Brooklyn’s Paperboy Prince Is Running On Universal Basic Income & Spreading Love

Natalie Gontcharova

Paperboy Prince is a 26-year-old artist, rapper, and activist running as a challenger to Rep. Nydia Velázquez in tomorrow’s New York primary. They hope to become the first nonbinary member of Congress, representing NY-7, which includes the neighborhoods of Park Slope, Gowanus, Cobble Hill, Red Hook, and Sunset Park. Born David Porter Jr., they renamed themselves Paperboy Prince — with their first name referencing the fact that their campaign is meant to be educational and bring news to the people — plus, they worked delivering The Wall Street Journal for a while. 

Their campaign is an inspired piece of performance art — Paperboy dresses as royalty to drive the point home that some politicians have been in power longer than kings and queens, and turns all their policies into rap songs. But they dive deep into issues, too. Paperboy’s idols include Martin Luther King Jr. and Andrew Yang, and they talk at length about racial justice and universal basic income to their Instagram followers. 

Ahead, we spoke with Paperboy Prince about their campaign, their #SpreadLove message, and more.

You are an artist, a musician, a former journalist, an activist, and now you are running for office. What made you decide to take the political route? How have all of those other identities contributed to your campaign?

“As a kid, my mom won a contest that let me have lunch with members of Congress on Capitol Hill. At the time, I was about 12 and I wasn’t really interested [in politics], but once I started learning more about the government and how it works I started to get more excited and wanted to get more involved. I was able to get invited to multiple summer programs on Capitol Hill that allowed us to do mock sessions of Congress, work with lawmakers, and meet with congressional committees. From there I got internships with the U.S. House of Representatives as well as the Supreme Court.

“I started to get into art and writing more in college when I was studying broadcast journalism and computer science. At that point I was more focused on throwing events and inspiring people than traditional electoral politics. I still was going to protests and speaking about issues all the time, but wasn’t looking to local politicians to save the day. As time passed, I was really upset with how things were looking in my community. I tried to call my local elected officials and they did nothing. 

“I hold a monthly festival in Brooklyn called the PaperboyPrince.com Festival; we regularly have hundreds of people from the community come out and spread love and connect with others. I realized that many of our local elections are decided by only 10, 50, 250 votes, and I figured if I can get people out to a concert or festival I can get them to vote and care about the community. So we started organizing voter registration at all of my rap shows, and our campaign began.

“I’m running on over 70 issues, including Medicare for All and a universal basic income, and I encourage any person that wants to speak to me about them to text me at PAPER9 2327 or DM me on Instagram @PaperboythePrince.”

There’s historically less voter turnout among young people. What will you do to make sure that changes? What does it mean for you to participate in electoral politics at a time when so many young people are discouraged with the system?

“The reason young people — and many older people — are discouraged by the system is because the government and our current politicians have made no effort to engage the common person in politics. Accessibility is a keyword in our campaign; that’s why all of my policies I turn into rap songs and dances, allowing someone who normally wouldn’t listen to a speech about politics get the message delivered to them in a fun and easy-to-digest way. That’s why I livestream daily and talk at length about the issues, and answer as many comments as I can, to have a real dialogue with the people. That’s why I give out my phone number PAPER9 2327 a.k.a. 727-379-2327, so anyone in the community that needs help can reach me, and I make an effort to speak with them as quickly as possible. That’s why we are creating an app to allow citizens to vote via the blockchain on what their elected officials work on every day.

“Right now, voter turnout among registered Democrats in my district is close to 4%. That means we are only getting 4% of REGISTERED voters’ input on what we should do in this country. Many of our electeds aren’t there because they have used corruption and voter suppression to cheat and stay in power.”

You have been active in Black Lives Matter protests, and now we are seeing some things change little by little, like the NYPD eliminating its plainclothes unit and Minneapolis getting ready to dismantle its police department. Are you in support of abolishing the police? What kinds of policies and budget priorities do you want to see that would help stop police killings of Black people and violence against protestors?

“We have organized several protests and peaceful actions. In fact we just took over one of the biggest bridges in New York to stand up for justice. Thousands have come out to our protests and they all leave feeling motivated. The politicians and the police try to give us watered-down ‘do nothing’ legislation after we protest across the country in hopes that we will stop taking to the streets. The issue is all of the stuff they propose to us does nothing to stop the killing and brutalization of Americans by police. They told us that banning the chokehold would save lives but they are still killing us, they told us that body cameras would save lives but they are still killing us, they told us that more diverse officers would save lives but they are still killing us.

“We need a love force. The same way a cop has a badge and a gun, we need people with food for the hungry and experts in mediation and meditation to be walking the streets. We also can never give one group so much power over the people.

We need a love force. The same way a cop has a badge and a gun, we need people with food for the hungry and experts in mediation and meditation to be walking the streets. We also can never give one group so much power over the people.

“Right now over 51% of NYPD officers don’t even live in NYC, so we need cops that actually live closer to the area that they police. I also think the police are past reform at this point and they need to be dismantled in the future, so that we can create a loving group of first responders with a culture that’s not based on treating Black and brown citizens like the enemy.

“Another major priority is reparations for the war on drugs in the form of cash payouts to affected families in the Black community and community programs focused on rebuilding the families that the drug war ripped apart. Also, the same people that run the schools run the police and the prisons? What’s up with that? That has to change.”

You are taking on Rep. Nydia Velázquez. Where do you believe she has failed and why do you think we need new representation in Congress?

“My opponent has been in office for close to three decades just like many other members of Congress, and I’m thankful for her service but I really believe we should have term limits for Congress. Three decades is longer than many kings and queens rule — this is supposed to be a democracy and it’s time we give power back to the people. Our world is changing so fast, and our current representation lacks the experience to effectively legislate on these issues. If you have been in office for over 30 years, how do you know what it’s like to be a real person with real issues in America? People are depressed, they can’t pay their rent, student debt is through the roof, gentrification is worse than it’s ever been, it’s harder than ever to get a job, and there are massive food deserts in many urban communities. If you haven’t applied for a job in the last 10 years, how can you effectively legislate on unemployment in our country? You don’t even know what it’s like. 

“My opponent has taken thousands upon thousands of dollars from big banks, big corporations, and big real estate while claiming to fight for the average person. What was the result of this? Small businesses in my district have been closing at an alarming rate, the gentrification here has skyrocketed more than anywhere in the country, and people are working three jobs and still can’t afford their bills. It seems to me that the corporations are getting a much better deal than the people, and that doesn’t sit right with me or the community I represent.”

In an interview with City & State you said you supported Bernie Sanders more in 2016, but this year you supported Andrew Yang. You said: “I have more support for Andrew Yang, who is more capitalist than Sanders. I think that capitalism does provide us with certain luxuries. But I think that if that capitalism isn’t democratic, then we have an issue.” In what ways do you believe we need to reform capitalism in order to make our world more just and equitable? 

“We need a universal basic income of $2,000 a month for everyone, tied to inflation, just like Martin Luther King Jr. said before he was killed. We need reparations for slavery and the drug war. We need more community-run and co-op businesses. If companies are primarily worker-owned, they will be so much more productive, loving, and the people will get ownership in the businesses they are working for. 

“Poverty is the most violent thing that can happen to a person. Poverty is a byproduct of capitalism. We live in a society where no one has to be hungry, but many are because capitalism tells businesses to throw out food every day. I look at politicians as tools to get what we want for the people. Right now the rich have all the wealth and the people have so little, and we have to give the power of resources and money to the people, not just the 1%.”

You recently wrote on Twitter that people have made several death threats against you, and that you were robbed. What helps you deal with all of this as you are running a campaign? You also wrote that police haven’t really helped you — what do you think this says about the actual effectiveness of police?

“We have created our own community-based Love and Protection and Meditation Unit called the Love Guards. When I came out about the fact that we have been getting death threats after organizing peaceful protests, many community members stepped up and said they wanted to use their love to help us continue working for the people. They check in with comms at our campaign headquarters daily, come help spread love, and make sure everyone around has good vibes. You can find out more info on the Love Guards on my Instagram. Yes, sometimes the police don’t like to do the paperwork of a report so they try to brush off your claim, and even more so for Black and brown people. This is one of the lesser-known reasons that many in our community feel the police aren’t there to help us.”

You said on your website that you created a way for everyone with Instagram to make an endorsement video. Can you tell us more about how you’re spreading your message and what your supporters are doing to lift you up? And about anything people can do to boost your message before tomorrow’s primary.

“YES! Use my Instagram filter! It’s on the ‘Filters’ tab of my Instagram. We are encouraging the people that support us to make an endorsement video. Normally, politicians only talk and brag about endorsements they get from establishment clubs and groups that have been co-opted by the corporations. Our endorsements are from the people, the small businesses, the families, the moms, the dads, your roommate, everyone! Someone told me we are the first campaign in U.S. history to do endorsements that way. People can donate on our website if they want to help us spread love, or you can volunteer for our movement as the work we are doing will never stop. I love you! Haha Paper yeah! It’s our time!”

Don’t forget to register to vote.

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