During the rise of the George Floyd protests last summer in New York City and across the nation, Maya Wiley announced that she would step away from her legal analyst job at MSNBC to explore a run for New York City mayor.
While the Black Lives Matter movement of Summer 2020 was not the literal impetus for her decision to ultimately run, Wiley, a civil rights lawyer and activist says the issue of policing in the city and a myriad of issues facing communities of color — including the ongoing crisis of COVID-19 — compelled her to do something about it.
“I am running because I know that this is a city where we can all live with dignity if we have a city government that is transformative rather than transactional. We got to get off the treadmill of transaction. And as someone who spent 30 years as a civil rights lawyer, racial justice advocate outside and inside of city government, I know that it is possible,” Wiley exclusively tells theGrio.
“And frankly, even before COVID, even before George Floyd, we were facing the challenges that COVID laid bare. I think of COVID as the thing that drew back the curtains once again on just why and how it is that when disaster strikes, it is communities of color that get hit first and hardest and that no one in the city is benefited by that.”
Wiley, 57, was born and raised in Washington, D.C. but she is no stranger to New Yorkers. Before appearing on cable news as a commentator for millions of viewers, she served as counsel for outgoing Mayor Bill de Blasio and was the former chair of the NYC Civilian Complaint Review Board, which is an oversight agency that serves as a check and balance for the New York Police Department.
On the issue of policing, Maya Wiley believes New York City could serve as a national model for the rest of the United States of America by creating “new models.”
“We need new models and New York can lead the way and I will put the public back in public safety,” says Wiley.
She offers a three-part model solution to improving law enforcement in the Big Apple which includes (1) the public having the power to determine the “rules of the road,” or in other words what police can and cannot do such as the use of force; (2) ensuring police are properly sized and that the city invests less in school security and more in school psychologists and social workers; and (3) holding police more accountable for wrongdoing.
“There is none of us who have a job where we could receive 10, 12 complaints and keep our job,” Wiley tells theGrio. “That should not be true for any public servant, and particularly not some of the most powerful because they carry a badge and a gun. We have to get rid of folks who can’t do the job right.”
Wiley is currently in a crowded primary race for NYC mayor, which includes two other female candidates and three Black candidates. If she were to be elected, she would make history as the first woman and woman of color to serve as the city’s executive.
The potential Black HERstory is not lost on Wiley. She says it’s important to have representation at city hall, not just for the sake of diversity, but having someone serve who understands what communities are actually living through.
“Black women have been delivering for this country for generations, as have Black men, and yet we are always seen as the mules and never the precious cargo,” Wiley says.
“We’re leaders, we’re innovators, we’re problem solvers, we’re uniters, we’re idea generators, we are all the things that we need in society and it is about representation, but importantly, it is about experience. Because we are not going to have a leadership that serves us all if we don’t have a leadership that understands us all.”