Posts tagged with "George Floyd"

Kaelen Felix illustrates Ritchie Torres for 360 Magazine

TRAILBLAZER: CONGRESSMAN RITCHIE TORRES

By Elle Grant

January 3rd marked the commencement of the 117th Congress and the swearing of its newest members. For many, it marked the beginning of a new dawn. One that will be followed by the inauguration of TIME’s People of the Year, President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. They will replace President Trump on Inauguration Day on January 20th. Yet several other remarkable individuals were elected this year and sworn in a bit earlier, solidifying the 117th Congress as the most diverse in American history. One of these representatives is a freshly elected Ritchie Torres, a 32-year-old politician serving the 15th congressional district in the Bronx, New York. Torres is the first openly gay Afro-Latino man elected to Congress, and one of two gay Black men that will serve in the 117th Congress, a distinction he shares with fellow New Yorker Mondaire Jones. 360 Magazine had the opportunity to sit down with Torres to discuss the story of his life, the issues he considers vital, as well as pick his brain for his thoughts on current events.

“I am a product of the Bronx,” Torres says of his childhood, “I spent most of my life in poverty.” Ritchie Torres was raised by a single mother, one of three children, in the Throggs Neck neighborhood of the East Bronx. He recalls the difficulty his mother had raising a family on minimum wage in the 1990s, as well as the awful conditions of the public housing he grew up in. Torres recollects these experiences with the soft yet fluid countenance that marked his speech throughout 360’s conversation with him. He floats between topics and memories with ease.

He recalls, with a rich sense of irony, the construction of Trump Golf Links as a child. “My life is something of a metaphor. I grew up right across the street of what became Trump golf course and actually something funny, is when the golf course was undergoing construction, it unleashed a skunk infestation. So, I often tell people I’ve been smelling the stench of Donald Trump long before he became President.” His own situation, compared with the government subsidized construction of the Trump Golf Links, deeply unsettled Torres’ image of society. He says collectively of his youth, “Those experiences shape not only who I am as a person, but as a public official.”

Such injustices prompted Torres to seek to become “The change that you wish the see in the world,” he says, quoting Mahatma Gandhi. He named public figures such as Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson, Ted Kennedy as role models. He got his start as a housing organizer and eventually took the leap of faith to run for public office, becoming New York’s youngest elected city official at age 25. He had “No ties to the machine. No ties to the dynasties of Bronx politics, but I was young and energetic. I knocked on thousands of doors,” he claims that kind of face-to-face contact won him that election. Torres then became the first LGBTQ+ official elected from the Bronx.

“I think it has several implications,” he says when asked what this early accomplishment meant to him. “I mean, first, we are all products of our identities and our lived experiences. Right? Who we are as people shapes what we do as policy makers. It is important to have LGBTQ policy makers in the room where decisions are being made. A wise person once said, ‘If you don’t have a seat at the table, then you are probably on the menu.’” Referring to his 2020 election win, he says “My election means that LGBTQ people of color, in particular, will have a seat at one of the most powerful tables, the United States Congress.” He calls the reality of his election both empowering and normalizing. “I am a symbol of possibility.”

“I met Mondaire for the first time four years ago,” Torres says of Mondaire Jones, U.S. representative of New York’s 17th congressional district. “I remember when I met him for the first time, we had a conversation about the lack of LGBTQ representation of color in New York state politics. And I never imagined that four years later, he and I would become the first openly LGBTQ Black members of United States Congress.”

Congressmen Torres recognizes that his path, though marked with accomplishments, has not been one of only highs. Torres stands apart as a public official on the national stage who is open about the lows of his life and his struggles with mental health. When asked why he chooses to be so transparent, he says “I felt a deep sense of obligation to speak openly about my own struggles with depression in order to break the silence and shame and stigma that surrounds mental health.” He seeks to evolve, not perpetuate, the current ideas surrounding mental health. He hopes to show that “there is a way forward” out of difficult moments, which for him were struggles with substance abuse, the loss of a friend, and moments when he considered taking his own life. But seven years later, Torres was elected to city council. “I would not be alive today, much less a member of the United States Congress, were it not for mental health care which saved my life.” He aspires to send a message that “Recovery is possible. You can take an antidepressant, as I do every day, and find normalcy and stability” and achieve feats like being elected to Congress.

The 117th Congress is slated to be the most diverse in history. Torres says of this reality, “I think American is increasingly becoming a multi-racial, multi-ethnic inclusive democracy. We are witnessing the collapse of politics as an old voice network. I am part of a new generation of young leaders every bit as diverse as America itself. Congress is becoming what it always should have been, a miniaturization of America itself.”

Torres acknowledges the year 2020, monumental in many ways, as harrowing for his Bronx community. “COVID-19 has been a catastrophe for the city and the country, and the South Bronx has been the epicenter of COVID-19. The South Bronx had the highest rate of COVID-19 morbidity and mortality during the peak of the pandemic. And just as destructive as COVID-19 itself were the deeper inequalities that were brought to light.” He argued that the coronavirus exposed the deeper health inequalities, racial inequalities, and class inequalities laid bare by the pandemic.

These issues are at the forefront of Torres’ mind in thinking of his work as a legislator. When asked what he saw as the first step to rectifying the rampant racial injustice in the United States, he answered “the first thing is to bring greater accountability to policing in America,” an argument familiar to many Americans following the deaths of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd and their ensuing protests. As the Black Lives Matter movement swept the nation with greater momentum than ever before, cries for justice and defunding the police became common across the country’s cities. “Where there is no accountability, there will never be an end to police brutality” Torres says, being especially critical of qualified immunity in the United States.

Torres heads to Congress as a man with a mission regarding many issues. He himself declares “My great passion is affordable housing,” reflecting a long journey working continually in the housing sphere. He seeks to secure far greater funding for public housing in New York City and to expand the Section 8 program. The Section 8 program, also known as the Housing Choice Voucher program, created by an act in 1978, provides assistance to eligible low- and moderate-income families to rent housing in the private market. Torres says, “For me the surest way to stimulate the economy is to put money in the pockets of struggling families.” In order to do that, he believes the solution is an expanded child tax credit, which he describes as the single largest tax expenditure in America, yet he finds fault with a system that is “so regressive that it excludes a third of American families. Particularly the poorest families in America.” Torres’ passion shines through when he discusses the subject, detailing how this solution could slash childhood poverty by 40% in the span of the year. He calls its potential an absolute “game changer.”

Without question, affordable housing and tax reform are the first issues Torres hopes to address after being sworn in to the 117th Congress on January 3rd, 2020. “For me, the central mission of my life is to fight poverty in America. Racially constructed poverty in America. The South Bronx is said to be the poorest district in America and if we can make progressive policies work in the South Bronx, we can make them work anywhere.”

360 Magazine also had the opportunity to discuss a variety of current issues with Congressman Torres, one of which being the then impending Senate run-offs in Georgia. Following races too close to call in November 2020, Republican incumbent David Perdue is facing a challenge from Democrat Jon Ossoff. Additionally, GOP appointee Kelly Loeffler is defending her seat against Democrat Reverend Raphael Warnock. The election is vital because it will determine which party will control the Senate. “The stakes are supremely important,” Torres says of Georgia. “As long as Mitch McConnell refuses to bring critical bills to the floor for a vote, there is a limit to what we can accomplish. For me, Mitch McConnell is the single greatest obstruction on the path to progress. Winning those two seats in Georgia are essential.”

Regarding the impending mayoral race in his home of New York City, as well as early polls that display former Presidential candidate Andrew Yang as the frontrunner, Torres is coy. “The mayor’s race is wide open. Anyone who claims to have it figured out is lying.” He goes on to affirm “It is full of more than one credible candidate.”

“To be clear, I never announced that I wasn’t going to be in the squad.” Torres says, referring to ‘The Squad’ of United States Congress, composed of Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a fellow New Yorker, Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar, and Rashida Tlaib. With new young progressive politicians like Torres joining the fray, claims of expanding membership are common. Torres, along with the aforementioned Mondaire Jones, as well as Congresswoman Cori Bush, Congresswoman Marie Newman, and Congressman Jamaal Brown are commonly referred to as impending members.

Instead, Torres clarifies, “I would never issue an announcement that I would not be a part of something. That would be an odd thing to do. Whenever I’m asked about the squad, I simply state that I’m my own person and I prefer to be judged on the basis of my own story and my own record, on my own terms.” He goes on to assert he is willing to work with “anyone and everyone in the service of delivering to the people of the South Bronx. That is my highest priority.” Torres is clear in this declaration that he is willing to work with more conservative members of his own party or the Republican party in hopes of progress.

On a future in politics, Torres affirmed his intent to serve the people in the moment and to “let the dice fall where they may” regarding the future. When asked what wisdom he would impart to a younger generation, Congressman Torres says “We are all only as strong as the support we have in our lives and be grateful for the supporters you have. The friends and family. I would not be here today if not for the friendship of people who believed in me more than I believed in myself. Know who those people are and value them and be grateful for them.”

Update as of 1/14/21, Congressman Ritchie Torres has formally endorsed former presidential candidate Andrew Yang for mayor of New York City. This comes just a day after Andrew Yang announced his campaign in a video titled ‘Why I’m Running,’ which features Torres in it.

Basketball illustrated by Mina Tocalini for 360 MAGAZINE.

NBA Finals 2020 Viewership Drops 50%

The sports world is one of the most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic with many major sports all over the world coming to a complete halt. Even after many leagues returned it was clear that the “new normal” will have a significant effect on the entire sports world. With the pandemic throwing many sporting calendars and seasons in chaos, the makeshift calendars proved detrimental to viewership numbers. According to data presented by Safe Betting Sites, the 2020 NBA Finals recorded a 50% drop in viewership compared to the 2019 Finals.

COVID-19 Positive Tests  Suspended NBA Season “Until Further Notice”

On March 11, 2020, The Utah Jazz were scheduled to play the Oklahoma City Thunder despite the threat of COVID-19 already rising in other parts of the world. This was until The Jazz’s star centre Rudy Gobert of France tested positive for the virus. This prompted the league to cancel the game merely minutes from tip-off. The league subsequently suspended the remainder of the 2019-2020 season until further notice. In June it was then announced that the season will be restarted on July 31st with an improvised schedule taking in consideration teams current position on the standings when play was suspended. It was agreed that seeding games would be played for all teams that finished within six games of a playoff spot when play was halted.

Season Restarted Under “Bubble Conditions”

As part of the plans for a restart, the NBA instituted a strict medical protocol leading up to the restart as well as during the entire playoffs were played. The games were played in controlled venues within Walt Disney World’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida which was popularly referred to as “the bubble.” The entire playoffs were played in the bubble with no physical fans in attendance. Many players likened the experience to their days as AAU players before their NBA careers.

The 2020 NBA Finals pitted the Eastern Conference Champions Miami Heat against the Western Conference Champions, LA Lakers. The finals are traditionally played sometime in June but the pandemic forced an almost 4-month delay with Game 1 played on September 30. This delay, as well as the unique atmosphere the bubble brought, were a clear contributor to the significant decline in viewership numbers.

Tumultuous Time In US History Leads To  Decrease In Ratings

The 2020 NBA finals saw an average viewership of 7.5 million viewers. This is a 51% drop compared to the 2019 Finals which recorded an average of 15.14 million viewers. It is also the lowest number of average viewers of any Finals in the last two decades. Expectedly, the 2020 Finals also saw the lowest TV ratings in the last two decades with a rating of 4 compared to 8.8 in 2019.

At around the time of the improvised Playoffs, the US  was going through a tumultuous time in its history in several aspects that also contributed to the decrease in viewers. The COVID-19 pandemic was still ravaging through several states which completely altered many people’s daily routine. The pandemic also meant that sports bars and other venues such as casinos were unavailable and thus the Finals reached far fewer people than in previous years.

The delay in the playoffs also meant that the Finals were staged closer to the critical November 2020 US Presidential elections which meant that people’s focus was dramatically shifted. This combined with the pandemic meant more people were tuning in to news programs rather than sporting events.

Significantly, before and during the NBA’s restart the Black Lives Matter movement was also in full swing as cities around the US protested the infamous death of George Floyd in the hands of police. Another shooting of an African-American man in the city of Milwaukee prompted the Milwaukee Bucks to boycott their playoff game against the Orlando Magic and refused to take to the court. After discussions were held NBA players agreed to play on deciding instead to use their platform to bring awareness to social justice causes. This included wearing NBA jerseys with social justice messages chosen by the player. While the move was commended by many, the polarizing nature of the issue meant that the NBA inevitably lost some viewers who had opposing views.

Covid-19 Impact on Artists

Story × Art: Alex Rudin

As we head into the eighth month of Covid-19, the distractions of apple picking, pumpkin carving, and outdoor dining are behind us. Lockdowns have long been lifted and social gatherings have become commonplace. The ominous inevitability of a deadly third wave looms. This guaranteed “dark winter” begs one to reflect on the early days of the pandemic. A time when fear, disinformation, and isolation plagued every household, no matter its inhabitants. 2020 has been a year of postponement, grief, isolation, and reckoning. Yet with struggle comes the opportunity for growth, change, and creation… If you let it. As Andy Warhol once said, “they always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.”

As a self-employed artist, uncertainty is a language I speak well. Prior to Covid-19 I spent my days in the School of Visual Arts printshop in NYC. From conceptualizing and prototyping new products for my business, Rudin Studios LLC, to fumbling around for an answer to the age-old question of “what to make,” it is clear I was lost in an artistic haze of looking for purpose. Then Coronavirus hit. Instantaneously everything turned upside down. Suddenly, I was in an unfamiliar town, without the ability to work (silkscreen), miles away from the studio I call home. I remained glued to the news awestruck by the infection and mortality rates. I racked my brain for something to do, how to help, what to make.

I became focused on those who were not as privileged as me. Those who were struggling to find housing, to feed themselves, to protect themselves from this deadly virus which was clearly and disproportionately hurting people of color. I began working on a series of paintings to be auctioned off, 100% of the proceeds going to homeless and trafficked youth in NYC. While the fundraiser was a success, I could not help but feel the conceptual aspects of the work were not important, relevant, or impactful. If I learned anything from my education at Parsons School of Design, it is that concept is king. My artwork slowly began to shift towards the idea of documentation. Buzzwords like “historical” and “unprecedented” flew across the airwaves and fueled my desire to capture and document the struggles of 2020. This was just the beginning.

Soon to follow were the atrocious murders of George Floyd, Ahmed Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, which brought racial justice to the forefront of the American conscience. While the President continuously fanned the flames of racism, the cries for equality and allyship were deafening. It was time to allow my artwork to reflect the times and struggles of our country which so deeply affected me and so many others. Black Lives Matter, and it is the white person’s responsibility to be educated allies; to use the privilege we are born into to advocate for our oppressed brothers and sisters. I wanted to help acknowledge, reflect, and correct the institutional racism that is so insidiously intertwined with our institutions and the American way of being.

Concurrently, the 2020 Presidential election was ramping up. Climate change’s incendiary winds pillaged the west. The wearing of masks became a polarizing political tool. And all the while, the current administration refused to acknowledge or accept responsibility for any of it. Rather shifting blame, denying, and lying became the governing practice. The global importance of what was taking place in the United States was apparent. Election 2020 was to be a reckoning. On the docket: racial justice, women’s rights, climate change, science, and healthcare, to name a few. A polarizing choice between Id and empathy.

For the first time in my career, my purpose seemed clear. I began making work that focused on the progression of human rights, equality, and fairness relying on my trusty formula of stylized portraiture and anecdotal commentary. I firmly believe that artists have a social responsibility to reflect the times we live in. The majority of my work has focused on uncovering and expressing truths about what it means to be a woman in 2020. However, one cannot comment on the feminine experience without addressing the current political situation and the oppression experienced by American minorities. While the Trump Administration continued to attack women’s rights, promote violence, ignore climate change, and fan the flames of racism, I relied on my creative voice to talk about the challenges we faced not only as women, but as a nation. That being said, I decided to devote my time to creating a series of posters for the 2020 election to help galvanize the female vote. This included partnering with Women for Biden Harris 2020, Women for the Win, and Article 3 among numerous other female-run organizations.

While the trials and tribulations of 2020 have forever altered the fabric of American reality, so has it altered me. A year such as this begs internal personal reflection if not metamorphosis. To find purpose, love, and empathy through the chaos of hate and violence is the silver-lining we all need. In a time where division is the name of the game, we must transcend the idea of the “other.” As the most recent Covid-19 wave surges across the country, I implore anyone with the creative impulse to say something, to do so. Pick up the pen. Document the times, the thoughts, the fears that come along with living through such tumultuousness. Follow the empathy, the creativity, and the voice inside telling you to advocate for those less fortunate. As Thomas Paine aptly stated, “The real man smiles in trouble, gathers strength from distress, and grows brave by reflection.” If you find yourself in a place of privilege, take it upon yourself to seize the opportunity in front of you. It is not an opportunity for financial incentive or career advancement, but for internal revolution. Soon, life will “go back to normal,” but there’s nothing normal about what we have witnessed. Allow the intensity of experience to alter you. For when the time has come and gone, and you reflect upon 2020, wouldn’t it be nice to say that through all the sadness, grief, and fear a better version of yourself was uncovered?

Black Lives Matter for 360 Magazine by Symara Briel Wilson

Black Lives Matter in Pittsburgh

By: Symara Wilson

In the last five months, protests have sparked across the world in response to several devastating acts of injustice against black people. It began in Minneapolis, Minnesota, home to George Floyd, a man killed by three Minneapolis police officers after allegedly trying to make a purchase with a counterfeit bill. Officers Derek Chauvin, J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao were all charged in the murder of George Floyd. From that moment, protests and riots erupted across the nation and even ventured beyond the United States. Unfortunately, George Floyd wasn’t the only killing prompting outrage. Countless other incidents have occurred since then, and even those resurfacing from years before fuel the momentum of the movement. Black people being unjustly killed by police has been an act of violence prevalent in the media as of recent years. Now, people are no longer staying silent on how they feel. Millions of people have come together everywhere in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.

As protests erupted across the United States, four months have passed and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is still going strong in their fight for justice—and this sadly isn’t the first time. In June of 2018, 17-year old Antwon Rose ll was shot in the back in East Pittsburgh by officer Michael Rosfield, who was not found guilty, even though Antwon was unarmed. Protests filled the streets that summer and fast forward years later, Pittsburgh still marches for Antwon and several others. George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Elijah McClain, Robert Fuller, Rayshard Brooks, Oluwatoyin Salau, Daniel Prude and Jacob Blake compile just a small list of Black lives that have been at the forefront of the Black Lives Matter movement recently.

Protests in Pittsburgh have gone on for a consecutive 16 weeks. Started by Black, Young, And Educated, “Civil Saturdays” were youth-led protests that called for the amendment of PA Section 508, which is the justification for the use of force (even deadly) by law enforcement officers in Pennsylvania. Black, Young, And Educated is one of several black-led organizations in Pittsburgh fighting to make a difference in the community. Though Civil Saturdays have recently ended, protests in the city are not letting up.

Some other Black organizations are Pittsburgh Feminists for Intersectionality, an organization created to promote intersectional feminism, and SisTers, a Black and trans-led organization providing education and resources to local transgender, non-binary, and other gender-nonconforming individuals, as well as helping with transitioning and providing shelter. Protests in support of Black trans lives have been happening in Pittsburgh recently as well. With how big the Black Lives Matter movement has gotten; the Black Trans Lives Matter movement has also grown in notability and is just as important.

Crimes against those who are transgender are often times swept under the rug and don not receive attention in the media. We already know anti-transgender violence is not a new occurrence, but according to a 2018 report from the Human Rights Campaign, we also know that “it disproportionately impacts young transgender women of color, and we can identify common risk factors shared among many of its victims.” It is even said that the life expectancy of Black trans women is just 35 years old. Why do Black trans women and men face an alarmingly greater rate of violence than those who are white and/or cisgender? This is where the importance of intersectionality within activism lies.

The term “intersectionality” has caught on more in recent years, but has been around since 1989, coined by law professor, Kimberlé Crenshaw. In a paper, she argued Black women face more discrimination because of racism and sexism within our society. Since then, the term has grown and shows us that oppression can come from multiple sources. Race, class, gender, sexual orientation, and physical ability all play a part in intersectionality. In order to progress, we have to look at the way oppression overlaps, and appreciate the reality that certain marginalized groups are more susceptible to violence and discrimination than others. This is why organizations like Pittsburgh Feminists for Intersectionality and SisTers are crucial to provide advocacy and resources for the LGBTQ+ community. Tony McDade, Riah Milton, Tete Gulley, Dominique Fells, Aaliyah Denise Johnson, Nina Pop, and Monika Diamond are just a few examples of Black trans lives lost this year that protestors have also been marching for. Their stories deserve just as much attention, as well as justice.

So, when will justice finally be served?

It’s no secret that America has a very long way to go when it comes to repairing a system that was built on racism since the beginning. The Supreme Court’s recent upsetting decision in the Breonna Taylor case has only motivated protestors all over the country, especially in Breonna’s home of Louisville, Kentucky. Brett Hankison, only one of three officers involved, was indicted on charges for shooting into the neighbor’s house, not for the actual murder of Breonna in her sleep. Therefore, the end of the fight for equality is still nowhere in sight. Although many argue that the protests are doing nothing to help the movement, Elijah McClain’s case being reopened and the Supreme Court choosing to further investigate Breonna Taylor’s case demonstrates actions matter. Sharing resources, donating, making calls and emails to officials, protesting, signing petitions— it all counts.. There is much more to be done here and America’s youth has shown the world that they are not letting up anytime soon.

Rita Azar Illustrates a Basketball Article for 360 MAGAZINE

Jaylen Brown x George Floyd Bill

by Justin Lyons

Jaylen Brown, Boston Celtics wing, in a press conference Sunday said he would like to see the city of Boston pass the George Floyd bill.

Brown, who has been one of the more active players in social justice conversations throughout the NBA, was asked about the Celtics’ commitment to spend $25 million over the next ten years to fight social injustice.

He said it was a great step, and that change happens over a period of time, but he thinks there are things that can be catalysts for change right now.

“One thing I would like to see in Boston is the George Floyd bill enacted,” Brown said, adding that conversations need to be had about police and qualified immunity. “Some things just need to be held accountable, and hopefully Boston can be a place where a tone is set that can be transpired in other cities.”

Brown went on to say that he thinks Boston is moving in the right direction, but he would still like to see more companies and organizations be diversified as well as more opportunities for people of color.

“I’m proud to be a part of the Celtics organization. I’m proud to have an ownership group, or a leadership group, that’s willing to take these steps because they recognize that we need to live in a better, more forward progressing world.”

The George Floyd bill, or H.R.7120, aims to achieve a few goals.

First, it would lower the criminal intent standard to convict an officer of law enforcement. The standard currently requires that officers act willfully, while H.R.7120 would only necessitate that officers act knowingly or recklessly.

Second, it would limit qualified immunity, which grants officers immunity in lawsuits regarding violations of constitutional rights of civilians.

Third, it would allow the Department of Justice to issue authorizations to investigate departments demonstrating patterns of discriminatory practices.

It would also create a national registry of police misconduct, lay the bricks for prohibition of racial profiling and implement new standards for training regarding racial profiling and use of body cameras.

It passed in the House of Representatives by a vote of 236-181, and it will move to the Senate.

Brown’s comments come just weeks after NBA players boycotted games on behalf of Jacob Blake, whom was shot seven times by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and victims of police brutality everywhere.

A reporter asked Brown if he thought the boycott’s message was still effective even as players returned to the court.

“These issues have been here for a very, very long time, and they’re still going to be here regardless of if we protest or not or boycott or not. I think sports plays a huge role in society, and I’m very aware of that, so using our platform is something I’m always going to support,” Brown answered.

While he said the cure for racism might not come from the NBA, the players can always use their platform to let the world know that these issues are important.

Brown, who wears the word “Liberation” on the back of his jersey, scored 21 points and picked up eight rebounds to help the Celtics defeat the Toronto Raptors Friday by a score of 92-87. They advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals where they will meet up with the Miami Heat, who are playing on six days of rest after eliminating the Milwaukee Bucks in just five games.

The first game of the series begins Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. EST with the Celtics favored by a point and a half.

Rita Azar Illustrates a Video Games Article for 360 MAGAZINE

Colin Kaepernick x Madden 21

by Justin Lyons

Colin Kaepernick is officially back in Madden.

For the first time since 2017, football fans and Colin Kaepernick fans will have the chance to use the ex-49ers quarterback in the signature football game from EA SPORTS.

The announcement came from EA SPORTS themselves, saying, “Colin Kaepernick is one of the top free agents in football and a starting-caliber quarterback. The team at EA SPORTS, along with millions of Madden NFL fans, want to see him back in our game.”

Though Kaepernick is not signed to a team in real life or in Madden, he is available to sign to any team in Franchise mode. He’s also available in Play Now mode.

His jersey is also available in The Yard, a mode new to Madden this year that allows users to express themselves creatively. His signature celebration, which is available upon scoring with Kaepernick, depicts the quarterback raising his fist in the air to signify Black Power.

Kaepernick has been rated 81 overall, which is good for the 15th best quarterback in the league, tied with Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

According to EA SPORTS, that number was determined using data-driven simulations. They did take into account the fact that Kaepernick has not played since 2016, but his mobility and big play ability earned him the 81 overall rating.

EA SPORTS also said players looking to have complete control over their Franchise mode can change his rating however they see fit, including bringing him up to 99 overall. Adjusting his stats to 99 overall would make his only company the likes of Aaron Donald, Christian McCaffrey, Michael Thomas, Stephon Gilmore and the only 99 rated quarterback in the game, Patrick Mahomes.

Kaepernick was among the first in professional sports to kneel during the American National Anthem in protest of police brutality. Kaepernick opted out of his contract after the 2016 season, and not one of the 32 NFL teams has made a move to acquire him.

Largely suspected of being a victim of blackballing, Kaepernick has since worked as an activist in the community, especially with children. He has led rights campaigns and camps and was the face of a Nike campaign in 2018 that carried the slogan “Believe in something. Even if means sacrificing everything.”

Roger Goodell encouraged teams to sign Kaepernick in a conversation on ESPN in June, just weeks after George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis.

The killing of George Floyd seemed to awaken large corporations throughout the United States, leading many to make statements, including the NFL.

Though criticized for not speaking out sooner, the NFL and Commissioner Goodell released a statement via Twitter on June 5 saying, “We, the NFL, condemn racism and the systematic oppression of Black People. We, the NFL, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest. We, the NFL, believe Black Lives Matter.”

NFL teams cancelled practices and scrimmages in the past month after the shooting of Jacob Blake by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Action taken after these events could remove the stigma NFL owners appeared to have when it came to signing Kaepernick, and fans who believe in his message and talent would love to see him on the field again soon.

Kaelen Felix illustrates Amtrak for 360 MAGAZINE.

360 Magazine Marches on Washington

By Cassandra Yany × Armon Hayes, Vaughn Lowery

Recently, our team journeyed to Washington, D.C. for the National Action Network’s Commitment March. The August 28 march marked 57 years since the March on Washington where Martin Luther King Jr. gave his historic “I Have A Dream” speech. According to the National Action Network’s website, the goal of the march was to advocate for comprehensive police accountability reform, promote participation in the Census and motivate voters to cast their ballots in the upcoming Presidential election.

The National Action Network was founded by Rev. Al Sharpton in 1991. With nearly 100 chapters nationwide, the civil rights organization works in the tradition of Martin Luther King, Jr. to achieve “one standard of justice, decency, and equal opportunities for all people regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, criminal record, economic status, gender, gender expression or sexuality.”

The trip from New York to Washington, D.C. was made easy by taking Amtrak’s Acela service. Despite the higher price point, the Acela is newer and less crowded than regional trains. The express train eliminated the burden of tolls and stopped in only a few cities, arriving in D.C. after about three and a half hours. It can be stressful to travel right now, so it was a relief to see how clean the train was. The quiet car, basic free wifi and outlets on board provided the perfect environment to research and write articles on our tablets. We utilized our extra time to discuss with one another and prepare for our coverage of the march and our days in D.C.

The café offered coffee and various snack options, and the sliding glass doors made it easy for us to walk through the cars. The reclining seats were comfortable and allowed us to rest before our trip. There were also sections of four seats for those traveling in a larger group. Each passenger could bring two personal items weighing up to 25 pounds, and two carry-on bags weighing up to 50 pounds at no additional cost. Amtrak is currently offering reduced fares for two to six tickets purchased together where riders can save eight to 45 percent.

Kaelen Felix illustrates Amtrak story for 360 MAGAZINE

Luckily, we were able to call Amtrak in advance to ensure we could carry on our folding bicycles. With limited parking available in the city, electric bikes served as a great mode of transportation for many protesters. E-bikes such as the DYU Smart Bike and a custom scooter from Good Vibe Gliders were an affordable alternative to renting a car, and made covering and participating in the march much easier.

The Commitment March: Get Your Knee Off Our Necks started early Friday morning. Participants marched through the National Mall, many carrying signs remembering those whose lives have been lost in acts of police violence. Others displayed “Black Lives Matter” on flags, shirts and masks.

Some participants created street art during the event, voicing their support through their work. At one point, a number of demonstrators stood together in the Reflecting Pool in front of the Washington Monument. Marchers reached the section of 16 Street NW that has become known as “Black Lives Matter Plaza” around 3:30 PM before dispersing for the day.

Organizers of the march upheld COVID-19 guidelines and regulations. The National Action Network placed multiple signs throughout the National Mall encouraging social distancing, and took marchers’ temperatures as they entered the area. Face masks were distributed to people who did not have one, and visitors from high-risk areas were urged to join virtually from their homes. There was also a testing booth on site, as reported by WUSA 9.

Kaelen Felix illustrates Amtrak story for 360 MAGAZINE

The march was co-convened by Sharpton and Martin Luther King III. Among the thousands of attendees who gathered on the National Mall were the families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner and Jacob Blake. Many members of these families gave speeches at the Lincoln Memorial, along with lawmakers from across the country. These congressmen and women pushed for legislation that would address cases of racial injustice.

Though she was not present, Vice Presidential candidate Kamala Harris shared her message to marchers via Twitter. In her speech, which was played at the event, she said, “…if we work together, to challenge every instinct our nation has to return to the status quo, and combine the wisdom of long time warriors for justice, with the creative energy of the young leaders today, we have an opportunity to make history, right here and right now.”

Yolanda Renee King took the stage to address the crowd, standing where her grandfather had led March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. In a video posted by CNN she said, “We stand and march for love and we will fulfill my grandfather’s dream.” She then led a chant of “Show me what democracy looks like; This is what democracy looks like!”

Friday was also the 65th anniversary of Emmett Till’s murder. The 14-year-old was lynched and thrown off a bridge while visiting family in Mississippi. He was abducted after “allegedly whistling at a white woman,” according to ABC 7 Chicago, and his body was found mutilated in the Tallahatchie River. Till’s family never received justice, as the two men responsible for his death were both acquitted. Till’s murder helped to spark the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s. Civil rights leader and former congressman John Lewis wrote that “Emmett Till was [his] George Floyd” in a New York Times essay that was published on the day of Lewis’ funeral.

The trip provided a meaningful experience to stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as time to see local relatives. 360 President Vaughn Lowery visited his uncle Leroy Lowery, the former executive director of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation, who raised over $120 million for the Stone of Hope.

Leroy Lowery is the son of the late Rev. Joseph E. Lowery, a civil rights leader who helped Martin Luther King, Jr. establish the Southern Christina Leadership Conference, and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009. Leroy Lowery attended the march with his father in 1963 and stated on Friday, “to see that we have to march [again] 57 years later is deflating.”

Kaelen Felix illustrates Amtrak story for 360 MAGAZINE
Rita Azar illustrates March on Washington for 360 MAGAZINE

Get Your Knee Off Our Necks

By Payton Saso

On Friday, August 28, 2020, tens of thousands of Americans from all racial, religious and geographic backgrounds gathered in Washington, D.C. on the 57th anniversary of the historic March on Washington to recommit themselves to the fight for justice; a fight that calls for the eradication of systemic racism, police reform and full and open access to the ballot box in November’s presidential election and beyond.

Others joined virtually from cities and states across the world to show their solidarity and to call for longstanding change. You can watch the complete coverage here on C-Span.


The day was empowering. Reverend Al Sharpton issued a clarion call for the next steps. Between now and November, National Action Network will organize voting education brigades and train poll workers to work the polls on Election Day. Our vote will not be suppressed.

According to CBS News, “Sharpton first announced plans for the march during a memorial service for George Floyd, the 46-year-old father who died at the hands of police in Minneapolis in May.” After the unjust killing of Floyd at the hands of police, cases of police brutality against the black community gained media attention, sparking protests across the world.


Many of those families who had been dismantled because of this violence epidemic had the opportunity to speak at this year’s march, coined the “Get Your Knee Off Our Necks” Commitment March on Washington. Philonise Floyd, George Floyds brother, and Tamika Miller, mother of Broenna Taylor who was killed in her home by police, both took the podium to speak to the crowd. NPR reported that Floyd told the crowd, “My brother, George, he’s looking down right now. He’s thankful for everything that everybody is doing right now. Our leaders, they need to follow us while we’re marching to enact laws to protect us.”


The March also hoped to bring attention to the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. According to the New York Times the bill would, “overhaul law enforcement training and conduct rules to try to limit police misconduct and racial bias.” Which comes after months of protest demanding the defunding of police departments and more education for those pursuing a career in law enforcement.


We will work tireless to push for the passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020 and the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act of 2020, named in honor of our beloved Congressman who recently passed away after a heroic battle with cancer. You can read more about these proposed pieces of legislation below.

More importantly, if you are not registered to vote, please do so today. Most states are offering mail-in and early voting. The 2020 presidential election may be the most significant election of our lifetime. Key issues that impact the civil rights community will be on the ballot. Additionally, you will want to make your voice known in your local elections, particularly on issues relating to education.

• Click here to find out deadlines for registering to vote.

• Join National Action Network today to stay engaged

• Volunteer to be a poll worker

• Call your Senators and urge them to support the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020.


Organizers originally estimated that there would be 100,000 protestors, according to the Washington Post; however, following a permit from the National Park Service that number was decreased to an allowed 50,000.. Organizers urged protesters to abide by COVID regulations by keeping social distance, causing some to step out into the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting pool in efforts to keep a six-foot distance.


Even with this cut, the immense power of the crowd was still felt. Protestors filled the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park holding signs painted with the faces of those who have been murder by police, calls voter registration and the dauntless reminder of the 8 minutes and 46 second George Floyd was pinned at the neck by an officer.


Martin Luther King III, King Jr’s son, spoke at the rally on the 57th anniversary of his father’s historical speech. CNN reported King III said, “If you’re looking for a savior, get up and find a mirror. We must be (our own) hero.” He reminded the crowd that quoting his father who died for this movement was not enough. King III stressed the importance of this generation of protestors to continue their activism and to vote in this upcoming election.


2020 has been a historical year engulfed by the flames of a pandemic and police brutality which both disproportionately affect black Americans. This years march served as a reminder that 57 years later, King’s dream has a long way to go and the fight for racial equality is still emanating through out America.

The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act

The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act is the first-ever bold, comprehensive approach to hold police accountable, end racial profiling, change the culture of law enforcement, empower our communities, and build trust between law enforcement and our communities by addressing systemic racism and bias to help save lives. This bill addresses a wide range of policies and issues regarding policing practices and law enforcement accountability. It includes measures to increase accountability for law enforcement misconduct, to enhance transparency and data collection, and to eliminate discriminatory policing practices. The bill facilitates federal enforcement of constitutional violations (e.g., excessive use of force) by state and local law enforcement. Among other things, it does the following:

• lowers the criminal intent standard—from willful to knowing or reckless—to convict a law enforcement officer for misconduct in a federal prosecution,

• limits qualified immunity as a defense to liability in a private civil action against a law enforcement officer or state correctional officer, and

• authorizes the Department of Justice to issue subpoenas in investigations of police departments for a pattern or practice of discrimination.

The bill also creates a national registry—the National Police Misconduct Registry—to compile data on complaints and records of police misconduct. It establishes a framework to prohibit racial profiling at the federal, state, and local levels. The bill establishes new requirements for law enforcement officers and agencies, including to report data on use-of-force incidents, to obtain training on implicit bias and racial profiling, and to wear body cameras.

The John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act

This bill establishes new criteria for determining which states and political subdivisions must obtain preclearance before changes to voting practices in these areas may take effect. (Preclearance is the process of receiving preapproval from the Department of Justice or the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia before making legal changes that would affect voting rights.)

A state and all of its political subdivisions shall be subject to preclearance of voting practice changes for a 10-year period if (1) 15 or more voting rights violations occurred in the state during the previous 25 years; or (2) 10 or more violations occurred during the previous 25 years, at least one of which was committed by the state itself. A political subdivision as a separate unit shall also be subject to preclearance for a 10-year period if three or more voting rights violations occurred there during the previous 25 years.

A state or political subdivision that obtains a declaratory judgment that it has not used a voting practice to deny or abridge the right to vote shall be exempt from preclearance. All jurisdictions must preclear changes to requirements for documentation to vote that make the requirements more stringent than federal requirements for voters who register by mail or state law. The bill specifies practices jurisdictions meeting certain thresholds regarding racial minority groups, language minority groups, or minority groups on Indian land, must preclear before implementing. These practices include changes to methods of election, changes to jurisdiction boundaries, redistricting, changes to voting locations and opportunities, and changes to voter registration list maintenance.

The bill expands the circumstances under which (1) a court may retain the authority to preclear voting changes made by a state or political subdivision, or (2) the Department of Justice may assign election observers. States and political subdivisions must notify the public of changes to voting practices.

The bill revises the circumstances under which a court must grant preliminary injunctive relief in a challenge to voting practices.

vaughn lowery attends BLM march on washington for 360 MAGAZINE
vaughn lowery attends BLM march on washington for 360 MAGAZINE
vaughn lowery attends BLM march on washington for 360 MAGAZINE
vaughn lowery attends BLM march on washington for 360 MAGAZINE

Jacob Blake Shot by Wisconsin Police

In the most recent incident to incite protests against injustices across the nation this summer, a Black man has been shot in Wisconsin. Jacob Blake, witnesses said, was attempting to break up an argument between two women. Following this, he walked back towards his silver SUV this past Sunday, August 23rd while being trailed by a police officer involved in the confrontation. As three of his children watched from their vehicle, the police officer proceeded to fire seven times at Blake’s back and close range. One can only imagine the trauma for his sons. As of today, Blake remains hospitalized in serious condition, but is expected to survive.

The incident, caught on video, has gone similarly viral to other violent misconducts by the police over the course of spring and summer 2020. The officers involved in Blake’s shooting have been placed on administrative leave and have shocked the small city of Kenosha, Wisconsin. Protests across the city have motivated Governor Evers to call in the National Guard, though he attempted to assure constituents it was not in an effort to mimic clashes between protesters and servicemen in places like Seattle, Minneapolis, or New York. Minor confrontations have occurred over the past two days despite this.

Following George Floyd’s murder this past May, protests against the police and in favor of the movement Black Lives Matter have exploded across the country. Blake’s shooting has added fuel to the fire, inspiring renewed protests and calls to action all across the nation. The incident in Kenosha has furthered the call for cities to cut funding to police departments, restructure their legal practices, amongst other changes.

Governor of Wisconsin Tony Evers tweeted in support of Jacob Blake and in condemnation of the actions of police officers involved: “I have said all along that although we must offer our empathy, equally important is our action. In the coming days, we will demand just that of elected officials in our state who have failed to recognize the racism in our state and country for far too long. And we stand against excessive use of force and immediate escalation when engaging with Black Wisconsinites.” The Governor also signed an executive order into Wisconsin’s state legislature for a special session to pass legislation and police reforms for August 31st. The reforms are expected to be fought by the state’s Republican leadership.

Calls from the countries Democratic leadership have come again for immediate reform, including the voice of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden as he “wakes up yet again with grief and outrage that yet another Black American is a victim of excessive force.” President Trump has not commented directly on the shooting, but Vice President Pence made a statement yesterday emphasizing the administration’s loyalty to their men and women in blue.

The situation involving the shooting of Jacob Blake and ensuing actions in Kenosha, Wisconsin continues to develop.

Gabrielle Marchan illustrates Dianne Morales for 360 MAGAZINE

Dianne Morales

As of late, one of our team members had the opportunity to sit down with New York City mayoral candidate Dianne Morales for an interview. After eight years under Mayor Bill de Blasio, New York City will see someone new in the position in 2021, and Morales, a member of the Democratic Party, is jumping at the opportunity.

360: What are the major points of inspiration throughout your life, so far, that have led you to where you are today?

Morales: At my core is a commitment to community, and I learned community at home. I am the youngest of three girls and the daughter of Puerto Rican parents. My mother, a secretary for the Leather Workers’ Union, and my father, a building manager on the waterfront, created a working-class life for us in Bed-Stuy. But our home was not just for me and my sisters. My grandmother, Mami, lived with us my whole childhood. In fact, she and I shared a bed until the day that I left home for college. Our home was a resting place, a layover, a transition point for whoever needed it. There was always someone new sleeping on the couch or joining us at the dinner table. Whether they had just arrived from Puerto Rico, were in between jobs, had just returned from the military or from being incarcerated, there were always other people staying with us while they “got back on their feet.” My parents opened their arms and their front door to whoever needed it. I never questioned this way of life. I was taught, “If you have, then you provide.” We took care of each other. I saw, firsthand, the opportunity created when we each take responsibility, not just for ourselves, but for our neighbors and for our communities. This belief has spurred me on through 30 years in the public sector, as an educator, a foster care worker and a leader of nonprofits.

As I established my own home in Bed-Stuy as a single mom, my children and I recreated the dynamic my parents had built. We always have a few extra people living in our home – whom we often refer to as our “chosen family.” These extended family members have filled my home with love and reciprocal support. In a twist of fate, since the pandemic hit, I have shared my home with my parents and my children. I envision a New York City where we take care of each other, where everyone is welcome to the dinner table, where neighbors provide more support than extra sugar and all of us have a warm place to rest our heads. Although NYC is vast with diversity, we are all inextricably bound together and are only as strong as our most vulnerable link.

360: How can a mayor, as opposed to any other civic official, lead unique positive changes for equity?

Morales: Over the past several months there is a mantra I have been repeating consistently: a budget is a reflection of our values. The mayor has executive power over what gets funded in the city and by how much. Funding for services that contribute to true public safety (access to housing, medical/mental healthcare, economic stability, job training, education) will provide access and opportunity to those who have historically been left behind by our elected officials. Line by line, the budget reveals the values of a city and government. The NYC budget passed in June was a failure. It failed the residents of NYC, who have been raising their voices in protest and demanding a divestment from law enforcement since May 29. It failed those whose lives have been lost at the hands of the NYPD. It failed communities of color that have been disproportionately impacted by violence and brutality.

The budget highlights the need for NYC leadership to put New Yorkers first by investing in communities. The NYC Mayor also has the ability to work to desegregate public schools and impact the quality of education provided to over 1.1 million students, many of whom are students of color living in poverty. This alters the course of a student’s life and provides an entry point to economic mobility and a true career trajectory. New Yorkers deserve a bold, transformational leader who is unapologetically committed to prioritizing justice in the budget’s bottom line. I fundamentally believe that those closest to the problem are closest to the solution. Our city needs a mayor that is in tune with her people and provides a vision for and direction for what is possible.

360: What are some of the most pressing or urgent issues that need attention within New York City, and how would you address them?

Morales: New York’s problems all stem from structural oppression by Race, Gender and Class, so our solutions must go deeper, all the way to the root causes. Too many New Yorkers are living in a time of scarcity, and that’s been going on since long before the virus hit. The are working two jobs, just barely surviving and always one misfortune away from losing everything. Instead of this “Scarcity Economy,” we need a “Solidarity Economy,” and that requires bold action. First, transforming public safety in the city by providing access to the same critical resources found in wealthy communities will be a critical step toward creating the long-term change we need for all to live in dignity. True public safety includes ensuring that every New Yorker has access to “life essentials,” like quality transportation, affordable housing, excellent and equal education and human-centered healthcare. All New Yorkers deserve access to these fundamental resources in order to live in dignity, and it is the necessary floor needed to break through glass ceilings.

Next, we must enhance and overhaul vital infrastructure requiring multi-part, creative solutions that address the deeper issues embedded in the fabric of NYC. To break the racist cycle of poverty that divides our city into the “haves” and the “have-nots,” we will establish a guaranteed minimum income. We will push for universal healthcare and eliminate inequities in the health system faced by women, and especially women of color. We will work to address the persistent segregation of our schools and disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline by replacing school safety officers with trained mental health professionals. The driving force behind all policy initiatives is the experiences, needs and voices of women of color. Particularly, Black women. As the Combahee River Collective wisely wrote in its 1977 statement, “If Black women were free, it would mean that everyone else would have to be free since our freedom would necessitate the destruction of all the systems of oppression.” We know that if New York does right by Black women, the entire city will be better for it.

360: How can you use your personal experiences with serving as a single mother and observing the many other challenges that face New York City residents to enact policy reform?

Morales: So many of New York’s problems have impacted me directly, and so much of who I am and what I know comes from being a mom. My greatest joy is being the mother of my two children, Ben and Gabby. They constantly push me, teach me and nourish me. As a single parent, I share experiences with hundreds of thousands of other New Yorkers. A 2018 study found that single-parent households are the second largest household type in New York City. I navigated New York City’s systems – economic, health and education – on my own. I balanced a budget for my family each month, figuring out how to make it work. My greatest challenge was parenting my children through the NYC education system. The rigid and unforgiving education that my children received did not allow any space for their learning differences. They did not see themselves in the white-centric curriculum and we struggled to find support during their developmental years. Advocating for my children was a full-time job on top of my paying-full-time-job. Again and again I have stood with parents for a more equitable and life-affirming education for our kids. It is with this same community spirit of coalition building, advocacy and bettering of our social safety nets that I will push for policies that support all types of families in NYC.

360: What is one of the most significant components of your background or experiential knowledge that separates you from any other candidate?

Morales: I am, in so many ways, the average New Yorker. I was born and bred in Bed-Stuy. I am an Afro Latina single-mom of two children who survived the New York City public school system. I am a first generation college graduate who came back home to my city after school. I am a woman of color who discovered that I was not being paid the same as my white male counterparts. I’ve watched my neighborhood change, I’ve seen Starbucks replace the corner bodega, and I have spent my weekends marching side by side – 6 feet apart – with my fellow New Yorkers demanding justice for those killed at the hands of a racist policing system. Because I am the average New Yorker, my voice reflects the voices of thousands of others. We share our lived experiences, frustrations and joys. I love New York City because I see our full potential for all of us.

360: How does your previous extensive work with social service nonprofits inform your motivations and goals to serve as Mayor?

Morales: For decades, I worked within the community to address structural inequities burdening communities of color. I worked alongside those experiencing the symptoms of our broken system most acutely – poverty, lack of access to education, homelessness and mental health services. I witnessed firsthand the day-to-day struggles of New Yorkers that are perpetuated by cycles of poverty and oppression. I worked from the ground, up and from the inside, out. But as I hammered away, I recognized these structural and institutional barriers, and began to ask, “So how do we burn them down?” It felt as though I was only tinkering around the edges of the problem and providing Band-Aid solutions to deep, deep wounds. The core, perpetuating issues were centralized and foundational. I realized that if I want to create lasting, effective change, I must address these systemic and political problems at the root. As Mayor, I would carry with me the voices of those I have served.

360: In outlining your points of action and reform for New York City, how does the COVID-19 pandemic affect any of these potential strides for change?

Morales: As we know, COVID-19 is a catastrophe that illuminates all of the cracks and splinters in our broken systems. At first, many claimed the COVID-19 was a “great equalizer,” affecting all people, regardless of race, class or gender. Instead COVID-19 disproportionately impacts people of color and low-income communities. This is not a coincidence or personal failing, but rather the direct result of racist systems, putting structural oppression in stark relief. While some New Yorkers are able to escape crowded areas, arm themselves with personal protective equipment and work remotely, others, namely people of color, are on the front lines providing essential services to our city.

As COVID-19 has had devastating consequences that will leave a lasting impact for years to come, it has also provided us with a unique moment. As we saw after the murder of George Floyd by the Minneapolis police, being homebound and isolated forces us to pay attention. We have paused. We have slowed down. With fewer distractions and a center of focus, folks all across the country have had the veil lifted. People are noticing the interconnected webs of oppression I have lived with and that I have been fighting to dismantle my entire life. In this moment, we need leaders in office who are of, by and for the movement for social change. There is a momentum and hunger for justice that can no longer be ignored. As we overcome the challenge of the disease, I will never let the city forget who is truly essential. Together we will create a world in which front-line workers are truly valued as indispensable. A world where we accompany our applause and platitudes with a livable wage, unquestionable dignity and real community power.

360: What are some of the most rewarding takeaways you have gained from leading several momentous organizations?

Morales: I’ve learned firsthand about the barriers and challenges that people have to overcome in order to gain access to opportunities that are alleged to be available to everyone. I also have watched as community members care for one another to bridge the gaps in access to those opportunities. This is testament to the power of our communities to be true partners in determining the solutions they face when given the resources to do so. Finally, I have been able to bear witness to what is possible when people finally gain access and opportunity and how that has the potential to change the trajectory of people’s lives and transform families and communities.

360: Regarding the national and global movement, Black Lives Matter, how will you utilize your unique identity to empower minorities in the City of New York?

Morales: Like many people of color, I have lived years of my life trying not to take up space. I have seen the ways that my identities – my Blackness, my Latina roots, my politics, my womanhood – make people, namely white people, uncomfortable. In these spaces I would constantly ask myself, “Do I seem too opinionated, too articulate, too aggressive?” I would contort and deflate myself to fit into tight corners and small boxes. I would shrink myself so that others could feel big. When making the decision to run for Mayor of NYC, I decided it was important for me to run as my full, unadulterated, unapologetic, multi-hyphenated self. There would be no more shrinking, questioning or self-doubt. I recognize that by the very nature of stepping into this space, I am opening up a path of possibility. As the first Afro-Latina running for mayor of New York City, I recognize the awesome responsibility I hold. I know that when I speak, unfairly or not, I am representing all Afro-Latina women. Missteps become mass stereotypes. Accolades become communal achievements.

This is both beautiful and deeply terrifying. But in moments of fear, I am guided by a greater purpose to bring with me those whom have been devalued and made to feel small, as I have been; to elevate the voices of those with shared experiences and claim our rightful place in democracy and representation in leadership. People like me, individuals and communities of color, women of color, we must be at the forefront of our politics and policies. I am deeply committed to divesting from racist systems and investing in Black and Brown communities. I am committed to reimagining public safety on our streets and in our schools. I am committed to shifting wealth opportunities to those who have been historically marginalized. I am committed to redressing and repairing the wounds of oppression that scar our city. I am in this race to stand taller in the face of a world that tells me to shrink. I am here to tell them that Black lives are beloved. We matter today and every day forward.

360: To all of the NYC citizens following your efforts to better numerous communities, what are some of the best ways individuals can support your campaign?

Morales: The best way to help me is to join the campaign with a small contribution. I am not a career politician, and unlike other candidates, I have not spent decades cultivating a war chest of people, networks and resources to kickstart my run for mayor. I want to be responsive to the people, not the special interests.. My campaign was born out of my home in Bed-Stuy, out of conversations with my neighbors, friends and colleagues. Our campaign is 100% powered by the people, not the 1%. We are an intersectional coalition of Black and Brown, Latinx, LGBTQIA and working class New Yorkers. We are backed by the people being hit the hardest at this moment in time. I am so incredibly humbled that in the middle of a pandemic, without employment, people are finding a way to donate to our campaign. I know what is at stake and the choices they have had to make to do so. If donating to our campaign is not possible for you during this financially uncertain time, we understand. Visit my website, dianne.nyc, for information and volunteer opportunities. Spread our mission to your fellow New Yorkers. Reach out to join our team. Remember me in November 2021.

To learn more about Dianne Morales, you can click right here. To learn more about her stances and solutions, you can click right here. To support Morales through donations, you can click right here. You can also support her on Twitter and Instagram.