Election candidates gave their heartfelt speeches in a bid for New Kings Democrats (NKD) endorsements last night at the Democratic club’s general meeting at the YWCA, 30 3rd Avenue in Boerum Hill.
Congressional candidate Paperboy Prince even entered the fray throwing fake hundred dollar bills down the aisle and dancing to the opening song of Disney’s Lion King in an embroidered red and gold outfit that matched his bright red hair.
While no one could quite measure up to that level of theatrics, the night did produce plenty of quality candidates, both old and new.
“All of these candidates share a commitment to our values of reforming the Brooklyn Democratic Party to be more accountable, transparent, and inclusive,” said Caitlin Kawaguchi, NKD communications director. “Shaquana [Boykin] and Sandy [Nurse] are exemplary of the candidates NKD wants to support – they are already active leaders in their community, and are seeking their respective seats as a way to further their work and deepen engagement in support of their communities.”
In the Assembly District 57 District Leader (Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Prospect Heights, Crown Heights) race, newcomer Shaquana Boykin challenged incumbent State Committeewoman District Leader Olanike Alabi to get the NKD endorsement.
“I’m so honored to be here. I live in the 57th, I moved there right after foster care,” said Boykin during her brief speech. “Before that I grew up in Crown Heights, and I’ve always had this love and passion of connecting people and places and faces.”
Boykin said she has been organizing and working in nonprofits since adolescence. She is involved with her tenant association and improving public housing where she lives in a New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) development.
“I always have been engaged in our community, so when I heard about the district leader position opening up, it felt like the right fit,” said Boykin. She is excited to continue learning about the county committee, Rep Your Block, and meeting with constituents whenever needed.
For Assembly District 51 District Leader (Red Hook, Sunset Park) NKD endorsed Julio Pena, who was born and raised in his representative district.
“I was thrust into the wonderful chaos that was the county committee, but I was not deterred,” said Pena, about the democratic party. His civic engagement journey started through Rep Your Block.
Rep Your Block is an NKD initiative aimed at a more inclusive and representative body in Brooklyn by signing people up for the County Committee. However, the initiative has also faced some criticism from Brooklyn’s longtime American black community, which has alleged that Rep Your Block contributes to political gentrification.
Pena said he was surprised at how dysfunctional the Democratic Party was and not representative of Brooklyn. He also believes that leaders in the party need more transparency and accountability.
Former City Councilmember Rafael Espinal’s (D-Bushwick, East New York, Cypress Hill) resignation from city council to lead the Freelancers Union has left a seat open in his place. For the special election to replace him in the 37th City Council District, NKD has endorsed Sandy Nurse.
The Panamanian carpenter was an army brat, but has made a home in Brooklyn. She’s been on the community board, and made a name for herself as an economic, environmental and sanitation activist.
“For the last almost decade I’ve been very active hyper-locally,” said Nurse. “I’ve been a little busy body in the neighborhood. Really working to build inclusive community spaces, where people can come together to build power.”
In the Congressional District 7 (Brooklyn, Queens, Lower Manhattan) race, Paperboy Prince challenged incumbent Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez. His performance certainly livened up the evening as he spryly jumped from chair to chair, rapping at people to save the Earth. Prince shares many similar policies with former presidential democratic candidate Andrew Yang, namely universal income.
Even though Velazquez’s sharp pantsuit lacked Prince’s eccentric flair, she still gave a fiery speech that captured the NKD endorsement.
“Since the inception of NKD, I was there and I have been here every three years. And when you need me to call out the establishment, I have been there,” said Velazquez, about her track record. She recounted her forums on public charge, immigrants’ rights, and the mistreatment of Puerto Rican citizens by the Trump administration.
“Our goal is to be effective and influential. Big elections are coming up in 2020 and 2021. There are federal laws that affect New York on the local level,” said Morenike Lambert, director of membership, about NKD’s mission. “We want community-focused electives.”
After a ranked-choice voting election process, NKD made endorsement announcements at a second gathering at Hollow Nickel bar on Atlantic Avenue.