My View with Kevin Harris: Why I’m running for council

My View with Kevin Harris: Why I’m running for council
Kevin Harris

I’ve called Alexandria home since attending John Adams Elementary School. My mother, a single working-class woman, believed I would receive more opportunities living with my uncle at Southern Towers in the West End rather than inner-city D.C.

I love Alexandria because living here saved me. Like many boys from similar backgrounds, I could’ve been another unfortunate statistic.

My love for Alexandria motivated me to return after graduating from Alabama State University and start my family. Now, my wife of 17 years and I raise our four daughters in North Old Town. My love for Alexandria is why I chose to launch my business, Hoop Life, in Alexandria. It’s why I serve as a minister at a church in Alexandria. It’s why I serve on city and nonprofit boards in Alexandria.

Being raised by a Black working-class woman that wasn’t highly educated, you get early life lessons on what people respect. Most people don’t respect people because they are fellow human beings. They only respect labels or titles. Unfortunately, my mom carried labels that caused people to disregard her voice. However, an individual’s net worth doesn’t equal their self-worth, nor does educational achievement equal intelligence. Everyone brings value to our community.

The love that I have for Alexandria, and the lessons I learned from my mother are why I’ve spent the last decade working to make Alexandria more equitable.

I’ve gotten tangible results organizing. As the ARHA city-wide resident association president, I led a massive GOTV effort, doubling voter turnout, and hosted a working-class forum for political candidates so that elected officials would take note of our voices.

I also worked to ensure minority residents were appointed to the Economic Opportunity Commission, the Northern Virginia Juvenile Detention Center Commission and other city boards to increase the representation of minority voices.

Now, I serve as a Commissioner for ARHA, where we provide affordable housing at the lowest AMI level. I’m on the VOICE Strategy Team, where I’ve worked with Gov. Ralph Northam, Attorney General Mark Herring and other elected officials on multiple issues that impact our community, such as raising the felony threshold level, and ending the practice of suspending drivers’ licenses for unpaid court fees, resulting in the restoration of driving rights for 670,000 Virginians.

During COVID-19 with VOICE, I lobbied Northam for the continued extension of the eviction moratorium, successfully protecting thousands of Virginians who lost their jobs from losing their homes.

The “Relational Policing Initiative” that I created with the resident association safety committee to rebuild trust between communities of color and the police has already begun to make an impact, as it was highlighted by Police Chief Michael Brown as an effective initiative that he wants to replicate across Alexandria.

I’m running for council not to build a political resume, or to enact boardroom policies that aren’t supported by our community. I’m running because I love the city that saved me, and I believe that Alexandria can be that city for even more people if we create more equity.

Equity means prompt attention to infrastructure because basements have been flooding for years every time it rains. It means having the opportunity to call the city you serve home. It means having children afforded the same educational opportunities regardless of their race. It means ensuring all voices are heard.

I’ve been building equity in Alexandria before I considered running for council because communities work better when everyone has a seat at the table. I ask that you allow me to serve on council so we can continue creating a more equitable Alexandria, but more efficiently and at a larger scale.

The writer is a candidate for City Council in the June 8 Democratic primary.