Reposted from City & State Magazine
Maria Cruz considers herself someone who cares a great deal about two things: immigrants and civic technology. “That is the intersection of my career,” says the digital marketing director for the City University of New York. A native of the Philippines, Cruz was raised by parents who grew up under martial law, which she says contributed to a certain distrust in government. Her life took a turn when her college mentor – finding that she was going to school full time and juggling two digital advertising internships – introduced her to his sister, the new New York City commissioner of immigrant affairs, who was seeking a social media intern. That commissioner, Fatima Shama, “probably changed my life,” Cruz says. The first constituent Cruz helped was a Filipino woman who needed help translating. “That’s when the bug bit me,” she recalls. The next five years were “high-stakes, high-stress” work helping further political offices, campaigns and organizations while capitalizing on her digital background. Today, she facilitates a network of about 100 social media managers from across CUNY, building a community within and around the system to “help it move forward.” As a person of color and a public school graduate, Cruz says she is in a strong position to help fellow immigrant New Yorkers. She’s also aware of the need to continue developing her abilities, and is set to receive a master’s degree in public administration in 2020.
With every election season comes the possibility of change. Political parties must make their cases to voters, and elected officials, no matter how long they’ve served, must again win the support of their constituents. And while incumbency is often a powerful advantage in New York, 2018 is already shaping up to see more turnover than in a typical year. It’s in this time of transition, with a new crop of fresh-faced candidates shaking things up, that we turn our attention to the many young individuals who are making their mark in New York City politics – and not just those seeking and winning elected office. Each year, City & State identifies 40 members of the next generation – all under the age of 40 – who are rising stars in elected office and in city government, in labor and in business, in government affairs and advocacy, in academia and in journalism. We profile the behind-the-scenes figures steering successful campaigns, navigating major land use projects and revitalizing the metro area’s infrastructure. We recognize advocates helping immigrants and refugees make a new life, lawmakers shaping sweeping policy decisions and intrepid reporters holding politicians accountable. We’re pleased to introduce the 2018 New York City 40 Under 40 Rising Stars.
Asian American women face particular challenges in the workplace. And they’re not getting the attention they need.
Slate.com | Tiffany Diane Tso
August 8, 2018
“I’m a very assertive person,” says Maria Cruz Lee, a 31-year-old Filipino American digital marketing director for the City University of New York. “The idea that Asian women are more quiet [and] won’t push back as much, I think, is what throws off a lot of my colleagues when I’m no holds barred.”
“Recruiting More Diverse Candidates Creates a Stronger, More Inclusive Democracy. ” Sayu Bhojwani on Bill Moyers. May 31, 2017. Web.
“When I do this work, I am that girl on that balcony in that small country that my parents chose to bring me to, wishing I had a political voice.
Like Maria Cruz Lee, a recent participant in our program, who never thought she’d say, “One day, I’d vote for myself,” I stand on the shoulders of my ancestors who felt silenced by fear. Our journey has been long, and there is a ways to go. But we are fueled by what New York City Council Member Carlos Menchaca calls our immigrant heart. A heart that is strong, open and unstoppable. A heart as American as any other.“
“Clinton Fil-Am Staffers.” Guest Interview, Balitang America. The Filipino Channel. October 26, 2016. Television.
“Advocate Urges Obama to Keep His Word on Immigration Executive Action.” Guest Interview, Balitang America. The Filipino Channel. November 6, 2014. Television.
By Balitang America Staff, ABS-CBN North America Bureau
Nov. 6, 2014
REDWOOD CITY, Calif. – Maria Cruz Lee, communications and engagement director at Define American, speaks to Balitang America about her group’s reaction to President Barack Obama’s post-election statement that he’ll issue an executive order on immigration before the year’s end.