V127: The Thought Leaders Issue With Gabriel Ocasio-Cortez

Artist & specialist in homelessness talks about the sacredness of voting, morals, and a powerful new generation.

V127’s Thought Leaders Issue is available for pre-order now.

“It’s important to vote because it’s sacred. There’s blood on your hands if you don’t. You’re spitting in the face of everyone who died overseas, and everyone who volunteered to give their life potentially just for your sake of having a voice. Working with my sister [Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez] was one of the first times that I actually had faith in the government. I could actually say, ‘Hey, I know that that’s a decent person, fighting for decent things.’ And I could honestly bet my life on it.

“Growing up [in the Bronx], our morals were based on having respect for the spectrum of socio-economic tiers. It was about respecting where everyone comes from. [Her success] was never a surprise. She leaned into her struggle, and I leaned into mine; we’re both people who know who we are. But back then, you wouldn’t really have thought of it—American government is not something that a Latino family really associates with their kids. The system was pretty effective at laying at least a shadow of the idea that you don’t belong there.

“Working in a homeless shelter, I’ve heard people encouraging families of five 34 and six to be moved into a New York studio apartment. That’s what happens when people are forced into being voiceless. Most people don’t realize exactly how many people are homeless. It’s a recurring theme in the gay community, where [partying] is glamorized. When you run away from family, you’re with your friends, and you’re so tied to the community that you’re with, and you don’t want to label that as something that’s not healthy and a real problem.

“Everyone needs to pay attention to the new generation. They have got their shit together. In a few years, they’ll be in Congress, the median age will go down, and we’ll be able to expedite a progressive agenda. Can I see my sister sitting in the Oval Office one day? It’s still her decision—but yes, as long as America can see it. At the core of America is the hope for something. That’s what the Kennedy era was all about: nobody knew how they were gonna get a man to the moon, but they knew they were gonna get it done.”


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