Statement from uptown council member Ydanis Rodriguez, “This year has presented us with challenges beyond anything we could have ever imagined. The COVID-19 health crisis has further exposed racial inequalities in our country as they have directly contributed to the increased suffering and deaths of thousands of Blacks and Latinos. Some of the poorest areas in New York City, such as Northern Manhattan, the South Bronx, and parts of Brooklyn and Queens, largely populated by people of color, have experienced the worst of the virus. Hundreds of small business owners and thousands of employees are going through what can only be characterized as an economic depression. Once again, we are seeing that when the nation goes through a crisis, it is people of color that suffer the most.
Against this backdrop of health and economic devastation disproportionately affecting Black Americans and people of color, we have witnessed the abuse they continue to suffer at the direct hands of those that have sworn to serve and protect them. In the last few weeks, case after case of police abuse and killings of Black Americans have filled our front pages as video footage showing police officers’ brutal treatment of black individuals have surfaced. Anyone paying attention understands why our nation is in turmoil as people have taken to the streets to demonstrate their disgust and anger at a system that blatantly disregards the lives and livelihoods of a certain class of citizens. People of all ages and backgrounds, at home and abroad, have united their voices in demanding justice and accountability for all of the wrongful killings and for meaningful reform of our police agencies and our justice system.
Throughout my years as a community advocate, teacher, and elected official, I have stood alongside my brothers and sisters in demanding justice wherever it is needed. That is why when the Mayor’s executive budget arrives at my desk, I am firmly committed to NOT signing it if it does not prioritize funding for social services programs and restores cuts made to important educational employment programs, such as the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP). In addition, I am supporting the call for diverting funds from an over-funded and over-militarized police department to reinvest in our Black, Latino, and Asian communities. I also invite my colleagues that do not represent underserved communities to be with us in this fight and only vote in favor of a budget that prioritizes anti-poverty initiatives. It is time that we end this nonsensical cycle in which communities are color are left behind to then be brutalized. If we truly want a safer society, we should take the boot off our disadvantaged communities and prioritize their educational and economic development.
“It should be clear by now that a nation can be no stronger abroad than she is at home. Only an America which practices what it preaches about equal rights and social justice will be respected by those whose choice affects our future.” Our priority needs to and must always be to educate and provide fair opportunities for everyone, regardless of skin color, immigration status, religion, or ethnicity. And for those goals, I will continue to fight alongside the people, demanding a better future for our children and our future generations.”
Our nation cannot preach words of freedom and equality abroad while also deploying its troops to quell peaceful demonstrations on the homeland. In an undelivered speech, President John F. Kennedy noted, “It should be clear by now that a nation can be no stronger abroad than she is at home. Only an America which practices what it preaches about equal rights and social justice will be respected by those whose choice affects our future.” Our priority needs to and must always be to educate and provide fair opportunities for everyone, regardless of skin color, immigration status, religion, or ethnicity. And for those goals, I will continue to fight alongside the people, demanding a better future for our children and our future generations.”
Ydanis Rodriguez was elected to the New York City Council in 2009, representing the 10th Council District (Washington Heights, Inwood, and Marble Hill). An educator for 13 years, Ydanis co-founded Gregorio Luperon High School and the Washington Heights Health Academy. As a leading voice at the NYC Council, Ydanis has brought changes in transportation, education, economic development, housing, police reform, healthcare, environmental policy, and ensuring low-income families have an equitable path to middle class.