WHAT I CAN DO FOR US AS A LEGISLATOR
WHAT WE MUST DO TOGETHER AS A COMMUNITY
On Education: Education has always been and always will be the great equalizer. If we want our district and the Bronx to improve economically, socially and politically – we have got to improve how we educate our children and our citizens.
- In underserved communities like ours, education must be the focal point and the hub of our community, offering excellent and equitable education to our children and great educational opportunities to our adults in order to develop and elevate our district.
- Update our school buildings and classrooms to reflect the 21st century with the necessary technological innovations.
- Differentiated curriculums that enrich and prepare each student for a fulfilling college experience and career. STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts Mathematics) should be tangibly alive in our schools.
- Curriculums that are socially, culturally, emotionally sensitive and relevant.
- Adequate resources for special needs and ELL students. Adequate support for their families should be readily available.
- Adequate resources to address the needs of students in temporary housing and shelters and to integrate them in school communities.
- Adequate resources to address mental health issues and adequate support for children and families in distress or crisis.
- Effectively address bullying in school and create a space in which all of our children, school staff and school volunteers feel safe and protected.
- More trade and vocational schools – especially important for students from the poor and working poor classes so that they can earn a livelihood as they put themselves through college if they so choose.
- Commit to nurturing and training our students to become the leaders of tomorrow by civically engaging them.
- Building systems that enable true transparency and parent empowerment/engagement through open dialogue and ensuring that parents have a real seat at the table.
- Building systems by which true learning communities are created in which the community at large is called to support the education of our children – where school officials, students, parents and other community stakeholders can truly come together for the purpose of making sure that our district and the Bronx no longer ranks last in education. We are all partners in this endeavor.
It has always taken and will always take a village to raise and educate our children.
On Education: Education is my heart, my passion. As a classroom teacher, I have seen and know the difference a solid education makes in the lives of people. Closing and eliminating the achievement gap will require all of our help.
- It is partly our responsibility to make education the focal point and hub of our community.
- Let us be more involved. Let us be more informed of what the rules and the regulations are. Let us educate one another.
- Knowledge is truly power. Let’s use our knowledge when advocating for our children.
- Run to be a member of your PA (Parent Association), PTA (Parent Teacher Association), SLT (School Leadership Team), CEC (Community Education Council). Encourage other parents to run as well.
- Even if you are not an executive member of your PA, PTA SLT, and CEC, be involved. Attend meetings. Encourage other parents to attend meetings. Inform one another on happenings at meetings so that we are always in the know.
- Make school officials accountable. Know how and where to advocate for your children. Know the stakeholders and the influential people who can help you address your problems.
- Organize and mobilize to solve problems. There is always power in numbers.
- Documentation/notetaking is your best friend. Learn to document in order to be the best advocate you can be.
- Meet (as a group) with the powers that be and write (as a group) to the powers that be when advocating for a common solution to a problem.
- Speak up respectfully, but speak up.
- Share with one another. We are never as alone as we think.
- Support one another in finding solutions.
- Let us build that sense of community. There is no power or influence in isolation.
- We are not only responsible for the education of our biological or adopted children, we responsible for the education of every child in our community. Because we are bound together, the miseducation of one child is the miseducation of all children. It will always take a village to raise and educate our children.
On the Care of Seniors: Our seniors are the backbone and pillars of our community. We stand on their shoulders and they are the repository of our history. There is so much to learn from them and they still have so much to offer in wisdom and ideas. They deserve our reverence and their place in our continuing development.
- Support systems and initiatives that will prevent age discrimination.
- Legislative measures for the protection of our seniors from crime and abuse.
- More resources for their care in terms of medical needs and their physical well-being and safety every day, but especially during crises and when in distress.
- Support the creation of systems and social/economic infrastructures that will enhance the quality of their lives through fun and relevant activities and decrease loneliness and isolation among our seniors.
- Support the creation of systems, social/economic infrastructures and opportunities that will ensure their continued intellectual contributions to our communities. Seniors are a powerful resource for us and for our youths.
- More resources to ensure their continued health and promote healthy lifestyles through education, activities and their care – including mental health services when necessary.
- Maintaining and improving Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security in spite of what is going on in Washington, D.C.
- Measures to promote and ensure that retirement homes and centers are providing maximum quality care for our seniors and finding ways to integrate them in the larger community.
- Facilitating opportunities for seniors to participate in community programs in which they can mentor a young or younger person or receive help from a young or younger person.
- Facilitating opportunities for seniors to share their perspective with the community on the history they have lived, thus giving us a sense of where have been and giving us insight on where we want to go.
On the Care of Seniors: I do take care of my disabled mom and I was partly raised by my grandmother. The care of seniors is an issue that is paramount to my heart and I know there is so much more that we can do as a community to support our seniors. They deserve our love, compassion, admiration, support and respect.
- Part of creating that culture of community vibrancy is that return to giving everyone a space and a role in our community because we realize that everyone has something to contribute. Our seniors are a great place to begin.
- Let us teach our children and one another to cherish our elders.
- Offer to help a senior in need.
- Take the time to greet and have a conversation with a senior. For a senior who lives alone, that conversation might be the only conversation of the day. It might be more valuable than gold.
- Seniors are often the “guards and lookouts” of our neighborhoods. They often know everything that’s going on. That can be a strength if used properly. Ask for their advice and ask them to share their observations with us.
- Ask them to mentor someone in need or a young person who needs guidance and direction.
- Invite them to participate in school and community activities. In fact, ask them to sometimes lead and play a major role in an activity.
- Volunteer at a senior facility and visit a sick or disabled senior at a hospital or retirement home whom no family visits.
- Inquire about an elderly neighbor you have not seen in a while. Check on the seniors when you don’t see them.
- Help your neighbor or friend to take care of an aging person when you can.
- It also takes a village to care for our seniors.
On Criminal Justice Reform and Recidivism:
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly…Justice too long delayed is justice denied.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., "Letter from a Birmingham Jail"
- Support the closing of Rikers Island jail complex because 85% of its inmates have not yet been convicted of a crime. Incarcerating people who have yet to be found guilty of a crime is an abuse of their civil rights.
- Inmates are human beings and should not be stripped of their humanity because they are serving time.
- Support the elimination of mandatory minimum sentences. They disproportionately affect Latino and Black men and boys and the poor, even when they have no prior criminal history.
- Support the total elimination of the Rockefeller Drug Laws. They disproportionately affect poor and minority individuals.
- Drug addiction is a disease and should be treated as such. Let’s heal and rehabilitate drug addicts, not punish them through incarceration.
- Mental illness is a real. Those who are mentally ill deserve care and not incarceration.
- Delay and avoid the very first contact with the police and the law for our youths by not criminalizing our children so quickly for forgivable offenses. Let’s promote rehabilitation and prevention programs for our at-risk youths instead of incarcerating them because we know that first contact with a jail cell will lead to an irreversible jail trend.
- An offender doesn’t have to be a repeat offender if we offer him/her a path to full re-entry into society that is filled with education, rehabilitation, support, employment opportunities, and freedom from stigma. A person’s life should not be defined by one or even many mistakes. Everyone deserves second chances to prove themselves.
- Any real effort at criminal justice reform must forcibly include efforts at social justice, economic justice and educational justice. Our offenders didn’t typically start out with the best of life circumstances. Injustice + injustice will never equal justice.
- Support the continuation and the deepening of Mayor de Blasio’s initiatives on neighborhood policing. Our police should continue to engage in community building, de-escalation and prevention practices and be an integral part of our communities.
On Criminal Justice Reform and Recidivism
We may not all be lawyers, but we all should be advocates on behalf of our communities and families. With five percent of the world’s population, The United States holds twenty-five percent of the world’s incarcerated population. What does that say about us? Do we use the stick more than we should and not give out enough carrots? Do we lack compassion and understanding of the human condition? Do we lack forgiveness? What can we do to address the notion of criminal justice in our district?
- Know the law and know your rights.
- Share our knowledge with one another.
- As a district made up of mostly minority peoples that often find justice difficult to obtain, it is imperative that we hold neighborhood and community discussions on how we are affected by issues of criminal justice and lack thereof.
- Cultivate a culture that discourages brushes with the law and encourages our friends and neighbors to solve problems amicably.
- If we know a friend or neighbor who is addicted, stage an intervention to get that person help immediately.
- If we know or suspect a friend or neighbor has mental health issues, try to encourage them to get help immediately.
- Mentor, advise our at risk-youths so that they never have that first brush with the law in the first place. Prevention is also key.
- Cultivate a culture that discourages gang activities and promote healthy activities for our children through arts and culture, community-based organizations, government agencies, internships, apprenticeships and mentorships.
- Cultivate a culture that discourages the stigmatization of the formerly incarcerated and promote a culture that welcomes their re-entry into society.
- Help a formerly incarcerated person obtain a job or get into an educational program.
- Be a friend to a formerly incarcerated person. Re-entry can be hard and lonely. Be part of a support system for that person. Let them lean on you just a little bit. That can go a long way into their rehabilitation and normalization of life.
- If you own or manage a business or organization, give a formerly incarcerated person a chance by hiring him or her or by allowing him or her the opportunity to volunteer and build a resume.
- Let us fight every day for justice in all its forms. Let us fight for food justice, economic justice, education justice, social justice, political justice and criminal justice reform through small and big means.
- Help the police become more and more fair to us by being their allies in our protection. Help them understand us and their role in our communities. Open the lines of communication. Give them constructive criticism when needed.
On Economic Development: Gentrification is not and should not be the only way to spur economic development in deteriorated urban neighborhoods. Gentrification is not an economic development plan. It is a renovation process. What does a real economic plan for our district look like?
- Investments in our current residents and institutions
- Big and long-term community projects that will utilize the labor of our current residents.
- Job training and education programs to prepare our residents for the type of employment opportunities that are projected in our borough and throughout the city.
- Stronger support for our small businesses and entrepreneurs
- Investments in construction and infrastructure
- Big business friendly environment to businesses who commit to hiring a high number of our residents.
- Retraining of displaced workers for new employment opportunities.
- Partnering with the private sector to offer training and employment opportunities to our residents.
- Cultivating an economic culture that welcomes and supports new business ideas and entrepreneurship.
On Economic Development: No neighborhood anywhere in these United States of America should ever be subpar. What can we as a community do to help spur the kind of economic development that will elevate our district?
- We are made up of intelligent, creative peoples from diverse places in the world. Do you have a special talent or skill that can possibly be marketed? Develop a vision and find ways to turn your idea into a successful business.
- Invest in yourself by taking the time to nurture a business idea and seek help.
- Enroll in a job training or education program that will provide you with the opportunity to obtain a job or start your own business.
- Share your knowledge about job training and employment opportunities with your friends and neighbors.
- Encourage your friends and neighbors to take advantage of new educational and employment opportunities.
- Support and patronize businesses that are located in our communities, especially the small businesses.
- If you are a local business, hire your hardworking neighbors.
On Housing and Homelessness: For the middle, working, working poor and poor classes, the greatest indication of economic progress is the ability to comfortably own or rent a home. And in a country as rich as ours, no one should be displaced long-term and homelessness should be a thing of the past. The rent is truly way too high.
- Increase the percentage of home ownership.
- Incentives for landlords to lower the rent so that people spend only about30%of their gross monthly income (before taxes) on rent.
- Incentivize builders so that current residents are not priced out of the homes they own or are renting.
- Incentivize builders and renovators to set aside a fair number of units for affordable housing and low-income housing.
- Ensure that the existence of affordable housing and low-income housing is stabilized and reflects the needs of our people, regardless of what’s happening at HUD in D.C.
- Ensure that NYCHA stay current on repairs to existing public housing units. No one should live in sub-human conditions without heat, water and the basic human needs. No one should live in decaying apartments that can make them sick or force them to live in conditions that are below human dignity.
- Ensure that homelessness is tackled from many angles: mental health, improvements to shelters and temporary housing, targeted job training programs, long term social and economic support services.
- Improved and targeted programs for victims of economic and housing displacements to get them back on their feet as quickly as possible.
On Housing and Homelessness: Cultivating a real sense of community means that we truly have to look out for one another and help our neighbors and friends withstand and fight against the winds of adversity in every sense, even in questions of housing.
- Stay informed and share information about the changes that are happening in housing in your neighborhood. Things don’t happen overnight. There are usually indications and trends.
- Use your knowledge and experiences to empower others so that a whole community is not ravaged by a downward economic and housing spiral.
- If you are a landlord, share the wealth and keep the rent fair and stable. The long-term goal is to stabilize your business arrangement so that it is mutually beneficial and enrich our community.
- If you are a builder coming in, be conscious of the fact that you are entering an established community with real human ties. Show compassion by working with the community so that your new business endeavor is beneficial to both you and the community.
- Organize and mobilize to make government agencies, including NYCHA responsive to our needs and the needs of our friends and neighbors. That kind of community action benefits all of us.
- Volunteer with a government agency or community organization to help eradicate homelessness.
- Give a helping hand/hand-up to someone who is homeless or has been displaced in any way you can. Every little bit helps.
On Health Care: Healthcare is a human right and everyone, regardless of class should be covered.
- Support the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare.
- Ensure that we work to mitigate the negative effects of the Trump administration and Republicans in Washington, D.C. on New Yorkers who receive their healthcare coverage through the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare. To date, it is the closest thing to universal healthcare this country has ever known.
- Support the notion and practice of universal healthcare. However, we achieve it – perhaps through an amalgamation of systems – or by expanding and fixing the glitches in the Affordable Care Act at the state level, New York State should ensure that all New Yorkers are covered.
- Ensure that the Bronx improves its standing on health as we are among the least healthy in the nation.
On Health Care: Our health individually and collectively is a necessity. We must stay healthy in order to work for our livelihoods, families, communities and be present for our loved ones.
- Be informed about the laws and regulations. Share information with your friends and neighbors who may not have healthcare coverage.
- When enrollment period comes around, encourage everyone you know who is not covered to get covered.
- See your doctor regularly and encourage your friends and neighbors to do the same.
- Become a healthcare professional and be a healthcare volunteer to help keep our communities healthy. The Bronx is among the unhealthiest counties in the nation. Together, let’s change that.
ON Community Safety: Although New York City is the safest big city in the nation and the Bronx has seen an increase in safety, safety is still a major issue in our district and borough.
- Ensure that the police keep working as closely with our communities for the prevention of crime.
- Ensure that justice is served when a crime has been committed.
- Ensure safety in our schools.
- Ensure a decrease in gang activity and gun violence through legal means and a series of community endeavors.
- Address mental health issues to avoid the escalation of situations that may lead to criminal activity.
- Advocate for an increase in programs, including anger management programs, that can help in the prevention of crime and domestic abuse situations.
- Enabling and creating a culture in which dialogue and not violence is the primary way of resolving problems.
- Building stronger intra-community relationships through frequent neighborhood meetings, summits, programs and assessments.
ON Community Safety: We as a community can do a great deal to help us become safer. Safety is also a human right, as we cannot pursue happiness and life goals if we are not safe to do so. We have the right to be safe in our homes and communities.
- If you see something, alert the police.
- Lead by example. Treat yourselves and one another with kindness. It’s okay to deescalate potentially violent situations.
- If you have a problem with anger, violence, or mental illness, seek help.
- If you know someone who has an anger management problem, who is mentally ill or who is violent, stage an intervention and seek help for your family, friends and neighbors.
- Mentor and advise young people on conflict resolution and how to deescalate potentially violent situations.
- Attend neighborhood events, contribute to the discussion by sharing your observations and ideas, and participate in building strong community relationships.
On Immigration: We are a nation of immigrants. We will always be. I am the daughter of immigrants. The United States welcomed my parents when my father, a young activist, was given 72 hours by the Haitian government to find a new country to call home or be assassinated. I am here because the U.S. welcomed my parents. I will always fight for the right of immigrants to call our country home.
- Ensure that New York State remain the capital of the world, where everyone can come to become an American.
- Ensure that we continue to provide opportunities for our immigrant populations.
- Ensure that we lead the nation in not allowing the Trump administration to redefine who we are as a nation.
On Immigration: The very essence of who we are as a nation and as a people is that we are a nation of immigrants and a hospitable people. The poem on our Statue of Liberty at Ellis Island reads: “…her name Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand/Glows world-wide welcome; ‘Give me your tired, your poor,/Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,/ The wretched refuse of your teeming shore./Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,/’” This is who we are, a proud, defiant mother of nations, reaching out to and accepting all those who have been disinherited by their original homeland.
- Let us be kind and welcoming to immigrants moving into our community.
- Volunteer with or donate to an organization that is helping refugee and immigrant groups.
On Veterans: They served us and risked their lives for us. Many got injured for us and their lives will never be the same again. We owe them a debt of eternal gratitude that can only be expressed through sound policy.
- Ensure that the New York State Division of Veterans’ Affairs runs well and is responsive to the needs of our veterans, regardless of what’s happening at the national level.
- Ensure that the care and services we provide to our veterans are top of the line.
- Ensure that we provide and create opportunities for our veterans in every facet of life.
- Ensure that we cultivate a culture that respects, appreciates and cares for our veterans.
On Veterans: I am always in awe of our United States Armed forces and our first responders, the people who put their lives on the line for us every single day. They are so brave and so courageous. They do what most of us are not willing to do and they are willing to pay the ultimate price to do their jobs well. Selflessness at its best. They deserve our respect and admiration.
- Whenever you are in the presence of a veteran, do thank him for his/her sacrifices. We can’t thank them enough.
- Many veterans need our help for various reasons, give a helping hand whenever possible.
- Volunteer or donate to an agency or organization that support and help veterans.
- Allow our veterans to continue to contribute to our community through employment, volunteer and educational opportunities.
On the Environment: The Bronx is a place where we should care about the environment. Our health is directly affected by exposure to environmental hazards.
- Committed to issues concerning environmental justice, regardless of what is happening at the national level with the Environmental Protection Agency or EPA.
- Committed to enhancing our air quality to improve our respiratory health.
- Committed to building partnerships across the borough with agencies and community-based organizations to continue and amplify the work that the Bronx, the city and the state have been doing to obtain environmental justice for our community.
On the Environment: As Bronxites, it is our duty to ensure that we live our best possible lives and pass on the best possible community to our children so that they will live even better lives.
- Gather information about this movement for environmental justice in the Bronx. Share with family, friends and neighbors.
- Join the movement to make our community greener. Plant a tree or some flowers. Join or start a community garden.
- Donate or volunteer for an organization or agency that is working to make the Bronx more environmentally healthy and just.