Meet Zerlina 

New Leadership Delivering Results for Our Community

First of all I am not running as a politician. I am running as an advocate and organizer. I am very familiar with picket signs, bullhorns, colorful banners and public protests. Corporate CEO’s and powerful politicians don’t scare me.

So as you see, I come out of a very different tradition than your typical Chicago pol, some of whom inherit their offices as family heirlooms, as if they were royalty from the days of knights and castles.

I grew up on the Near West Side of Chicago and lived for a time in CHA housing projects including the ABLA Homes and Cabrini Green. I know what poverty is and what it feels like. I was a good student in school but had to cut my education short to help support the rest of my extended family when a series of personal tragedies struck.


I also learned about what it means to struggle and work for justice. My earliest inspiration was my grandmother; Cora Smith, who organized from within CHA public housing to fight for community resources and housing rights.

I once worked 3 minimum wage jobs to keep us all afloat. I went sleepless in Chicago during that time, but I learned what hard work is. Later I went on to earn a GED, but I didn’t stop there, earning certifications as a licensed cosmetologist and as a certified nursing assistant. I plan to return to college and get an advanced degree when circumstances permit.

In addition, I worked in the corporate world as a district manager for two fast food companies. From that experience I learned to analyze workflows, workplace organization and complex budgets. I also saw how wealthy corporations rob the poor of their labor and their health.

I once owned my own cosmetology business and learned first hand how the economy is stacked against small businesses in distressed communities.

Now as a homeowner in Austin and single mom with a 9 year-old, I am continuing my grandmother’s organizing legacy both through public protests and behind-the-scenes committee work:

  • I have been a Local School Council member at Maria Saucedo

     Scholastic Academy

  • I served as Chair of the Head Start Policy Committee of Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and was a member of the DCFS Policy Committee for Early Childhood Education.

Today I want to carry my passion for justice into the Chicago City Council by mobilizing the people of the 29th Ward to fight along side of me. My experience in Chicago has taught me that people power can defeat money power if we are strong and united.


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