Transforming Pain into Power: Moving Forward as a Community

Carolyn Tran
3 min readFeb 4, 2021

How do we move forward when we’ve experienced injustice? How do we respond when we’re left feeling disposable and undervalued?

When I entered NYC politics twelve years ago, at the age of 25, I was enthusiastic. I knew the government had its limitations, but I was excited to see leadership who championed values that resonated with me. I felt hopeful for meaningful government and community partnerships. I have carried this spirit for the past decade in our City Council office.

District 25 gave me a home, a family and an opportunity. It is where I have served the communities of this district, first as an intern and, since 2015, in the role of Chief of Staff. It is where I have sharpened my analysis on class, race, gender and justice through meeting neighbors and hearing their stories. It is where, as a single, working mom, I am able to raise two young daughters.

It is also where I saw the failures of capitalism and the federal government during a global pandemic. And, it is where, over the last few years in this district, I saw practices drift away from the progressive values I had signed up for. In a 30-second phone call, I was reminded of how quickly workers, especially women, can be disposed of when our labor no longer serves the needs of those in power. Where women of color are consistently discouraged, told to fall in line and not rock the boat. And where I am left trying to figure out how the unexpected loss of income and healthcare will impact my family during a pandemic in its second wave, like so many, many other families.

This district is also where I see hope in the hustle, where resilience lives in our working class neighbors and where I hear sweet joy in the laughter of our little ones. For those reasons, in consultation with countless organizers and activists, moms like me, I felt compelled to run. This district does not need a savior or machine politics. It needs deep listeners, facilitators, conveners, someone who knows what it’s like to be behind the scenes because they’ve been getting things done behind the scenes too. And this district needs someone who will bring the frontlines to the center.

I started this campaign knowing it would have challenges, but I have also experienced the truest form of community and camaraderie in this journey. We are mothers, workers, organizers, daughters, and neighbors who refuse to be complicit in a capitalist patriarchal system that devalues, overlooks, and tells us it’s not our place.

February 2nd may have been my last day as Chief of Staff to this district, but it is not my last day serving the people of Elmhurst and Jackson Heights. Together, we find the courage to rise and continue building communities grounded in care and accountability.

I wanted to share this with you in the spirit of transparency and democracy. Every day I am reminded how this system is not meant for people like me to succeed. I am also reminded that this campaign is bigger than one person. The outpouring of support, from neighbors and allies who have also felt that this district deserves more, has given us steam to move forward.

If you have ideas and energy, if you are invested in a ground-up democratic process that could be more fair and just, we welcome you to grab a seat. Join us as people united: workers, community organizers, mothers, women, LGBTQIA+ folks, young people, seniors, and other marginalized people who have been left out of the local democratic process, because united, we will not be defeated!

Artwork by Kelly Arango, a Queens artist — check out