Charise Williams has her eyes set on the Illinois 1st Congressional District seat that will be left vacant by Bobby Rush in 2023. If elected, Williams will be the first Black woman to hold the seat. In 2015, Williams became deputy chief of staff for the Illinois State Treasurer’s Office, where she managed civic engagement throughout the state and served as the advocate for all urban communities. In 2020, she served as the chief of staff/deputy director for the Illinois Criminal Justice Authority. Rolling out spoke with Williams about the potential of making history in Illinois and the importance of Black women being involved in politics.
Why is it important for you to fill this congressional seat?
The people of the 1st District have an opportunity to bring in new ideas and a fresh perspective. While a lot has changed over the last 30 years, many things have remained the same. The 1st District is uniquely diverse and should be represented by someone who cares about every city, county, and neighborhood throughout the district. With my policy focused background, I have successfully advocated for criminal justice reform, provided funding for small businesses, developed job training programs and helped repair the harm caused by the war on drugs. I will be a vocal advocate for my district without being beholden to outside interests or people.
What were your duties as chief of staff/deputy director for the Illinois Criminal Justice Authority, how will they translate to Congress?
One of my roles was to integrate the work of ICJIA into the larger community. My primary function was to run operations, advise senior leadership, shape and administer policy, develop the overall budget, and re-evaluate how the agency administered grants and research. At that time, the agency was in a period of intense change. Most of the leadership were in interim roles and the agency was designing and launching the historical Restore, Reinvest, Renew (R3) grant program. It was at ICJIA where I also learned how to apply for and administer federal funding.
I have also successfully assisted in developing and implementing funding programs throughout the state and have assisted in drafting policies and procedures to help ease the burden of state funding. These skills will be instrumental when I am in Congress.
Why is it important for Black women to be involved in politics?
Over the past five presidential campaigns, Black women have showed up at the polls in higher numbers than any other group. With historic nationwide voter mobilization, Black women were instrumental in getting both President Biden and Vice President Harris elected.
It is vital for everyone — and especially Black women — to be involved in the political arena because our vote is our voice. Without our vote, women around the country will continue to have subpar health care and will continue to fight for seats of power and keys to the C-suite. Simply put, without Black women, our democracy would look very different.