Real progressives evolve, stop punishing Conrad Tillard
On the ballot in Brooklyn in Tuesday’s election is a progressive candidate with a remarkable and inspiring story of transformation.
No, not him. The other guy.
Although not labeled as progressive, the Reverend Conrad Tillard, who is running for senate in Brooklyn’s 25th district, fits the dictionary definition: to occur or develop gradually or in stages; proceed step by step.
Synonyms include forward-thinking, open-minded, and enlightened.
Tillard progressed. He had transformed. He evolved.
But that hasn’t stopped his “progressive” enemies from being stuck in time and using his past to launch an 11-hour effort to undermine his campaign.
The African-American minister has come full circle. He was born and raised as a Christian in St. Louis, Missouri, and became Conrad Muhammad, an incendiary minister for the Nation of Islam, ruling Harlem’s iconic No. 7 Mosque for much of the years. 90.
It was then that Tillard made controversial remarks about Jews and Christians and called white people “devils”.
But after a decade with the Nation of Islam, Tillard broke away from the group, reverted to his name and even went to a Christian seminary to study and preach the gospel he was raised on.
But even 25 years later, Tillard hasn’t been able to escape his past — and the slingshots and arrows of so-called progressive Democrats, who aren’t enlightened enough to see that progress and evolution go hand in hand.
Tillard said nothing Malcolm X said, and today Malcolm X is an icon.
Malcolm X is on a stamp.
Malcolm X was progressive. He too broke away from the Nation of Islam. Malcolm was in the middle of his evolution when he was murdered in Harlem’s Audubon Ballroom in 1965, a few months after Tillard was born.
The assassins after Tillard targeted his character.
“My leadership in the Nation has always been viewed positively in the community,” Tillard recalls.
“I said some things at that time and I was part of the split, but that was a long time ago. We were able to reconcile and move on.
Tillard wants this election to be about Brooklyn’s future, not its past. The district where Tillard runs includes some of Brooklyn’s toughest neighborhoods: Bedford-Stuyvesant, Clinton Hill, Fort Greene, and Boerum Hill. People there talk about jobs, housing, public safety and schools. They don’t care what someone said 25 years ago.
“I’m in a completely different place in my life,” Tillard said.
It’s not fake news, but it’s old news, only surfacing because Tillard has won the endorsement of the city’s top Democrat, Mayor Adams.
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But America’s Democratic Progressives and Socialists behind Tillard’s attack have also targeted Adams, who is more centrist than the candidates they support.
Tillard, 57, said he was no more ashamed of his Nation of Islam past than he was of his 90s Hip Hop ministry that defied gangster and violent rap lyrics.
But he said hurtful things that he has since disavowed.
Tillard has his eyes on the prize, but there is one issue he wants to set the record straight.
This story of Jews being “bloodsuckers?” Tillard never said that.
“It was Khalid,” Tillard said, a reference to the late Khalid Abdul Muhammad, another Nation of Islam exile who founded the New Black Panther Party.
So let’s leave the past in the past. Especially if it’s someone else’s past.