On the Record
Apr 07, 2009 | 22342 views | 0 0 comments | 901 901 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Community advocate Tony Herbert made himself inconspicuous at a recent anti-violence rally in Central Brooklyn. That is, until it was his turn to speak.

Taking the podium, Herbert railed against violence and urged community leaders, parents, and youth to work together against it. When Herbert speaks, people seem to listen, though they don't always agree.

Everyone - supporters and critics alike - will hear plenty from him this year as Herbert makes his second run for City Council. He recently announced his candidacy for the 35th District seat on the steps of City Hall. In an interview soon afterwards, Herbert spoke of his chances of winning and his long public service career.

"From the age of 15 I've been a part of community-based organizations," said Herbert, who grew up in Prospect Heights. As a teenager, Herbert was invited to join the Crown Heights and Clinton Hill Lions Club youth programs by Cliff Lever, a community organizer. Lever would go on to give Herbert his first sports coat, first job, and inspire in him a love for community advocacy.

"That's all I've ever known is going out and helping people through service," said Herbert.

In 2008, after stints working as a community outreach liaison for city and state elected officials, Herbert, by then an advertising executive, founded his own organization, Urban Community Council (UCC). Herbert said he started UCC- a collection of community groups that primarily advocates against violence.- in response to a wave of violence in Central Brooklyn.

"I felt a need to create a network of organizations that had resources and the ability to help the families of victims [of violence]," Herbert said. UCC provides families affected by violence with grief counseling, working with the New York State Crime Victims Board, an agency that helps fund funeral services. Herbert said UCC also helps youth gain access to city education programs.

Most importantly, Herbert said, his organization provides an alternative model to the violence plaguing communities like Brownsville and East New York.

"As long as there's a positive image these kids can gravitate towards, we're giving them a chance," said Herbert.

Herbert said his decision to run for the City Council seat currently occupied by Councilwoman Darlene Mealy came from a desire to step up his community work as violence and joblessness increases during the recession. (He ran unsuccessfully for City Council in 2003).

"I respect Darlene Mealy," Herbert said, "but unfortunately this job is too big for her."

Herbert argued that his professional and community experience over the years makes him the best candidate to create jobs, reduce violence and bring much-needed resources to the predominantly African-American district.

"I understand what it takes to get our young black men and women prepared for college and the workforce,” said Herbert. "I think if this is anyone's race to lose its mine."

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