Meet Cyril: The People’s Candidate

Cyril Joseph is the people’s candidate, a man who has experienced homelessness, poverty, and the challenges of living as an undocumented immigrant in America. Throughout his life, he has worked to bring jobs, housing, and rights to people experiencing hardship by building relationships, nonprofits, and grassroots activism.

Cyril came to the U.S. in 1967 from Saint Lucia, an island in the West Indies. For ten years, he worked the land as a migrant farmworker, traveling across the country picking fruits and vegetables and putting food on America’s tables. He first learned about leadership as the driver and leader of his crew, helping his team members work efficiently, earn money, and survive raids by ICE

Hungry for an education, he soon earned college degrees in business, human services, and liberal arts, as well as a certificate in project management. Eager to support immigrants, Cyril became a caseworker with the nonprofit Rural Opportunities Inc., helping migrant workers in New York gain education and stable jobs. In 1983, he organized his first direct political action, gathering migrant workers from across New York State to travel to Albany and advocate for housing and job training. 

Cyril continued his activism while working for the New York nonprofit Action for Better Community, where he went beyond his role as an Education & Training caseworker to provide legal aid for New Yorkers who had been unjustly incarcerated due to the color of their skin. When he moved to Brooklyn 25 years ago, Mr. Joseph founded his own nonprofit, the Togetherness with Love Community Center, where he provided food, housing assistance, job fairs, and immigration assistance to anyone in need. 

Yet Cyril’s story would not be complete without the chapter on his direct service to Brooklynites through his community gardens. In 2004, Mr. Joseph discovered an unused plot of land in Bushwick and transformed it into The Secret Garden, a thriving green space where low-income New Yorkers could access free food and connect with one another. As a pioneer of urban agriculture in New York City, Mr. Joseph has led three community gardens in Brooklyn over the past fifteen years. In partnership with the City’s GreenThumb program, his gardens have provided learning opportunities and healthy foods to children from New York City public schools.

Today Mr. Joseph’s Umoja Garden offers a refuge from the challenges of the pandemic and economic crisis, a place where New Yorkers come to grow their own food, access free tutoring for their children, and celebrate their community through festivals that foster health and wellness. Mr. Joseph’s welcoming spirit and generous leadership have helped Brooklynites come together to weather the storm.

Like his Secret Garden, you may not know of all of the ways that Cyril has helped improve the lives of New Yorkers. His grassroots organizing was instrumental in convincing the City to restore Q24 bus service in 2013, assisting thousands of residents of Brooklyn and Queens. His work with the local economic development corporation also led to the creation of an inclusive business improvement district connecting Bedford Stuyvesant and Bushwick. 

Mr. Joseph has served as Executive Director of the Ocean Hill/Bushwick/Bedford-Stuyvesant Local Development Corporation (OBUSTY) and was one of the original founders of the New Kings Democrats, a club now popular among young members of the City’s progressive left. Mr. Joseph has served on Community Boards #4, #5, #16, and #17, including several subcommittees. He has served on Community Board #4 for the past 25 years. He has been elected twice to the Kings County Democratic County Committee, and he was appointed to the New York State Democratic Committee.

This year, Mr. Joseph worked the polls to help New Yorkers elect President Biden and usher in a new era of change in our country. There is no community activist better prepared to bring about a fair and sustainable New York than Mr. Joseph, who has worked tirelessly on behalf of all New Yorkers for a quarter century. Mr. Joseph will serve in the City Council as a Democratic Socialist, fighting for groundbreaking social change that empowers all New Yorkers, not just the wealthiest 10%. 

His agenda to create high-paying jobs, make renting a home sustainable, and support the rights of immigrants and Black and Brown New Yorkers make him an ideal candidate to heal the massive inequalities that the ongoing pandemic and economic crisis have revealed. As proven by his day-to-day work in community gardens, Mr. Joseph is literally not afraid to get his hands dirty, to work hard, and to create new systems and relationships in our community to bring about a world where we can all thrive.