Additional reporting by
Amsterdam News Editor
Voting for the Democratic primary was officially capped on Tuesday, June 22, leaving two prominent Black candidates advancing to the November election for City Council in Harlem’s District 9 and Brooklyn’s District 42.
According to the Board of Elections (BOE), there’s an unofficial total of 44,611 people who voted early in this primary election, with 14,355 Queens votes, 12,230 Brooklyn, 10,648 Manhattan, and 7,378 Bronx. There were a total of 15,435 absentee and military ballots citywide found valid and scanned. And as of 6 p.m. on Tuesday night, there were a total of 149,484 votes cast at the polls. All three totals are included in election night results together.
District 9’s candidates were Assembly Member Inez Dickens and Exonerated Five’s Yusef Salaam, along with Assembly Member Al Taylor. They wrapped up campaigning heading into Election Night.
As of press time on Tuesday night, Salaam took an early lead in the polls with 50.14% of the votes or 5,540 votes. Dickens had 25.02% of the votes or 2,764 votes while Taylor had 14.39% of the votes or 1,590 votes. A gaggle of his friends, family, and enthusiastic supporters called the race for Salaam and celebrated at the Harlem Tavern on Frederick Douglass Blvd. They rang a large cow bell in the middle of the restaurant and crowded around Salaam as he made his appearance. His mother and prolific activist, Sharonne Salaam, said that there will be more “vision” for the Harlem community at city council. .
“I am very, very proud, we’ve come a long way he is still standing tall and committed to this community,” Sharonne Salaam told the AmNews.
The co-founder of the volunteer organization, Justice 4 The Wrongfully Incarcerated, continued by saying: “We are really excited about him winning. We are looking forward to him doing positive work and getting results for Harlem. He is going to focus on public works. His platform focused on education, housing, health care, and investment in workforce and economic development.”
Harlem has spoken
“I’m here because Harlem, you believed in me. Harlem has spoken,” said Salaam at his press conference.
In the last weeks leading up to the primary, after a series of candidate forums, Salaam’s campaign picked up steam. Much of the focus was shifted onto Dickens’ real estate background, painting her as a “slumlord” who had reportedly started the proceedings to evict at least 17 tenants since the 1980s.
Once again Harlemites voted for change as they did when current socialist Council Member Kristin Richardson Jordan unseated former Council Member Bill Perkins in 2021. Jordan had opted out of this year’s reelection campaign late in the race. Still, her name was on the ballot and she garnered 9.42% of the votes or 1,041 votes.
“I’m happy. This is an exciting time for Harlem,” fellow hopeful Assemblyman Al Taylor told the AmNews. “When was the last time someone stepped from outside of the system and won and ran with such a resounding mandate. I’m proud.”
The Harlem elected continued, “As Yusef would say, it’s a trifecta – ‘You guys let me come to City Hall and we [Taylor and Dickens] keep our positions.’ And he delivered on that. We get to keep our positions, and he’s in City Hall. And we will work together. I am so hopeful for Harlem, so hopeful for this city with a man like that stepping into place.”
Taylor determined, “I will continue to be a champion for Harlem, Washington Heights, Inwood…and working on the city level with my brother Yusef Salaam, and Assemblywoman Inez Dickens. And I will continue to fight for the residents of this community in making sure we’re bringing home the resources.”
The atmosphere at other Harlem watch parties was much more of a somber affair, but still good-spirited. Senator Cordell Cleare, who backed Taylor, said that she’s still glad to have a colleague and “fighter” in Albany.
Sharonne Salaam added, “Can you imagine, we went from being taken from Africa, forced into enslavement, segregation, Jim Crow, and all things not good, prison as a child, education and beyond, then an inspirational speaker to many, and now a voice to the community he so loves.”
Barron and Banks in East New York
Meanwhile, candidate Chris Banks managed to lead in the votes over longtime incumbent Council Member Charles Barron, who along with his wife, has had a stronghold on elected positions in East New York for 22 years.
The unofficial election night results indicate Banks had 50.54% of the votes or 3,011 votes and Barron had 43.20% of the votes or 2,574 votes.
“The last election I got 8,000 votes, but my people stayed home because they did not take the other candidate as a credible option, and that is how he was able to take the primary,” Barron told the AmNews.
From the minute the result became clear, Barron and his supporters were shocked. It was unexpected. However, Barron told the AmNews that he stands by his decades-long work in “my beloved East New York.”
From City Council to the Assembly in the last 20 years, the popular one-time Black Panther, and Black nationalist said he has been an effective leader in the community and city.
“We transformed the community,” he said. “We built real affordable homes, new schools, community-based institutions, libraries, and parks. These accomplishments can not be taken away. Our legacy remains intact. My commitment to the community, and my fire will continue.”
Full of energy the morning after the election, Barron said that he does feel for his staff and the community who still wanted the visions of his office fulfilled.
“My Deputy Chief of Staff Keron Alleyne was fired up on primary night, and told the crowd, that we don’t have time to harbor our feelings. We’ve got to continue this fight for our people. We have to keep running. I might be back in two years. In the meantime I will continue to do the work.”
Banks could not be reached for comment by post time.
Additional reporting contributed by Amsterdam News’ Tandy Lau.
Additional reporting by Amsterdam News Jason Evan Ponterotto.
Ariama C. Long is a Report for America corps member and writes about politics for the Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by visiting https://bit.ly/amnews1.