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Rana Abdelhamid: The Community Organiser Taking On Congress

Rana’s candidacy is rooted in her own experience as a New York organiser


Justice Democrats is the progressive political action committee behind Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and Jamaal Bowman’s revelatory victories. They have backed another candidate, this time for the June 2022 primary. 28-year old Rana Abdelhamid is running against Representative Carolyn Maloney, who has been in Congress since 1992. According to the New York Times, the district in question (New York’s 12th) has one of the highest levels of income inequality in the country, being home to both “wealthy, business-minded moderates” and “deeply progressive pockets [with] a well-organized left-wing activist scene.” Like Ocasio-Cortez and Bowman, Rana is a young, outsider candidate running against a well-established representative in a race that is already heating up fast.


“She has been in office for longer than I’ve been alive,” Rana said of Maloney. “Rents have only skyrocketed; we’re still fighting for housing and quality access to healthcare. She voted Yes on the 1994 crime bill, yes on the Iraq War, and wore a burqa on the House floor when my community was being dehumanised. Her policy stances are not progressive.” 


Bianca Guerrero, a volunteer on Rana’s campaign, said that the incumbent had been challenged by people claiming to be progressive for the last couple of cycles. “Rana’s Justice Democrats endorsement is a real testament,” Guerrero said. “Justice Democrats really picks winners; they pick people who are in for the right reasons and who put in work. They’re not just talking progressive values, they have a vision for what progressivism is, and they’re really rooted in their communities.”

 

 

Guerrero called Rana a true organiser with deep roots in the community who unabashedly stands for a homes guarantee, gender justice, and a hyperlocal platform centering immigrant women. Rana believes that her candidacy is going to inspire young people and people of colour, and highlighted the urgency of stepping up against such a candidate: “I do think there are issues where there is no longer a room for compromise because it’s about life or death. It’s about the climate crisis, things we do not have time to compromise on.”


Rana works on online safety for women at Google, founded a self-defense nonprofit, and has her roots as a community organiser.  “Being low-income, working-class, and the child of immigrants who grew up in a neighbourhood impacted by police surveillance, I came to organising because I really love my community and wanted better for us,” Rana told South Asian Today. “I always had the opportunity to see how my community came together and created these mutual aid networks. When my father lost his small business, people in my neighborhood stood by and supported us.”


Due to her background, Rana has always approached community safety from a grassroots level. This led her to found her nonprofit, Malikah, that trains cohorts of women in self-defense. Rana launched the nonprofit after she was assaulted for wearing a hijab as a teenager, and received support from her community along the way. These women are not only trained in self-defense techniques, but then get access to Malikah’s self-defense curriculum, healing justice curriculum, and gender justice philosophy to implement such initiatives within their own communities. For example, following the recent spike in violence against Asians, people reached out to Malikah for help facilitating self-defense and bystander intervention services, indicating the powerful potential for cross-community solidarity and inter-community safety.


“From a policy perspective, this work is really important because it’s shown me the resilience of our communities and our abilities to respond to violence in a way that relies on community interdependence rather than policing,” Rana said. “We really need to expand our understanding of what community safety could look like. We have to re-envision and fund community safety structures that rely on a more expansive toolkit.”


In addition to community safety, housing justice is a vital prong of Rana’s platform. Her district is home to the largest public housing unit in North America, Queensbridge, which is severely underfunded, and Rana is in favor of a homes guarantee. “During the pandemic in the middle of the cold, people didn’t have heat,” Rana said. “I would stand by a Green New Deal for public housing, and for repealing the Faircloth amendment which caps the number of public housing units despite an increase in population.”