BY SHAELEIGH SEVERINO
I went to my first political event when I was eight years old. It was in my living room.
My mother, a lifelong activist and organizer in Dominican politics, had somehow crammed twenty people into our small living room in our small house in Woodhaven. I remember sitting on the floor, listening rapt to all the grown-ups around me as they argued and laughed and speechified about upcoming elections back home in the D.R.
Most of all, I remember that even though the people in that room had some real political disagreements, they had all gathered in my mom’s house to work together.
That living room rally turned out to be just the beginning of my commitment as an advocate, organizer and political leader. From fighting to keep my high school’s doors open as a kid to my paralegal work specializing in immigration issues and elder law, public service and advocacy have been as essential to my life as breathing.
And now, as our city looks ahead to what may be its most important election in a generation, I am running to represent my home district on the City Council.
District 32 is mostly known outside its borders as one of only three districts in New York City currently represented by a Republican. Much has already been said about the need to “flip the district blue.” But this narrative must end now.
I am a proud Democrat, but if this election becomes simply about partisanship we will all lose. This can’t be about Red vs. Blue anymore. Our country is emerging from four long years of partisan warfare – warfare that spilled from the darkest corners of the internet into our national discourse and even the halls of our Capitol. If the horrifying events from just a few days ago showed us anything, it is that the cycle of partisan hate must stop.
It’s time to turn the page and ask ourselves what needs to be done and how we can work together to do it. This election isn’t about turning our district blue, it’s about moving our district forward. It’s about uniting our district, celebrating our diversity, honoring our working-class roots, and doing what is best for our communities and our city.
That’s why I’m running to represent the community that raised me. I want to be a voice for everyone in District 32: Democrats and Republicans, right and left, young and old, Black, Latinx, Asian-American, White and every single identity. I want to work to resolve the challenges our district faces, because I have spent my life living them.
I’ve experienced the devastating effects of segregation, declining educational quality, food and transportation deserts. I’ve watched my neighbors deal time and time again with the aftermath of extreme coastal flooding.
I want to work to improve funding for public education, tackle food insecurity across the district and provide better access to better public transportation. I want to put real plans in place to not only prepare ourselves for the next superstorm, but to address climate change and its devastating effects by committing ourselves to cleaner, more energy-efficient transportation, infrastructure and development.
I want to take on the COVID-19 crisis currently spiraling across our city like an angry wave by improving vaccine distribution, expanding testing and extending aid to the people and businesses who have been hurt the most by the pandemic.
District 32 needs a representative unafraid to implement bold and innovative reforms to combat the crises all New Yorkers are facing. Most of all, District 32 needs a leader who will set aside partisan, political tribalism and be a representative for all the people, not just the people who happen to agree with one belief, with one way of seeing the world.
We’ve had too much division lately, too much hatred and distrust. Let’s find common ground, not common enemies. Let’s solve our problems, not find ways to create more.
And let’s unite ourselves as a district, pack all 160,000 of us into my mother’s living room and figure out a way to move forward as one community, ready and united to take on the challenges that lie ahead.
Shaeleigh Severino is running as a Democrat for an open seat in Queens, New York City Council District 32. Severino’s campaign is about creating the change we want to see in our neighborhoods, district, and city. If elected, Severino will become the District’s first female, first Afro-Latina, and LGBTQIA+ individual with a disability to hold office. She would also be the youngest individual elected in New York City Council history.