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Q&A: Maria Cabrera, Wilmington’s First Female Hispanic City Councilperson

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DT: What are the big issues for Hispanics?
MC: I am a person for all people. But I assure you that, as being the first female Hispanic city councilperson, I am going to look at the lack of diversity and inclusion when it comes to Hispanics—when it comes to government, when it comes to politics. When I look at the city Democratic Committee, how many Hispanics are on that committee? Yet, here we are, a large portion of the population. And whether there are Hispanics who vote or do not vote for reasons of citizenship, they still have needs and they are still part of this community. So there are still issues that affect them that we, as elected officials, have a hand in either making things better or making things worse. One of the things I’m hoping that will happen in working with the city and the state Democratic Committee is that I would bring more of that Hispanic constituency to the party and to the polls. But we need to have a seat at the table. We can’t be part of the conversation if we don’t have a seat at the table.

DT: What qualities help you to be an effective public servant?
MC: I know what it is to be a single mother. I know what it is to be at poverty level. I know what it is to struggle to do what’s best for your kids. I know what it is to be a woman and to be discriminated against—to be a minority and have gone through issues; to have almost lost your house in a foreclosure—more than once; to try to save my home during the economic breakdown as a business owner. I know the struggles that businesses go through in trying to launch a business. I’ve worked to help businesses start or expand their business. The only thing I haven’t experienced is losing a loved one to an act of violence in terms of guns or shootings. I don’t want to experience that. I don’t need to do that one firsthand because I struggle enough as it is when I hear about these shootings and these young people. 

DT: What have you done about the gun violence?
MC: When I read that a 16-year-old had been shot in the head, I cried for half the day. Then I started making some calls to my council people and said, “Can we have a town hall meeting? Can we go into that community? Can we knock door to door? What can we do? I just feel so helpless. I feel like I need to be doing something to help these people. Can we help the police find who did this?” I had heard that people knew and weren’t going to say anything because “the street was going to take care of the street.” So how do you change the perception of people to reach out to their elected officials, to reach out to police, to let us help you help yourself in terms of cleaning up a lot of this crime? It’s a perception that’s very rooted, you know, that you’re not going to snitch. But in the meantime it’s shootings after shootings after shootings. And it’s really giving Wilmington such a bad perception to the rest of the world. 

DT: What’s the solution?
MC: The only way that we are going to overcome the problems that exist in our community is by working together, hand-in-hand with the churches. Because what we need more than anything is the healing. And that’s not going to come from government. But if we work together with those who are at the heart of the community, and use their resources and provide them with some of the resources that they need, then we can do this together. And not just the pastors—there are other nonprofits and other organizations. We need to stop duplicating our efforts and using the few resources that are left, in terms of money that comes from corporations, even the money that government has, to do the same thing under a different name. We really need to start looking at an overall plan. How we can work together? It has always been my wish and my desire and my vision to see a government that works together. Council, the mayor’s office—all of us working together.  

♦ For more from the August Issue, click here

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