Races to Watch: NYS Assembly District 57 – Phara Souffrant Forrest vs. Olanike Alabi
Olanike Alabi is the daughter of immigrants and was raised in the Clinton Hill section of Brooklyn, New York.
She has served as a Legislative Assistant to a now deceased member of the New York City Council, District Manager of Community Board No. 2 in Brooklyn (CB No. 2), and has worked at 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, SEIU Healthcare and the NYC Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
Ms. Alabi is a champion for justice. In June 2003, after being illegally terminated from her job as the District Manager for CB No.2, she commenced an Article 78 proceeding at the Kings County Supreme Court which resulted in a favorable and unanimous decision from a panel of judges at the Appellate Division, 2nd Dept. in April 2005. Her lawsuit resulted in the City of New York issuing proper guidelines for terminating a community board employee. In June 2004, she filed a New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR) proceeding against a Brooklyn based property owner for rent overcharges and was successful in the venture in March 2005.
A strong advocate for social justice, the labor movement and community empowerment, she has volunteered at the Brooklyn Public Library – Clinton Hill Branch, the Round Day Care Center formerly located within the Whitman Houses in Fort Greene, along with Teen Lift, a college/career prep program for high school students (of which she is also an alumna) sponsored by Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and has been supportive of progressive legislation and movements to bring about change that will have a positive impact upon others.
Ms. Alabi has received certificates and awards for her work from schools, faith-based institutions, elected officials along with civic organizations and block associations. In 2006, she was elected as the Democratic State Committeewoman (District Leader) – 57th Assembly District. During her tenure, she Sponsored legal clinics, town hall meetings and community forums on public education, housing, public safety, the healthcare system, domestic violence, redistricting, “Stop-and-Frisk”, electoral politics and many other topics.
Established “News – Events – Updates”, a widely dispersed weekly e-newsletter.
Convened Annual Community Food Drives in support of local food pantries
Created a process to ensure the appointment of individuals to staff polling sites who were capable and committed to ensuring democracy especially in light of the enactment of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA).
Was elected to serve as a pledged delegate at the 2008 and 2012 Democratic National Conventions in support of the Honorable Barack Obama.
Served as an independent voice as it relates to rules, procedures, local issues and the selection of candidates for judicial and public office.
Worked with clergy, elected officials and community leaders to resolve constituent complaints
Hosted a major community fundraiser in support of a local school in financial distress
After opting not to seek re-election in 2012, she was elected once again to the same post in September 2014 and served until September 2020.
Her primary interests include public service, international affairs, labor/industrial relations and education. She enjoys reading, writing and traveling. Her church, organizational and board memberships include Emmanuel Baptist Church (Clinton Hill), Board for the Education of People of African Ancestry (BEPAA, Economic Development Corporation (EDC) of the Brooklyn Community Church, League of Women Voters (LWV), Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Church Women United, Inc. along with several other political organizations and civic groups. For over 15 years, Ms. Alabi served on the Community Advisory Board (CAB) of the Cumberland Diagnostic & Treatment Center in Fort Greene.
She is a product of the New York City public school system and was also educated at Temple University (Bachelor of Arts, B.A.), the Marxe School of Public & International Affairs, Baruch College (Master of Public Administration, (M.P.A.), the University of London (a.k.a. London University) in Great Britain (Postgraduate Studies), Baruch College – Nanyang Technological University Executive MPA Leadership Symposium Training Program (Certificate) and Cornell University’s School of Industrial & Labor Relations (Certificate).
In Albany, Phara has been a steadfast champion for working people. She has cosponsored over 280 pieces of legislation and introduced six bills of her own, focusing on removing barriers to healthcare access and reuniting incarcerated New Yorkers with their families and communities. Her most notable accomplishments in Albany are the Invest in Our New York package of taxes on the wealthy and corporations, and her landmark parole justice reform, Less Is More.
Invest in Our New York
Faced with an early $15 billion budget deficit and no federal funding in sight in the fall of 2020, a historic coalition of grassroots organizations, unions, and progressive elected officials came together to avert a looming disaster. The Invest in Our New York package was a group of six bills designed to raise billions in new revenue from raising taxes on the top 5 percent of earners, as well as Wall Street speculation and corporate profits. These common-sense tax reforms would revolutionize the New York tax code and fully fund the social programs needed for an equitable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. During the 2021 legislative cycle, Phara was a lead supporter of this legislative package and a powerful part of the grassroots coalition. With her support and advocacy, the New York state budget adopted higher income taxes on wealthy individuals and corporations and raised a record $4.5 billion. These funds enabled New York State to avoid a financial catastrophe, fund social services, and pay for the $2 billion, first-in-the-nation Excluded Workers Fund to support undocumented workers who had been called “essential” but were overlooked by federal stimulus programs.
Less Is More
Phara’s Less Is More legislation, which had been languishing in committee until Phara took office in 2021, eliminates prison time for a number of minor technical parole violations. Historically, minor technical violations, like missing an appointment with a parole officer due to a subway delay or failing a drug test, could send you back to prison – of people on parole whom New York sent back to prison in 2018, over 5,780 or 66% were reincarcerated for technical violations. Sending people back to prison, especially for minor procedural hiccups endangers their safety and ability to join the workforce, destabilizes their families and communities, and contributes to the overcrowding of state prisons. Time and time again, studies show that people thrive when they are in their community and have a coherent support network and safety net. Working together with a broad coalition of advocates, including people on parole, people currently and formerly incarcerated, and impacted family members, Phara passed this landmark legislation in her first term. Because of her advocacy, Phara was able to make real, lasting change in our state by helping to release hundreds of people who had been imprisoned solely for minor parole violations and allow 8,000 New Yorkers to be discharged from parole as of March 2022. Her decarceral reform will also keep hundreds of people in their communities where they can receive care outside of New York State’s dangerous, unjust prison system.
While Phara has been able to accomplish so much in Albany in just her first term, she knows that our fight for a better New York is far from over. She’s running for reelection because we need leaders in Albany who understand what it’s like to be a working person in New York. Our community needs her voice in Albany to fight for the future we all deserve.
- Free, universal healthcare through the New York Health Act
- Democratically controlled public utilities through the Build Public Renewables Act
- Divestment of state funds from fossil fuels and ban on of new fossil fuel power plants
- Parole justice for incarcerated New Yorkers expanded eligibility for treatment for justice-involved individuals with mental health and substance use needs
- Protections for the right to vote
- Public banking
- Universal childcare
- A free public university system through the City University of New York and State University of New York through the New Deal For CUNY legislation
- Increased wages for home care workers
- Expansion of healthcare coverage to undocumented New Yorkers
- Good Cause eviction protections to ensure every tenant in New York is guaranteed the right to a lease renewal
- Housing vouchers for unhoused New Yorkers
- The creation of a pathway for tenants to buy their buildings instead of selling to developers
- Fully funding NYCHA
- An end to the cruel misclassification of gig workers