With the New York City primaries slated to take place on June 22, 2021, New York City mayoral candidate Dianne Morales believes she has what it takes to run America’s most populous city.

Morales, who is Afro-Latina and considers herself to be radical, has the support of the Working Families Party and an immigrant group called Make the Road Action according to Politico. While polling in the single digits, she is running against seven other Democratic candidates and is trailing far behind more conservative rivals Andrew Yang and Eric Adams.

However, Morales is garnering a lot of attention and has been endorsed by the progressive group Jews for Racial and Economic Justice which has never endorsed a candidate in the NYC mayoral race before. This alone proves that she is a force to be reckoned with.

Essence spoke with Morales about what motivated her to run for mayor, why voters in New York City should favor her and how she plans to tackle the issues of police brutality.

ESSENCE: What motivated you to run for office?

Morales: I spent my entire career actually helping people that looked like the low-income Black and brown immigrant working class communities who are in crisis, but I think the reality of it is when you do that kind of work, you become painfully aware of the bigger systemic and structural issues that create these problems. Also, as a first-generation college graduate Black woman, who raised my children in the city as a single mom, I’ve personally confronted a lot of systemic challenges. So, I wanted to see how I could bring the combination of my lived experiences and my professional experiences to bear on helping the greatest number of New Yorkers.

How would you tackle the issue of police brutality if you were to become mayor?

Morales: The reality is that the increase in violence that we’re talking about has actually happened on the NYPD’s watch. A lot of it has been inflicted by the NYPD on our communities. So, we need to stop investing in this militarized force that creates harm. We actually have to start investing in the things that result in safe communities. When we think about safe communities, we don’t envision communities that are heavily policed. What we envision is, is communities that have access to lots of resources and programs and services and opportunities.

One of the things I’ve called for is removing [funding from] the NYPD to create a community first responders department, because we know that a significant part of the calls that NYPD responds to are calls related to social issues, homelessness, mental health, substance abuse. We have to have a response that is proportionate to the issue.

Loading the player...

Why are you the right person to represent NYC?

Morales: So, aside from the combination of my personal and lived experiences, the reality of it is that we are at a crossroads in the history of the city and of this country, in terms of the sort of exposure and the exacerbation of multiple pandemics. The COVID-19 pandemic has just brought to the forefront the longstanding pandemics of racism, of sexism, of capitalism in our country and how those things disproportionately impact our Black and brown communities. So we actually, as hard as it’s been, there’s also a window of opportunity here for us to put a stake in the ground and say, guess what, we see this. And we’re also in the middle of a civil rights uprising. That is unlike anything that we’ve seen since the sixties, we have an opportunity to put a stake in the ground and exercise political and moral courage that says we’re going to confront the systemic and structural issues that have led to these crises. We know we can create a future that we want to see. That’s why people should vote for me.

What advice would you give to Black women or Black girls who would like to be in a leadership role?

Morales: This system is not set up for us and that’s not unintentional, right. No one’s pulling out the seat for us to sit down at the table, and there’s lots of signaling to tell us about, you know, what we do or don’t have, that fits. I think it’s important for anyone, any young woman, young woman of color, thinking about running for office to not let those things deter her.

If you lost the mayoral race, what would be next for you?

Morales: I will continue to find a way to use my voice and my skills and my experience to fight for what is right.

The 2021 New York City mayoral general election will take place on November 2, 2021.