Born in the Bronx, New York, on October 13, 1989, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was raised by a mother from Puerto Rico and a father who had graduated from the Pratt Institute and was a founder of Kirschenbaum & Ocasio-Roman Architects (KORA). Because of Mr. Ocasio’s role in establishing the firm, KORA operated as a “certified minority business …
Born in the Bronx, New York, on October 13, 1989, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was raised by a mother from Puerto Rico and a father who had graduated from the Pratt Institute and was a founder of Kirschenbaum & Ocasio-Roman Architects (KORA). Because of Mr. Ocasio’s role in establishing the firm, KORA operated as a “certified minority business enterprise,” a designation that came with an assortment of significant privileges – most notably, special preference in the awarding of lucrative government contracts.
Beginning in 1991, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was raised in Yorktown Heights, an affluent, mostly-white town in Westchester County, New York. After her father died from cancer in September 2008, Ocasio-Cortez went on to earn degrees in both economics and international relations at Boston University. During her time as a student there, she also worked for the late Senator Ted Kennedy on matters involving immigration and foreign affairs.
After graduating from college in 2011, Ocasio-Cortez returned to her hometown and took jobs as a bartender and waitress to supplement her mother’s income as a house cleaner and bus driver. Moreover, Ocasio-Cortez started a publishing company, Brook Avenue Press, which produced children’s books portraying the Bronx in a positive light.
Ocasio-Cortez also began to establish herself as an effective community organizer, most notably as a result of her 2016 participation in protests against proposals to situate a portion of the Dakota Access [Oil] Pipeline within the confines of North Dakota’s Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. Recognizing Ocasio-Cortez’s potential for eventually blossoming into an influential political figure, the newly formed leftist organization Brand New Congress contacted her and encouraged her to run for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. That same year, Ocasio-Cortez served as an organizer for Senator Bernie Sanders’s presidential bid.
In December 2017, Ocasio-Cortez spoke at a Black Lives Matter rally.
In early 2018, Ocasio-Cortez launched a campaign for a U.S. House seat representing New York’s 14th Congressional District. Against great odds, she ran in the Democratic primary against 56-year-old incumbent Joe Crowley, a 19-year congressional veteran who: (a) had not faced a primary challenger in 14 years; (b) was the fourth-highest-ranking Democratic leader in the House; and (c) was considered a favorite to be named as House Speaker if Democrats recaptured control of the House in the 2018 midterm elections.
Ocasio-Cortez is a proud member of the Democratic Socialists of America. In an interview published by Vogue magazine on June 25, 2018, she described socialism as the political system most compatible with “democratic participation in our … economic, social and racial dignity.” “To me,” Ocasio-Cortez elaborated, “what socialism means is to guarantee a basic level of dignity. It’s asserting the value of saying that the America we want and the America we are proud of is one in which all children can access a dignified education. It’s one in which no person is too poor to have the medicines they need to live. It’s to say that no individual’s civil rights are to be violated. And it’s to say that we need to really examine the historical inequities that have created much of the inequalities – both in terms of economics and social and racial justice – because they are intertwined.”
Identity politics played a major role in Ocasio-Cortez’s congressional campaign, as noted in a June 27, 2018 New York Times report stating that she “was unafraid to foreground race, gender, age and class.” Her platform was founded upon calls for: a government-run universal healthcare system which she dubbed “Medicare-for-all”; a federal jobs guarantee; tuition-free public colleges; stricter limits to the Second Amendment; criminal-justice reform rooted in the notion that the existing justice system was awash in inequity against nonwhite minorities; “housing as a human right”; and the dissolution of the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency. “As overseen by the Trump administration,” said Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign website, “ICE operates with virtually no accountability, ripping apart families and holding our friends and neighbors indefinitely in inhumane detention centers scattered across the United States. Alex[andria] believes that if we are to uphold civic justice, we must abolish ICE and see to it that our undocumented neighbors are treated with the dignity and respect owed to all people, regardless of citizenship status.”
When the Israeli military on May 14, 2018 killed approximately 60 people who were among the scores of thousands of rioters violently protesting the Trump administration’s decision to relocate the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Ocasio-Cortez condemned the Jewish state by tweeting that same day: “This is a massacre…. No state or entity is absolved of mass shootings of protesters. There is no justification. Palestinian people deserve basic human dignity, as anyone else. Democrats can’t be silent about this anymore.”
Among the more noteworthy supporters and endorsers of Ocasio-Cortez’s 2018 congressional campaign were Bernie Sanders, Zephyr Teachout, Cynthia Nixon, MoveOn.org, Our Revolution, the Democratic Socialists of America, and Black Lives Matter.
Despite being heavily outspent by Rep. Crowley, Ocasio-Cortez won the Democratic congressional primary for the 14th District in June 2018. “The community is ready for a movement of economic and social justice,” said the victor. “That is what we tried to deliver.”