Op-ed: Remembering Kevin Peter Carroll on the one-year anniversary of his death

Gone too soon: A friend remembers Bay Ridge District Leader Kevin Peter Carroll on the one-year anniversary of his death.
Priscilla Consolo

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

Those words were famously penned by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Today, I write those words in remembrance of my good friend, the late Hon. Kevin Peter Carroll, who we lost a year ago on June 2, 2019.

I met Kevin shortly after he won his District Leadership position in 2010 at the tender age of twenty-four, which made him the youngest person to hold the post in the entire borough of Brooklyn. From the moment I first met him, Kevin overflowed with vivacity – authentic, bold, and unabashedly unlike any other. He was the type of person who could brighten a room with his lively personality and jovial demeanor, which, along with his twinkling blue eyes, characterized his identity as a public figure.

As someone who has worked in local politics, I know it can be a cruel and callous profession. Politics was in Kevin’s DNA, which is not surprising given that he grew up in the New York political arena – his father and uncles made names for themselves as progressive Democrats before Kevin was even born. One might suspect someone like Kevin – with deep roots in politics – to be jaded or embittered by the political world. Instead, though, Kevin was so shockingly full of life, and at a young age, decided to enthusiastically pursue a career in public service himself.

A staunch advocate of his beloved Bay Ridge community where he lived, Kevin was active in numerous organizations, including the Bay Ridge Community Council, Brooklyn Irish American Parade Committee, Brooklyn Community Board 10, Bay Ridge Historical Society, and 68th Precinct Community Council. His passion for activism led him to found Brooklyn Democrats for Change when he was only nineteen years old. With an inherent fire always burning in his belly, Kevin took action whenever he saw injustice, supporting countless causes and candidates to make a difference.

Although many knew Kevin as a civic and political leader, advocating for redistricting reform, volunteering at neighborhood senior centers, calling for affordable housing, or organizing to restore the B37 bus line, this was only one of his many roles. The brightness exemplified in his community work also embodied his adoration for his family. Kevin was a devoted brother to his sisters, a doting uncle to his godson, and a dedicated son to his parents. In fact, Kevin aided his ailing mother, letting her move in with him so he could be her primary caretaker. For months, he slept on his couch and gave up his bedroom so his mother would be comfortable in there instead. It is just one example of his glistening kindness and compassion that informed his work as a District Leader.

For those of us who were lucky enough to know Kevin personally, it was obvious that behind his witty sense of humor and sassy attitude, there was a soul bursting of love. Kevin adored people and more so, he enjoyed giving of himself for the benefit of others, even though he faced his own hardships. There was a glittering gentleness and warmth that poured out from within him. Kevin would light up any room once he walked through the door with a beaming smile and golden laugh (like the gleaming “Brooklyn” pin which he always so proudly wore) that still to this day, is impossible to forget.

Since his passing, I have realized, now more than ever, how Kevin was a true light in this dark world. He had a natural positive energy and sparkling charisma that unsurprisingly made him a luminary within Brooklyn politics. He had a glow of happiness that could dazzle any crowd. Like a magnet, he could pull you in with his vibrancy and captivate a room full of people whenever he spoke. With his deep Brooklyn accent, Kevin communicated vividly, telling stories with radiant animation and plenty of hand movements. In having a conversation with Kevin, it was obvious that one was in the presence of real greatness.

Indeed, Kevin’s brilliance was illustrated in his encyclopedic knowledge of politics. He knew of histories that most people did not know existed and highlighted issues that were otherwise overlooked. Kevin had a spark of ingenuity too, conceiving of innovative solutions to complex problems. And, like the blazing rays of the sun on a hot summer day, Kevin had the courage to stand up to powerful interests when he felt it was the right thing to do. Unlike others in leadership, Kevin had a strong moral compass that guided his perspective and positions. Many considered his blunt honesty to be a breath of fresh air. To those disillusioned by the harshness of partisan politics, Kevin’s ability to reach across the aisle and work with people of all persuasions represented a glimmer of hope.

When Kevin passed, I thought about how he shone so bright during his short time here on Earth. I felt that his luminosity, while giving so much to so many, had burned too much, causing his untimely death. Undoubtedly, he deserved so much more than what he received in his brief life of thirty-three years. But then, I realized that it was not that this world was too much for Kevin, but that his boundless love, joy, and goodness was too much for this world.

Some nights, with the luster of the shimmering moonlight piercing through the dark sky, I look up to the heavens and find comfort knowing that while Kevin was taken from us far too soon, he’s now shining up there, like all the stars in our universe. Although no longer with us, his legacy lives on, with his dazzling radiance elevated among the cosmic galaxy where it so rightly belongs. Above us all, his sparkle is no longer confined to the limits of our humanly existence. Instead, now the light Kevin offered to illuminate our lives can illuminate the whole world. Now, free of mortal constraints, he can everglow.

Priscilla Consolo, an attorney and community activist, was a close friend of Kevin Peter Carroll for nearly a decade until his passing and wrote this piece with the blessings of Kevin’s family.