I'm Joshua Clennon and I'm running to represent NYC Council District 9
(South Harlem, Central Harlem, East Harlem, and Sugar Hill)
I am the unlikeliest candidate and that’s what makes me best fit for the job because the challenges of our community are not just talking points for me, they are my lived experiences.
I grew up in a hard working class family of Caribbean immigrants and southern blacks that migrated to NYC from Alabama. My mother’s matrilineal side has lived in Harlem since my great great grandmother, who moved from Barbados to Ellis Island with her mother in the early 1900’s. My father immigrated to NYC from the birthplace of reggae, Trenchtown, Jamaica, with nothing to his name but a toothbrush and a pair of shoes in the 1980’s.
A couple years after I was born in 1995, my father was shot and killed in front of our home. My mom, bless her soul, she never skipped a beat. She worked day and night as a beautician to keep the lights on and raise me as a single mother. Despite all her hard work, the money was never enough and I would come home to eviction notices on our door.
My grandmother went to college late in her life and was able to work alongside the Black United Fund and Abyssinian Development Corporation as a project manager during a time where a lot of housing stock in Harlem was derelict and abandoned. From my grandmother, I learned the importance of community development- to ensure that residents have equity and a say in what their communities look like.
From my mother and my grandmother, I learned the importance of faith, hard work, perseverance, and giving back to the community. Despite all of our own problems, my family was always looking out for our neighbors because that’s what the village of Harlem is about.
From the streets of Harlem, I learned two more important lessons needed to survive as a young black man in America- How to fight and When to fight.
I have seen Harlem change from a place forgotten by many to become the trendiest neighborhood in Manhattan. After graduating from Penn State University in 2014, I returned home to see my neighbors being priced out of their homes and not able to afford to retire in the community they fought so long and so hard to uplift--that led me to get involved in community activism.
I was appointed in 2018 to Community Board 10 as one of it’s youngest members and was elected Treasurer in 2020. As Treasurer, I oversee and manage the community board's budget. Furthermore, I serve as the Chair of the District Needs Taskforce which is responsible for preparing Central Harlem's District Needs Statement and crucial budget requests to address key issues in our community such as municipal services, infrastructure, and funding for local institutions.
I joined the NAACP in 2016 and became a next gen fellow in 2019 to work between inter generational members to push progressive policies. I was elected Co Chair of Economic Development for NAACP Mid Manhattan Branch in 2019. I’ve organized resource and procurement events for minority small businesses in Harlem to assist them in navigating the bureaucracy of government contracts to help level the playing field during this economic downturn.
I joined the Uptown Democratic Club in 2017 in which I ran for county committee and was appointed as the youngest Executive Director in 2018. I have recruited over 50 candidates and elected young progressives to the NY County Committee.
As a DNC delegate for Bernie Sanders in 2016 and member of the Hillary for America Millennial Victory Fund, I learned the hard way that truly transformative change does not occur in one election cycle or two, it's requires constant persistence that starts with local elected leadership.
My every -day work managing low-income housing cooperatives known as HDFCs has given me the experience needed to protect our community from predatory developers and bring real affordable housing solutions to City Hall.
Our city is facing an unprecedented fiscal crisis due to the COVID 19 Pandemic and that will require the city to make hard choices. But it also gives us the opportunity to introduce policy that can level the playing field for the many. It is our time to fight for budget justice to save our small businesses, fully fund public schools, public banking, green jobs, infrastructure investments, and create more permanent income based housing and cooperative home ownership opportunities. I’m running to make Harlem for the many, not the few who have profit from the displacement of our neighbors, friends, and families.