[Learn more about Jaslin’s campaign here.]
Red Net: Please give us 2-4 sentences about who you are and why you’re running.
Jaslin Kaur: I’m Jaslin Kaur I’m a candidate for District 23 for City Council in 2021. I’m an immigrant organizer and a lifetime resident of Glenn Oaks in District 23. This is a community that’s raised me and nurtured me and I’m excited to fight for it as a City Council member. I come from an organizing background, I spent about 3 years, and continue to organize, with an org called “Know Your IX” where I work to organize students around education equity and gender-based violence through policy advocacy on Title IX. So I often work with young survivors of sexual violence, and queer and trans students who are being pushed out of school, through self- civil rights advocacy. I also spent a number of years in immigrant justice, working on policy advocacy to roll back the detention and deportation of immigrant families. The heart of what’s pushing me to run is that I’ve seen my own loved ones being displaced by policy decisions… that have placed markets and austerity budgets over our lives. I’m fighting for dignity at every stage of life.
RN: What does democratic socialism mean to you? What would that look like at a city level/in New York City?
JK: Democratic socialism is all about winning a world for the most amount of people… ensuring that every single person has the right to a dignified life, regardless of their immigration status, regardless of their race or class, but also regardless of the harm that they’ve caused. One of the most important North Stars for me as an organizer and as a candidate for City Council is that it doesn’t matter how much harm somebody has caused, whether they’ve been incarcerated, every single person deserves the right to the most basic facets of a human life: Healthcare, housing, and education.
We have to look deep in our hearts [and be able to say that] even if we’ve become successful, we want every single person in this city and across our world to be able to live a dignified life. And that is so much at the heart of what [a City Council person] can do, given that, we have the power to negotiate the Mayor’s over $90 billion budget and decide on which developments can keep our families housed for the rest of their lives.
We’re looking for permanent solutions to some of the most systemic issues that have lingered for decades … for many people like me born on the Millennial/Gen Z cusp we know what it’s like to be born into crisis, so for me democratic socialism is that solution. To say that we will no longer be at the behest of markets that can’t regulate themselves, and reassessing what our commitments are to public ownership … of utilities across our city.
While this is one of the more unlikely City Council races for DSA to throw down in, it’s a possibility for us to expand our political goals, to expand the goal of socialism to win a world that works for everybody.
RN: What are one or two big issues facing New York City that you’re passionate about? How would you like to see the Council tackle these issues?
JK: Citywide and even in my district, housing is going to be one of the biggest fights we’re going to see, and this issue’s only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, my district, we’re a majority of homeowners, we’re between 60 and 70 percent home ownership. But I think what’s really at the heart of the issue is: permanent, affordable social housing in New York City rests within the powers of City Council. We’re going to see mass displacement if we don’t actually cancel the rent, if we don’t put a moratorium on mortgages and rent, and if we don’t significantly lower taxes on our co-ops and offer opportunities for public ownership of public land and putting that back into the people’s hands. So for me it’s about keeping people permanently housed without the danger of foreclosure, and the danger of eviction. For me, that’s especially important for people like my parents who immigrated to a suburban area of Queens where they were promised generational wealth with home ownership, but we know that promise has not been fulfilled.
Another one that’s really critical, whether it’s within my district or across the city, is really around labor and the gig economy workers. I’ve mentioned my father is a taxi driver and has been one for over three decades now, but he’s approaching his senior years … and because of the market crash, subprime lending and predatory loans, [and] agencies like the TLC artificially inflating the taxi medallion market, he doesn’t have a retirement fund anymore. There’s no pension. Look at so many of our excluded workers…front line workers like our deliveristas, food delivery workers, taxi drivers, Uber and Lyft drivers, who’ve been categorically left out of economic prosperity. So that’s something that’s deeply close to me and to thousands of families across our city, and points to the kinds of systemic injustices that have disenfranchised working class immigrants across our city.
RN: What are the biggest organizational challenges that the NYC-DSA and insurgent campaigns like these need to overcome in order to succeed?
JK: Whether I feel personally like I’ve met the challenges of the pandemic this is something that feels like… we’re not going to get out of, before the end of this year. Something that’s really important to me as a Sikh Punjabi person, a person of faith, is this tenet that we call “Chardi Kala,” a tenet of eternal optimism, that we need to have discipline of hope and courage. This is something I always tell our team.
DSA at large or even New York City DSA, we’re coming up against some of the strongest, longest-standing lobby groups who have been able to change our elections. Electoral work is of course only one component of the work DSA does — we’re always working on policy, we’re always working on organizing our bases of people across our city — but we’re constantly at the behest of people who can’t relate to what people are doing on the ground because they’re able to raise millions of dollars through organizations like the Real Estate Board of New York, those real estate sharks; police unions, who have been complicit in the brutality against so many of our black and brown neighbors; we’re coming up against systemic power. Some of these people have been in the political game probably longer than I’ve been alive, as a 24 year old. So I think it really comes down to building grassroots power and ensuring that our bases are across the city, so we can effect that power into our own hands and transform it into material changes for every single person.
RN: What are you most looking forward to in the campaign process?
JK: I’m looking forward to winning the democratic primary! That’s the goal: We get over the finish line, and we operate on the assumption that it will happen. But something I’m really excited about is a campaign that’s really working towards empathy building across our district and across our city. District 23 is one of the most segmented places, whether by geography, by people being bifurcated along ethnic lines, across highways, and across parks. I think something that’s really exciting to me is the possibility of correcting the record for what’s possible in District 23. There have been people who have made so many incredible attempts that have carved out the pathway for me to run in the first place, so I’m excited to build out a pipeline of people who can come after me and continue this path we’re charting. [It] sometimes feels lonely but it feels less so because we have people who are in coalition together in a multiracial, multi-ethnic working class coalition. I’m excited for the future.