By Aminta Kilawan-Narine, Esq.
I met Council Member Adrienne Adams for the first time in 2015 at a rally I organized with Sadhana: Coalition of Progressive Hindus after 40 jhandi flags were burned on Thanksgiving in front of a Guyanese family’s home in Woodhaven, Queens.
There were elected officials at every level of government at the event, which we called the #WeAreOne Rally, in the wake of a hateful presidential campaign and mass shootings that seemed to be happening one after another. Someone slipped me Adams’ business card while I moderated the rally from on top of a crate. Adams was then Chairperson of Queens Community Board 12. Without knowing much about her, my gut instinct told me to pass her the megaphone. That night, I saw Adrienne Adams’ tenacity of spirit and her unifying leadership capabilities.
Adrienne Adams continued to blaze the trail during her campaign for District 28, demonstrating the significant life experience she acquired which served as a natural segue into elected office. She garnered many big-ticket endorsements along the way, including that of U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley, the Queens Democratic Party chairman. In a tight race, Adams was the chosen one, and it’s undeniable that she has it. Her faith in God is unshakeable, her dedication to her family evident, her voice resounds as articulate and wise, and her political astuteness, in my humble opinion, is unparalleled compared to anyone who held the Council District 28 seat before.
Council Member Adams began her term in November 2017. As the number of women dwindle among the City Council, Adams is the first woman to be elected as Council Member for District 28, which covers Jamaica, Rochdale Village, Richmond Hill, and South Ozone Park. In just a few months, Adams has proven to be a star among the City Council’s 51 members. There is even talk that Adams would make a good candidate for Speaker of the City Council.
Council Member Adams has made it a point to represent all of District 28. She can be seen attending events on both sides of the Van Wyck, and meeting with community based organizations which serve District 28’s diverse populations. In honor of Women’s History Month, I asked Council Member Adrienne Adams to shed light on her pathway to elected office, some fun facts, and her advice for future women leaders.
What is your favorite thing about District 28?
My favorite thing about District 28 is its cultural diversity. In fact, there are more languages spoken in District 28 than in any other part of Queens. We are a family-oriented district of many colors and cultures.
What is an issue (or two) that you’d like to address during your tenure specifically regarding the Richmond Hill/South Ozone Park area?
In my first term, I will work to address quality of life concerns, public safety, affordable housing and strengthening our schools. We have been without appropriate funding and attention for years. My intention is to strengthen good, solid relationships among my constituents to build our strong future.
What has been your proudest moment as a Council Member in your first few months?
On November 29th, I was sworn in as the first woman elected to represent District 28 in the New York City Council. It is extremely humbling for me to have this amazing distinction, especially in light of the fact that it is the year 2018. To be the first woman to hold this seat brings a great feeling of pride not just to me, but to my family, friends and constituents alike.
If you could share one piece of advice with young women who aspire to become leaders, what would it be?
My advice to young women who aspire to become leaders would be to take a leap of faith, believe in yourself, trust in your God given talent and develop relationships with those whose efforts you aspire to mirror.
Which woman has been your biggest inspiration in life and why?
I would say that my biggest inspiration is my mother. She has always been my number one cheerleader, best friend and confidant. She raised her two daughters while working as a Corrections Officer on Rikers Island with style and grace. She has an infectious sense of humor and she always demanded that my sister and I present our best – whatever our individual best happened to be. Her gift to love is immeasurable and I will always seek to attain that beautiful, infinite gift.
Who is your favorite woman leader?
My favorite woman leader is the Honorable Letitia “Tish” James. She is the first woman of color to hold a city-wide office, the office of Public Advocate. Tish is one of New York City’s most influential women and I am proud to call her my sister-friend and mentor.
Favorite restaurant in Richmond Hill?
The Nest restaurant at 125-17 101st Avenue is absolutely great!
What are your key legislative priorities?
In this timely atmosphere of the #MeToo movement, my first piece of legislation was just introduced. Under this bill, the Commission on Human Rights and Department of Citywide Administrative Services would be mandated to do an assessment of potential risk factors within city agencies that may increase the likelihood of sexual harassment. I feel that the epidemic of sexual harassment must be stopped. This is an important first step that will benefit countless numbers of New Yorkers.
What is the primary reason you ran for elected office?
I evolved into my true calling. I love community service and have been serving the community for a number of years. I left corporate America several years ago to devote my time to the community– that’s where my heart lies. I became a member of my Community Board in 2009 and was quickly appointed as Education Chairperson. As an advocate for children, I realized the inequity and I wanted to do something about it. I fought to prevent the closure of schools and keep children of color from being labeled as failures. In 2012, I was elected to Chair my Community Board, the second largest in the borough of Queens, New York. My work there prepared me for my current role in government and gave me the opportunity not only to understand the way that city agencies work, but make key relationships that will help my community thrive.
How does being a woman, a wife and a mother, inform your work as an elected official?
Being a woman, wife and mother keeps me grounded, enlightened and focused on the many goals and challenges that lie ahead. My work as an elected official requires wearing many hats that require flexibility, tenacity and fitness. My various roles definitely enhance my abilities to do this work – the work that I was destined and born to do.