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Op-Ed: District 25 is More Than Good Food, Our Superpower is Our People

District 25 City Council Candidate Carolyn Tran speaking at a rally in Jackson Heights (Photo courtesy of Communities for Carolyn)

June 16, 2021 Op-Ed By: Carolyn Tran

Jackson Heights and Elmhurst are not just places to indulge in street tacos and steamed momos.

District 25 had been a political and organizing home for some of the most vibrant community and cultural organizations for over a decade.

This grassroots energy is our district’s superpower and greatest strength. And this is the energy, backed by a decade of government experience, that I hope to bring to City Hall.

This is what I’ve learned.

Government services are only useful when they are accessible to our workforce. When IDNYC passed, I helped ensure that IDNYC pop-up sites were available for undocumented workers and others so that this critical identification could serve as proof for work authorization and entry into government buildings.

My very first hires on our campaign were organizers who spoke the languages and grew up in our communities. We need staffers who represent the diverse gender, racial, and working class experiences of our district so that they can bridge the information gaps and bring services closer to the people.

Artists and cultural workers can help us reimagine what’s possible for building vibrant communities and public safety. During the six months of this campaign, we regularly featured dancers and singers at the Jackson Heights Greenmarket every Sunday.

These relationships are not new to me. In deep partnership with cultural organizations, small businesses, and residents, I helped pilot Open Streets in Woodside’s Little Thailand and launched the district’s first Lunar New Year which brought overdue resources to neglected communities.

Our community organizations are essential. Twelve years ago, I was awestruck when I landed an internship in District 25 and had the opportunity to work alongside Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM), an organization that I learned about as a young organizer.

DRUM has organized for dignity in public schools, a hate-free zone where all of our identities are safe and protected, and an end to collusion between immigration services and policing. We all benefit, when grassroots organizations lead us.

Carolyn Tran, Candidate for NYC Council representing Jackson Heights and Elmhurst (Photo: carolyntran.us)

Here’s what I know: Elected officials are not saviors and they rarely introduce progressive legislation or create plans for the district in a vacuum. The magic happens when government and grassroots organizations work in true partnership, so that policies don’t just exist on paper, but they are culturally–and linguistically–welcoming and accessible.

This work is not glamorous, but it is personal.

I am the proud daughter of refugees. My mother was one of millions of refugees who risked their lives escaping by boat during the U.S. war in Vietnam. My mom was a nail salon technician and my father installed cable.

As refugees in the 70s, these were the only jobs they could find, until my mom landed a union job, and eventually steered our family to stability.

For the thousands of residents of District 25 who know the hustle of low wages and limited job security, my story is hardly unique.

Our new world won’t be here tomorrow. I am marching toward a vision that includes artists from every corner of this district who can continue to dance because their art is their connection to their homelands, small business owners who can access grants in language so they can stay afloat during hard times, and healthcare protections and protections for caregivers who watch over our loved ones.

District 25 is home to some of the most creative, entrepreneurial, and resilient workforces that also want a chance to raise their families with safety, care, accountability, and justice.

This is the vision that I want for my two daughters and this is what I want for all of us. I want to be your partner in City Hall and I am ready to lead with this district’s most valuable superpower: our creativity, our culture, and our people.

*Carolyn Tran is running for New York City Council in District 25 in Queens, which includes Jackson Heights and Elmhurst.

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