Jabari Brisport is a 3rd-generation Caribbean-American from Prospect Heights and newly minted State Senator for SD-25 in Brooklyn, which stretches from Bed Stuy to Red Hook. He’s a public school teacher, DSA candidate, and is endorsed by Bernie Sanders.
What inspired you to run for the State Senate?
My students. As a teacher, I’m reminded every day of the challenges facing them and their families, and they’re the same ones I faced a generation ago. I clearly saw what working families needed to get by and how our government was failing to provide it.
What have you learned from this process (running for office)?
A lot! What sticks out the most from this campaign and from my previous campaign for City Council is how many amazing, dedicated individuals we have in our district. Not only is there a deep desire for change here, there’s a really deep roster of people who are willing to sacrifice in order to bring it about. It’s tempting to get jaded as you go through this process, but the people of this movement never fail to lift my spirits and remind me that a better world is possible.
What have you learned about New York City by being a public school teacher? Rewards/Challenges of the job?
Every teacher knows it can be challenging to motivate kids to do their best, but the rewards of helping young minds develop speak for themselves. The biggest challenge for me is watching the struggles of my students and their families. Being a teacher in New York City gives you a front-row seat to the scourges of housing insecurity, food insecurity, insufficient healthcare, and other systemic injustices. Thinking about what I could do to create a better world for my students is a huge part of what led me to run for office.
How does being a public school teacher equip you for political office?
Both require patience and the ability to motivate yourself, every day, to achieve success that could take months or even years to come to fruition. Mostly, though, I’ve learned to listen to my students’ needs and to respond in ways that really help them, to be their advocate. As a State Senator, my first job will be to listen to my constituents and advocate on their behalf.
What does it mean for a BK-born and raised resident to represent their own district?
It’s huge! I’m so happy that the community where I was born and raised has chosen me as its representative. It’s imperative that the people who serve Brooklyn in government understand the needs of Brooklynites, and as I look across the city I’m thrilled to see more and more elected officials who have first-hand knowledge of the challenges facing the people here.
What advice would you give to someone looking to get involved in politics?
Don’t be afraid – or rather, don’t let the fear stop you! It’s so intimidating to get involved – certainly to run for office, but also just to pick up a stack of fliers and start knocking on doors. But go out and try it anyway. I think you’ll be surprised by how friendly people are, how engaged they are, and how willing they are to sacrifice for one another once you start having those conversations.
How did you vote in the June Primary? For example, early voting, vote-by-mail/absentee, or IRL on Election Day?
I voted IRL, and I’m very happy that so many people were able to do so in a safe, secure way. I’m confident that New York is going to ensure voting is safe and simple for the general election, but there’s still a ton of room for improvement. There’s no reason why New York can’t be the nationwide leader in safe, easy voting, and when I’m in Albany I’m going to fight like hell to make that happen.
What would you say to someone that is hesitant to vote in the midst of a pandemic or feels their vote doesn’t matter?
Not to brag, but our numbers suggest that people are more willing to vote than ever! It is easy to feel like elections aren’t important in the current climate, though. I understand that feeling, I do, but New York is SO close to instituting some major changes. There have been elections in the last year or so where we’ve come 60 votes shy of decriminalizing marijuana, legalizing sex work, and other huge steps forward. We face enormous challenges but we’re also a lot closer than people realize to radically changing the way this city and this state are governed.
What is an issue that needs more attention from New Yorkers? How can we get more involved?
The New York Health Act is one of the most important pieces of legislation we can pass when the next legislative session starts. It wouldn’t just guarantee healthcare to every single New Yorker; it would become a model for a nationwide single payer insurance plan. You can find out more at https://www.nyhcampaign.org/.
What do you listen to in the mornings?
I like to listen to The Daily podcast while I do my morning workout. But I’m also really into a musical called Six right now. Great vocals.
Who is your dream collaborator? (Perhaps it’s a musician for a campaign song or visual artist for a logo/advertisement, local hero?)
I would love to do a music video with newly elected state assemblyman Zohran Kwame Mamdani.