MSM: Keron, so you’re a husband, father, runner, and activist, along with many other things. Tell us how you decided to go into politics.
KERON: My journey within and through politics is tied to and branched from my life in service of the community, and life in service is rooted in my family. My parents immigrated to this country from Trinidad and I grew up in an inter-generational household. When we moved to East New York, Brooklyn, the communal atmosphere at home remained an integral part in my upbringing. It remains the special ingredient that makes me think of we before me. My grandfather was one of the three patriarchs of the block – tirelessly protecting, cleaning and providing a presence to all of us following in his footsteps. A memorable project that he and the other men led was cultivating the community gardens in the neighborhood.
Grandad always took me along to the garden whether or not I wanted to be there. And the saying goes, “more grows in the garden than the gardener plants.” I would have to say my Grandfather sowed some seeds of community within me by giving me that example and exposure. My mother, father and many cousins did the same as we all formed this village. Notice, all I’m talking about is community because that’s what politics should be. Community always comes first! We forget that politics morphed into a tool of oppression versus a means to improve the future of our children and safeguard our elders.
To answer the question directly, I’ve always been involved, in one form or another, in politics. This could be as simple as studying government & politics as an undergrad or interning for the local Congressman. I’m a firm believer, of the quote, “if you don’t take an interest in politics, it will take an interest in you.”
MSM: With everything going on with Covid, the last presidential election, all the protests against police brutality and killings of innocent Black men & women, you’ve been out there on the frontlines. How has that been for you?
Keron: First, my heart goes out to all those lost to this vicious virus. We must fight to ensure our community receives all it deserves on the road to recovery. As for me man, it has been a wild ride. This entire year is something that none of us expected. COVID-19 has devastated our communities and amplified the disparities which already existed. The uprisings in response to systemic oppression and police brutality is a global watershed moment like no other. The mental, physical and spiritual devastation is unfathomable. My guiding force at the start of the pandemic has been that leadership comes in many forms, so how can you provide that leadership — right now. There is no blueprint for this moment in history. With that in mind, we just had to act. Over these past couple months I’ve done everything from deliver food for our neighbors to being brutalized and unlawfully arrested by NYPD. It has been a wild ride and we have a long road ahead. No time to be complacent nor stagnant when people are in need.
MSM: As an activist you’ve experienced how these officers are very quick to escalate rather than de-escalate, that all came to a boiling point one night during a protest.
Keron: George Floyd was killed brutally by police officers on May 25th and the video of his murder shook the world. The compounding build up of injustices from Ahmaud Arbery to Breonna Taylor, plus the countless names – and then you add in COVID-19. The collective outrage was something I’ve always been attuned to and knew, once [my wife] Ameria and I secured childcare, we would be out in the streets. We must always recognize that protest and civil disobedience is the language of the unheard. On May 29th, I participated in that collective dialogue by heading out to the Barclays Center. You could feel the tension in the air from the jump. The NYPD were in the street seemingly armed for war: clad in riot gear, buses on standby, batons, you name it. Very little masks to protect against COVID though.
Officers moved really aggressively as if the protesters were in enemy territory and they were sent to contain and eradicate. From across the street we witnessed protesters get pushed, grabbed and arrested and all the commotion initiated by the NYPD. Eventually, what we witnessed would reach us as an officer grabbed my wife, Ameria, from the crowd. I immediately jumped between her and them demanding to know why her rights to protest were being violated. Shortly after, I was thrown to the ground, brutalized, arrested and taken to One Police Plaza. It was a predicament that I never expected. We were eventually released early Saturday morning. All in all what happened to us is incomparable to the pain and injustices we’re protesting to end.
MSM: On January 20th of this year you launched your campaign for New York State Senate Senatorial District 19. What led to that decision to actually go all in for a senate seat?
Keron: It was a community decision as I’m a part of a social justice organization where our culture and politics meet, called Operation P.O.W.E.R. It has shaped and molded my political understanding and maturity. That being said, my community deserves better representation. The people of the 19th district are brilliant, and it’s the community’s potential that inspires me to work to help bring that to fruition. Before COVID, before this watershed moment reckoning with systemic racism — we said that our community should have elected officials who champion the issues on the ground with real policy. We called for radical change and built a campaign that embodied that message. The decisions that led to running for the senate seat arose from the poor decisions that led to neglect, divestment and overall disregard for our community’s future. Our campaign was one that would take our issues and reflect them in the state budget and provide leadership for us and by us.
MSM: I’m going to assume with a decision of that magnitude it is very important to have a good team backing you. How has that been and who has been your go to person for wisdom and knowledge?
Keron: A cornerstone of our campaign was that we were people powered. This was proven true for everything we did from petitioning to phone banking — it took a team of our amazing volunteers that loaned their time, resources and networks to grow our campaign. Each one helped us across each hurdle. Our core team, of four: Ameria, Jibreel, Jawanza and Ahmad, were responsible for the organization, vision and execution of the whole campaign. The importance of team lives and dies with the quality of personnel and for having them I’m forever grateful. My go to for advice was the core team collectively and my comrade and political mentor Assemblyman Charles Barron. A Black Panther, and a true elected activist, he has seen it all.
MSM: You’re a person from Brooklyn, New York – East New York to be exact – and Brooklyn bred all the way. You’ve seen so much change from your childhood to now, as I like to say old Brooklyn vs New Brooklyn. As a politician what are your thoughts on this because you’re also still a resident.
Keron: One correction, I’m no politician – I’m an activist. It is through this lens I answer this question. Change and growth of two different things. I stand by that. Our neighborhoods are changing which is due to external forces on the community. You have buildings going up and people interested in communities they were once too afraid to explore. Some parts of Brooklyn have still flourished. The people that were there through tough times are now prospering by the process of investing, creating community and reinvesting. They’ve built a village to safeguard our neighborhoods from change and to facilitate growth is a delicate balance that I’m very much so aware of.
MSM: Onto the next thing because this is a running magazine and you’re a runner. A consistent one at that because as you know you’re followed on Nike and Strava. Take us through your run regiment, your mileage count and some of the monthly goals you usually hit while being a politician.
Keron: I usually run 5 days a week. A couple of easy days, mixed in with some speed, tempo and trail running. On the year, so far I’m just under 900 miles. I hit 153 miles in May for a high on the year and have just been pushing forward.
MSM: You just touched on your milage but lets REALLY dive into those stats a bit. To me with your schedule its pretty amazing.
Keron: I normally run on average 30-40 miles a week. I’ve averaged about 120+ miles a month since the start of the year. I PR’ed for a half marathon (Fred Lebow) in the bitter cold of January for a 1:39:52 half. You can see anything from me on a given week – from a 8 pace for 13 miles, a 6 pace for a few miles, or 9 pace . I thrive on the spontaneity since we have no races to look forward to for the rest of 2020. Running keeps me balanced and I’m thankful that it has been a guiding light for me during this wild year we’ve had.
MSM: With Covid pretty much ruining everything for 2020 including races how are you staying fit?
Keron: The goal was always health and wellness through running and for that no races are needed. My favorite quote for staying consistent is, “diabetes runs in your family because no one runs in your family.” Races are a great benchmark but they were not the reason for me to add running to my list of things to do. Personally, I have to challenge and win against the ills of family history by taking up physical fitness. Additionally chasing my 3 year old is also keeping me in tip top shape.
MSM: The most curious question that I’m sure our readers have is how do you balance everything especially with the two most important factors: being a husband and father?
Keron: Balance is absolutely difficult to achieve. Honestly, some days I’m really good and others I’m terrible. The pandemic exacerbated these ebbs and flows as my wife became essential during the shelter in place. This meant while working full-time (from home), I was now promoted to primary educator/caretaker for my 3 year old and still a candidate for State Senate. This was not easy but balance came through reimagining and rebuilding my definitions of balance, productivity and completely dismantling the comparisons of “normal circumstances”. This meant running at unholy hours (3am) to get my miles, this meant transforming our campaign to fully digital and this meant being creative as Mr. Baba (Dad) at home. Not getting bogged down with how you wish things could be and actively taking steps to create my reality was something I grew into over time.
MSM: On primary day, June 23rd 2020, if I’m not mistaken for your very first election you received close to 6000 votes. Granted you didn’t get the results you wanted, but I’m sure the fire was ignited. What’s next for Keron the runner and politician?
Keron: The fire is LIT! Man, I’m so excited for the journey ahead. This election cycle, I really learned a lot. My next steps are to simply to educate, activate and organize. Block by block, and person by person we will let our will be felt to grow the community. Remember, I’m an activist so these are my three steps of action!
MSM: Any final thoughts you’d like to share with us?
Keron: In the words of the late great street philosopher, Nipsey Hussle, the marathon continues.
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