"There will be no more credit given for predicting the rain; it's time to build the ark. That's it... I have been committed to never laying out the issues and problems without also suggesting how we can make it better..."
- Dr. Johnnetta Cole
EARLY LIFE & EDUCATION
Kenya Handy-Hilliard’s passion is helping people. She knew from living and growing up in New York City, attending Smith College in Massachusetts, and traveling the world that she wanted to get involved with people. However, it was only while becoming a wife, a mother, and public servant on all levels of government, that she has become inspired to help and empower people in a more impactful way. That is by running to represent the 40th Councilmanic District, which includes communities of Prospect Lefferts Gardens, Ditmas Park, Flatbush, and parts of East Flatbush, Kensington, Midwood, and Crown Heights.
Kenya was born and raised in New York City, and moved to Prospect Lefferts Gardens (PLG), Brooklyn when she was 3 years old. She was nurtured by a large loving family that heavily emphasized public service, helping people, and being a catalyst for change. However, as Kenya began to grow and support her own young family from within her community, she found that she was not in a position to adequately address the issues of the neighborhood. She could not serve her community from the sidelines the way she wanted and the way it deserved. Her only choice: make serving the community her job!
With hard work and determination, Kenya graduated from Smith College in Massachusetts with a degree in Social Psychology. She began her career in public service working for champions of progressive agendas such as former Congressmember Charles B. Rangel and current Congress-member Yvette D. Clarke on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. There she was able to learn about the intricate relationship between federal, state, and local governments. She led Congressmember Clarke’s legislative and social agenda which focused on passing a comprehensive immigration reform package that addressed issues of immigrants of the African Diaspora. In this capacity, Kenya negotiated the language of the Haitian Emergency Life Protection Act, which created protections for Haitian nationals after the earthquake of 2010. The language of this act inspired the Obama administration’s Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program (HFRPP) in 2014, which supported many members of her own community.
Additionally, Kenya organized campaigns that focused on the protection and expansion of women's reproductive rights; championed increased access to capital and technical support for MWBE (Minority & Women Business Enterprises), small and medium-sized businesses greatly affected by “the Great Recession;” she organized the Obama Administration Officials, Members of Congress, New York City based elected officials and organizations, to bring awareness to and call for the end to “Stop, Question and Frisk” policing practices across the country, especially in New York.
She began to realize how much she missed a 24-hr train system and a bodega every three blocks. She had to move back home! In 2014, she did just that and began the next phase of her career, serving as the Brooklyn Director for the NYC Comptroller’s Office. There, she learned the importance of mobilizing the community to ensure the government is accessible and held accountable by the people. She worked with Brooklyn community stakeholders, organizations and local elected officials to address the growing issues on the ground. She led the Comptroller’s efforts in Brooklyn to advocate for ways City land could be used to create genuine affordable housing, either through the creation of land banks, or by surveying City-owned property that could be developed for more truly affordable housing units. Kenya also organized and supported Brooklyn tenant leaders within the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) to hold the City accountable for their buildings’ dilapidated conditions.
After cultivating her community organizing skills, and developing an understanding of NYC budgets and economy, Kenya moved on to serve as Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island Director at the NYS Attorney General’s Office. She worked diligently with housing organizations to create awareness around issues such as: foreclosure prevention, mortgage fraud, and deed theft, and holding property owners legally accountable for tenant harassment.
Lastly, she recently left the NYC Department of Investigation. There, she was able to see City government from behind the scenes, understanding where the pitfalls and vulnerabilities of City government lie, and why it so often fails our citizenry. Kenya is exhausted by the lack of government transparency and wants to use her skills and passion to ensure the government is accountable.
Kenya’s mother and father, Edna Wells Handy and Michael J. Handy were long-time public servants and leaders in government. She is also married to Jason Hilliard who is also a long-time public servant experienced in politics and government. They have two young children, Jessica and Jason.
— THE URGENCY OF NOW —
Declaration of Candidacy
Kenya Handy-Hilliard's broad background and experience, and her commitment to community mandate her next step — the declaration of her candidacy for City Council Member of the 40th Council District. Kenya believes it will be an honor to be the voice of the people, as she works to create a community where people can do more than survive. The community has to thrive by investing human and financial capital, bringing long-awaited resources to the district. Together, our communities can tackle the policies, politics, and practices that will ensure that the City government works for all people!