Demetrius Terry: The Future of the Democratic Party

“I got involved when I was 15, when Barack Obama ran. I was living in the inner city and I thought it was phenomenal to see a person of my race running for the highest office. That’s why I got involved.

“I made phone calls, knocked on doors… But to be 15 and knocking on someone’s door, I got a little backlash. I just told them I had a passion to help people. There were lots of people older than I was who wouldn’t vote anyway.

“I really didn’t know what a Democrat or Republican was at that age. After I graduated from Marist High School, I got into Seton Hall. That was during the Corzine v. Christie race. I was not really satisfied with Corzine – I did my research. I looked at spending. Ultimately I supported Christie. I got a lot of backlash about that too. But during that time there were lots of people in the party also supporting him. He seemed bipartisan, and I liked that. And yeah.  I do regret that.

“Then I joined the Seton Hall Republicans. I was the only African American in the room. That didn’t really bother me – I’ve been in that position before. But when it came to my questions about inner city, no one in the group knew how to answer me. I’m also a part of the LGBT community. That’s another question they couldn’t answer. So I looked into myself and compared both parties.

“Currently I’m the Vice President of the College Democrats of NJ, which is a part of the Democratic National Committee. I plan on running for re-election. We represent 760,000 students in the state of NJ. My job is to support students – it doesn’t matter which party they belong to.

“In this election, college students felt shut out of the process. After the Bernie Sanders thing, many students told me they didn’t want to get involved anymore. A lot of them didn’t vote at all after that. They were fed up.

“We have a president now who I do not fully support. Let me start with the education secretary, Ms. Betsy DeVos. Totally unqualified. I believe in bipartisanship, but she can’t even answer basic questions. Does she believe in support for LGBT students? Nope. She couldn’t give a direct answer on anything. If she was a teacher or a professor, she’d be fired. ‘Would you stop waste, fraud and abuse?’ She couldn’t even answer that. She’s not… (shrugs) – I jut can’t support someone like that.

“Another issue that Republicans talk about is the defunding of Planned Parenthood, or abolishing the Affordable Care Act. Planned Parenthood? They provide breast and cervical cancer screenings. Why would you defund that? 23 million people are using the Affordable Care Act. They don’t care. It all goes down to supporting working class families. Could the Affordable Care Act be improved? Sure. It could be better with a plan. And if the Republicans had a better plan, that would be one thing. But there is no plan. It’s a big concern. When your own party is saying that, there’s a problem.

“In Hudson County, I’m a supporter of Mayor Fulop. I think that what he has done from 2013 to now has completely changed Jersey City. I’d like to see more change on the south side. If you drive downtown, you constantly see construction, even people sweeping up litter. But if you come to the south side, that’s not happening. To me, in a nice way, the south side looks like a dump. It’s depressing when you can drive 10 minutes on Communipaw Avenue into a whole different city.

“There’s just more work to do. They built a veteran’s home on Ocean Avenue. It’s really nice. But there’s eight rooms in the home. Eight. Eight? You finally build a veteran’s home and it only has 8 rooms? There’s more than eight homeless veterans in Jersey City. It doesn’t make sense. You constantly have development – we have Krispy Kreme coming – whoopdie doo – but what does that say about our priorities?

“My main goal right now is to graduate from school in May. That’s my priority. I have an eye open on a seat and plan on doing everything I can to to be a role model for young black and brown families in my neighborhood. It’s important to understand a zip code shouldn’t determine success.”

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Mel Kozakiewicz a professor, editor, writer, and mother of two.

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