Early voting starts in Caribbean community

Anthony Beckford.
Photo courtesy Anthony Beckford

Early voting for the Democratic Primary Election in the Caribbean community in New York started on Saturday and runs until Sunday, June 23. Primary Election Day is on June 25.

“Voting early is convenient, fast and flexible,” Brooklyn Democratic Party Leader, New York State Assembly Member Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn, the daughter of Haitian immigrants, told Caribbean Life on Saturday.

Bichotte Hermelyn, who represents the 42nd Assembly District in Brooklyn, said, on the ballot are the Democratic nominations for Representative in Congress (Congressional District 10); New York State Assemblymembers (41st, 50th, 52nd, and 56th Assembly Districts); New York State Senator (59th Senate District); District Leaders/State Committee Members; and Judge of the Civil Court (6th Municipal District).

Bichotte Hermelyn said she has endorsed Caribbean-American lawyer Kenneth E. Gayle, whose late father hailed from Jamaica, for election as Civil Court Judge, 6th Municipal District (Brooklyn).

Attorney Kenneth Gayle addresses congregation on Sunday at Fenimore Street United Methodist Church in Brooklyn.
Attorney Kenneth Gayle addresses congregation on Sunday at Fenimore Street United Methodist Church in Brooklyn. Photo by Nelson A. King

“Kenneth Gayle is extremely qualified for Civil Court Judge, with over a decade of experience at his respected law firm with vast expertise practicing in civil rights, torts, real estate, wills and estates and more; providing an extensive and fresh understanding of the court’s needs,” she said.

“Combined with Kenneth’s drive, dedication and deep understanding of our community, I’m confident he’ll deliver fair, culturally-competent justice, and I wholeheartedly endorse Kenneth to become our next Civil Court Judge,” added Bichotte Hermelyn, noting that “Gayle has never forgotten about his roots, as a Flatbush (Brooklyn) native and son of Jamaican immigrants.

“Kenneth has consistently worked to uphold justice for our community’s most vulnerable, through pro-bono work, fighting against predatory lending and deed theft, and he will ensure true fairness and equity in the judicial system,” she continued.

Gayle told Caribbean Life that he was “extremely honored to be endorsed by Assemblymember Bichotte Hermelyn.

“Garnering support from Bichotte Hermelyn – a lifelong community advocate and leader with an unparalleled track record of accomplishments uplifting all New Yorkers – showcases the growing, strong support for my candidacy,” he said.

Gayle – whose late father, Kennth E. Gayle, Jr., had migrated to Brooklyn from Kingston, the Jamaican capital, when he was 8 years old – said he’s also done “a lot of work to increase the numbers of Black and Brown kids at specialized high schools, especially (at) Brooklyn Tech.”

Gayle, a Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn resident, said his late mother’s, Valerie Gayle, family has been living in Brooklyn for almost 100 years.

“I am a neighborhood lawyer from Brooklyn, who wants to be a judge for all people,” he said. “I never went the corporate route as an attorney but instead decided to live and work in my community for my community.”

He said his dad became a paraplegic, when he was 8, and that his mom took care of him while battling breast cancer at a very young age, “which she ultimately succumbed to 25 years later.”

“She was the youngest person in New York State to have a double mastectomy,” Gayle disclosed. “I want to help kids in similar situations find their way and become productive members of society rather than turning to crime.

“My dad had to fight in court to find justice and restitution for his injuries,” he added. “Watching my dad fight for his rights truly inspired me. He was unable to raise me physically, but was always there emotionally.”

Gayle said his prospects of winning in the Primary are “very high if I can get my message of truth, fairness and justice out effectively to each and every community across the 6th Judicial District.”

Raised in Brooklyn’s East Flatbush neighborhood, the candidate for Kings County Civil Court judgeship said his background instilled in him “a strong commitment to education, service and community.”

He said he has been an advocate for social justice, fighting against predatory lending and deed theft, and serving with neighborhood defendant services to ensure fairness and equity in the judicial system.

He said his commitment to public service and extensive legal experience make him a “qualified candidate” for Kings County Civil Court Judge in the 6th Municipal District.

Gayle said he’s an advocate for “fair and equitable access to the legal system for all Brooklyn residents, regardless of their socio-economic status”, and that he urges the use of alternative dispute resolution and community-based programs to address minor offenses and reduce recidivism.

In addition, Gayle said he maintains the “highest standards of ethics and transparency in the judiciary to foster public trust and confidence in the legal system.

“As a candidate of the 6th Municipal Court Judge in Brooklyn, I am committed to upholding justice with integrity, fairness and compassion,” he said, stressing that his dedication to “serving our community stems from a deep belief in equality and the rule of law.”

Gayle has been endorsed also by several local elected officials, including Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants; New York State Assembly Member Brian Cunningham, the son of Jamaican immigrants; and New York City Council Member Farah N. Louis, the daughter of Haitian and Bahamian immigrants.

Cunningham, who represents the 43rd Assembly District in Brooklyn, said he has offered his “full endorsement and support” for Anthony Beckford, another son of Jamaican immigrants, for Male District Leader and State Committee Member of the 43rd Assembly District.

Cunningham also endorsed Grenadian-born Sarana Purcell’s re-election for Female District Leader and State Committee Member.

District Leaders are elected, unpaid leaders of the Brooklyn Democratic Party. There is one female and one male District Leader representing each Assembly District.

District Leaders make decisions that affect every day Brooklynites, such as voting on Democratic Party leadership, helping to staff poll sites and nominating local judicial candidates.

“Having had the privilege of working closely with both Anthony and Sarana, I feel confident in their overall leadership and their dedication to the district,” said Cunningham, stating that  Purcell is “a dedicated community leader and public servant.

“With over 17 years of experience in government and community relations, Sarana has made significant contributions at various levels of government at the city, state and federal level,” Cunningham said.

He said Beckford is a community advocate, entrepreneur and US Marine Corps veteran, who “has committed himself to serving the community throughout the years and helping to address many of the issues that we face.

“Throughout the years, Anthony Beckford has been on the frontlines being a vital voice in regards to the issues that affect us, such as housing, food insecurities, transportation, education, criminal justice and threats to our democracy,” Cunningham.

After years of serving the New York Caribbean community as a fervent community advocate and mentor, Beckford said he has decided to run for the position of New York State Male District Leader, also known as a State Committee Member, so he can “protect democracy” in Brooklyn.

Beckford, who resides in Brooklyn, told Caribbean Life that that he believes he will be “the perfect example of leadership as a Democratic District Leader.”

He said he plans to bring into the position his advocacy and know-how to draft and lobby for legislation that the community needs.

As a single father, Beckford said he is “no stranger to holding elected officials accountable and bringing about positive change and progress for the people.”

“There is a need in our democracy for more leaders who have integrity, and are true advocates and protectors of our democracy,” he said. “We have heard lip service one too many times and have seen many ‘Electeds’ disappear after election day and then they reappear when it is time to vote again.

“I take our democracy and our rights very serious, and will continue my long-standing work within the district to make sure that our democracy and our rights are protected,” he added. “I will also make it my duty to help out ‘Electeds’ in city, state and federal with common sense legislation that benefit the people.”

Purcell, who migrated to Brooklyn with her family as a young child, said the dedication and sacrifices made by her parents to give her and her siblings a better life instilled her with a strong work ethic that she carries with her to this day.

Growing up as an undocumented youth in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, Purcell said she faced many obstacles and challenges.

She said those experiences gave her “insight into the shared experience across immigrant communities who came to the United States to pursue the American Dream and the experiences of all those striving to succeed in the face of setbacks.”

Purcell said her ability to overcome these obstacles, with the support that she received from her community, “laid the foundation” for her passion for public service and supporting those that are most vulnerable in our society.

She said she is “a firm champion of building partnership between government institutions, community-based organizations, clergy, small businesses, and other stakeholders,” and that she  knows “firsthand the profound impact coalition building has on improving underserved communities and enhancing quality of life.”

As a community leader, organizer and a mom, Purcell said she is “dedicated to ensuring pathways to opportunity is accessible to all people.”