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Leading the Change: Jai Patel

For the Prolific People’s first entry, I believe it would be fitting to introduce someone who has helped make quite a big change in Chilltown (JC). A leader in Students Demand Action NJ and Activist for all things good and equal, Jai Patel has been no slouch when it comes to advocating against gun violence. An Alumnus of McNair High School and current student of Rutgers, New Brunswick this educated man has plenty to bring to the table. He’s organized numerous protests as well as local events within JC against gun violence and to promote racial equality since high school in order to bring light to many incidents people choose to ignore.

The Interview:

Jai I know you’ve been an activist and organizer for quite some time now but what would you say started it all for you?

“it was like fifth or sixth grade when my classmates and I started a petition to get my French teacher fired because we thought she was being unfair with grading. At the end of the day I got in trouble for doing that but my mom stepped in to help and since then it’s been both my mom and my dad you know, i’ve always been big into politics and they kinda just pushed that. They were just like ‘if you care then you need to do something’ but really I didn’t start on the ground organizing until February 2018 when the parkland shooting happened. We were all pretty pissed off at the situation and felt like enough wasn’t being done so I decided to organize the March for Our Lives event in JC” That single event had drawn more than 3000 people in attendance to unite against gun violence. Since then he’s continued to organize events across the city to raise awareness.

You’ve done so much already to raise awareness against gun violence and racial equality, especially at that event. So i’m curious, what’s your ultimate goal?

“You know right now I think it’s important to get legislators on the same page as us. A lot of people will put legislators on pedestal and trust in their knowledge when in actuality they aren’t as educated on the topic of gun violence prevention as they think they are. It’s sad because they shouldn’t be writing that bill if they don’t know what the h*** is going on. So lobbying is very important. Right now in the city itself I wanna make sure we accomplish ways to curve gun violence that don’t involve hiring more police and that don’t involve militarizing them, stretching the public safety budget. For me I think that’s a large part of it like we have to ensure that not only are we worrying like ‘hey somebody got killed, maybe we do need more detectives’ but how to prevent it from happening in the first place. The counseling, G.E.D programs, and the rehabilitation programs for people impacted by the incarceration system. It’s things like that matter to me for JC”

As some in JC may know, you have some pretty active social media accounts where you promote activism and share statistics. However do you feel like a media presence is enough for activism or should more be done?

”I think that in the times we are in now a lot of people are uncomfortable with going out because we are in the midst of a global pandemic. I’m not going to fault anyone for choosing to protest from home. I think having a social media presence is important, especially in todays age, so people can see what you’re doing, so people get inspired by what you’re doing, and people understand what it is that you’re doing. Social media is a great weapon that us organizers have at our fingertips now. We’ve organized email campaigns to shut down websites, we’ve reversed votes with the amount of calls we were able to put in. It’s a really great tool.”

It’s definitely a tool you’ve used for quite some time as an activist and organizer. Out of all the time spent what’s your biggest takeaway from it all?

"My takeaway is not really a not a physical event but I think it’s one hundred percent the bonds I’ve made with the communities that trust me, the people I’ve met and those we’ve helped. These people show so much support and it’s a support system like that, that I truly appreciate. Without that support system I don’t think I’d be the man I am today. We don’t get tired, we don’t get jaded, we come back to fight our fight every single time. There’s going to be bad days, lots of bad weeks, but there is going to be one good day. One great victory where we can say we’re really making a difference.”

Now lastly what advice do you have for those in the city who want to become a leader themselves within their community or beyond?

“Well one hundred percent don’t wait for someone else to do it, that’s for sure. Also understand that there is no rule book. There’s no ‘Do this, do this’ and you can become a leader. It doesn’t work that way. What’s important is to have a powerful voice. It doesn’t have to be a loud voice but have a powerful one. To the extent where you know the issue and you’re channeling that passion within you for it to inspire and lead these other people. Most importantly however is don’t question yourself. Believe in your ability. If you’re confident in yourself there will be no one that can deter you from greatness.”

It doesn’t take much to be a leader within your city. Jai is proof that as long as you have the passion and willpower to make a change, you can most certainly make it happen. In Chilltown there’s all kinds of people around looking to leave their mark on the planet. Whether you’re from the Hill or all the way down by Grove street your location doesn’t dictate your success because it doesn’t matter where you’re from, it’s where you’re at. So keep your eyes peeled and keep your ear to the streets since the next big thing might be someone who lives right next door.

Follow the Movement:

  • Students Demand Hudson Instagram: @studentsdemandhudson

  • Jersey City Anti-Violence Coalition Instagram: @jcacm201

  • Black Men United Instagram: @_blackmenunited_

  • Solidarity & Mutual Aid JC Instagram: @solidarity.jerseycity

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