FLATBUSH – Joel Anabilah-Azumah has been living in Brooklyn since he was 9-years-old. Now, he is running for Congress as an Independent against the 12-year incumbent Yvette Clarke, who is also facing a primary challenge from Adem Bunkeddeko, and Republican Earl Blum.
His stances don’t at all match his two Democratic opponents, but do they match the views of Congressional District 9?
The East Flatbush resident is running for Congress to “make sure that we’re able to sustain our economic gains, allow people in my district to be able to bid on more contracts, and reel in the foreign policy expansion that’s been going on for the last 20 years. Our troops are in way too many places doing way too many things that do not benefit the American population.”
Anabilah-Azumah is the manager of his own transportation agency, TransportAzumah, which “seeks to promote integration of various transportation modes and services into a single transportation network.” He is running as an Independent because he feels it is the best way to bridge the divide between the Democrats and the Republicans. He believes it is the easiest path for a more conservative individual like him. To get on the ballot, he will need 7,500 signatures. Below is our conversation, condensed and edited for length and clarity.
Q: After the mass shooting in Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that took 17 lives, communities all over the country are shaken, including Brooklynites. What is your plan?
AA: “I believe that teachers who are interested in helping to defend schools should have the right to do so,” Anabilah-Azuma said. “They are all handguns, they’re concealed, the kids don’t know which teachers are carrying them, the parents don’t know which teachers are carrying, the school district doesn’t know how many teachers are armed, etc. That’s how the program should run.”
He argues that police officers cannot be everywhere at once and need to focus on general policing. It is the teachers, the ones who are comfortable with the students to prevent any misunderstanding and accidents, that should be armed to protect the students, he said. He agrees with President Trump on implementing a Texas model where teachers would legally be able to have guns. This would mean additional training for teachers and psychological screenings.
According to Anabilah-Azumah, this program would be strictly voluntary for teachers who wish to have a firearm, as everyone does not need to be armed. “Just the people that have the initiative to protect other people,” he said.
When asked if he’ll put forth a proposal if elected congressman, he said there would be no need for “the existing law would likely already make it possible for most schools to arm themselves. It’s just a matter of determining additional levels of screening for teachers that carry weapons and determining how those weapons are handled on the property.”
Though he isn’t entirely sure how much this program would cost, he “would imagine that there would be numerous National Rifle Association (NRA) instructors that would be more than happy to try and help school districts train the teachers for these type of situations at reasonable costs.”
He is also well aware that this will come with a backlash from Brooklyn and state politicians, but the right and wrong are not based on agreements, he said: “Right and wrong is based on strictly right and wrong. “
Q: More than 11,000 people in Congressional District 9 are from an Arab ancestry, almost 300,000 (40% of the district) are foreign-born. Many of these Brooklynites were affected after President Trump announced his Muslim Ban which barred people from a few Arab-speaking countries from coming to the US. What is your position?
AA: Anabilah-Azumah supports the ban—though he doesn’t think the “Muslim population in this district is the type of Muslim the President will have any trouble with.”
According to Anabilah-Azumah, there are two types of Muslims: those who believe in the American ideology and those who do not. Muslims who live in Congressional District 9 are great because they “love America… have put together some really quality schools, and those schools turn out a lot of intelligent children.”
“All Muslims are not alike,” he said. “I think a lot of what’s going on is very much fear-mongering,” he said. “I think that Muslims are acutely aware of radicalism in their community. And they certainly are able to tell the difference in terms of what the country is able to be doing.”
He argues that the left doesn’t seem to acknowledge that there are Muslims who do not have any sort of allegiance to the US and would not be beneficial to this country as they do not understand the norms.
“There are other places where Muslims support throwing people off buildings and that’s what happens. They throw gay people off roofs in Saudi Arabia,” he said. “So the reality is, we have to bring in Muslims who are going to respect our country and integrate properly in our country. And we brought in plenty that have. So the idea that we need to screen for Muslims that don’t fit that profile is not something people should get angry about.”
ICE Raiding Courts
We reported on ICE arresting four men outside the Brooklyn Criminal Court, which outraged Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez. Anabilah-Azumah believes that though ICE should target “criminal aliens… it needs to be a little bit more pragmatic and understanding that the goal of their operations is to get immigrants to register and adjust their status appropriately and do the right thing, as opposed to a snatch and grab,” he said.
LGBT + Military
If a Brooklynite from Congressional District 9 wanted to deploy in the military, Anabilah-Azumah would happily watch them go. But if the Brooklynite were to be a transgender person, there would be a problem, as he believes (like the President) that a transgender person should not serve.
The US spends over $500 billion dollars on the military but cannot afford to let transgender people voluntarily serve, as “Transgender people have a situation where a lot of times they have to take various hormones and cocktails of hormones in order to get them to be their final self. And at the same time, they have to fight,” Anabilah-Azumah said.
“Men and women are equal, but they are not the same. And so there is a unit cohesion issue,” he said. “When you have somebody who is physically in transitioning, what unit do you put them in? The female units have a certain physical standard, and they have a certain type of work, and the male units have a certain physical standard and a certain type of work.”
“I really don’t think it’s personal against transgender people,” he said.
Anabilah-Azumah believes affordable housing will only occur when the incomes of people are sufficiently higher to allow them more choice.
“I think that it’s a matter of the people in our district being able to make more money, get better jobs, and then that will coincide with the realignment with some of these luxury products,” he said. “There are too many luxury units for too few luxury customers. So they’re going to have to meet in the middle.”
Stop and frisk is a policy he disagrees with. In order to lower crime in the district, Anabilah-Azumah believes that the police and community need to have a better relationship.
“Frankly, the community needs to reach out to the police and establish a dialogue on what kind of policing we need on certain kinds of things,” he said. “Because there are other districts that have very good relationships with the police and the police make it their business to understand those communities. I don’t think we have that same kind of understanding in most of this district.”
“I think Yvette Clarke’s ideologies don’t help this community in the way this community needs to be helped,” he said. “Black people are not these helpless little creatures. We have talents, we have capabilities, and I think the current Democratic narrative really demeans black people as being incapable without some sort of government help. And a lot of people are tired of it.”
Anabilah-Azumah has absolutely no political experience. What he does have is the knowledge of how a dollar is made. And that is why he believes he should be a congressman.
“There are a lot of politicians that never actually run a business. And running a business is a situation where sometimes you can do everything you’re supposed to do and still not make your money. And I’m the kind of person that I doesn’t want taxes to go up, I believe that people spend their own money better than the government and that we should help people whenever possible to help them make their own lives better instead of making the government involved in things they don’t need to be in.”
“Understanding how precious a dollar is will ensure that I make good use of your dollars.”