Demetrius, Man of the People
WHERE I COME FROM
Like most of the people here in District 9, I was born and spent much of my life in Harlem. In fact, I graduated High School at Frederick Douglass Academy 1, not far from my current residence. I received my Associates Degree just across the bridge at CUNY Hostos. I've lived in other places in my life, including upstate in Canandaigua, NY; as well as down south in North Carolina. I do have the privilege of having experienced many different places I could call home, but my heart is and has always been right here in Harlem.
Who I Am
I am not your traditional politician. In fact, up until recently, it would be fair to say that I wasn't a politician at all. In many ways, I was just a decent person trying to make my way just like you. I still am.
My name is Demetrius Wilson II. I am a 25 year old black man. I am a gamer, a family man, a former athlete and a fighter. Like all of us, I have had many ambitions, goals, aspirations... and failures. I am a New Yorker at heart. I am a die (very) hard Knicks, Giants, and Yankees fan. Basketball is my favorite sport, and yes, I do love the way they dribble up and down the court. I've spent a lot of time in my youth on the 145th and Lenox playground shooting jumpers that mostly bricked. I loved every moment.
My first "real" experience in politics came in the form of my election to Student Government Senator in College. Obviously, this is small scale, but the decisions we made genuinely affected the the curricula and resources available to students. It was a paid position. We had real, genuine responsibility. Most of them didn't know it, but the students were counting on us to be an advocate for them at the administrative level to ensure that their experience was the best it could possibly be. And yet, perhaps my most important lesson was learning what the true nature of politics is...
A bunch of people with their own agendas, butting heads and trying to get their way.
It was a little jarring, to say the least. I quickly realized the cutthroat nature of this environment. In theory, we were a united front advocating for students. In practice... well, I made some friends along the way, I made a few enemies and I learned a lot of how to navigate the delicate environment of a forest of political agendas. It's probably not your typical "background in politics," but I assure you, this was as messy as Washington, just on a smaller scale. It wasn't completely pleasant, but it was a valuable experience, and I remember a conversation I had with the SGA President: He told me he believed I, could be President one day. Of course, he was talking about SGA President in this case, but still. I was touched by his vote of confidence.
Then of course, Trump got elected. This... affected me negatively. The four years he spent in office revealed an ugly side to America that is still very much alive today. It was difficult for me to deal with this. In many ways, it broke me. I had to take this entire time to pick up the pieces and put them back together, and in the intervening time, truly ask myself what I plan to do about it. What my purpose is.
I think I've found it. My name is Demetrius Wilson. Thank you for reading.
To Build a Better Harlem
It may seem like just a slogan, but to me it's bigger than that. To me, Building a Better Harlem is the start of something greater. We don't have to stop at Harlem. We can build a better city, state; we can build a better world! But to do that, it's going to take more than typical politics. We live in a time of great uncertainty, and I do believe we are at a crossroads. Down one path, is a world where we as a people all come together and do our part to ensure not that we merely "win" politically, but that we ensure our very survival. We face a number of existential crises including war, food insecurity, water insecurity, plague, and of course, climate change. We simply CANNOT afford to ignore these issues. We need to address them at every level of government, and we need to address them as soon as possible.
In our immediate future, in our immediate location, however, we need to take action to deal with the suffering this pandemic has caused. Harlem has been one of the worst locations in the country in terms of healthcare outcomes for decades, but this pandemic has exposed that and so much more in an unprecedented way. The response to the pandemic by our state and city government has been "okay." Certainly better than the federal government, but we can do better. We are New York. We constantly move forward. We lead, the rest of the country follows. With respect, these are the policy proposals I will pursue immediately:
Free Healthcare at the point of service for everyone. No copays, no "in or out of network" doctors. If you need care, you need to be able to access it without any difficulty.
A "Universal Basic Income" or other direct payment system to all residents. This pandemic and the virtual depression it has caused has taken a major toll on all of us. The only way out of it is for the government to spend, in order to incentivize spending by the citizenry.
Hazard Pay for all essential workers. It is despicable that the best we could offer the frontline workers risking their lives in a pandemic to keep this city running is essentially a simple "thank you" and nothing else. Essential workers should be rewarded handsomely for their hard work and sacrifice.
Minimum wage raised to $23 an hour. To our credit, New York is ahead of the curve with our citywide minimum wage requirement. Most of the federal government is debating something like this, while we're already at $15. Unfortunately, we've waited too long to try to match wages with labor output, and now economists have found that a livable wage is now $23 an hour. It is only conscionable as a government to pay people a minimum wage that allows them to not merely survive, but thrive and be able to enjoy life. And so, I follow the data and support a $23 minimum wage.
All of this is merely the beginning. These will be the first policies I push for, because we in this city and especially Harlem have a dire need for them. Make no mistake, however, I have an eye on such things as Police Reform, Unionization, Education Reform, Progressive Tax Rates, Clean Energy and even incentivizing Arts and Culture. When I say I want to Build a Better Harlem, I mean it. We cannot afford a return to the status quo. People are dying. People were dying before, but for different reasons such as our poor healthcare system, food insecurity and gun violence. We must be better. And if I have anything to say about it, we will be.