From the Bronx to Honolulu: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez brings the movement
The millennial Justice Democrat and New York Democratic primary victor calls for people power to carry the progressive movement across the country.
Ocasio-Cortez flew to Hawaiʻi yesterday to stump for Congressional CD1 candidate and fellow Justice Democrat Kaniela Ing in front of a crowd of around 750 supporters. Below are her remarks verbatim:
Thank you for showing once again that there is not just appetite, but there is power, there is energy behind a progressive message and a championing of economic, social, and racial justice for working class people.
I just got in earlier today; I am leaving early tomorrow, to my sadness—I wish I could stay a little bit longer. But it was so important for me to come out here and to join you all and to share in your strength, and to share the solidarity because, together, we are going to change this country.
It’s a real honor to be here, particularly to support Kaniela and to support this whole movement here in Hawaiʻi. I feel a lot of commonality. This place is half a world away from New York and the Bronx, and there are a lot of aspects that don’t look like New York and the Bronx, but I know that this is, in many ways, a kindred home. Because I know that I also come from a place of colonized people. As a Puerto Rican woman, I fully understand and have seen the consequences on my family, on our people and on our island of what happens when we allow corporate lobbyists to take over and profit off of the despair of working people. And I’m here in Hawaiʻi to say, it’s not going to happen here.
And it’s not because of me; it’s because of everybody here in this room today. It is because this movement is alive and is well—not just in Hawaiʻi but in the Bronx, in New York and Kansas, in Michigan, in St. Louis and California—because everywhere, all across this country, everyday working people are standing up and saying: “We can have Medicare for all. We can have tuition-free public college. We can save our planet.” But we can only have them if we work for them; if we organize for them; if we knock on our neighbors’ doors; if we talk to our family members and say: “This is actually something that is worth voting for.”
Kaniela and I first became introduced to one another many months ago, way before our election in New York, because we were both endorsed by Justice Democrats. And it was that early on that I first heard Kaniela’s story. And as I heard Kaniela’s story, I heard my own story. It felt like my own story was being told to me. I grew up in a working class family. My father struggled to open a small business of his own. He was born in the Bronx and my mother was born in Puerto Rico. Most of my family is in Puerto Rico to this day. And like Kaniela, I come from a family and a place that has been colonized.
Like Kaniela, my father passed away at an early age; and like Kaniela—earlier than any child should—we both found ourselves working second jobs to help our families make ends meet: Kaniela in the pineapple fields and resorts, and for me, bartending in downtown New York City. An entire world away, we were leading the same life under the same circumstances, shaped by the same exact forces. Forces like runaway income inequality, an unaddressed history of Imperialism and poverty. Even in this new millennia, we were still dealing with the consequences of these struggles.
And, while the entire country wants to forget that history, we are not allowed to. We’re not afforded that privilege. I am not afforded that privilege while my family is still picking up the tatters from Hurricane Maria. I am not afforded that privilege of forgetting the colonial history of my island. And neither is Kaniela and neither is Hawaiʻi. I am not afforded the privilege of forgetting that luxury real estate developers have purchased and captured all the political capital in New York City and worked against the interests of working class people. I do not have the privilege of forgetting that and neither does Hawaiʻi.
It is very unsurprising—because this is what the truth does: the truth plants itself a world away and yields the same conclusion wherever it goes—that is what the truth is about; and so both Kaniela and I turned to community organizing. And the two of us both ran campaigns without corporate money on a staunch and unapologetic message of economic justice for working people.
To me it is no surprise and it is no coincidence that a young Hawaiian man who worked on the pineapple fields and a young Puerto Rican girl who cut her teeth behind a bar in Manhattan both ended up in the same place fighting for the same exact thing. That is not a coincidence. That is what truth looks like. That is what justice looks like. And that is what the future of this country looks like.
That is why I came here today: because every single person that is here, packing this room, for that movement is fighting for our future; is fighting for causes that are not just going to be decided in two days—in fact they won’t be decided in two days—they will be decided over the course of generations to come. And so long as we are engaged in that fight, then we can be proud of the work that we are doing here on this Earth.
Our fight is the fight for healthcare, housing, education, to save our planet from climate change, to end unlimited war, and it is the right thing to do. And that fight is so much bigger than any one of us on our own. In that fight, I know that I am but a drop of water. In that fight, Kaniela is just a drop of water. Each and every one of us is just a drop of water. But together, we make a wave.
It is only possible when we come together and generate that collective vision. And that is why other people try so hard to demoralize, to create cynicism, to separate us—because they know how powerful we are when we come together. When our power lies in our collective spirit, their only offense is to make us be suspicious of each other; to make us think we are separate from one another—that this is Hawaiʻi and this is the Bronx—when every single one of us is fighting to make that rent check at the end of the month.
So we need to realize that our collective power is the source of change. I know that in the Bronx, we are fighting for the same exact things that your are fighting for here in Hawaiʻi. I know that we can’t get Single-payer in the Bronx unless we get Single-payer in Hawaiʻi. I know that we can’t get free college for my nephews and nieces back home, unless we get it here in Hawaiʻi too.
We cannot stay home. We need to come out in spirit as organizers, because the only way that we do this is by pushing our momentum forward together and putting each other first. Putting our neighbors first is how we get this change done. So I want to thank you all, because what we are doing here today is not just about an election. It is about a moral prerogative that we have to future generations. What kind of nation do we want to be? Because we refuse to rest on our laurels. It’s not “what nation were we in the past?” It’s “what nation are we going to be in the future?” And that is what we are deciding today. That is what we are deciding in New York. That is what we are deciding in Michigan. That is what we are deciding all across this country.
We can decide who we want to be. And we are saying that we will be a nation that takes care and provides healthcare to our families, educates its people, and we will look forward generations from now and tell our grandchildren that we saved the planet; that we allowed everyone to get an education; that we defended the rights of all our citizens—because we are the power and we fought for justice in the United States of America.