Phara Souffrant Forrest is a Haitian-American nurse running in the June 23rd primary for the New York State Assembly seat currently held by Walter T. Mosley since 2013.
A tenant activist and life-long resident of Brooklyn’s Crown Heights neighborhood, Souffrant Forrest is adopting a strategy made famous by fellow democratic socialist U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), also known as AOC, who has endorsed her campaign. She is challenging an establishment Democrat in a primary battle when the Democratic Party base has been pushed to the left by issues such as rampant police brutality and the disastrous handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.
For instance, her platform calls for suspending and forgiving all residential and commercial rent payments as well as mortgage payments during the health crisis, suspending all medical expenses incurred because of COVID-19, suspending all debt and student loan payments, and the public taking control of private hospitals that fail to respond adequately, under the direction of healthcare workers and experts.
Like Sen. Bernie Sanders, Souffrant Forrest calls for a free and universal single-payer healthcare system in New York and across the U.S.. She also wants to strengthen unions so, in times of crisis, workers can fight to protect themselves.
Not surprisingly, she is a big supporter of the AOC-championed Green New Deal for New York to provide much needed economic stimulus and to ensure New York is prepared for the unfolding climate crisis.
A Defender of Immigrants
The daughter of Haitian immigrants, Souffrant Forrest grew up organizing against police violence and poor housing conditions. Working with the Housing Justice for All coalition, she spearheaded the formation of a tenant association to fight back against evictions and gentrification, helping to win the historic tenant protections established in 2019 in New York City.
Predictably, she is a strong defender of immigrant rights. She is committed to making New York state a sanctuary for all people, regardless of their immigration status, to protect them from constant attacks from President Trump and the federal government.
“Our state has not done enough to allow my community to live free from fear,” her website Pharaforassembly.com states. “We need policies that protect immigrant communities from racist federal policies… Working people across this state must stand together in solidarity against Trump and those who want to divide us so we can enjoy a more just and equal society.”
In the Assembly, she vows to fight to protect New Yorkers from ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement), keep ICE out of courts, prevent state employees from sharing information with ICE, and to extend voting rights and the right to social services to all New Yorkers, regardless of immigration status, by passing the New York Is Home Act. She would also work to decertify banks that contract with or fund ICE.
Souffrant Forrest went to school to become a registered nurse (RN) and acted as a field nurse, providing care directly in people’s homes. She saw firsthand how New York state government has abandoned the working class.
“A nurse is a trained public advocate, so I can be trusted to always defend the interests of the working people,” Souffrant Forrest told Haïti Liberté.
The 57th Assembly District includes Prospect Heights, Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, and parts of Crown Heights and Bedford-Stuyvesant, neighborhoods which include many Haitians and Haitian-Americans.
Walter T. Moseley, whom Souffrant Forrest is challenging, is a Barack Obama-style Democrat, who talks a good game but is solidly aligned with the Democratic Party establishment and in the pocket of monied interests.
Follow the Money
Numbers tell the story. In recent filings with the New York Board of Elections, Moseley had contributions from only 15 individuals, for a total of $15,745, an average of about $1,050 per contributor.
Many of his contributors are real estate tycoons like “controversial developer” Don Capoccia, who gave Moseley $2,500.
In addition, Moseley received contributions of $2,250 from corporations and $10,700 from Democratic Assembly Committee i.e. the party establishment.
In contrast, Souffrant Forrest had zero corporate contributions or Democratic establishment support but did get contributions from 1,205 individuals totaling $31,603.21, or about $26 per contributor.
“Money-power and people-power cannot mix,” Phara said. “I’m not taking corporate or real estate money because I’m committed to be only beholden to the people, unlike my incumbent who still accepts money from real estate interests and corporate entities.”
“On June 23, voters have a choice between a career politician who has taken over $100,000 from real estate donors, and, on the other hand, a union nurse,” said Nathan Pensler, Phara’s campaign spokesperson. “Phara Souffrant Forrest is a proud working class Haitian-American, who will always put the needs of the working class first. A vote for Phara is a vote for free universal healthcare, police accountability, and universal rent control.”