Brisport Focused On Issues Not Tokenism

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Democratic Nominee for New York State’s Senate in District 25 Jabari Brisport defeated Assemblymember Tremaine S. Wright and Candidate Jason Salmon in the primary on June 23 after all the eligible votes were counted. 

KCP caught up with Brisport as he heads into November 3’s general election to assume incumbent Senator Velmanette Montgomery’s vacated seat.

Jabari Brisport

“It was upsetting to see certain people get marginalized, specifically if they did everything right as a voter, but their ballot didn’t get postmarked for whatever reason and their vote [was] invalidated. That was unfortunate,” said Brisport about the distressing mail-in ballot process this year.

Despite setbacks, he said, he thinks mail-in ballots help with voter turnout and are a good way to go forward. He’s hoping the city can do better in November.

“We never took anything for granted,” said Brisport about his district race. “We ended up winning in every single assembly district when all mail-in ballots were counted.”  

Brisport said since the primary he’s been busy doing outreach to the community stakeholders and gearing up for what should be a hectic school year this fall due to the COVID-19 crisis.

As a middle school math teacher and union member, Brisport’s career and upbringing has motivated him to be the political figure he is today. 

He said he’s going to be teaching this fall in Crown Heights, and said that he thinks a reopening is going to cause a spike in cases. “I honestly don’t think we should be opening the schools period until we approve congregations of people in any building,” said Brisport. “It’s less than a month away at this point and we’re still in the middle of a pandemic.”

His experiences as a queer and third-generation Caribbean-American Democratic Socialist of America (DSA) who grew up in Prospect Heights also inform the issues he plans to focus on. 

Brisport campaigned heavily against rapid gentrification and capitalistic rezonings, lack of investment in public schools, over-policing, and systemic racism, all of which proved timely against the backdrop of the explosive Black Lives Matter movement and subsequent nationwide demand for legislative police reforms in May after the death of George Floyd. 

In red is the 25th Senate District of Brooklyn.

He said he also plans to advocate the decriminalization not the legalization of sex work and the repeal of the ‘Walking While Trans’ ban, or the state’s law against loitering for the purposes of prostitution. The ban, in particular, has been criticized, he said, for targeting transgender women of color. “It’s important to make sure that they are also centered and recognized in the struggle,” said Brisport about the over-policing of marginalized LGBTQIA+ communities.   

His progressive views and association with the DSA, seen largely as an aggressive and white political organization of ‘new bloods’ in Brooklyn, has not always worked in his favor. 

“I always felt supported by Brooklyn, I love this place. This is my community,” he said in response to that sentiment. “I wouldn’t have run if I didn’t have support of this community and I’ve never had 33,000 people vote for me for anything before. That’s just icing on the cake at this point.” 

Before the primaries, enmity between Brisport, the DSA, and City Council Majority Leader and Councilwoman Laurie A. Cumbo spilled into the streets, specifically in the front of Cumbo’s home, over steeper calls to defund the police. Cumbo took the protests on her lawn while at home with her child personally and counter protested in front of Brisport’s apartment building. 

Brisport said he has not had any interaction with Cumbo and her followers lately.

When asked about accusations of ‘tokenism,’ a term that refers to being the minority or ethnic prop for a majority white agenda, he had this to say, “I think that the majority of voters and citizens in my community and New York at large are deathly concerned with rent, unemployment, whether or not their kid is going to get a good education, and whether or not they’ll have access to health care. And, that’s their top priorities and as long as I’m focused on those, I’ll feel like I’m in a good position in serving the community.”