September 19, 2011
Rising Stars 40 Under 40: Jesus Gonzalez
Community Organizer, Make the Road New York
Jesus Gonzalez wasn’t able to pull off a miracle in the Brooklyn Assembly special election to replaceDarrylTowns, but he did end up making quite a name for himself.
The first-time candidate pulled out 32 percent of the vote on the Working Families Party line in the three-way race ultimately won by Rafael Espinal—and turned what could have been a sleepy Assembly race into a brawl.
“I went door-to-door in this Assembly district, and people said it was the first time they had ever seen a candidate or elected official there,” Gonzalez said.
A native of Bushwick, Gonzalez got his start with Make the Road New York at the tender age of 12 and has continued working on issues like promoting better relations with the police and immigrant rights. Gonzalez’s candidacy also energized Brooklyn reformers and the labor movement, and that could pay dividends in the 2013 elections when their candidates have the luxury of running on the Democratic line. And Gonzalez could well again be a candidate in the future.
Gonzalez may have come in second place, but his run was not in vain.
“I think this has motivated the incumbent candidates to work a bit more too,” Gonzalez said.
How did your past jobs get you to where you are now?
“As a young person I began organizing against injustice in the community and felt we need not to play the victim but to organize young people and educate our peers on the issues.”
What will your business card say in five years?
“In five years, I will still continue to work for a just community. This is a spiritual commitment.”
If you weren’t in politics, what would you be doing?
“I don’t know if there’s anything else I’d want to be doing, but beyond this, maybe something in the arts—creating films that apply to social conditions.”
What would be the title of your autobiography?
“If There’s No Struggle, There’s No Progress (a quote by Frederick Douglass) or Let’s Be Realistic, Let’s Do the Impossible” (Che Guevara).
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