The grassroots progressive left in the United States is preparing to take on the moderate centrist establishment wing of the Democratic Party after Bernie Sanders’ grassroots rise in presidential politics and the congressional victories of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley, and Ilhan Omar, also informally known as The Squad. One person, in particular, a rugby player and a marine veteran born and raised in Queens, New York, is taking on one of the most prominent Democrats and members of the Congressional Black Caucus in the House of Representatives, Gregory Meeks of New York’s 5th Congressional District, in 2020.
Shaniyat Chowdhury, who goes by Shan, was born and raised in Queens, New York to working-class Bangladeshi parents with his father being a waiter at a local restaurant and his mother being a hotel room cleaner. During the financial crisis of 2007 and 2008, Chowdhury worked a variety of jobs while in high school at the time to help out his family financially. After high school, he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps for six years between around 2011 and 2017. Afterward, he earned his degree in Law and Society at the public John Jay College of Criminal Justice, located in Manhattan.
Chowdhury’s political activism started to peek when he became involved with the Democratic Socialists of America, interned at the New York State Assembly, and worked as a staff organizer for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s primary race against Congressman Joe Crowley. Now, he’s running a progressive primary campaign against Representative Meeks while working the service industry and playing for his local club rugby team, The Brooklyn Kings.
Running on a progressive populist platform that includes a Medicare for All single-payer healthcare system, a Green New Deal to combat climate change, and legalizing cannabis, Chowdhury’s biggest priorities in the election is to get big money out of politics and ending military interventionist wars across the world that are “imperializing” and “colonizing” the developing world.
“When I decided to run, I just felt like no better time than now,” Chowdhury told College Media Network. “I think that a lot of movements and social changes in a way we’ve haven’t seen in a very long time and that I just felt like if it’s not going to be anyone else why not me.”
When asked about how he will outreach towards African American voters, who make up almost 50% of New York’s 5th Congressional District, Chowdhury said that his own progressive platform would benefit racial and ethnic minorities of color as well as younger peoples who struggle with the higher costs of living such as the income pay gap, student loan debt, and home affordability. Chowdhury believes that his platform is a “black agenda” for the historically and contemporary African American constituency in the district.
When asked about how young people can get more politically involved or active in their own lives, Chowdhury advises getting involved in their own schools or local communities through a wide variety of organizations. The congressional primary election for New York state will be held next summer on June 23, 2020.
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