Democrat voting rights activist and successful playwright Maya Contreras posted her thanks to Joe Biden and Kamala Harris for forgiving $200,000 in undergraduate student loan debt on Friday. Contreras ran unsuccessfully in the 2022 Democrat primary in New York against incumbents Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) in the redrawn 12th District. Contreras’ loans were serviced by MOHELA.
Maya Contreras, image via Ballotpedia.
Contreras posted on X, “I had my student loans forgiven today (thank you @POTUS and @VP!) and I just met Molly Ringwald. That’s all have to say because I’m shook!…$200,000 just gone. I fo’real almost passed out when I got the email.”
Contreras posted a screen image of the email notification that said, “Maya, Congratulations! The Biden-Harris administration has forgiven some or all of your federal student loan(s) with MOHELA in full.”
$200,000 just gone. I fo’real almost passed out when I got the email. pic.twitter.com/WyegRbuakx
— Maya Contreras (@mayatcontreras) October 28, 2023
Contreras added, “They emailed me and then I checked and all my undergrad loans where gone.”
They emailed me and then I checked and all my undergrad loans where gone. pic.twitter.com/G509vF8oWI
— Maya Contreras (@mayatcontreras) October 28, 2023
On her about page at MayaContreras.com, Contreras details her successful career as a write and activist:
In 2021, Green Pointers reported on Contreras’ campaign for Congress (excerpt):
Contreras, who is Afro-Latina, grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico to a single mother who worked multiple jobs to pay the bills. “Poverty is traumatizing,” she said in her campaign announcement video. “Unfortunately, not much has changed in the decades since that happened.”
Contreras moved to New York in 2003, where she has been an actress, a writer, and an organizer for voting rights. In 2018 she started “Step Up and Vote,” a program registering and educating voting-eligible students at HBCUs. More recently, she testified before the New York State Senate to support the New York State Voting Rights Act in March 2020.
Contreras’ platform includes provisions for universal childcare, universal healthcare, and expanding Pell Grants for college students. In addition, she supports investing in New York City’s creative economy by helping BIPOC and LGBTQ artists obtain housing, as well as federally subsidized, no-interest loans for artist studios.
“Funding like this would have helped me greatly during the 2008 recession,” Contreras says. “I was not eligible for a traditional loan as I ha[d] no collateral and no assets…Federally subsidizing artistic institutions in NYC is not a new concept…but subsidizing artistic institutions, or already wealthy artists, is not the same as subsidizing everyday marginalized working artists.”
Bio for Contreras at the Women’s Media Center:
Maya Contreras is a political strategist, a narrative interpreter, and an advocate for anti-racist policy.
As a lifelong advocate, Contreras’s focus has been on Voting Rights because all paths to policy begin with access to the ballot box. On the road to equity, dominant political narratives that stem from domestic policy inhibit civic participation. Contreras deconstructs these narratives exposing their origins and purpose in order to dismantle their power for her audiences. As a political strategist, Maya bridges communication between political leaders and groups who have been deemed “hard to count” by the Census (e.g. BIPOC communities, those experiencing homelessness, low-income individuals, members of the disability community). One of Contreras’s voter outreach programs during the 2018 midterms was “Step up and Vote” which provided voter registration and voter education support to all 101 HBCUs.
Contreras has given Voting Rights lectures at the Brennan Center for Justice, Clark University, and NYU. She was invited to testify in support of the New York State Voting Rights Act at the New York Senate on March 3, 2020. Maya has held anti-racist narrative and messaging clinics for leading members of the media, and U.S. Democratic Senators’ social media teams.
As a lifelong scholar, Contreras knows the importance of continuous learning from prominent advocates, organizers, and activists. In 2018, Contreras organized a conference in Washington DC with guest speakers Dr. Ibram X Kendi (Director of Boston University’s Center for Antiracist Research), Kristen Clarke (President of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law), Shannon Watts (Founder of Mom’s Demand), Rebecca Cokley (Director of the Disability Justice Initiative at CAP), Tarana Burke (Founder of #MeToo), and many more. Maya was awarded a Graduate Research Grant from NYU for her “Decolonize the Media” project which focused on the lack of inclusion in media. She was also awarded the GSO Research Grant for her “Sandra Syndrome” project exposing systemic subversion of Black women.
Maya’s own civic participation is a critical component of her work. Contreras was appointed by City Councilwoman Carlina Rivera to the Neighborhood Advisory Board, Community 3 Manhattan of now which she serves as Chairman.
Contreras co-founded All Women’s Progress Policy Center to create an intersectional policy institute dedicated to improving the lives of womxn and marginalized groups through research and education.
Maya Contreras has a MA in Arts & Public Policy from NYU and a BA in Comparative Religion from FSU.
In 2017 Contreras co-founded the short-lived American Women’s Party to work within the Democratic Party as part of the anti-Trump Resistance. She also co-founded Oppo File to oppose the Trump administration. Contreras spoke about her youth and childhood experience in an interview with the Daily Banter (excerpt):
Maya Contreras: I was born in Denver, but I grew up in Albuquerque, went to college at Florida State, and now I live in NYC. My degree is in religion.
…MC: Being born poor, black and Latina in New Mexico, I can’t imagine any point when my life wasn’t political. I grew up with a single mother who had a college degree, raised three kids, and worked three part-time jobs just to make ends meet. We were on welfare. I saw the hypocrisy of people calling us lazy when we asked for a hand-up, and my Mom was the opposite of lazy. There’s all this lying that you hear, like with Reaganomics: “Oh, just pull yourself up by your bootstraps and work hard! By the way, we’re not going to pay any taxes, we’re going to offshore all our money that we just inherited without working, but you’re the lazy ones!” I learned that policy was a way to manipulate people to get what they wanted. When I was a teenager, my Mom died of breast cancer, and I saw how the healthcare system (among other things) were set up to fail for people living in poverty or on the margins. And going to FSU, there was so much bureaucracy. I had to prove every semester that I was an orphan and my mother had died, and there was all this paperwork. I was like, “This is how the government works?” I’m smarter than the average bear, but what happens when people are having a really difficult time navigating these things? But I don’t think that made me political. I already was political.