by Nasif Khan
On the brisk night of January 29th, 2017, a brief rally formed following an estimated 100 people outside a Bengali restaurant in the East Bronx, New York. On Starling Avenue, a predominant Bengali-Muslim community, as well as a scatter of other South-Asian communities including Pakistani and Indian communities, responded to a set of new policies by the Trump administration which aimed to ban entry from seven Muslim-majority countries as well as target undocumented immigrants. Which many argue is the epitome of discrimination and hinders some core values of this country in terms of immigration and diversity.
One of the community members who joined this rally was Elvin Garcia, a local community member who is running for City Council of District 18 (in the Bronx) and hopes for a new future in terms of representation and empowerment for the community regardless of age, sex, or race.
Garcia, who was raised by a single immigrant mother, spoke in an interview about the hardships of finding opportunities in terms of education and other financial issues and what that means for the future of The Bronx. He recalls a program when he was in college that helped low-income students was being in the process of being phased out. He took this sobering moment to actualize the importance of opportunities and aid returning to their community. Ultimately changing his path from an Architecture major in college to returning to his neighborhood to help better the social conditions presented to him many years ago.
His campaign slogan, “#ANewBronxTale,” was created to represent all marginalized voices in his community and referred to the potential of newer, young people taking leadership like himself. Garcia, 29, recalls what it means to be a young person pushing for change.
“Representation is very important. The old way of representation only catered to a very narrow base. We need newer, younger voices of all backgrounds to advocate for things such as the government budget, criminal justice reform, and education.”
When asked how ‘#ANewBronxTale’ can be utilized and reflective of the current political climate in terms of the new, rather anomalous executive orders being pushed by the Trump administration; Garcia responds:
“We are the change we want to see and the time is now. We need to reclaim our country starting at a local level. I have opponents on the conservative fringes who are supporting the ‘Muslim ban’ and I am not in support of that.”
District 18 covers the neighborhoods of Soundview, Castle Hill, Parkchester, Clason Points, as well as Harding Park in the Bronx. Local community organizer Nilka Martell, who will be awarded the 2017 Tim Tompkins Leadership Award next month for her efforts in organizing and coordinating events for the improvement of conditions in The Bronx, is the current Treasurer for Garcia’s campaign team.
She comments, “I’m proud of being part of the Garcia for Council team. There have been lots of changes within the district and more are coming. We have a diverse community and need leadership that understands the issues and will bring neighbors together, regardless of race, age, gender, faith or sexual orientation, to find resolutions. For me, Elvin is that person.”
Martell, who has been helping organize the Soundview section of the Bronx for many years through efforts such as coordinating community events as well as what beautification looks like in the neighborhood, comments on what the future of the Bronx may look like in response to the newly appointed President Trump and how his term may impact the community.
“The best impact Trump’s presidency has had on folks is many are now interested in knowing more about how the country is governed and local politics. For this community its means neighbors working together to assure that we elect leaders that will truly be our voice. We need to understand the power we have as individuals, and how much more powerful we are when we work together to create change.”
Concerns following President Trump’s administration and their push for certain policies is no surprise as there have been spikes in large-scale “Anti-Trump” protests in nearly all fifty states of America. This incredible disdain for the newly-elected 45th president erupted into many forms of protests with leadership and support from different levels of offices and politicians. Residents of different communities under scrutiny for these recent waves of hate crimes, such as District 18, believe that it’s President Trump’s ‘hateful’ rhetoric that emboldened this heightened concoction of patriotism and xenophobia.
A resident of District 18 in the Soundview section of the Bronx, Minul Asgar, 19, comments on the current political climate.
“There are a lot more people at risk of being assaulted and victims of hate crimes because of Trump’s rhetoric instilling a hate-mongering that awakens parts of societies that discriminates based on racism” he recalls on belief that Trump’s rhetoric has trickled down into hate crimes in his neighborhood. Asgar also joined the brief rally in Starling Avenue alongside Garcia, Martell, and the estimated 100 people chanting “No Ban! No Wall!”
When asked about the potential of working together with local offices to gain more traction for their means of organized resistance, Asgar commented:
“Local offices can provide resources we need in terms of outreaching and reaching people who wouldn’t necessarily be apart of the cause.”
He also emphasized the need for leadership uniting us from different pockets of people scattered in the community.