Bronx educator hopes to end Rep. Engel's stronghold over 16th District

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The grassroots group that backed Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's run for Congress is trying to send another local candidate to Washington, D.C. in New York's 16th District.

Jamaal Bowman is always thinking outside the box. He wants universal health care and free public college.

He's so focused on defeating Rep. Eliot Engel that he recently resigned as a school principal to campaign full-time.

Born in East Harlem, Bowman grew up in poverty.

"Lived with my mom and my three sisters. Raised by a single mom. Had to walk 13 blocks to school when I was 8 and that was pretty scary, but my mom said I had to do it, so we got it done," says Bowman.

After college, he got his first teaching job at a public school in the South Bronx. But the biggest lesson for him was witnessing economic and racial inequalities.

Empowered by his students and a community hungry for a new type of learning, Bowman opened up Cornerstone Academy for Social Action Middle School. For him, education is holistic.

"I saw a system that was failing the kids in the community," says Bowman.

Bowman is against standardized tests and evaluating teachers based on student performance.

"Criminal justice, housing, economic opportunity, community resources, health care all impact what happens in education," says Bowman. "If a child is dealing with insecurities in any of those areas, they're going to struggle in school."

Even though Engel has a strong hold on the district that he's maintained for 30 years, Bowman feels he has a real chance to win, in part because of support from Justice Democrats.

"It's a tremendous honor, it's humbling. I think it's a testament to the work that we've done in education over the last 10 or 20 years," says Bowman.

Other parts of his platform include more affordable housing, providing Medicare for all and supporting a Green New Deal.

Bowman is the second educator in this race, joined by Mount Vernon's Andom Ghebreghiorgis.

A spokesperson for Engel's campaign says he welcomes judgment from the voters and believes his record will earn him another term.

 

 

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