Ayana Clark will compete against 6 candidates Feb. 28 for the 21st Ward seat. Credit: Provided/Colin Boyle

AUBURN GRESHAM — Recently retired Rep. Bobby Rush is backing his former staffer in a crowded race to succeed a longtime South Side alderman in City Council.

Rush endorsed Ayana Clark for the 21st Ward seat Monday. Rush confirmed his support for Clark in an interview with Block Club on Tuesday. 

Clark announced her candidacy for alderperson in July. At the time, Ald. Howard Brookins Jr. (21st) said he intended to run for reelection for his sixth City Council term. He later announced he would retire after nearly two decades leading the ward

Clark worked as a community advocate for Rush, building connections between Rush and residents to tackle issues facing the ward. She currently serves as a program director for the Ready 2 Work program at the Hope Center Foundation, a job readiness program for low-income youth. 

“I call Ayana, A.C.,” Rush told Block Club. “It’s not because it’s her initials. I nicknamed her A.C. because to me she is a person who can accomplish things. The A.C. is short for accomplished. I haven’t met a more impressive, young, energetic person. I think she will be an outstanding elected official and public servant.”

Clark has worked with South Side organizations like Hustle mommies and Project H.O.O.D. She is an alumnus of the Obama Foundation Community Leadership Corp and the Congressional Black Caucus Institute. 

She has also been endorsed by Run for Something, One Business Chicago and “Girl, I Guess, Progressive Voter’s Guide,” according to the news release.

Clark faces six other challengers for the 21st Ward seat. Fourteen candidates entered the race, but half are off the ballot after they withdrew or were disqualified by elections officials.

Election Day is Feb. 28. If no candidate receives at least 50 percent of the vote, the top two will go to a runoff April 4.

Rush retired last year after three decades in office. Rep. Jonathan Jackson, the son of civil rights activist Rev. Jesse Jackson and brother of disgraced former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., won the seat for the 1st Congressional District in November

Rush will transition to pastoring at the Beloved Community Church of God in Christ in Bronzeville, he said. 

“Ayana has overcome tremendous odds,” Rush said. “She has excelled at everything she has attempted to do. She served me exceptionally well when she was on my staff, and she has an uncanny ability to solve problems. I have come to rely on Ayana’s insight to the millennial generation and compassion and consciousness about community. She is a dedicated individual.”

After years of working alongside Rush and witnessing his impact on the community, Clark is honored and ready to follow in his footsteps, she said. If elected, she will be the first woman to hold the position and first new alderperson for the ward in 20 years.

“…My community is filled with stories of how Congressman Rush changed lives,” Clark said.  “He has always put community first, and with his support, I will continue to do the same. The new 21st Ward needs leadership that represents the core of our community values. I am that leader.”

Help Block Club Get
500 More Subscribers!

Subscribe to Block Club now and you’ll get a free 16-by-20-inch Chicago neighborhood print of your choice, helping us reach our goal of getting 500 more subscribers before 2024. Click here to subscribe or click here to gift a subscription.

Listen to the Block Club Chicago podcast:

Atavia Reed is a reporter for Block Club Chicago, covering the Englewood, Auburn Gresham and Chatham neighborhoods. Twitter @ataviawrotethis