The political and spiritual journey of former Nation Of Islam (NOI) minister Conrad Tillard has been unfolding over the last decade. After leaving the NOI, Tillard became a Christian minister. Now, the former “Hip-Hop Minister” is eyeing a New York City council seat in Brooklyn.
DNAInfo sat down with the former head of Harlem’s Mosque No. 7, the same temple where Malcolm X once delivered fiery sermons. Then known as Conrad Muhammad, Tillard joined the NOI in the 1980s while he was a student at the University of Pennsylvania. Tillard earned his political stripes early, working as a coordinator for Rev. Jesse Jackson’s presidential bid. The St. Louis native is currently one of five potential candidates looking to replace current councilman Al Vann in the 36th Council District.
“There are millions of young people in the New York City school system sentenced to learning by the numbers,” said Tillard of his goals of improving the education system via new policies.
He also mentioned Bed-Stuy’s economic and cultural shifts as well. “Change is coming to Bedford-Stuyvesant [and] we’ve got to manage that change,” he added.
Tillard became a fixture in Hip-Hop after brokering a truce between then-rising acts Wreckx-N-Effect and A Tribe Called Quest. He also counseled Sean “Diddy” Combs during his feud with rival Suge Knight.
After leaving the NOI in 1997, he attended Harvard Divinity School and is currently the head pastor of the Nazarene Congregational Church. Although he’s moved on from the sensational tone of his past, he still knows his way around a quote.
“In the absence of an important figure like Al Vann, the tendency can be for a community to flounder,” Tillard said to DNAInfo. “You need to replace leadership and gravitas with leadership and gravitas.”
Check the following pages for photos of Conrad Tillard working the campaign trail.