Michael Blake is a Democratic candidate for State Assembly in the 79th Assembly District in the Bronx, NY. He is a former aide to President Obama and a veteran of both Obama campaigns. He is known as a strong organizer and public speaker. His three month fundraising total of $160,000 is being touted as a sign of widespread support and enthusiasm about his candidacy.
Blake, using his childhood roots in the Bronx, experience working on the Obama campaigns, and the strength of his personality, is entering the final eight weeks of the campaign hoping to leverage that support to bring resources to the district and the borough if he is successful in his bid to fill the seat. Blake has run a spirited grassroots campaign in order to reach thousands of voters.
In a statement, Blake said, “People have responded to the idea that we can make the Bronx someplace to be proud of and accomplish it together. I know the spirit and the resolve of the people in the Bronx, and I want to help lead them to a better tomorrow. Today’s milestones make me feel like that is possible, and I look forward to leading this campaign to victory.”
Why the Bronx?
There is now a political coming of age for the immigrant community of West Africans and shows they are moving up. The Bronx is home to half of the city’s West African immigrants. They are the “new immigrants” consisting of West Africans from Nigeria, Ghana, Gambria, and Sierre Leone. There are 70,000 African born in the Bronx and it is home to the largest concentration of African immigrants, more than any other borough. The most common neighborhoods are Parkchester, Highbridge, Tremont, and Morrisanea. The Islamic Cultural Center in Parkchester is the only full-time Islamic school in the Bronx and is involved with interfaith programs. The reasons to settle in the Bronx include family and community networks already rooted in the borough. New immigrants start businesses, build mosques and churches, and found schools. The “less obvious” cultural marker they bring is “Nollywood,” modestly funded Nigerian-made movies (at least in video form). However, there are struggles both within and without the community. Recent hate crimes and the fatal shooting of Guinean immigrant Amadore Diallo in 1999. Africans are also “lumped in” with African-Americans and do not identify with them. Ethnicities and clans, rather than race, determine identity. There is also an underreporting of community hardships as there is a reluctance to discuss problems in public or the media (Voices of NY, 8/2/14).