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Sun. Jun 23rd, 2024

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On Monday, June 16 people from the African community met with Sen. Adrian Espaillat about his congressional race in district 13. As an immigrant from the Dominican Republic many felt he could connect with them as immigrants from another country more than the other two candidates- incumbent Congress Charles Rangel and Michael Walrond.

During the meet and greet with the senator he spoke to the audience as a whole then took questions from individuals after. Conducting business and becoming an U.S. citizen were the key topics brought up, and in his answers no promises were made, but his idea of approaching these topics once in the House of Representatives put some voters at ease.

“I believe him, in politics we choose people you’re going to support, and I think being here today and I’m going to support him because I feel he knows our problem from learning about his life,” said Chams Linkpon from Benin.

“I appreciate the fact that he started as an immigrant. I feel like he’s sensitive to our issues,” said Catherine Mbewe from Zambia.

“He understands the African community more than the other candidates because he is an immigrant himself, he came here illegally, and a lot of our brothers and sisters are here illegally, to overcome that and become a citizen and serve and continue to serve your community he’s a role model for any immigrant community,” said Charles Cooper Jr. from Liberia.

Mbewe admits that she would like a more concrete plan from Espaillat who didn’t give many facts, figures, or substantial research to show his ability to tackle these real issues for constituents.

“I feel like he wasn’t as concrete as I would’ve liked him to be,” said Mbewe.

With the primary election just around the corner the event coordinator, Charles Cooper Jr., felt it was important to engage the African community in the political process before the decision was already made for them.

“A lot of legislature effects us and our community and until we get ahead of the curve which means engaging these elected officials before they go into office our agenda will not be on the front end,” said Cooper.

The Bronx and Harlem are heavily populated by the African community, but they sometimes don’t get recognized for their contributions to the communities they live in on a political platform. These sentiments were expressed through the concern of gentrification pushing out residence and small businesses, and the fact that this may be the first time Rangel has acknowledged the community in the voting process since being in office.

“He hasn’t waited 40 years to decide to engage the African community,” said Cooper, in reference to Espaillat being a part of the event close to the election date. “He is engaging the African community before he gets into congress which is more to say about him than the other folks he’s running against.”

Rangel, had a 8 a.m. breakfast meet and greet breakfast with the African community in the Bronx Saturday, June 14. Passyna Bula-bula from the Democratic Republic of Congo who attended both events felt slightly torn between the two candidates and their ability to represent her on a federal level.

“It is difficult,” said Bula-bula, due to Rangel’s experience, knowledge, and network to get the job done. “With Rangel it was more of a pragmatic way of resolving the problem because of his experience.”

In regard to Espaillat’s history as a senator in New York and his story of being an immigrant still proves to hit home.

“He relates more to the issues of immigrants because he is an immigrant so he knows what comes with getting a visa and then you overstay your visa,” said Bula-bula.

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