Hi Civic Tech Family,
Summer is on the horizon!
My name is Gabrielle Langston, I’m a Civic Innovation Apprentice and a Data Analysis and Visualization Student at the Graduate Center, CUNY. While working at BetaNYC, I’ve helped produce School of Data 2020, Open Data Week 2021, and hosted our virtual community educational programs though the pandemic.
I think we can all agree these past few months have been turbulent yet filled with optimism. That is not to say we are out of the woods, but rather (hopefully!) at the beginning of the end of this cruel pandemic. Although our nation seems as divided as ever, I believe we can use the positive momentum to work together, especially with people we disagree with, to rebuild our city, our nation, and our world. In this message, I have three important things to share with you.
Our municipal election is here!
It is refreshing to witness progress in the White House, and disheartening to observe the partisan division within Congress. Although midterms are not until next year, here in New York City we find ourselves in a unique primary season with the Mayoral, Comptroller, Public Advocate, 4 Borough President and 35 City Council seats up for election.
Now is the time to read about candidates, watch debates and candidate forums, and learn about rank choice voting. If you can’t vote, make sure your voice is heard because it still counts. If you need to vote absentee, know that the deadline to request an absentee ballot is June 15th while the deadline to return your ballot is June 22nd. If you plan to vote in person, you can also vote prior to primary day; there is early voting from June 12th to June 20th. Find out more info at NYC Votes.
If you need to find out who’s on your ballot, visit ElectNYC's voter guide where you can enter your address to find your candidates.
If you’re having trouble choosing your top 5 candidates for Mayor, The City has an interactive quiz to help you narrow your choices.
I implore all of you to take the June 22nd primary seriously, these winners will likely lead New York City though the next decade and beyond.
Vaccines are widely available!
As with many of you, I know someone who has lost their life to COVID. Last August, my cousin Donzelle passed away from COVID after a long battle; he was 68 years old. And in a cruel twist of fate, he seemed to be recovering and doing well until he wasn’t. But unlike so many victims, Donzelle was able to talk with his treasured aunt, my grandmother, before his passing. I share this story not to evoke anguish, but to emphasize it’s important to cherish our loved ones and friends while they’re still with us. This past year has been a sobering reminder that tomorrow is not guaranteed and we must appreciate every precious moment.
When the vaccine rollout began, it was a bittersweet moment. I was excited to have a treatment on the market, especially for the vulnerable population. But at the same time, I was saddened Donzelle did not live to see that day. Both my mother and I were initially hesitant to receive the vaccine, and if you are, you have nothing to be ashamed about. I won’t proselytize my ideas on the vaccine, but the turning point in my uncertainty came when I realized I wasn’t getting the vaccine simply for myself, but also out of love for my family, friends and neighbors. As of June 5th, I will be fully vaccinated and look forward to celebrating this anniversary annually. To get your vaccine, visit vaccinefinder.nyc.gov or vaccines.gov, text your ZIP code to 438829, call 1-800-232-0233 or check your local pharmacy’s website.
June is for justice.
The afternoon of April 20th was an emotional and tense afternoon not only for our country but for the world. As I awaited the jury’s verdict in the Derek Chauvin murder trial, I felt a sense of anxiety and trepidation of history repeating itself. Once the guilty verdict was announced, I battled with a simultaneous mix of emotions - happiness as the jury made the right decision, relief for George Floyd’s family and saddened that accountability is far too rare. George Floyd, like too many people of color, was a victim of a broken system, a system of institutionalized racism. As the daughter of two retired NYPD officers, I do not take these issues lightly. George Floyd’s murder catapulted us into a new chapter in American history and we need to have police reform as well as massive changes to our justice system. Stating “All lives matter” or “Blue lives matter” is a dismissive and ignorant attitude to the injustices people of color face daily.
June is a month when many portions of our history intersect and cause us to reevaluate where we stand in history. We recognize the Tulsa Race Massacre, Juneteenth, the Stonewall riots and Pride Month to emphasize there are still communities who to this day struggle for recognition, acceptance and justice. This time last year, we were marching peacefully in streets across the city demanding justice and accountability. It is more important than ever we take the time to educate ourselves regarding these events, and not forget our history. The moment we stop discussing these events, they will become lost in our history.
As we continue to have conversations on transparency and equality, I am confident we can use our voices to create a better society for everyone. The process will not be easy, but no change is seamless. I am thankful to be in a family that is not afraid to confront change and will help lead the way in the next chapter of our history. Recently, the BetaNYC team made our first commute to the office in over 14 months. It was wonderful to see everyone after so long and continue our strong, loving camaraderie.
Our lives will never be the same; we will not return to normal, but rather a new normal, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make it a better normal.
Until we can see each other in person, please take care and help us fight for a better world.
Wishing you all the best,
Civic Innovation Apprentice, BetaNYC
M.S., Data Analysis and Visualization, Graduate Center, CUNY (Current Student)
BetaNYC Civic Innovation Fellow '20
CUNY New York City College of Technology, Class of 2020, Valedictorian