Local Politics Part 4: A View from Queens
By Kate Adler, Director of Library Services
We concluded the Library’s Local Politics series with a focus on women in politics and on the borough of Queens. Carolyn Tran ran for City Council in District 25, which represents the Jackson Heights and East Elmhurst sections of Queens. Our discussion started with a few words from MCNY College President, Joanne Passaro. Dr. Passaro talked about how important the City Council is, how at MCNY we rely on the City Council and on our relationships with Council Members to ensure that we have programs like our Food Pantry in place for our students.
Ms. Tran started by talking about her 12 years of experience in the City Council, where she eventually became Chief of Staff to Councilmember Dromm, the first “non-white man” in that position. She recalled how, as a single parent, she brought her daughters to the office all the time, an experience many of our participants could relate to. Ms. Tran said that she wanted her daughters to see her working every day for justice.
She decided to run herself, she said, because in her neighborhood of mostly working-class people of color and recent immigrants, the great majority of voices were not being heard. The pandemic changed her sense of her role in changing that. Politicized while studying Asian American Studies at San Francisco state, Tran found her way to political work through social movements. She described the importance of building an intersectional working-class coalition built on a feminist vision rooted in the experience of women of color and not middle-class women.
The discussion that followed was wide ranging. Professor Desi Robinson asked about Asian American and Black solidarity. It’s an important question, Tran said, “It was Black Social Movements that politicized me.” There is a long history of Black and Asian solidarity she said, and it is white supremacy that obscures that history.
Solidarity, mutual aid and mutual uplift, intersectional coalition building and learning from long, often obscured histories–it was the perfect note to end our summer series on. If our politics are rooted in a vision of solidarity and justice, we can change our world for the better. Perhaps the only place to start that work is in our own communities.
The conversation continues in the fall with a series focused on the mayor’s Commission on Racial Justice.