A Message from Joel

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Brothers and sisters, my fellow New Yorkers—especially my brothers and sisters of the forgotten communities of New York City,

I want to talk directly to you.

My name is Joel Luis Rodriguez. I am the son of Dominican immigrants. I was born in Brooklyn; I was raised in New York City Public Housing in the Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn. I’m a youth mentor. I was educated in New York City public schools for the majority my school career and I am a New York City Police Officer.

Let me start with a quote from President Obama. He said: “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”

When I heard those words, I knew that he was talking directly to us, the people of the forgotten communities.

Those words had a profound and powerful impact on me. Those words and the person who said them remind me that a person’s will is stronger than any obstacle.

The change that we need will not come from an outsider but will have to come from within the forgotten communities of New York City.

No change has come and no change will come to the forgotten communities of New York City unless we the forgotten people get into public office.

The communities of color in New York City have for far too long been defined by others.

We have been lied to by politicians who base their understanding of our communities on what they read or see on TV or from their high position of power looking down at us.

They only come around when it’s time to be elected. They never keep the promises they make to us. They refuse to allow us to have a seat at the table.

I’m going to quote President Obama one more time. He said in his farewell address: “If you’re disappointed by your elected officials, grab a clipboard, get some signatures and run for office yourself!”

Well, brothers and sisters, I am disappointed! I have a clipboard; I’m looking for signatures and I’m running for public office! Myself!

Today, after many obstacles, many debates, and many closed doors, I am announcing officially for the first time publicly that I am running for Mayor of the City of New York on the Democratic ticket.

My journey to this moment was not easy.  They said I wasn’t educated enough. They said that I was too poor to run. They said that I didn’t have the skills and they said that I wouldn’t succeed.

As a member of a forgotten community of New York City, I have heard discouraging words all my life. Their attempts to keep me from running did not and will not work.

I know that the election system in New York is built to keep the people of the forgotten communities out of office and I know voter suppression laws exist in this state and city. A city that claims to be the most progressive and inclusive in the world.  

This system of unjust laws silences the voices of millions of New Yorkers. This is not being progressive. This is not being inclusive. This is not democracy. This is an injustice.

Mayor de Blasio spoke in his last election of a “tale of two cities.” He’s right—there are two cities, but the reason why two cities exist and continue to exist under his watch is because of politicians like him.

He’s done little to make this city one, because he has his hands in the pockets of too many people who want to implement and benefit from their own agenda.

And as always, communities of color continue to suffer. Communities of color continue to ignored and communities of color continue to be the epicenter of injustice.

That why I’m appealing to you, the people of New York City, my brothers and sisters of the forgotten communities of New York City.

I look forward to meeting you as I campaign to win your support and vote. Because this campaign is here to empower each one of us and to demand that the voice of every New Yorker is heard equally:

Regardless of your social status
Regardless of your ZIP code
Regardless of your skin color
Regardless of your immigration status

Regardless of your religion
Regardless of your political affiliation
Regardless of your employment status
Regardless of your sexuality
Regardless of if you’re homeless
Regardless of if you’re in Rikers Island

We are a democracy and the mayor exists to serve—not to be served. If I’m elected, I’ll make sure the government of New York City will be a government of the people and for the people. It will finally start serving all the people.

Thank you.