For Brittany Ramos DeBarros, an Afro-Latina combat veteran and activist, running for Congress as a Democrat in the historically conservative borough of Staten Island serves as the kind of challenge that puts her life’s work into action. “I learned in the military, and so many different contexts of leadership, what it means to really lead with heart and in a way that is about serving people and not about you or your ego,” DeBarros told Yahoo News.
BRITTANY RAMOS DEBARROS: I'm half white and I'm half Black Puerto Rican. And I claim that. You know, I think some people look at me and see how racially ambiguous I am, too, and scratch their head a little bit, like wait, Afro-Latina? I'm confused. Which is a totally valid reaction. But it's also part of why I think someone like me represents so many constituencies that are already here in Staten Island that have just been really discounted and really ignored.
My name is Brittany Ramos DeBarros and I'm running to fight for New York 11 in Congress. My district is made up of Staten Island and parts of South Brooklyn that are diverse, vibrant, beautiful, and I think have been really misunderstood for a really long time. You know, this district is unique and there's no place like it.
And yet, I've seen my entire life the way that people who do grow up with more conservative values or a really strong sense of patriotism, or working class backgrounds, sometimes are misunderstood by folks maybe in the rest of New York City. And that works against all of us. You know, we end up making assumptions that work against working class people and the diversity of this district.
NICOLE MALLIOTAKIS: Was the president right when he called Staten Island Trump country?
BRITTANY RAMOS DEBARROS: There have been Democrats that got elected here before. Max Rose was the last one, and he lost to Republican Nicole Malliotakis by around 18,000 votes. He lost by tens of thousands of votes, and yet there are hundreds of thousands of potential voters just in Staten Island alone who didn't turn out. And my team and I have knocked tens of thousands of doors in this district collectively. And what we've heard at the door is people can't tell the difference.
They say things like Democrat or Republican. It doesn't really seem to make a difference in my life. And so I think that that is a real strong validator for this district to show that people are just waiting to be energized by a candidate who really speaks to them and just unapologetically speaks to the progressive policies that are already popular here.
Same strategy has been tried repeatedly that says that we're going to sprinkle in some popular progressive policies. But then we're going to court the right and the center and try to flip Republican voters.
I think that there are conservative and centrist voters who are so dismayed by Nicole Malliotakis' disrespect for our democracy given her role in helping to incite the coup and then still voting against certifying the results and a diplomatic transfer of power. I think that that has really upset a lot of conservative and centrist voters in the district. But our strategy is not about trying to flip Republicans. Our strategy is about loving and organizing and energizing hundreds of thousands of voters-- working class, voters of color, people who have been forgotten and left behind by the system-- to have something to be excited about.