Crystal Hudson, middle, with voters (photo: Crystal Hudson campaign)
We’re nearing the end of Black History Month — a month of celebrating and honoring the Black people who have enriched and advanced our city. From Audre Lorde to Shirley Chisolm, we have no shortage of artists, entrepreneurs, and trailblazers to celebrate.
We’re also nearing the end of another February in America. A month in which we continue to see Black people die at the hands of the police at alarming rates. A month in which we continue to face a pandemic that is killing Black people at twice the rate of other Americans. A month in which our city’s vaccine roll-out continues to leave behind Black people who have experienced a disproportionate amount of loss from this crisis.
As we close out this month, we have to ask: how is our city actually supporting and protecting Black New Yorkers?
This is a conversation for every month.
To truly uplift Black New Yorkers, we need to advance a forward-thinking, explicitly anti-racist and pro-Black vision for our city’s future. We have to acknowledge our history and take specific and intentional action to right the wrongs of the past and the disparities of the present. We need A Black Agenda for New York City.
When Black New Yorkers thrive, all New Yorkers thrive. This means a guarantee of safety, housing, access to quality jobs, and the ability to raise families without the constant surveillance of law enforcement or the child welfare system. However, all too often our inability to zero in on the specific issues impacting Black New Yorkers means our solutions to structural and institutional racism are deeply insufficient.
I’m proposing a comprehensive plan to upend the injustices facing Black New Yorkers, starting with six urgent recommendations that speak to the gravity of this moment.
First, we must put money directly in the hands of Black New Yorkers with baby bonds and a paycheck guarantee so our city can set Black families up for long-term financial stability while addressing the ills of the past. We must create a pipeline for sustainable, unionized non-law enforcement jobs for Black New Yorkers to form a reliable pathway to the middle class and promote wealth-building. We must also build Black generational wealth and prevent displacement by encouraging community homeownership.
To address the disastrous impact of gun violence on our communities, New York City must pilot a basic income program in zip codes with the highest rates of gun violence so families can secure housing, put food on the table, and reduce the anxiety associated with being unable to afford daily necessities — factors that so frequently lead to violence and cycles of trauma.
Ultimately, to move forward, we must acknowledge the harm of the past; the city must launch a citywide truth and reconciliation process focused on race and reparations and create a racial equity commission to ensure every new policy and piece of legislation is written and enacted in an anti-racist manner. From the ills of the racist and misguided War on Drugs and widely practiced policies like stop-and-frisk to the surveillance and removal of Black children from Black parents and families, our city’s own government has committed undue harm to Black New Yorkers.
As a Black queer woman and candidate for New York City Council, I look to represent a district that has had to bear the pain of gentrification and displacement of Black residents, the overwhelming burden of rapid development that was never intended for us, the destruction of a healthcare infrastructure, and the erosion of businesses that can no longer afford to stay in our neighborhoods.
But my community, where my family has lived for three generations, is also home to so much of what makes Black New York remarkable: Soul Summit in Fort Greene Park, Black-owned retail and restaurants along Fulton Street, Dance Africa at BAM, Afropunk at Commodore Barry Park, the Caribbean diaspora in full display on Utica Avenue, the West Indian Day Parade along Eastern Parkway, and so much more. I’m fighting to protect the Black New Yorkers of today — the artists and entrepreneurs, the nurses and frontline workers, the unhoused and the vulnerable. But I can’t do it alone.
It’s time for New York City to show up for us and ensure that Black New Yorkers can thrive across all five boroughs.
Crystal Hudson is a Democratic candidate for City Council in Brooklyn’s 35th Council District. On Twitter @crystalrhudson.