Kristin Richardson Jordan Aims to Bring Change to Harlem

Kristin Richardson Jordan is running for a seat in District 9 in Manhattan.
Jesse Herndon

There has long been a void of LGBTQ Black women in political office in New York City — but some candidates are hoping to change that this year.

Out lesbian Kristin Richardson Jordan, who is running to represent the 9th Council District in Central and East Harlem, Morningside Heights, and the Upper West Side, would make history as the first out LGBTQ Black woman elected to the City Council — and she isn’t the only out Black woman running this year. The large slate of LGBTQ candidates seeking office this year also includes Crystal Hudson, who is running for City Council Brooklyn.

Jordan is one of 13 candidates who filed to run against veteran City Councilmember Bill Perkins, who first served in the Council from 1998-2005 before returning four years ago when he won a 2017 special election.

While Jordan, 34, said she was initially “disenchanted” with politics due to corruption, she said she later realized that this is an arena where she could make the most significant difference. 

“City Council is a place where we could redistribute the funds from the NYPD into the community,” Jordan told Gay City News in an interview. “City Council is the place where I can do a lot of what I want to change around housing because a lot of that is localized.” 

Jordan is a third-generation Harlemite and credits her parents, who worked as doctors, for helping her understand the importance of serving others within the community. 

“If you’re an elected official, you’re meant to be a public servant,” she said. “You’re not all that different from a doctor because your main goal should be how you serve and better the community and increase the welfare of the people.” 

To date, her campaign has an estimated balance of $157,071, following only Mario Rosser, who has $172,529, according to the New York City Campaign Finance Board.

Jordan supports the full decriminalization of sex work and, among other issues, is placing an emphasis on boosting funding for COVID-19 testing and vaccination efforts within communities of color. Jordan is pushing for a Green New Deal in New York City and in NYCHA, demanding the government  dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create eco-friendly public housing complexes. She believes those efforts could potentially lower asthma rates in Harlem.

When it comes to policing, Jordan believes in defunding the NYPD and refocusing funding efforts towards other prioriies in the community. She believes money should be steered into areas that address the root causes of violence.

“And decreasing our overall dependence on incarceration, on policing in general, and moving towards a different system,” she said. “We [should] look at things more in terms of treatment, psychological and emotional support… We [should] just move in a direction that is more humane.” 

Much of Jordan’s work leading up to this point stems from her action as an organizer on the ground. After a woman was brutally attacked at a Harlem Liquor store earlier this year, she created a community buddy system to help more than a dozen women find a safer way home. 

Jordan also spoke candidly about her experience as a survivor of domestic violence. As an LGBTQ Black woman, she faced discrimination and struggled to find support from therapists. Many mental health professionals dismissed Jordan’s pain because she was in a relationship with a woman, she said.

“The first therapist I went to consistently referred to my partner with he/him pronouns,” Jordan recalled. “Several times, I said ‘I’m a lesbian, and my partner is female,’ but for whatever reason, heteronormativity was lost in their mind, and they continued to mispronoun my partner.”

While Jordan eventually found a therapist to help her, she said the constant roadblocks nearly confirmed the abusive messages and gaslighting from her ex-partner.

“Sometimes people assume lesbian relationships aren’t real,” she said. “Like somehow our relationship wasn’t real and also the domestic violence of it wasn’t real.”

Jordan’s endorsements include the Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City; the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club; 21 in ‘21, a coalition seeking to bring gender diversity to the New York City Council; and the LGBTQ Victory Fund, which works to elect LGBTQ people to office across the nation.

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