District Leader Anthony Jones: A Journey from There To Here


Brownsville often has the reputation for being the most dangerous and hard-scrabble spot in Brooklyn. It is a neighborhood so infamous for its death toll that some call it the murder capital of New York City. Some, even in these Brooklyn times of gentrification, think this neighborhood is a lost cause beyond consideration for outreach and reform, and its mostly African-American population is predetermined to fail.

Anthony Jones

Well, those skeptics never heard of the name Anthony T. Jones, a Brownsville native and currently the male state committee member, a.k.a. Democratic district leader for the 55th Assembly District.

Jones, by his own admission, was once considered your stereotypical black kid in Brownsville — a young criminal destined for disaster. However, underneath Jones’ façade as a hardened street thug, there were adults around his life who saw amid a misguided child, were precocious ambitions in politics beyond anything they had seen before. 

In his childhood, Jones was rejected by the other children. He grew up between  Atlantic Avenue and Fulton Street, and had street credit for schoolhouse fights and lawbreaking which often intimidated the boys who lived in Ocean Hill. The children would hang out with a woman named Ruth Cropper, who allowed the neighborhood children to play over at her house, including Jones.

“The children were like, ‘oh my God, don’t let me in [the house],’ and I was like,’ why me?,'” Cropper recalled.

Cropper knew Jones wanted to make friends and was not the thug everyone made him out to be. However, Jones’ lifestyle of skipping high school classes and his tendency for brawls  placed him in juvenile center. He attended the New York State Division for Youth, an initiative to prevent delinquencies through positive development. It was at this group house environment that he became acquainted with highly intellectual political figures that define who Jones is today.

It was during that time of his early teenage years Jones met a man named Frederick Lewis, a political consultant. Lewis echoes the same sentiments as Cropper does —- Jones was a good boy.

“He was always a very well-mannered kid,” Lewis said. “He was no problem whatsoever.”

The juvenile center would have guest speakers such as former U.S. Rep. Edolphus “Ed” Towns Jr., whose grace and rhetorical communication skills influenced Jones’ very own style today.

The program effectively got Jones interested in being educated, and he was hopeful about his prospects of attending college.

“Fortunately, that group home was directly across the street from Medgar Evers College,” Jones said. “I said to myself, ‘one of these days I will go to this college someday.’”

Jones graduated from Medgar Evers College with a bachelor’s degree in public administration.

In addition to graduating from college, he become a staffer at the juvenile center that reformed him..

Then Jones ran and won the district leader seat, which he is defending in the Sept. 13 primary against two other candidates. Most of the children who feared him now have gained a new perception and respect of him.

“Most of the children who visited my house are doing well, but none of them can be compared to Anthony…I’m so proud,” Cropper said.

Carrying out his duties as a district representative, Jones advocates for gun-related victims and voter transparency.

Jones has developed what he calls “give back.” He wishes to usher in positive community images and continues to talk to group houses similar to the one that reformed him.

His latest ambitions are to become the next Brooklyn borough president in the nearest future.

Jones has a friendly relationship with current Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, who once observed Jones placing palm cards on people’s cars.

“He would use to say to me, ‘I don’t know what you’re going to get elected to, but you’re going to get elected to something if you keep that up,’” Jones said recalling what Adams said to him.

President Obama once said , “If we make investments early in our children, we will reduce the need to incarcerate those kids,” and Jones’ rehabilitation is a prime example.

Shemene Monique Minter, a community advocate is a closer friend of Jones, and president of the Community 1st Democratic Club, which they run together. 

Minter has been with Jones throughout his days of grassroots campaigning, going door to door presenting his beliefs to potential constituents in the 55th AD. 

“He’s devoted and committed to this community,” Minter said. “I think that he would make a great borough president because he always fights for the underdog[s] in [Brooklyn],” Minter said.

Wherever, Jones’ political career takes him, Brooklyn’s criminal justice will most certainly be a priority on his list, especially outreaching to young men in Brownsville – who like he once was himself – someone who was falling through the cracks and that New York society has given up on.