan includes supporting Veterans senior citizens college students People with disabilities women’s rights Children Returning citizens. As well as doing everything we can to open mental health clinics throughout the State of Illinois and reduce unemployment overall. This is the thing unemployment In the African American community Throughout the State of Illinois is 14.2%. The highest in the nation for African American people. Is 43% for African Americans males between the ages of 20 through 24, we have to reduce those numbers. Now unemployment state wide is Around 5%. But no community has been hit as hard as the black community. We have 1.7 million people living in poverty 30% of those people are African American And the list goes on and on. I’m running for governor to support the farmers also. I support the $15 minimum wage increase because people need to have a living wage. People actually need more than $15 but that’s fair just to get started. Another one of our goals is to reduce gun violence by 50% in the State of Illinois. I have a non traditional approach to working with gun violence. I will work with the ATF in state police to intercept Illegal gun trafficking. On the other side I plan on Creating more job opportunities through apprenticeship programs. I plan on hitting the streets myself, And you will never hear another governor say this. I will train and appoint a violence prevention czar that works with me to go out and reduce the shootings and killings In the streets of Chicago East Saint Louis and Peoria Decatur all over the place. I plan to bring all these young men to the table and roll our sleeves up and go to work in order to really put an end to this epidemic known as gun violence that continues to take the lives of so many young men and women.”
QM: What do you say to people who feel like the fight for 15 movement is a joke?
Tio Hardiman: “I can see people seeing why they think that the Fight for 15 movement is a joke based on a couple of reasons. One is that a lot of politicians are going to say they are all for a $15 an hour minimum wage increase but this is the problem. Yes its good to say that, I believe that and I would I would like see that happen, as soon as that bill hits my desk I’ll sign it to make it a reality in State of Illinois. But small businesses will suffer so we have to make sure that we provide small businesses with subsidies and incentives so that they could stay in business even though once we raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Now corporations like McDonald’s, of course they can pay $15 an hour and some of these CEOs are making $3500 an hour, so why step on the poor and working class people. So it’s not a joke it’s just going take the will of the people to make it a reality, we don’t have enough people fighting for that $15 minimum wage even though it appears to have a lot of support it’s obvious we need more support. As far as the people that think it’s a joke they need to just stop thinking that way because it can become a reality in Illinois.”
QM: Why do you want to run for Governor?
Tio Hardiman: “Well my name is Tio Hardiman, we say this in my campaign and the T-I-O stands for “Turn It Over”. I want to turn the state over to the people and the people never had the state. We have a governor now, Bruce Rauner who, during a Black History Month event, drank some chocolate milk to show that he supports diversity. I’m getting tired of this mess, I’m running for Governor to combat discrimination. We got racism going on, mass incarceration we have a mass Exodus of people moving from Illinois and Chicago. These billionaires continue to drown out the voices of the working class and poor people and we have to bring an end to this type of nonsense. It’s timeout for these billionaire tactics and strategies that they’re using, they’re dividing the black vote and dropping off money bags in the communities. They’re taking pictures of random black babies and when you look at their websites its black people all over the place, but our conditions have not changed. The thing is you have a few select preachers, these sell-out preachers in Chicago, not all preachers just a few of them. They’re having these backroom deals with these people running for Governor and some of these elected officials are doing the same thing because its about money, money, money. The love of money. We have to turn this type of narrative around and bring it back to the people. Instead of individual gain I’m running to show the state that we have a leader that believes in collective gain. See everybody is going to have a seat at the table and an opportunity for success with Patricia Avery and Tio Hardiman.”
QM: What’s your take on legalizing and decriminalizing cannabis?
Tio Hardiman: “I’m a proponent and a supporter of legalizing and decriminalizing small amounts of recreational usage of marijuana, for the tax money and to commute sentences where people were a locked up to for marijuana related crimes. They shouldn’t be locked up anyway, this is a non violent crime. They’ve legalized marijuana in Colorado and they had a surplus, a 6.2 billion surplus in the state of Colorado. Not just because of the marijuana but they’ve been making a lot of tax money which is a good thing for the state. I’d like to lead the state Illinois to a surplus sooner than later to write but it is not gonna happen because these billionaires create this catastrophic type of atmosphere in a state. Everything is falling down so they can set themselves apart and prop themselves up as a savior. But yes, I as governor would commutes sentences and legalize small amounts of recreational use of marijuana. But there’s a flip side to it we have to be honest as men and women and leaders. I don’t wanna see a lot of young people thinking its OK to smoke marijuana, because what happens then, some people not all people, graduate from marijuana and they end up using other drugs. Tobacco, alcohol and marijuana could serve as gateways to higher levels of drug usage. And I don’t want anybody struggling with that type of stuff. A lot in teenagers and highschool students look up to me and I’ll never tell them it’s OK to smoke marijuana. Now if you’re an adult, you wanna smoke, thats your business model have as a leader-“
QM: So are you saying that there should be age limits, some type of restrictions?
Tio Hardiman: “There should be age limits and some restrictions because I’ve seen the ugly side of addiction, in my community where I grew up at.”
QM: Whats your take on unions in general?
Tio Hardiman: “I support unions, I’m a former Union employee I have no issue with the unions, but the unions should be backing me. I don’t believe Illinois should be a right to work state because the unions I have a lot of power and unions do protect employees, for the most. Unions protect employees but you have to understand the model of unions the model comes from the mafia days, the mobster days. They were controlling its stockyards controlling industries but I think that the unions are more sophisticated. Some of these employers would like to fire you without giving you any benefits. Especially if you’re on a leave of absence for medical conditions, you just might have to take a break and you need to be protected. How can an employee work somewhere for a company 10 to 15 years and you’re only seen as a number. That’s not good, you’re a human being and these employees especially if they’re making a lot of money. If they can show where they’re making millions and billions of dollars then take care of the employees. That’s where I stand with unions.”
QM: What are your plans to assist with community development for inner city entrepreneurs?
Tio Hardiman: “Well when it comes down to community development for inner city entrepreneurs, I’m all over that issue. My running mate, she used to oversee a budget of 80 million dollars in central Illinois where she would provide start up monies for the small businesses throughout central Illinois. So that’s one of our main properties, to help promote small business opportunities here in the State of Illinois for everybody. The way we do it is by pushing the financial transaction tax, the LaSalle Street Tax, which is projected to bring in 3 billion dollars that’s projected OK. Let’s say it brings in 1.5 billion dollars that’s enough revenue, new revenue, that we can use to help boost the economy in the state especially the small business arena help the inner city entrepreneurs.”
QM: How do you play alone protecting our sanctuary city?
Tio Hardiman: “As governor of the head of this state, the executive in charge, I don’t agree with that and policies that a Donald Trump administration’s is trying to push forth. No human being should be seen as a legal anyway but I say this every time that question is asked of me. I support DACA, if you were raised in the USA, raised in Illinois I plan to make sure you stay. But we have to be clear about this and I bring up my ancestors when I talk about this. My ancestors came over on the bottom slave ships, we’re not immigrants here, people need to know that across the world. I’m going to say it time and time again because I traced my roots all the way to a slave plantation in Louisiana. I’ve traced my roots so it really hits home with me when we talk about a describing and defining people as immigrants anyway. Now we need to work on a pathway to citizenship for people and that’s the best we can do right now. But I plan to make sure that Illinois is a sanctuary state. However, I wish people would come over here the proper way therefore you don’t have to go back-and-forth on all these issues. But the truth of the matter is that 90% of the people that live in the United States came in from a distant land, except my people were not immigrants and were forced over here. I don’t play the game when it comes to that question there but I do support a human being’s right to be safe in a sanctuary state.”
QM: How do you plan on bridging the gap between the north and south side in regards to economic development?
Tio Hardiman: “Its just a matter looking at the different models that exists when you look at thriving communities. What’s the difference between the north and south side? There are more resources being poured into the north side because of the a leadership, because the aldermen, the Congressmen, the state reps and state senators. They’re going to make sure they take take care of the a north side. On the south side that we have a lack of development and it appears that some of our elected officials are not doing everything in their power to make sure that we have this economic boost. I would have to take a look at the whole landscape was going on on the South side and develop and design a plan to help move forward with strong economic development. I was on 79th street yesterday and I was live on social media. I started from 79th street all the way to 79th and Yates. I counted 100 maybe 120 abandoned buildings and abandoned store fronts. That story has to change because you ask people grow up and do good in these communities and they don’t have nothing to look forward to. There’s an old Sears off 79th and Kenwood that should be changed into a Target or Walmart some type of big chain store so we can hire the people in the community. Another thing I thought about, Amazon’s trying to move their number 2 headquarters to Illinois. Why not move it to the south side of Chicago, East Saint Louis or Peoria where people need the help? Why not move it to the west side of Chicago? So I’m real strong on economic development, especially on the south side. The north side they will be OK they have quite a few resources but anything I can do to help them as well I’m interested in.”