This year Assemblywoman Rodneyse Bichotte (D-Ditmas Park, Flatbush) will be facing competition in the 42nd Assembly District Democratic primary from long-time neighborhood activist, Anthony Beckford.
The son of Jamaican immigrants, Beckford was born and raised in the community and has grown close to his fellow residents over the years. The Flatbush native, started as an activist at the tender age of 12 while still a student at Winthrop Junior High School.
His first real challenge included fighting the rezoning of School District 18. The rezoning would have taken away much-needed funds that the schools within his district needed to succeed. However, Beckford’s activism alongside community members led to the defeat of the plan.
“I have lived a life of inequality, and now I’m fighting for equality. It is time that we come out of silence and make our voices heard. The community sees the need for change and I am here to see to that,” said Beckford.
The rezoning experience spurred the young man into a life of community work and in 2017 , he ran for his first political office, challenging incumbent City Councilman Jumaane Williams (D-Flatbush, East Flatbush, Midwood). Though Beckford didn’t win that election, the campaign left a lasting impression on him, as he realized the need to represent his fellow neighbors. The Brooklyn native personally made it his mission to represent the needs of his community, especially it’s minority communities at the local government level.
“No matter how many times they kick you down, you keep going until you get to representing people,” said Beckford.
The single father and disabled Marine Corps veteran is using his campaign as a testament to the power of grassroots organizing. He has committed himself to the community and refuses to take any real estate or corporate money.
“It’s about the people. People over profits. I’m not running for myself, I’m doing this for the people in my community. The money that you get in donations, reflects who you enter into deals with and I’m here for the people,” said Beckford.
He has put that practice to use, making himself readily available to constituents and holding local events all over the district including weekly speakouts, community events and rallies.
“I want more people to see me face-to-face. I don’t pay people to go door knocking for me. I want to be out there. I want to hear people’s issues and concerns and make sure that they get to know me as well,” added Beckford.
The veteran has even participated in the recent protest of Red Apple Nails, which was the site of a vicious fight between local customers and the nail salon employees. Earlier this month, the Chinese nail salon employees were caught on camera hitting three black female customers with broomsticks, after the females apparently refused to pay for the services rendered.
“The people who don’t have a voice, the ones who are experiencing injustices, that’s who I’m here for. I want voters to feel that they are getting fair representation. That incident was about marginalization, why were those employees so angry?,” said Beckford.
Beckford claims the incident was about race and the lack of black and brown employees being hired by local businesses. An issue Beckford has noticed and wants to address if elected. According to him, local businesses should be employing community members as a way of welcoming good business practices and of unifying varying groups of people.
In fact, Beckford finds incumbent Bichotte’s plan to designate an area of Flatbush as “Little Haiti,” as a divisive tactic in an already polarizing America. Beckford feels that unity is the goal if local residents are going to have any chance at fighting against the tactics out of the Trump Administration.
The second-time candidate finds that his opponent has been very Haitian-centric in her recent issues, going to bat for the Caribbean sub-group more than once in a community known for multiple ethnic backgrounds.
“Little Haiti is divisive. We need to be united, if we want to have change and be able to fight against Trump’s immigration policies and tactics. It’s not just about TPS [Temporary Protected Status] it’s about DACA [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals],” said Beckford.
One of Beckford’s first line of business is housing and displacement. The native believes that the “gentrification” across the district has made it impossible for longtime residents to remain in their homes and has changed the once diverse area into one filled with young professionals.
“The current administration is using gentrifiers as tools to increase development in our neighborhoods. We need to be able to make everyone self-aware of the need for affordable housing and educate these new residents on the impact of development,” said Beckford.
Another one his platforms is building a better relationship between police and local residents, particularly through his Cop Watch organization. Beckford heads the Brooklyn sector of Copwatch Patrol Unit, an organization that stresses Police accountability. The grassroots police watchdog group documents New York Police Department (NYPD) misconduct through photography and videos.
In the end, Becford’s main goal is to bring the “people” back to “politics”. He might be a member of the Green party, and a self-proclaimed Democratic Socialist, but Beckford prides himself as being able to integrate himself into any community across the district, not just his base in Flatbush but also to the people in Ditmas Park.
“I relate to them all, I’m from the community. It’s not about a political party but the people. People over parties. Parties try to attach themselves to issues but it’s about the people,” said Beckford.
Green Party candidate Antony Beckford will face Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte in the General Election Nov. 6.