Diana Richardson was elected in a special election and is the first person to be elected on solely the Working Families Party line to state office. Her election is a testament to the power of the grassroots movement and the pressing problem of affordable housing in Brooklyn: she refused to accept donations from the real estate industry and won her campaign thanks to small donors and working class residents who campaigned for her. She is currently working to form a woman of color caucus in the State Assembly.
Growing up in Crown Heights, what did you notice about your community that you always wanted to change? What inspired you to decide to run for Assembly? I love the Crown Heights community it is a community that I was born and raised in, and it has always been a vibrant community filled with love, and strength. Unfortunately throughout the years I have witnessed a host of things that have decreased the quality of life; such as the continual decline in adequate school instruction for primary, secondary, and higher education, a diminishing of extracurricular activities for the youth, astronomical rises in rent and tenant harassment, and the increase of gun crime and gang violence. These declines were the driving forces of inspiration for me to run for office. I also wanted to ensure that the voices of my community were heard in Albany, and improve our overall quality of life.
You are the first person elected to Assembly under the Working Families Party, and did so without accepting donations from any real estate company, that’s an impressive feat! Why did you decide to stand up to housing tycoons in this way? What is housing an issue so important to you? The decision was already made long before I ran for office, as I believe in justice and doing right by the people. It’s heart wrenching to see your neighbors and friends lose their homes, end up in shelters, and ultimately priced out of a community they’ve considered home for numerous decades.
Aside from being a crusader for housing rights, your platform speaks to working towards juvenile and criminal justice reform. How do you think these systems are currently impacting Brooklyn and it’s residents are they stand? How can community members work to help implement proposed changes to these systems? These systems impact Brooklyn and specifically my district because we are simply losing our children and not providing the necessary resources to divert inappropriate behavior and/or rehabilitate and assist individuals who have come in contact with the criminal justice system reintegrate. Community members could work to implement proposed changes by first advocating for these changes to be institutionalized and made a reality. This advocacy can come in numerous forms; writing a letter, calling your elected officials office, protesting/lobbying in Albany, city hall, and even D.C. when necessary are a few examples of what this advocacy could look like.
We know you are doing amazing work in the assembly to impact positive changes–who are other local leaders that are inspiring changes in Brooklyn as well? Other leaders inspiring change locally are Senator Kevin Parker, Congresswoman Yvette Clarke, Assemblywoman Latrice Walker, Assemblywoman Rodneyse Bichotte and Assemblyman Joe Lentol–and those are just a few to note!
For those who don’t know: how does the Assembly serve our communities, and how can Brooklynites better engage with our representatives to inspire positive growth in our city? The Assembly serves the community by making decisions on important pieces of legislation that could hinder or better the community. Legislation such as paid family leave, raise the age, and minimum wage increases all happen at the state level. The state Assembly is also responsible for passing a budget that has direct impact on communities through priority and capital funding appropriations to local institutions, and organizations.
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