CSSW connection: A former Columbia University Revson Fellow with a Juris Doctor at the City University of New York (CUNY) School of Law and an MSW from CUNY Hunter College Graduate School of Social Work, Jaime Estades has been an adjunct professor at CSSW for many years, teaching courses on social policy.
Path to political involvement: In 1996 Jaime Estades collaborated with the residents of the Southside of Williamsburg, Brooklyn and East Harlem, to found the Latino Leadership Institute with the mission of politically empowering Latinx and other underrepresented New Yorkers by increasing their participation in the democratic process. The Institute, which is based in New York City but also has chapters at the University of Central Florida and at Temple University in Pennsylvania, has trained thousands of future leaders on the fundamentals of campaign management and public policy. In 2015 it was selected by the White House as one of the Bright Spots of Excellence in Education in the Hispanic Community.
In addition to producing many successful examples of campaign managers, union leaders, judges and elected officials—including New York State Assemblyperson and Ph.D. alumna Mathylde Frontus—Estades and his colleagues have made an impact in the areas of voter registration and engagement. In advance of the 2020 general election, Estades collaborated with the School of Social Work’s student-run Social Work Votes campaign to help mobilize the social work community to get out the vote, running programs on the dangers of voter suppression and offering a day-long Electoral Activism Training Academy.
Estades frequently communicates his views on the importance of political engagement to broader audiences, as an invited commentator on local news stations in New York City, as an op-ed contributor, and as a speaker and a panelist for public-facing events all around the city.
In a panel discussion launching Social Work Votes, Estades said,
Voting in the United States has always existed from the perspective of a privilege, not as a right. The history of voting suppression in the United States is long, and it has never been a right.
In the same discussion, he explained:
I have always had a problem with the concept of ‘civic engagement,’ because civic engagement shows only one face of all the work we have to do in order to have political empowerment. Engagement is just the beginning of the work. What we are trying to do is to empower communities politically and economically at the end of the day. There is an anecdote about Martin Luther King during the Sixties, when he was very upset with liberals—during those times they were called moderates—because they always talk about inclusion. But he kept reminding them that the struggle was not about inclusion. The struggle was about gaining and sharing political power.