By Mark McNulty
Senator Bernie Sanders became the first presidential nominee to visit the south Bronx in over 35 years. Sanders held a rally at St. Mary’s Park in Mott Haven this past Thursday, attended by local Bronx citizens and Fordham students alike.
“This is special,” said Moses Ortiz, a father of two who grew up in the Paterson Houses of the Bronx. “I haven’t seen something like this in the neighborhood in a long time, maybe never.” Ortiz called out of work, and pulled his son and daughter from class so he could bring them to this historic event.
Over 18,500 supporters turned out for the rally. The line for entry surrounded the park and snaked down several blocks before the rally even began at 4 p.m. and official rally grounds reached capacity quickly. Law enforcement officers siphoned over 5,000 supporters into a ball field to watch the speeches on a jumbotron.
Sanders localized his message by focusing on the issues which directly affect Bronx residents: affordable housing and education, universal healthcare, a $15 minimum wage, and restoring justice to a “broken criminal justice system.”
“Countries are not judged by how many millionaires and billionaires live there,” said Sanders. “They are judged by how they treat the most vulnerable members of society.”
The diverse crowd was composed of African Americans, Latino Americans, Caucasians, Middle Eastern and Asian Americans of all ages and genders.
“Bernie came here because we relate to him,” says Camela Pinkney-Price, an African American woman from Soundview in the east Bronx and an activist in local politics for almost 20 years. “They’ve been suppressing Bernie in Congress for decades, and we’re suppressed down here, too!”
Assemblyman Luis Sepulveda of Mott Haven, the only elected official in the Bronx supporting Sanders, spoke to the diversity of Sanders supporters in the Bronx.
“They say only white men support Bernie Sanders,” Sepulveda said. “But I look at this crowd and I see a wonderful mosaic of beautiful people and colors!”
Some Fordham students voiced support for Sanders in the context of our borough.
“It seems impossible for inner city people to succeed,” said Chris Cannon, FCRH ‘16. “When upward mobility slows down or stops altogether, we have an obligation to support candidates who advocate serious change.”
Emily D’Adamo, FCRH ‘16, who works for a Medicaid redesign center in the Bronx, said Sanders cares about the Bronx’s “dirty secret.”
“Diabetes, Cardiovascular Disease and Asthma affect an astounding number of Bronx residents,” she said. “Bronx and healthcare reform is a value I share with Sanders.”
D’Adamo and Cannon are not alone in her support for Sanders on campus. A majority of Fordham students support Sanders, according to a poll conducted by Fordham’s College Democrats and College Republicans and published by The Fordham Ram in early March.
Movie star Rosario Dawson preached the need for partisan unity. “They’re trying to divide us,” she said. “They’re trying to say only Trump supporters are racist…but they’re not all racists, that all followers of Bernie are white males, but that’s not true either.”
Brooklyn film director and African American icon, Spike Lee, also spoke on Sanders’ behalf. He compared the tricks of “establishment politics” to three-card monty, the street hustle often performed on Fordham Road in which participants are consistently pulled into the unwindable game.
Senator Sanders is expected to hold more rallies in New York City ahead of the state’s primary on April 19.