If you don’t live in Harlem, New York then the name of Michael A. Walrond Jr may not ring a bell. But if you live in Harlem, then you know a major political fight is underway between Congressman Charles Rangel and Walrond. On Tuesday, June 24, the Democratic primary for the 13th District of Congress will be held and after 22 terms in office Rangel, now 84, faces his biggest challenge yet.
Walrond is a graduate of Morehouse College (93) and the senior pastor of First Corinthian Baptist Church in Harlem, NY. He is credited with building his congregation from 300 to 9,000 during his tenure. In addition, his ministries have provided over 20,000 free meals to homeless families. He is a definite rising star having appeared on national news shows and as a featured columnist in major newspapers.
When it comes to being active in the black community on a national level, he has been no stranger to major events that shape the community. Walrond serves on the board of Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network and in 2012 was named the National Director of the Ministers Division. In addition, he served on now New York Mayor Bill De Blasio’s transition team. Bill de Blasio called him “one of the single most powerful voices in the city of New York.” It is no wonder that Walrond has stated that Rangel asked him not to run on two separate occasions.
Rangel is facing the reality that it is time to pass the torch. He has even stated as much by saying that he intends to serve just one more term. But the dynamics of Harlem have changed. Harlem is facing a decreasing black population and an increasing Latino population. Before Walrond announced his intention to run for office, Rangel had to deal with State Senator Adriano Espaillat, a Dominican immigrant immensely popular among the Latino population. Rangel nearly lost his last election bid to Espaillat, both Walrond and Espaillat represent the new face of Harlem.
But during an interview with the New York Times, Rangel is quoted as saying, “If I thought there was somebody that I had confidence in, that could pick up the pieces and move forward, I would love to be an unpaid assistant, campaign manager — as long as I’m a part of it. I’d take them down there and introduce them to the Democratic leadership, asking the president if he’d mind if we brought our candidate along. I’d do something. But no. There would be a complete vacuum if either one of these people were to attempt to represent our community.”
These are tall words coming from Rangel, considering in 2010 he was censured by Congress and stripped of one of the most powerful committees The House Ways and Means. This committee oversees the tax codes of the United States and Rangel was found to have committed 11 ethical violations.