It’s a quiet afternoon at Kusanya Cafe on 69th and Halsted, with a few people chatting over hot mugs of coffee or working on their laptops. The exposed brick walls give the space a stripped-down feel, but with colorful paintings and large windows that let in lots of natural light, the room feels warm and homey. Though the atmosphere and decor are mildly reminiscent of a café one might see in Uptown or Lincoln Park that serves infused lattes for five dollars, a quick glance at the menu hints that Kusanya isn’t a North Side transplant. A grilled mozzarella sandwich named Mozz Def and a ham panini named Ham Master Jay—plays on the names of rappers Mos Def and Jam Master Jay—indicate that Kusanya’s roots are firmly planted here in Englewood.
A year ago, Marie Newman was a nonprofit executive, a mother, and a successful business owner. Now, she is also candidate for the United States House of Representatives. She sat across from me at a downtown Starbucks facing Trump Tower which, on this afternoon, is glistening in the sun. With only a short time to talk before she had a speaking engagement, I asked her how she got to this point and where she wants to go from here.