CD-35 candidate claims racism on campaign trail

Renee Collymore.  Sean James
Renee Collymore.
Sean James

A candidate running to succeed term-limited City Council Member Laurie Cumbo in the 35th District in Brooklyn has accused the campaign manager of a rival candidate of racism.

The 35th district comprises the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Prospect Heights, Crown Heights and a portion of Bedford-Stuyvesant.

Renee Collymore, a former Democratic District Leader and daughter the late Barbadian immigrant, Cecil Collymore, told Caribbean Life on Tuesday that she “experienced racism,” on the campaign trail, from the campaign manager of Crystal Hudson.

Collymore described Hudson’s campaign manager as a “young white woman,” whose name she only knows as “Kate.”

When contacted, Hudson, the daughter and granddaughter of Jamaican immigrants, declined to give her campaign manager’s full name.

“As I was speaking with a few members of the Carpenters Union, expressing to them that I have always supported our labor unions and have stood by labor for years, a white woman invited herself into my conversation and said, ‘Renee, I am Crystal Hudson’s campaign manager’” Collymore said.

“I asked her to give me a second while I finish with the union members,” Collymore added. “She responded, ‘No, you have said enough. Now, move on.’”

Stating that she was “stunned” by the alleged remarks, Collymore said she asked “Kate” to repeat her comments.

“And she confirmed her statement: ‘I said that you have said enough! Move along now!’” Collymore said.

“My response was, ‘Don’t you ever speak to me like that again. I live here. I am born and raised here…I was elected here, and I have served this community with dignity for years. How dare you disrespect me, as a Black woman, who is a candidate, on the ballot, and people are voting for me today’” Collymore added. “This is why residents don’t like gentrifiers moving into our neighborhoods changing things and telling us what to do. You’re racist and don’t ever speak to another Black woman this way.”

“She gave me a smug expression, then I walked away,” Collymore continued.

She said her campaign reached out to Hudson’s to discuss the matter, “and Hudson said that she’s having her dinner.”

When Collymore’s campaign team called back, Collymore said “an operative for Hudson responded that they will not engage in this conversation.”

Hudson, however, dismissed, in a Caribbean Life interview, Collymore’s allegation as “a preposterous lie.”

“My staff and I are running a campaign rooted in the principles of equity and justice,” she said. “As a third-generation Brooklynite and the daughter and granddaughter of Jamaican immigrants, I know all too well how displacement has destroyed Black and Brown communities, and look forward to fighting for truly affordable housing for residents of the 35th District when I’m elected to the City Council.”

Last month, Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, who represents the 8th Congressional District, encompassing parts of Brooklyn and Queens, endorsed Hudson.

Jeffries is a member of the House of Representatives’ Judiciary Committee and House Budget Committee, and serves as chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, making him the fifth highest-ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives.

Crystal Hudson.  Crystal Hudson’s campaign

“Crystal Hudson is the right leader, at the right time, with the right experience to move our Central Brooklyn community forward,” said Rep. Jeffries. “When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Crystal was there. When we came together to demand transformational police reform, Crystal was there.

“When public housing residents and those victimized by displacement needed a voice, Crystal was there,” he added. “I strongly endorse Crystal Hudson for City Council because, on day one, she will fight for justice, stand up to powerful interests and deliver real results for working families as we recover from the pandemic.”

Hudson said Jeffries has been “a powerful voice for working people, standing up to the Trump administration, putting forward practical solutions to our most pressing issues and pushing for real relief throughout this crisis.

“I’m excited to have Congressman Jeffries’ endorsement today and ready to work in tandem with him for much-needed federal funding for our communities, real action to address long-standing racial inequities, truly affordable housing, and a stronger future for all who call our city home,” Hudson said.

The endorsement came on the heels of endorsements for Hudson from several prominent labor unions and progressive leaders, including the United Federation of Teachers, 1199 SEIU, the NY State Nurses Association, DC 37, 32BJ SEIU, the Hotel Trades Council, Sheet Metal Workers Local 28, Victory Fund, Road to Justice NYC, NYIC Action, CUFFH Action, Lambda Independent Democrats of Brooklyn, New York State Sen. Jessica Ramos, New Kings Democrats, 21 in ‘21, Assemblymember Jessica González-Rojas, Council Member Brad Lander and Women of Color for Progress.

Hudson said she is a public servant and community organizer committed to fighting for the neighborhoods in the 35th District.

She said she was called to public service when she became the primary caregiver for her mother, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, and experienced first-hand how difficult it is for working families to access necessary services and resources.

After a decade working in marketing and advertising, she went on to senior roles in the City Council and the NYC Public Advocate’s Office.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Hudson created Greater Prospect Heights Mutual Aid (GPHMA) to support neighbors and provide information and resources.

Hudson, who lives in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, where her family has been for three generations, said, if elected, she would be the first openly gay Black woman elected to the New York City Council.

On her campaign website, Collymore said she is “the daughter of an immigrant father from Barbados and a mother from the Deep South.

“My family has been in Brooklyn since the 1940’s,” she said. “Our home did not come from privilege; and, like many families, we struggled to attain the American Dream.

“I am a proud product of the public school system; plus, I have been in public service and small business my entire life,” Collymore added. “I have been fighting to improve the lives of my neighbors for well over 20 years, and I am proud to call myself an activist. I am proud to call myself a Progressive Democrat. I am proud to call myself a Brooklynite, and it is my highest honor to serve District 35.

“For years, I’ve worked to connect with the communities that I have the privilege to serve on a deep level,” she continued. “I was elected as District Leader in 2012. I am humbled to have worked alongside my fellow citizens to confront the various social issues that have plagued our communities for far too long.”

Collymore listed those issues as “the (unaffordable) affordable housing crisis, and fight to relieve our city’s growing homeless population, the struggle to demilitarize and establish real police accountability, and a reallocation of resources to the much-needed social programming that the people of Brooklyn are desperately craving.”

She also called for “recognizing and respecting our beloved senior population, all while dealing with the devastating effects of the COVID-19 global pandemic and forging a path forward to get our city and borough back on the road to recovery.

“I’ve been fortunate to be on the front lines working to bring monumental change to New York’s greatest borough; and, with your help, I will continue ‘Building a Better Brooklyn,’” Collymore said.

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