In this exclusive interview with 28-year-old New York State Assembly candidate Nantasha Williams, we explore why it's important for residents to get involved and vote for those who understand their communities.
When New York state residents go to the polls Tuesday to vote for their local districts in the State Legislature, they’ll have a chance to make history by voting in who would be youngest candidate for New York’s 33rd Assembly Seat.
Democrat Nantasha Williams, who announced she would be running to fill the seat previously held by Assemblywoman Barbara Clark, is a 28-year-old Cambria Heights, Queens native who is looking to make effectual change in the 33rd Assembly district. While her age already makes her a standout among the other candidates looking for a win Tuesday – at only 28, Williams has already served as the executive director of the New York State Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus and was honored as one of “Albany’s Rising Stars Top 40 Under 40” in City and State Magazines – it’s her experience in the community as a Black woman that makes her public advocacy authentic.
“You have to meet young people where they are,” Williams, whose platform includes youth development and transforming the education system in Queens, told ESSENCE in an exclusive interview.
“A lot of people don’t understand the culture, younger cultural, millennial culture, women culture. What it means to be a young Black woman. A lot of people don’t speak our language,” she said.
Civic engagement, also a pillar of Williams’ advocacy work, is an important part of changing policy to benefit communities. But first, you have to let the communities know how they can and will be affected, Williams said.
“If we’re talking about policy and passing laws, it’s important that people are speaking that language.”
While the state legislature is no doubt an important election, voter turnout in what is New York’s third primary of the election cycle is typically slim. That hasn’t deterred Williams, who believes that it’s the voter’s responsibility to hold elected officials accountable.
“You vote. Then you hold your elected official responsible,” she said “And if you don’t get what you deserve, you have the opportunity to run yourself or elect someone in that position.”
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“We should vote and be proactive, but the government should also engage the public and keep them involved.”
Civic engagement aside, it is Williams’ very existence as a young black woman in this race that is enough to move some voters.
Representation, she suggested, is key.
“It’s so interesting because I’m not in the position yet, but just the sheer notion of me running for office and being a candidate – people that I wouldn’t think care, care,” she said.
“It’s those people that I want to inspire and empower and hope to get them involved in the process. Black women are the highest voting bloc but our wants and needs are getting pushed to the back burner,” she said.
“Being in this space is so important because I speak for the needs of our demographic.”
You can learn more about Williams’ platform, here.