Candidates Vying for Rangel's Seat Pledge Backing for Issues affecting New York's African Immigrants

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Rangel -- retiring after four decades

African community organizers held the #AfricanVoicesMatter Town Hall at the Bronx Museum of Arts, where congressional candidates vying for New York’s 13th District discussed issues affecting the community and offered reassurances to pay attention to the fast growing African communities, on Thursday.

Rep. Charles Rangel is retiring.

The #AfricanVoicesMatter Town Hall comes at a time of acute socio-economic marginalization of African immigrants as evidenced by the community’s widespread impoverished circumstances despite boasting the highest educational attainment levels of any immigrant population in the United States.

“New York’s 13th District congressional seat has been occupied for 40 years,” said Stephanie Arthur, founder of African Leadership Project and chief organizer of the #AfricanVoicesMatter Town Hall. “So this is a critical time for Africans to be able to speak to the candidates that want to take up this post and to ask the relevant questions. This is not a debate because we wanted all of the candidates to speak on their platforms about how to address the pressing issues affecting the African community and I am happy that seven candidates were present to do just that.”

“I am no stranger to the African community and I am convinced this City will rise as Africans rise," said Assemblyman Guillermo Linares. "My priority is to fight for quality education, vital health services, affordable housing, and immigrant rights for our vibrant communities. We have some challenges on the Capital Hill ahead of us, but I am confident that together we can meet those challenges successfully.”

“This election is extremely important. Rents have gone up 90% in Harlem and 60% in the Bronx over the past ten years. We have failing schools all over the district and wide healthcare disparities," said Clyde Williams. “We can change this dynamic. Africans, like all immigrants, have come here in search of better opportunities for their families. But to achieve the American Dream, we have to elect the right people - not the same politicians who have continuously failed to solve these problems for decades. This is the time for us to do things differently, work together and elect someone who is interested in the welfare of Africans and everybody else living in this congressional district.”

“I feel a special connection with the African community because the problems facing Africans really speak to what happens when those supposed to govern don’t do their jobs” said Adam Clayton Powell. “I came here today to stand with the African community in talking about real solutions to correct a system where Africans are very skilled and educated, but are struggling to make ends meet. I’m here to stand with Africans to declare that together we can do something about this affordable housing crisis that is threatening the stability of our homes. We have to come together to demand an end to the widening economic gap and I have a history in challenging the system for the good of us all.”

"I want to thank the sponsors of the #AfricanVoicesMatter Forum for providing the opportunity to hear the ideas, voices and concerns of the African community," said Ambassador Suzan Johnson Cook. "As a faith leader and former U.S. Ambassador for International Religious Freedom, I’ve spent my life building bridges between different genders, races and faiths including founding the Pro Voice/ Pro Voz movement that works to create understanding, trust and sisterhood between our Black, Brown and White communities. We need a fresh approach and fresh vision in Congress to fix our immigration system, make health care and educational opportunities more accessible and pass real immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, protects immigrant workers on the job, brings families together and recognizes the important contributions that immigrants make to our country. I look forward to working with all the diverse members of 13th District community to make it happen."

“For me, it was very important to ask the candidates about what they would do to address the inequity which Africans from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone have faced on the Temporary Protected Status issue,” said Amaha Kassa Esq., Founder and Executive Director of African Communities Together. “It was encouraging to note that the candidates themselves agreed that it was unfair for the Secretary of Homeland Security to give only 6 months of TPS extension to Africans in the same year that Nicaragua and Honduras received the usual 18 months. We will not relent on calling for justice on this issue because Africans have the right to be treated with the same dignity and respect as all the other immigrants in this nation.”

"As an immigrant, I feel a special solidarity with the African immigrant community," said Senator Adriano Espaillat. "New York has one of the largest African immigrant populations in the United States, and they deserve to hear specific ideas from the candidates on how we would help them build a better a future. I was honored to participate in the African Voices Matter Town Hall from beginning to end, and I look forward to uniting communities across the 13th District around our shared goals and aspirations."

"The African Community in the 13th District is highly educated and hard working, yet they have more difficulty than many other groups in terms off immigration and finding work," said Mike Gallagher. "I will pay close attention to these issues when I am in congress, not only because African Voices Matter but because I admire the spirit, wisdom and work ethic of Africans in this country. I am committed to them."

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