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Rebecca Sive Headshot

With Apologies to Beyonce: Chicago Women "Run This Motha" This Inauguration Day

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So, I know most of the time I sound like the political equivalent of the "skinny bitch" of the diet world, ragging on you all about what to do, albeit politically, not nutritionally.

But today, as the political message mavens say, I'm going positive. For, today, I'm taking Beyonce as my inspiration.

This isn't the first time I've done this, though I'm not sure I've written about my admiration for her previously.

There's just something about Beyonce -- and Madonna and Jennifer Lopez, too -- that just keeps pulling me back in. As a girly girl, I love their great clothes and all their bling, so I keep looking and enjoying that, for sure.

But now that I've heard this latest Beyonce song, "Girls Who Run This World," I think I've actually found that something: it's their unabashed assertion of pride in being a girl, but defining girl oh-so-differently than typically; as a female who seeks power, proclaims her power unabashedly, and, not only that, proclaims it in unison with other girls in an assertion of their ability to "run this motha."

Phew. It really is enough to make a girl dance in the streets and sing Sweet Home Chicago and mean it.

And so I propose this anthem, Beyonce's anthem, for singing on this upcoming inauguration day (is there even a Chicago anthem for real?) as we celebrate; yes, the inauguration of our new mayor, but, equally, the inauguration of our new city clerk, Susana Mendoza and repeat winner, City Treasurer Stephanie Neely.

I was struck by the mayor-elect's invitation to attend the inauguration. I quote:

On Monday, May 16th, City Clerk-elect Susana Mendoza, Treasurer Stephanie Neely, members of the City Council, and I will be sworn in at 10:30 a.m. at the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park. This event is free and open to the public.

Take the measure of this, please. Flatfooted and factual, but, girl, was the lead buried.

Maybe the mayor-elect wrote this way because he actually sees this thing, this election of these two women, this way: just a matter-of-course. If so, hooray. Or, maybe he extended the invitation this way because he's seen the same data I've seen: he was elected by the women of Chicago, white, yes, but also African-American and Hispanic.

But back to that buried lead: two of the three municipal officers to be sworn in are women.

And not just any women, but an African American and an Hispanic. And neither, by any measure, a stand-in or a yes-woman for anybody, but solely a woman all-the-way clear about her ability to run this motha.

I sat on the dais a few chairs away from Harold Washington as he took the oath of office.

Women joining me included the late Nancy Jefferson, a West Side "motha" in every sense of the word, as well as the Rev. Addie Wyatt, an inspirational leader who also knows how to get down when necessary.

Both insisted, 24-7, on pride of place and pride of (equal) position, at a time when the very notion that two women might be at the City of Chicago inaugural podium as anything other than Bible-holders was only a dream.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton, in 1848 in the Declaration of Sentiments from the First Women's Rights Convention, said what Nancy and Addie, and I believed in then, but could only dream of as we sat there on that inauguration day:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men and women are created equal.

Well, maybe now we're finally getting to that equal place Stanton dreamed of -- just a few years after Chicago was founded -- in the halls of Chicago's political powerhouse.

Now, we don't know what Mendoza or Neely will choose to do in these next four years, beyond the confines of their respective job descriptions. But we do know that by their very presence they have already made a difference. For the president was right: change we can believe in comes first.

However, change we can (and should) fight for, for everyone, is what's next.

I hope Mendoza and Neely do just that. And, along that way, I hope each will remember what we learned from the recent, but oh-so-blessedly forgotten, mayoral primary: women candidates aren't necessarily better, or nicer, or gentler, or kinder than male candidates, but they are fighters; again, just like the male candidates. And fighters are just what Chicago needs right now.

We women, whatever color we are, share a bond that isn't shared with any man anywhere.

And so Susana and Stephanie have a unique and an historic chance to work together to fill the big shoes of Nancy Jefferson, and Addie Wyatt and the others who walked those halls before them; a unique and historic chance to guide this new mayor so he serves our city best, by serving the women who make it work.