City Council candidate for the 35th District Curtis Harris Sr., among others, is shaping up to be a strong contender to candidate Crystal Hudson to replace the Majority Leader and Councilmember Laurie A. Cumbo.
Harris said his campaign is focused on the food, housing, and healthcare insecure. “We didn’t ask for a COVID-19, so I think a lot more people are willing to collectively help to solve these challenges–not so much a problem, opportunities.”
Harris has branded himself the “arts and culture option” because of his background in poetry, community services, and civic engagement. Currently, he is the Executive Director of Green Earth Poets Cafe, which is non-profit performing arts organization established in 2013 that targets at-risk youth and seniors.
Its creation was inspired by the tragic death of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed Black 17-year-old fatally shot in 2012, said Harris.
His organization provided free literacy workshops, poetry slams, opportunities and a stage for many students and performance artists in Crown Heights, Brownsville, and Bedford Stuyvesant’s public schools, and ventured into Rikers Island and juvenile detention centers to teach youth programming, according to Harris. Throughout the pandemic the organization has put on a virtual stream-a-thon to showcase poets, theater performing, and comedians.
In contrast to his artsy persona, Harris said his financial and accounting background would be essential to serving the interest of the people’s economy. He said with the projected $9 billion dollar city deficit, the city needs to “get creative in terms of generating revenue, minimizing expenses, and also borrowing.”
A budget review from the Independent Budget Office (IBO) looked at the cuts and overspending, lack of federal aid, job losses, and the effects Mayoral borrowing would have on the current adopted budget for 2021.
Harris is also a dog-lover, and a very proud socialist that doesn’t think the ideology should have age limits at all.
“I’ve always been a socialist at heart,” said Harris about being born and raised in Brownsville. “Since I was 10-years-old, my heroes were the Black Panther Party. In college at Medgar Evers, I had the honor of meeting–people know him as Stokely Carmichael. He wrote in my management textbook, ‘To Curtis, work for a socialist Africa.’”
Harris said he’s happy to see young millennial progressives in Brooklyn protesting for Black Lives Matter and LGBTQIA+ rights.
Harris is a born again Christian that bolsters a strong sense of multicultural unity in the community. “During the 60s, there were a lot of Black and Jewish relationships and comradery in the civil rights movement. Non-white and non-Black folk who marched with Dr. King,” said Harris.
As for the issues, he said he has close ties to police officers that he’s grown up with in the community but is all for reforming the police system as a whole. “I visited the scene on Nostrand Avenue and Crown Street where five people were shot. Thank God no one was killed,” said Harris, “We need the police.”
Another lynchpin issue for him is housing.
Harris said his stance is to protect tenants, both residential and commercial, protect against rent increases, fighting evictions, and develop low-income housing. He said even though in his time on Community Board 8’s Land Use Committee he butted heads with many real estate developers, he wanted to emphasize that he’s not necessarily against development.
“When development displaces people who have lived in the community and it harms people, I have a problem with that,” said Harris.