New York City’s primary elections are underway until Jun. 22, but it might as well be the general election in this metropolis dominated by the Democratic Party.
Several City Council seats are up for grabs in heavily Haitian neighborhoods of Brooklyn, including the Districts 40, 45, and 46.
Although Brooklyn already has several Haitian-descended elected officials in office, their presence has not always uplifted the interests of the Haitian or Afro-Caribbean communities.
Anthony Beckford is one of the four candidates running for District 45’s City Council seat. The son of Jamaican immigrants, he was born and raised in Flatbush, mostly in and around District 45. He has been organizing in the community off and on for decades and is a military veteran. I spoke with him about his campaign and his platform and how he intends to bring tangible change to the community.
Haitian-American Farah Louis currently holds the District 45 seat.
How did you get started in organizing?
I got started at age 12, fighting against racist school rezonings. The Giuliani administration was going to cut services and after-school program funding.
What is the importance of Pan-African unity in this community?
We need it for proper representation, more self-determination for the community, and for holding politicians accountable. We need it to recondition ourselves from self-hate and biases we’ve been taught by white supremacy. We need it as a solid voting block so developers can’t just come into our communities and do what they want.
From your vantage point, what is Farah Louis’ relationship with the Haitian community?
It’s all optics. There’s no real message of unity, no work being done for the people. Many Haitian elders would not have lost their lives or their homes if someone was advocating for them. There would be more progress for people on the ground. Everything has been so divisive, to the point where we don’t have the power needed to take back our communities. She caters to those from outside of our community who exploit our community. We see that in the way our budget is and where the money goes. We need to understand that Afro-Caribbean people are Black. We’ve been working together from Dutty Boukman to Dessalines. We have a saying in the Caribbean: “one people under the sun.” Anything that doesn’t unite us, in a sense, is a clear and present danger to our progress.
$1.4 million out of $1.6 million [in discretionary funds that last year went directly to the district’s city council member] was sent outside of our district. There are Haitian vendors who should be selling their goods from a safe space, instead of in the rain. There are Haitian and other Afro-Caribbean businesses which closed due to lack of support and advocacy during the pandemic.
What is the significance of the Police Benevolent Association [PBA] in this election?
This is the same organization which endorsed Trump in the last election and has also endorsed Farah Louis, and she’s proud of that endorsement. Farah celebrated that endorsement as the NYPD killed Black people in our community. Farah failed to bring forth legislation to at least curb police killings.
What is your vision of public safety beyond policing?
No more lead in schools and NYCHA, ending homelessness, no more police brutality, good education, our homes not being subject to predatory lending, no more evictions, and adequate funding for our communities.
What are your plans to bring this vision to fruition?
I will fight to expand discretionary funds from $1.6 million for our district to $2.5 million. I will make sure there are community centers in each part of our district. I will fight to make CUNY free again. I would like to have the city subsidize homeowners’ home repairs and get 35% rent rollbacks. I would stop rezoning and up-zoning, full stop. I would also fight for free childcare and after-school programs. I would also bring back trade schools and vocational training.
What is your stance on community control of the police?
I support it. I believe it means no more impunity for abusive police officers. It also means that security doesn’t mean a badge and a gun. I see community control as the community overseeing the police budget, the hiring, and the discipline. Could you imagine the benefits of that? Now any budget that passes would be truly reflective of the needs of the people. With us having control of the police, not only would we make sure a cop who kills someone gets fired, but we can also make sure he gets sentenced. Right now, we have no protection from police violence. We need to get rid of the PBA. These are entities that control the narrative. We need oversight bodies with more teeth than the CCRB [Civilian Complaint Review Board].