It’s election time in New York City. Voters will go to the polls to decide who will be the next New York State Senate to represent District 25 in Brooklyn. One of the candidates is Rev. Conrad Tillard, running as a Democrat with a focus on economic development, support for seniors, youth development, housing, and public safety.
Tillard just landed the endorsement of New York City Mayor and Bedford-Stuyvesant local Eric Adams, who spent 22 years on the New York City Police Department before entering politics. On Aug. 15, Adams endorsed the minister over incumbent state Sen. Jabari Brisport.
Tillard, an adjunct professor in the City College of New York’s Black Studies department at The City College of New York, tweeted an announcement about the endorsement.
“I am elated to receive the endorsement of @NYCMayor. Over the last 30 years, we have marched together for justice, rallied with workers for better wages, and worked to uplift the voices of New Yorkers who are too often forgotten,” Tillard tweeted.
“As your next senator, Conrad will work hard to pass laws that ensure that all New Yorkers are safe, and create affordable housing, and good quality schools,” Adams’ endorsement read. “Rev. Conrad Tillard has spent over 30 years fighting for the rights of New Yorkers.”
Tillard is on the ballot in the Democratic primary on Aug. 23, 2022. He is going against Brisport and Renee Holmes. The general election will occur on Nov. 8, 2022.
District 25 covers a stretch of eastern and north-central Brooklyn, including the neighborhoods of Fort Greene, Boerum Hill, Red Hook, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Sunset Park, Gowanus, and Park Slope. The five largest ethnic groups in Congressional District 25, NY, are white (non-Hispanic) 69.2 percent, Black or African American (non-Hispanic) 15 percent, white (Hispanic) 5.74 percent, Asian (non-Hispanic) 3.68 percent, and other (non-Hispanic) 2.17 percent.
Although a registered Democrat, Tillard sees places where the Dems, who are worried about the mid-term elections, can improve upon.
“The other thing we have to do as Democrats is to take back the party,” Tillard told Moguldom Nation. According to Tillard, the party has begun to lean to the “elite and Hollywood.”
“I am afraid the left has hijacked the party and is not for everyday people. And that’s a mistake.
I a real Democrat, a common sense Democrat,” he pointed out.
Although a minister by profession, this isn’t Tillard’s first brush with politics.
In 1984, Tillard worked on Jesse Jackson’s presidential campaign.
“My first movement work was with Jesse Jackson. I was in charge of student coordination and then worked on the national level,” said Tillard. “Most people don’t know this, and it’s a very important part of my story.”
After working with Jackson’s campaign, Tillard joined the Nation of Islam. He took the name Conrad X and then Conrad Muhammad He was eventually placed in charge of Harlem Mosque No. 7, a mosque once led by Malcolm X. Conrad forged a strong bond with the local youth and worked to end dangerous tensions between area rap artists. This caused him to be tagged the Hip Hop Minister.
Ultimately, Tillard left the NOI.
“I evolved. The Nation played an role in my life,” said Tillard. “Jesse Jackson and Minister Farrakhan were the two most important people in my youth, and I learned so much. And when you’re young, you look up to leadership…Then you grow into your own vision thoroughly. I am 57 years old. I met them when I was 20.”
Not only did Tillard leave the NOI, he relocated from Harlem to Brooklyn.
“I’ve lived in Brooklyn since 1998. I left Harlem and went to divinity school, and when I returned to New York, I’ve lived in Brooklyn since then. I have lived in the entire district–Fort Greene Clinton Hill, and BedStuy. I live in the community and am concerned about the community, and I that’s why I am stepping forward,” he said.
But before leaving Harlem, Tillard returned to his birth name and he had an unsuccessful run in 2002 for Congress, challenging veteran Democrat Congressman Charles Rangel, campaigning that Harlem was becoming unaffordable for its longtime residents.
Today, he serves as the senior minister of Flatbush Tompkins Congregational Church, a 120-year congregation located in the historic Ditmas Park section of Flatbush, Brooklyn. He is formerly the senior minister of Nazarene Congregational Church, a United Church of Christ (UCC) congregation in the Bedford Stuyvesant community in Brooklyn — one of the oldest African -American congregations in New York City. Before that, he was the interim senior minister, at the Eliot Congregational Church in Boston’s Roxbury neighborhood.
As far as mixing politics and religion, Tillard said it’s long been a tradition of Black ministers being local leaders.
“I believe in the African-American community, there is a long tradition of ministers being involved in politics…ministers were the advocates of the community. Many of the first Blacks to go into federal office in places like Louisiana, Georgia were ministers. I am just keeping that tradition alive.”
Through his community activism, Tillard also founded CHANGE (Conscious Hip-Hop Activism Necessary for Global Empowerment) in the 1990s which he said was to focus on “conscious hip hop activism” and social empowerment for Black youth.
According to Tillard, if elected, he wants to focus on safety, among other issues. He pointed out he is not an advocate of defunding the police.
“My main concern is public safety. We have to make sure the streets are safe,” he said, noting that safety for New Yorkers are a must and for tourists as well.
“We are sliding back to where we were in the ’80 and ’90s as far as an increase in crime. We can’t be ideologists,” added Tillard, who wrote his memoir, “In My Father’s House: The Spiritual and Political Memoir of the Man Once Known as the Hip Hop Minister, Conrad Muhammad.”
“I am running against someone who calls for defunding the police. I have gone to jail for advocating against police brutality, but I do not think defunding the police is the answer,” explained Tillard.
Brisport has supported the defunding to the police movement.
“All we ever wanted was for the police to do their jobs correctly. You have people on the extreme left asking for defunding the police, but that is not the solution. I do think it’s important to look at police budgets and allocate money that might be better used in other areas,” said Tillard, who has been critical of Brisport’s socialist stance.
“Socialism is an ideology that will not work here,” said Tillard.
The two candidates also disagree on Good Cause Evictions. Tillard opposes it.
The Good Cause bill would make it illegal to evict tenants except for cases of nonpayment, creating a nuisance or when a landlord obtained a court order. It would have also guaranteed lease renewals and restricted rent increases.
While Good Cause Evictions favor tenants, it is not a good policy for homeowners, said Tillard. “My opponent is pushing something called Good Cause Eviction. It is optimistic, but one of our challenges in central Brooklyn is that we have a significant number of Black homeowners, Tillard pointed out. “Good Causes could cause Black homeowners to lose homes because of all of these requirements under Good Causes.”
Photo: Rev. Conrad Tillard, Twitter @conradtillard