I’m Jamaal Bowman. I’ve been an educator for the last 23 years in New York’s public schools, and I’m a Democrat running to represent Riverdale in Congress in New York’s 16th Congressional District.
I was born and raised in New York City by a single mother who raised me and my three sisters on a postal worker’s salary. My wife teaches elementary school, and we live in Yonkers with our three children. I shop at Key Food on Riverdale Avenue, I take my kids to the Spuyten Duyvil playground, and my son Marcel went to the Red Door preschool off of Riverdale Avenue.
This is my community.
I started as a teacher, then became a guidance counselor. And for the last 10 years, I’ve been the principal of a public middle school I founded in the North Bronx, the Cornerstone Academy for Social Action, also known as CASA.
I was tired of seeing kids be victims of the school-to-prison pipeline, so I started my own school. We hired a diverse staff, created a curriculum that educates the whole child, and sent kids from low-income, marginalized backgrounds off to colleges like MIT and Cornell.
I believe that education is about serving not just the child, but the whole community. That’s why I made CASA a community school, open seven days a week; offered classes for parents; and created after-school programs for children impacted by gun violence, and a health clinic to serve the uninsured.
But after two decades in education, I realized that there was only so much I could do as a principal. No matter how hard I worked, I didn’t have the power to change the fact that my students were living with food and housing insecurity, lack of mental health support, environmental injustice, and lack of jobs.
That’s why I decided to run for Congress.
All the reasons I had for running have only become more urgent since the coronavirus hit. The Bronx has been hit harder than just about anywhere in the country, with the most deaths per capita in New York City, the epicenter of the epidemic. And Riverdale was hit early and particularly hard as SAR High School was the first school to be forced to close in the state.
This is the worst crisis we’ve faced in decades, and yet as I talk to people across the district, they don’t even know where their congressman is.
Eliot Engel has been completely absent in this crisis. He didn’t even step foot in the district for months. Worse, he lied to us about it. When he finally returned to the district this month, and showed up at a press conference about the recent protests, Engel was caught telling a fellow elected officials, “If I didn’t have a primary, I wouldn’t care.”
We need a congressman who will show up for our communities every single day, not just when it’s election season. Eliot Engel is taking us for granted.
In his three decades in Washington, he’s voted for the war in Iraq and the 1994 crime bill that led to the over-policing and mass incarceration of millions of black and Latino Americans. He sided with Donald Trump when he voted against President Obama’s signature foreign policy achievement, the Iran nuclear deal.
After 31 years, it’s time for change.
In Congress, I’m going to fight to rebuild our community after this pandemic by focusing on jobs, education, health care, and environmental justice. I’ll fight to bring down the cost of rent and housing, so families can put food on the table and a roof over their heads. I will fight to hire more nurses, teachers, care workers, and to create manufacturing jobs.
I will fight for long-term care so our seniors can live with dignity and independence. And, unlike my opponent, I’m not taking a dime of money from corporations.
I am from the community, and I care about its future. I’ve shown up for this district for 10 years as a middle school principal, and 20 years as an educator, helping families through crisis on a daily basis. I’ve served our communities in the public schools.
Now I want to serve you in Congress.
The author is a candidate for New York’s 16th Congressional District.