By Sam Bojarski
Elected officials of Haitian descent have been making their presence felt in Albany for the better part of a decade ‒ most recently, as strong advocates for the police reform bills passed earlier this month.
“We’re proud to say that we have a Haitain caucus of five of us in the state assembly, and we fought for these changes in the law,” said District 33 Assembly Member Clyde Vanel, a Haitian-American who is running for another term.
At least nine Haitian-Americans are running for office in the New York City metropolitan area this year.
Each of the five current Haitian-American state assembly members are running for another two-year term, while one candidate is seeking an assembly seat for the first time. Two Haitian-Americans are also running for state senate, and one is challenging Congresswoman Yvette Clarke to represent the 9th United States Congressional District. Each candidate is running as a Democrat, the state board of elections office has confirmed.
New York State is holding its Democratic primary on June 23, while the general election is scheduled for Nov. 3.
According to Jean Eddy Saint Paul, a sociology professor at CUNY Brooklyn College, electing politicians of Haitian descent can strengthen New York’s Haitian community.
Given the current historical moment, “we do need Black and Haitian American politicians to hold higher political positions, so they can use these positions to positively influence the policies and to help the members of their ethnic communities to live a decent and dignified life,” Saint Paul told the Haitian Times in an email.
He also called on Haitian-American politicians to “use their positions of power (political capital) to positively reshape the policies to improve, in the Haitian American community, affordable housing, access to healthcare, qualitative education (schooling), and decent jobs. In order to achieve that, they need to make political alliances with their peers from the English-Caribbean and Latinx communities, because these communities, usually, face common threats and issues.”
According to Immanuel Ness, a political science professor at Brooklyn College, while the Haitian diaspora started settling in New York during the 1970s and 1980s, the community has not received electoral representation as quickly as other ethnic communities.
“The growth in Haitian participation in electoral politics will surely provide the Haitian community a greater voice in New York politics. This has been a long time coming,” he also said, in an email.
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