Fierce

She’s Running: Meet Amanda Farias, The Bronx Puerto Rican-Dominican Vying For New York City Council

In 2017, right before young women of color across the country gained mainstream attention for their historic political campaigns, Amanda Farias ran for New York City Council. She didn’t win, but she did come in behind Councilman Rubén Díaz Sr., a longtime politician with vast name recognition, and that alone was a feat for the then-28-year-old, her community and the Black and brown 20-somethings her race inspired.

Nearly two years later, the Puerto Rican-Dominican community leader has put her hat back in the ring, now vying to succeed the man who beat her not long ago in District 18, which covers the Bronx’s Castle Hill, Clason Point, Harding Park, Soundview and Parkchester.

“I always knew I was going to run again,” Farias, 29, told FIERCE.

The Soundview-raised, Parkchester-living Bronx candidate — who has spent years working to get more women to run for office as the Director of Special Projects for former New York City Council Member Elizabeth Crowley, the New York State Coordinator for New American Leaders and the co-founder of Women of Color for Progress — was inspired to announce her run early after recent homophobic statements made by Díaz Sr., a socially conservative Democrat who has a long history of opposing same-sex marriage and abortion and recently said he would not be “ratting out” a man who committed sexual harassment.

“That was my way of showing up: announcing, despite the rumors, I would challenge this person, because he, who doesn’t represent our values, could no longer represent us,” she said.

We chatted with Farias about her campaign, what she learned from her first race, how she intends on putting the needs of her community first in office, why New York City needs more women in government and much more.

FIERCE: Why did you decide to run for New York City Council?

Amanda Farias: So it was for a lot of different reasons. I was actually working at the New York City Council for about four and a half years and, in the middle of that, I started doing constituent casework. I was learning how city agencies work and where city agencies lack communication to the communities or what actually is happening in communities and how that is translated to the voter. Then I started managing the women’s caucus. No female elective in the council moved up in that time. Together with my then-boss, former councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley, we started to think how do we create a pipeline of women into the council and what does mentorship look like. When I first started, we had 18 women. Four and a half years later, we went down to 12. We were just trying to figure out the best way to get more women in the council. In that process, my boss realized I was in a district where a council member couldn’t run for another term. She tapped me on the shoulder and asked me to run. That was never in my plans. I never thought I would be asked to run for office or view myself as someone going to run for office. I was very happy making sure the work was getting done in the background. I said no a bunch of times. Then, I did a training with New American Leaders, and there was a room filled with women of color filled with the same self-doubt I had who were already doing the work and cared about their communities and had the values to best represent them. That’s when I decided to take the plunge and run to represent my district.

FIERCE: This was in 2016-2017. You’ve recently decided to run again, prompted by homophobic comments made by Councilman Rubén Díaz Sr.

Amanda Farias: Yes. So I ran in a five-way race and came in second. I was perceived as the biggest underdog, the one person no one had to pay mind to. Yet, I showed up in a big way. I knew I was going to run again, but there was no reason to really announce it so early. But seeing someone who is supposed to be our representative, not only supposed to represent my community and all of its members, but also someone who is supposed to be an elected official in New York City, a progressve city, a city that fights for marginalized communities, makes his comments about a group of people where we live even harder. I try to be the best ally I can be every day and I try to learn the best way to show up for LGBTQ+ communities, so to see someone who is supposed to be representing all people and ensuring our rights are protected be that disrespectful, that disconnected, especially in this political atmosphere, was horrifying to me. I couldn’t let this go without showing up again. That was my way of showing up: announcing, despite the rumors, I would challenge this person, because he, who doesn’t represent our values, could no longer represent us.

FIERCE: I know that among your priorities are job creation, infrastructure, housing, public safety and health and good government. Why are these issues particularly important in your district?

Amanda Farias: Overall, when I think of all those issues and how they connect with my community, the main theme is access. When talking about job creation, housing, good and transparent government, you’re directly talking about how voters and community members in my district do not have access to those things that make their lives better. We are in a transit desert. Our train is not ADA-compliant. These things negatively impact community members and their socioeconomic standing. Looking at an open, transparent and honest government, my district doesn’t have any democratic clubs. There is no process or organization right now, or in my entire life as far as I know, of folks trying to get community members to get out the vote and involved. There’s not groups giving them a better understanding of what it means to be a registered voter, a Democrat or even the levels of government in this convoluted system and who you can blame for your problem. If I have a pothole on my street, who do I blame for that? Transportation is a big deal for me, but so many people blame the city for the subway but really it’s under state control. But because we live in the five boroughs and the Metro is here, it’s easy to assume it’s a city responsibility. It’s about accessibility. People need to be knowledgeable on what’s impacting their daily life and how they can be an active participant in changing it.

FIERCE: In an interview with City & State you said, “my main goal is prioritizing the community and the community members and making sure they’re actually getting the resources they need, the money that they need, to be moved into the district and representation that reflects their views and ideologies and their values.” How do you intend on doing that on city council?

Amanda Farias: So there are a lot of ways a city council member can be impactful. Other than being an advocate in legislation and policies that have a lasting and direct impact in districts, you also have a budget that is super influential in bringing people and resources into the district. When I win city council, I want to see how much money is going outside the district and how to re-appropriate those funds for organizations showing up for the community. We need to ensure it’s reaching the people within our district lines. When I worked for former Council Member Elizabeth Crowley, there were times we offered up pieces of our office during nights or weekends for residents who didn’t have space to work. I want to replicate that and show up for residents in that way.

FIERCE: You are a young, second-generation Caribbean Latina woman from Soundview. What do you think your identities can bring to city council that’s fresh and needed?

Amanda Farias: I was born and raised in my district, someone that still lives in the community and goes through the same community problems and issues. My family hasn’t waged out of the district. I’m still facing the same struggles every day that my community members are facing, and I think that’s what makes me one of the best people to represent the district. I was recently telling a story to someone about my family and how there are so many communities that don’t have people, representatives, that come from the same background and same neighborhoods and are still really close to that. I feel there’s a disconnect when you have incumbents, officials, even if they’re doing great work, that don’t understand the struggles of the people, that aren’t late to work every day because of the MTA. My mom is living in a one-bedroom apartment with my two brothers. My mom doesn’t have a living room. Most of my life, I didn’t have a living room, because we couldn’t afford it, we needed another bedroom. People are living doubled or tripled up, even more now with all the families that came from Puerto Rico. This is real shit people go through and it should be a priority. I hope to do that. I think that’s what makes me different.

I’m also someone who has taken the time to learn the system, to be civically engaged. I understand the democratic process. And I didn’t leave. I want to be here. I want to make my community better and get them the representation that they deserve. People need fighters and advocates. I tried to do that in multiple capacities and I hope to keep doing that.

FIERCE: Of course, you are more than your identities. After graduating from St. John’s University with a master’s degree in political science, you started your political career mobilizing Black and Latinx communities for President Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign, spent five years working in the New York City Council, serving as director of special projects and managing the city council’s women’s caucus, ran for New York City Council in 2017 and have since been committed to getting more women in office through your work as the New York State coordinator for New American Leaders and even co-founding Women of Color for Progress. How do you think these experiences and the insight you’ve gained through them prepared you for this office?

Amanda Farias: I think it’s kept me really humble and has kept my values at the forefront on how I move through the work that I do. I feel like these roles I’ve taken on, the work I’ve done, has shown me communities of color are lacking true representation, real people who understand real issues and make those connections. By working for New American Leaders and founding an organization to uplift women of color, it’s empowered me to make sure I’m not only moving forward in this world but reaching behind me and bringing people with me.

FIERCE: On a more personal level, what would representing your people, the teachers that taught you in public school, the service workers that feed you, the elders that offer their daily bendiciones, the families that nurture you, mean to you?

Amanda Farias: I honestly would just be extremely grateful. It’s my way of giving back. The community has sacrificed for all of us, trying to ensure we are learning things we need to learn, getting opportunities, taking advantage of them when they are in front of us. This is my way of giving back, of showing my appreciation for everyone that works so hard to help me, my family, my single mom. The community really helped me move along through school and activities and keeping me off the street, making sure I had a roof over my head. Literally, it takes a village.

FIERCE: As we discussed, this is your second time running for city council. What lessons have you learned that you think better prepared you for this race?

Amanda Farias: I will say having an all-women team kicks ass. We showed all the way up in my first race, and I was really grateful to be willing and open enough to take risks with first-time people that were willing and open to give me everything they had. So going with your gut and building a good team are two. Also, I learned to not always play nice. I was concerned a lot before. I always thought, don’t say this, don’t say that. I don’t want to be made as an abrasive, aggressive person. I don’t want to be perceived this way. I was being very politically strategic. Looking back, there are times I wish I had been more aggressive and less worried about perception. It’s a different time now. It’s my second go around. We also had some great wins in 2018, but running between 2016 and 2017, it was a lonely place for a young woman of color. I had to think strategically and about what would work best for me and the team.

FIERCE: Much of your work has been, and continues to be, in getting more women elected to public office. What does New York City gain with more women in power?

Amanda Farias: Smarter policies, equity in legislation and in budgeting. But I think the sole fact of having a woman in a room, or woman of color in a room, who has experienced something completely different from the average ratio of men in that room, uplifts half the population of the city and the nation. Getting different perspectives from women on how to look at policy or how to create budget priorities is really important. We’ve had historic pieces of legislation, like having free tampons and pads in bathrooms, because of women. It’s not like women didn’t exist before this. Menstruation is a taboo topic, yet this resource is critical to low-income or young people. When we have women in office, we think holistically. We take holistic approaches to budget items and legislation.

FIERCE: Considering this work but also that this is your second time running for office, I think you can offer a lot to young Latinas who aspire to run. Do you have a message for Latinas with political dreams but perhaps see those as unfeasible?

Amanda Farias: I would say to keep fighting. Be the luchadora that we all are, that we know that our ancestors fought for and made us to be. I love the quote, “They tried to bury us. They didn’t know we were seeds.” That’s what I try to live by every single day. But I think on a larger scale, we need to ask for help, advice and mentorship. These things are important to ensuring we are moving forward, personally and professionally. We need to make an ask of people in our lives who want to see us do well. There are a lot of people who believe in you, so make the ask.

Read: She’s Running: Denver City Council Candidate Candi CdeBaca Says Building A City Starts With Building Up Its People

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Researchers Say That You Aren’t Gaining Weight Because Of Your Birth Control

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Researchers Say That You Aren’t Gaining Weight Because Of Your Birth Control

@tanzacochran / Twitter

Like anatomy in general, birth control can be intimidating, confusing, and even a little scary. But it doesn’t have to be! While there are endless ideas about how birth control affects the body (it gives you acne, it makes you gain weight, it changes your moods, lo que sea), the truth is that everyone’s experience is different. For some, all of these claims might be true—and for others, none of them may be. Yet although each form of birth control impacts individuals in unique ways, there are definitely certain trends to watch out for. So if you’re curious about how birth control might affect your body, get ready for some seriously helpful—and possibly surprising!—information.

For years, many healthcare providers and users of birth control have believed that hormonal methods can lead to excessive weight gain. While bodies fluctuate and weight gain happens naturally for lots of different reasons, people often avoid this type of contraception—which includes the patch, the pill, monthly shots, and some IUDs—in order to avoid that alleged extra poundage.

However, many decades of research seem to dispel the myth that hormonal birth control leads to weight gain.

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A 2014 review of 49 trials comparing 52 different birth control methods led to the conclusion that neither pill nor patch caused significant weight gain. Although “the evidence was not strong enough to be sure that these methods did not cause some weight change,” the reviewers found “no major effect on weight.”

Some studies focused on the combined pill (a version of the pill that contains many different—and often synthetic—hormones), while others investigated pills containing real progesterone, a hormone that our bodies naturally produce. The result was clear: no matter the contents, neither type of pill has a side effect of weight gain. Why, then, do we associate a higher number on the scale with the use of contraception?

According to Maria Gallo, an endocrinologist at Ohio State University who co-authored the review, the notion of weight gain as a symptom of birth control is rooted in a natural human bias.

Credit: Womenshealth.gov

Gallo suggests that when people are influenced by certain ideas or patterns (for example, if a small number of people report gaining weight after starting a new medication), those ideas seem to manifest in real life—even if the data doesn’t support those observations.

“It’s the same reason why there’s this idea that vaccines can cause health problems,” says Gallo. “If you give them to a population, you’re going to have some people who have health problems, whether they’re linked to the vaccine or not.”

In regard to the connection between weight and the pill, Gallo acknowledges that adults of both sexes gain roughly a pound each year, beginning in our early twenties. She points out that this is also the age when people start using contraception. Yet while Gallo asserts that the pill-weight connection is ultimately a myth—and that weight gain is likely attributed to different external factors—she confirms that the pill definitely does change the body in other ways.

Reviews indicate that birth control can change a body’s shape and composition, affecting muscle growth, fluid retention, and overall fat distribution.

Credit: Pinterest

A 2009 study showed that women taking a pill with a certain type of synthetic progesterone were unable to achieve their desired muscle gains. The fake progesterone, it turns out, was competing with a natural hormone called DHEA, which helps promote muscle growth. The impact of the synthetic progesterone kept women from meeting their desired fitness goals, because without a certain amount of DHEA, their bodies were incapable of supporting new muscle development.

On top of that, another study found that different hormones have different effects on fat cells. Estrogen and progesterone are responsible for feminine features, like wide hips, breasts, and booty. The fat that lives on these parts of the body is called subcutaneous fat, and it contains a large number of estrogen receptors. So, the study demonstrated that pills with higher estrogen levels often resulted in more subcutaneous fat and, therefore, a more “pear-shaped” silhouette.

And finally, the puffy feeling we all know too well—bloating—may also be a symptom of the pill. While we might feel bloated after un par de tacos or a big bucket of movie popcorn, that sensation is different than bloating caused by hormones. Estrogen impacts the way our bodies metabolize water, so high-estrogen birth control methods can make the body retain more fluid. Sometimes, this fluid seeps into fat cells, causing them to swell and create the illusion of weight gain. This means that while we may not actually be gaining weight, our clothes might fit differently, and we may feel sort of uncomfortable.

All in all, birth control can absolutely impact the way your body functions—it’s designed to do that! The trick is understanding your own body and finding a method that works for you and keeps you feeling healthy.

The Trailer For ‘In The Heights’ Is Finally Here And It Looks Like A Latino Fairytale

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The Trailer For ‘In The Heights’ Is Finally Here And It Looks Like A Latino Fairytale

WARNER BROS. PICTURES / YOUTUBE

In the final weeks at the end of a decade that began with promises of a film adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s first Broadway musical, “In The Heights.” Well, the full trailer is finally here and it’s more rico than we could have imagined. Fans have been waiting for the movie since 2008 when Universal Pictures announced their plans to adapt the musical for theaters by 2011. Universal canceled the project. Big mistake. Huge. Then, The Weinstein Company gained rights to the film. After Harvey Weinstein was canceled due to heinous sexual misconduct, Lin-Manuel Miranda removed Weinstein from the credits in 2017. Finally, Warner Bros won the rights to the movie in 2018 and finally, finally, a decade later, the trailer is here, and it’s delicious. It’s no accident that the trailer begins with the voice of a young girl asking, “What does suenito mean?” Each frame and verse will inflate your heart with the immense weight of hope that our immigrant parents and many of us carry to this day in America. Anthony Ramos answers la niña’s question: “Suenito? It means “little dream.” 

“That’s it? No story?” another little boy asks Ramos’ character, Usnavi de la Vega. 

CREDIT: WARNER BROS. PICTURES / YOUTUBE

“Alright, alright everybody sit down,” Usnavi tells the children on what seems like the beaches of the Dominican Republic. “It’s a story of a block that was disappearing,” he tells the children, “En un barrio called Washington Heights. The streets were made of music.” 

As the music begins to play, the trailer swells to fast cuts, showing countless scenes and characters.

CREDIT: WARNER BROS. PICTURES / YOUTUBE

We see Usnavi, named after the first thing his Dominican parents saw as they arrived in America – a ship with the sign US Navy open up his bodega and lock eyes with beautiful Vanessa, played by Starz’s Vida, Melissa Barrera. “These blocks, you can’t walk two steps without walking into someone’s big plan,” Corey Hawkins, who plays Benny, says. The trailer promises to be a story of a neighborhood full of dreams. “A dream isn’t a sparkly diamond. There’s no shortcuts. Sometimes, it’s rough,” Ramos tells the children.

Olga Merediz powerfully reprises her role of Abuela Claudia.

CREDIT: WARNER BROS. PICTURES / YOUTUBE

“We have to assert our dignity in small ways. Little details that tell the world we are not invisible,” Claudia softly touches a traditionally embroidered tea towel as she confides in another woman. If you’ve had the privilege of watching the musical, you know how Claudia’s story goes. For the rest of you, we won’t spoil it. Rest assured that the massive production of the film does Abuela Claudia justice, as we see velas lighting the streets as neighbors raise their hands and march in her honor.

Miranda’s America in the early 2000s is far different from 2019 America, and it seems that Abuela Claudia may face a different fate in the film adaptation.

CREDIT: WARNER BROS. PICTURES / YOUTUBE

“They’re talking about kicking out all the dreamers. It’s time to make some noise,” Gregory Diaz, who plays Usnavi’s cousin, Sonny de la Vega, calls his neighborhood to action. “This is going to be an emotional rollercoaster. The odds are against you,” we hear a lawyer tell Usnavi and Sonny. “But there’s a chance right?” Usnavi asks. From there, the trailer erupts into dance and song as we hear Ramos rap, “We came to work and to live here. We got a lot in common. DR, PR, we are not stopping until the day we go from poverty to stock options.” Intermingled we hear Merediz belt, “Every day, paciencia y fe” Usnavi and Vanessa dance in a club, a group of dancers perform in a classic Washington Heights fountain at the heat of summer, and the trailer’s final words: “Today’s all we got so we cannot stop, this is our block!” 

Fans are actually weeping at the release of the long-awaited trailer.

CREDIT: WARNER BROS. PICTURES / YOUTUBE

NPR Latino’s head journalist Maria Hinojosa tweeted, “I AM WATCHING ON REPEAT stuck on my plane and I can’t stop CRYING 😭❤️✊🏽!!!!” Another fan asks, “Why am I crying at a trailer??” while another says, “I might be full on bawling right now I can’t wait for this.” “Hydrants are open!!!!” tweets another knowing Washington Heights resident. This daughter of a Nuyorican is right there with y’all. 

“In the Heights” comes to theaters on June 26, 2020.

You’ll have to hold onto more paciencia y fe as we count the days until we can sneak mofongo and arroz con gandules into the theaters and watch Lin-Manuel Miranda’s student project come to life on the big screen. When Miranda makes it, we all make it.

READ: We Finally Got A Peek At Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Casting Picks For ‘In The Heights’ The Play That Made Him Famous