U.S. House, New York 16
When Jamaal was a little kid, his grandmother and his mother raised him in NYC public housing. He grew up with kids of every background, and it changed his life; all of them a short walk away from excellent schools and museums. When he got older, Jamaal thought about how things could have been different if he had never met those kids, or if his mom never found a union job. He chose to become a teacher because he wanted every kid in the city to have a chance to grow up the way he did.
Ten years ago, Jamaal founded a public middle school in the Bronx, the Cornerstone Academy for Social Action, where he served as the principal until the end of 2019. He built this school based on the principles of equity and restorative justice. His goal has been to create an environment that supports the whole child, fostering their emotional well-being and unique interests, all while teaching standard subject matter and working to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline. He knows this work could dramatically change historically oppressed communities nationwide if it were given the platform to do so.
Jamaal recently earned his Doctorate in education, focusing on the benefit of the community school model, which is an alternative to charter schools and provides the roadmap to fixing the public school system. He’s proud of his work at CASA, but there’s only so much that can be done within a single school. There came a point when Jamaal realized there were much larger forces at work that continued to stunt the growth of communities. In 2018, three students died, which deeply impacted him, their families, and the communities he serves. One student was stabbed and killed at New Rochelle High School by another student. Another student committed suicide, and a third student was stabbed to death by a group of men outside a bodega.
District 16 is more progressive and diverse than ever, but Representative Engel is a leader who represents the past and isn’t doing enough to build urgency and organize a movement to transform our democracy. After two decades in public education, Jamaal is tired of watching families struggle to live a good life because they can’t get jobs, health care, housing, the dignity and safety they need. He is tired of seeing hedge funds try to buy out the public school system through privatization.
NY-16 deserves a Democrat who will fight for everyone, a leader who reflects the district’s progressive values. That’s why Jamaal is running for Congress, and why he’s refusing all corporate PAC and lobbyist contributions. We have a chance to build an America where all of us can thrive. We can fight for a Green New Deal, free public college, Medicare for All, lifting up union families, progressive foreign policy, ending mass incarceration and deportation, and fully investing in our public schools.