Meet Ihssane Leckey: Moroccan-American Candidate for Congress
By: Laila Shadid/Arab America Contributing Writer
“I am Ihssane Leckey, Donald Trump’s worst nightmare. A fearless woman of color ready to end corporate greed.”
These were the words 35-year-old Ihssane Leckey spoke in her campaign video titled, “The New Face of Congress.” The Moroccan-American former Wall Street regulator is running against eight other Democratic candidates to replace Representative Joe Kennedy III in Massachusetts’ 4th congressional district.
Leckey’s campaign leads with the slogan “Justice for All,” encapsulating her campaign platform divided into four parts: “A Right to Grow and Age,” “A Just Society,” “A Just Economy” and “A Just World.”
Her mission for justice began at a young age. Leckey was born and raised in Morocco by a public school teacher father and farmer mother. The family lived “paycheck to paycheck,” Leckey said.
Leckey dreamed of moving to the United States for its freedom of speech, identity, and economic opportunity; however, when she arrived at 20-years-old, she was met with a different reality. Leckey began earning poverty-level wages mopping floors at restaurants. She was denied housing, a bank account, and healthcare.
“I saw it wasn’t only my struggle, it was the struggle of millions of people in America,” she said. “I vowed that the systems that have created poverty in the richest country in the world don’t have room in America and in our democracy, that We the People have the power to take those systems down and build the America that we believe in.”
Leckey added that she dismantled these unjust systems in her role as a Wall Street regulator in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis.
“I joined the federal reserve and I fought the biggest banks on Wall Street on behalf of the American people,” she said.
Watching President Donald Trump attack people of color and other marginalized communities similarly fueled her passion and drive.
“We have to fight back,” Leckey said. “We have the power as the people and we can win back our government and bring solidarity across America.”
Leckey drew parallels between the United States and the Arab world in recent protests against their governments to demand a better country and basic human rights.
“We all have that common struggle of the people seeking a true democracy,” she said of Arabs and Americans alike. “We want our governments to listen to us, we don’t want corruption, we don’t want oppression, we want freedom and democracy.”
“The Arab world is very diverse,” Leckey continued. “We have so many colors and so many cultures. It’s such a beautiful mosaic of people who have been through so many successes and so many struggles.”
Leckey has been through struggles of her own. The “fearless” in “fearless woman of color” alludes to her identity as a survivor, she said.
“I’m a survivor of many things—sexual abuse, gun violence, domestic violence—and its something that makes you fearless because you’ve survived so many times and you have seen the worst of it,” Leckey explained. “The only way you continue on is to fight back and protect other people from harm.”
As for “woman of color,” Leckey did not know with that label until she moved to the United States when a white woman asked where she was from.
“I said, ‘I am American,’ and she said, ‘Well your skin is dark. What is your nationality?’ And I realized that even if I tried to not see my skin or myself in color, I was being seen as a skin color, I was being identified, and in many times ‘othered,’ because of my skin color,” she said, adding that this gives her the responsibility to stand up for those who face racial prejudice and violence, specifically Black Americans.
“We can educate our children and future generations about celebrating our diversity and our courage,” Leckey said.
Moreover, she believes that Arab representation in the American government is important, and while the community does hold positions at the local, state, and federal levels, there is more to be done. If our representation understands the Arab world, Leckey said, then we can effectively promote peace and dialogue in the region.
The power must be given to the Arab people, Leckey continued, “so that we’re not encouraging the same systems and mistakes that leave the working families behind here, but instead helping to build a model that is built on safety, democracy, workers’ rights.”
In Leckey’s platform, under the subsection “A Just World,” she includes “Justice for Israelis and Palestinians.”
According to her website, Leckey is an Arab Muslim woman who married into a Jewish family and she “will fight for the dignity, liberation, and self-determination of the Palestinians and the Israelis.”
“I am a strong believer that America should be that mediator of peace that would provide a platform for a democratic process for both peoples, the Palestinians and the Israelis, to determine how they want to live peacefully going forward,” she said.
Leckey is also a mother to an eight-year-old daughter and is raising her to understand and take pride in “the plethora of identities that she carries,” she said.
“That’s the beauty of the American identity,” Leckey added, “how we all come from somewhere and we all carry each other’s identities in different ways.”
The Massachusetts state primary will take place on September 1, 2020.
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