One of seven people, so far, vying to fill three soon-to-be open trustee spots, Chibuike Enyia (pronounced Chee-bee-kay En-yuh) has a laundry list of issues he plans to tackle if elected to the village board of Oak Park this April.

“I grew up here and seeing the change that I want to happen and continue to happen in Oak Park is going to take a lot of work,” Enyia told Wednesday Journal. “I know that I can’t wait for someone else to do it and I want to be a part of that change.”

From pandemic relief and support for small businesses to racial equity and police reform, Enyia hopes to address everything that this year has brought to forefront, while upholding the village’s values.

“For the past 30 years, I’ve heard about diversity, opportunity, education, safety, health, clean environments,” Enyia said. “We have to be a better representation of that.”

That representation begins with the elected leaders of Oak Park.

“We need leadership that is going to reflect what needs to be done in our village,” he said.

Enyia is one of three candidates for trustee with the support of Represent Oak Park, a local political group. Anthony Clark and Juanta Griffin are also in that trio.

The son of Nigerian immigrants, Enyia’s call to leadership is something of a family tradition. His great grandmother led the women’s rebellion in 1929 against colonial rule in Nigeria. His father and uncle fought against genocide in the Nigerian Civil War. 

His first cousin Amara Enyia ran twice for Chicago mayor – in the 2015 and 2019 elections, during the latter of which she snagged an endorsement from Chance the Rapper.

“I was so glad to see her run and try to shake things up, especially with the political machine they have in Chicago,” said Enyia. “I was super proud.”

Despite his impressive family background, he doesn’t believe he’s of the same tradition as the people who usually run for village board.

“I’m not your typical candidate; I don’t have law degrees,” he said. “I’m an everyday person, just like anybody else.”

Enyia’s family moved to Oak Park when he was four years old. As a kid, Enyia took part in much of what the community had to offer. He participated in Boy Scouts. Wrestled and played football as a student at Oak Park and River Forest High School. While at OPRF, he appreciated the many clubs available to students, exposing them to community activism, fine arts and different cultures. 

He’s lived in the community for 30 years now, choosing to raise his own children here so that they could have the same opportunities he did. 

Enyia also knows that Oak Park isn’t a perfect place. He thinks more could be done to entice small and Black-owned businesses to come to the community. Enyia would like to see greater collaboration between taxing bodies.  

“And I definitely think there’s a lot of thought that needs to go into policing,” said Enyia. 

He believes the concept of policing should be reimagined to eliminate police pulling over Black people at an inordinately higher rate than they do white people. 

“We need to make sure that, especially for our kids of color, they are being treated fairly,” said Enyia. “Police need to make sure that they’re not traumatizing.”

To do so requires not just providing greater transparency but doing so in language easily understood by people outside of law enforcement, according to Enyia.

“Not all of us know police speak,” said Enyia.

Industry lingo is seldom comprehensible to the general public, which Enyia learned during the six years he spent in the communications field, prior to starting a small video company with friends from OPRF.

Enyia supports mental health initiatives provided to police officers. He thinks the village has made a step in the right direction this year by entering into the $20,000 agreement with First Responders Wellness Center (FRWC), which will provide one-on-one counseling sessions with sworn officers. 

 “There are ladies and gentlemen who work for the police who I completely respect what they do on a daily basis and they put their lives in danger,” said Enyia. “People need to remember that as well.”

The current village board often suffers from a lack of consensus among members. Discussions devolve into arguments, with members taking personal swipes at each other, which seldom lead to compromise. 

If elected, Enyia wants to change the atmosphere of inflexibility to one of cooperation.

“Let’s work together to make the most of what we have here in Oak Park, which really is great, but we can make it better,” he said.

Although he isn’t afraid to challenge others on issues about which he feels strongly and is committed to speaking up for the groups not consistently represented at the board table.

“I want to represent them,” Enyia said. “I want them to know there are people who care about them.”

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