Dianne Morales Has the Courage to Defy Expectations

Dianne Morales, New York City native and nonprofit pro, is pursuing the Big Apple’s highest office


By Cristina Merrill


Now here’s some refreshing political news.

Nonprofit CEO, single mom of two, and Afro-Latina Dianne Morales wants to make sure historically marginalized communities are seen and heard, which is why she’s upping the ante in her life and running for the office of New York City mayor in the city’s 2021 election.

Dianne Morales

Dianne Morales, Mayoral Candidate, Office of the Mayor, City of New York

This is no easy feat, but as Morales recently noted in an interview with The Alumni Society, she has a long history of defying expectations. She did so extensively throughout her education, defying expectations in increasingly high-profile, elite schools where people who looked like her, came from a similar culture, and had the same socioeconomic background were not expected to succeed.

Now, the educator and advocate plans to defy expectations in one of the country’s most prominent elections. There are currently many candidates in the running—and Morales is one of several Democratic candidates—but Morales is not letting the odds weigh her down. Far from it.

“Jumping into this race was not a natural or initial inclination for me, but I was searching for a way to make a more meaningful contribution to the effort to elevate historically marginalized communities, and this became a compelling path for me,” she says. “NYC has never had a woman or Latina as mayor, and with the growing population of Latinxs in this city, it feels increasingly important that we be represented in spaces where we have traditionally not been.

“My presence in this race, in and of itself, is hopefully something that can challenge convention, expectations, and stereotypes,” Morales continues. “My hope is that it can be something that serves as a clarion call to others that we can and should be in these spaces, that we have a right to be represented by people who look like us and have shared experiences because the government should reflect the people they are meant to serve.”

Serving her community is nothing new for Morales, as she has a long list of nonprofit experiences under her belt. For one, she is a founding board member of Jumpstart, a national early education nonprofit organization that works to ensure preschoolers get the kind of individualized attention and academic and social skills they need before they head off to kindergarten. More recently, Morales served as the CEO and executive director of Phipps Neighborhoods, an anti-poverty organization. She stepped down from her role in order to focus on her campaign.

When it comes to her leadership style and being a visible leader, Morales firmly believes in looking at the bigger picture and not letting fear of the unknown ruin one’s drive to succeed.

“To me, visible leadership is about being able to prioritize—and center—something that is bigger than an individual, whether that’s a sense of purpose, a cause, values, or ideology,” Morales says. “Something so powerful that it can drive our willingness and ability to step out into the unknown, unfamiliar, or uncomfortable to claim a space that has not traditionally been welcoming to us or that was not created for us.

“That drive generates something bigger than fear—of being wrong, of failure, of being unsupported—and compels you forward in doing something anyway because you recognize the significance of the act, in and of itself,” she adds, “and the fact that its importance resonates beyond you or your discomfort.”

With her vast knowledge of New York City and long history of caring for its inhabitants, Morales is clearly the kind of boots-on-the-ground candidate anyone would want to back.

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