EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the second in a series of profiles on the candidates for First Ward City Council representative. Ginny Chadwick was featured Wednesday, Tyree Byndom is featured Thursday, and Bill Easley will be featured Friday. The profiles are being published in the order their names appear on the ballot.
COLUMBIA — Tyree Byndom has remained mostly silent on issues facing city government since declaring his candidacy for the First Ward seat on the Columbia City Council, choosing to decline invitations to election forums and appear in the media.
Years in the First Ward: Byndom moved to Columbia for the first time with his mother when he was 9. He left the state when he was 16, returned in 1994 and has lived in the First Ward since 2010. He is not married and has nine children — three biological and six adopted.
Employment: CEO of Byndom, Stanton & Associates
Byndom did make a public appearance before the City Council at its March 17 meeting, during public comment on Opus Development Co.'s agreement with the city, which was approved at a special meeting two days later.
"I'm one of the protectors of the city, and I've been so since a young man," Byndom told the council.
"Downtown is not for sale, and now it seems materialistic," he said. Byndom said he felt as if the district was branded for students and the ambiance of the area had changed. He wanted the council to consider the process of re-gentrification that he said could occur with the current developments.
Although he has declined invitations to appear alongside other candidates at election forums, on his LinkedIn profile, Byndom said his focus for the next year is "social and economic infrastructure health and integrity" and "minority inclusion" among other goals.
Byndom is running against Ginny Chadwick, Bill Easley and write-in candidate John Clark for a three-year term. The incumbent, Fred Schmidt, is not seeking re-election.
A man of faith
Byndom is a member of the Baha’i faith, a monotheistic religion founded in 1844 in Iran. According to the Baha'i website for the U.S., the religion has about 5 million followers.
One of the main principles of the faith is to be open to other opinions and favor unity over division. Byndom said he is not campaigning because of his religious principles and has included participation in candidate forums as a part of that standard.
Byndom converted to Baha'i in 1999. Since then, the religion has become a guiding path in his life.
“I’m totally detached from winning or losing. It is totally up to the people and to my Lord,” Byndom said. If he wins, he will be able to fully participate as a councilman, he said.
A radio platform
Byndom has been producing his own radio shows on KOPN/89.5 FM since 2001. After he filed for office, he had to hand off his show to other hosts, and he helped find replacements.
“Straight Talk” was the brainchild of the late Wynna Faye Elbert and Almeta Crayton. Byndom said in 2001 he began to help them produce the show. He began as a co-host when Elbert and Crayton had difficulties walking up the stairs to the studio.
“That show is the only station that black people can listen to and hear themselves, their issues, their concerns, their urban perspective. It’s been that way for 27 years,” Byndom said.
Byndom’s other show was “Kore Issues.” The name stood for Kollectively Organized to Reach Everyone, and Kore had been a name of a rap group that Byndom was once a part of.
Byndom said he started the show for his children and future grandchildren, to serve as a record of his thoughts and feelings. Byndom’s own biological father died before he could meet him. The show also was a way for Byndom to share his faith and became a way to “refine the art of consultation” via the Baha’i method, he said.
Regardless of the election outcome, Byndom plans to continue his radio work and maybe move on to a local TV channel.
Lorenzo Lawson, leader of the Youth Empowerment Zone, is hosting both shows on KOPN in the meantime.
“After April 8, I’ll be back on the radio like nothing changed,” Byndom said.
Byndom has two YouTube accounts he's used to post KOPN shows, his own music and videos about Baha'i: BlaqPaladon and Tyree Byndom. He is also active on Facebook and Twitter, posting almost daily on a range of topics from inspirational quotes to articles on racial discrimination.
Byndom owns his own record label, Koppa 2 Gold Entertainment, and raps under the name "Paladon." He was commissioned in 2012 to make a music video for CoMET, Columbians for Modern, Efficient Transit.
Byndom serves on the Mayor's Task Force on Community Violence. He puts an emphasis on cultural competency and relationship building as a way of improving public safety, Michael Trapp, co-chair of the force and Second Ward City Councilman said, and recalls Byndom being supportive of community policing efforts in Douglass Park.
Byndom helps with conversations in the task force about tensions between blacks in the community and the Columbia Police Department, said Laura Nauser, the other co-chair of the task force and Fifth Ward councilwoman running unopposed for re-election.
"Those issues can be heated. He's good at bringing people together for a conversation. He likes to reach out to people and work on an understanding and consensus-building," Nauser said.
Byndom and Anthony Stanton, a member of the Columbia Planning and Zoning Commission, last year opened the consulting firm Byndom, Stanton & Associates. Since then, the firm has contracted with local entities such as Regional Economic Development Inc. and Columbia Public Schools.
The firm's website states that one of its goals is to help minorities with business and government relation in Columbia: "Byndom, Stanton & Associates found its niche in the business development community by addressing the obstacles and opportunities that minority business enterprises encounter as they attempt to fully participate in this country's economy."
Stanton has known Byndom for about 15 years. Stanton said the two have opposite approaches: He sees himself as more low key and Byndom as the “protester, radio guy type.”
They have a unique business relationship, Stanton said, “like sweet and sour sauce,” and their differences help them come up with solutions.
Verna Laboy, a 20-year resident of the First Ward, said Byndom's activism in the First Ward includes reviving the Douglass Park Neighborhood Association.
"He was a good listener, and now he is a good leader," she said.
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