DETROIT — When Hansen Clarke beat Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick in the primary election this past August 3 for a seat in Michigan’s 13th District Congress, it signalled the end of an era. Voters showed they wished to say goodbye to the scandal-ridden Kilpatrick family, as well as Cheeks Kilpatrick’s son, former mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. Detroiters are simply fed up with the drama Kilpatrick brought with him–his immature behavior, with a mayorship marked by adultery, unjust firings, and payoffs.
They are ready for a fresh new face representing Detroit in Washington. They want someone who will fight for the reforms that Detroit has wanted for so long. The scandals of the past decade have only added insult to injury to a city whose image has been challenged for decades. Forty years ago, Detroit was known as the “Murder Capital of the World.” It is still known as a dangerous place to live.
That, however, is not the only wound from which Detroit suffers. It suffers from a bad economy. To show that Clarke does still care about that city’s economy, he recently donated a large sum of money to help the firefighters of that town.
Clarke is not one to benefit from the frills of prominence. As the Huffington Post reports, Clarke once turned down an offer for bodyguards. The newspaper quotes him as saying, “I grew up on the corner of Mack and Baldwin.” These are two of Detroit’s toughest streets. What a contrast to Kilpatrick, who gloried in the benefits of being in the public eye, such as expensive bodyguards–that the city’s tax dollars had to pay for–and limousines.
His is a true rags to riches story that has earned my respect. According to an NPR report, his father died when he was only eight years of age. His single mother, a crossing guard, was left to raise him on food stamps. In third grade, a teacher pointed out his gift as an artist.
Having graduated from the Detroit Public Schools, he went to Cornell University. In his freshman year, he lost his mother and his prospects for finishing what he started looked grim. But his neighbors rallied around him, blessing him with the money to help him finish school.
But instead of going to art school, he decided to study law at Georgetown. After graduating from there, he went to work for John Conyers, who mentored him.
He is a hero to me because he has gained notoriety, yet has remembered where he has come from. How easily we forget, and have the desire to move on to “bigger and better things.” This, indeed, is not Hansen Clarke. And if he wins on November 2, he will strongly and proudly represent the people of the City of Detroit.
Could he very well become the next Barack Obama? Who knows? Only time will tell.
Frank James, “Rep. Kilpatrick Vanquisher, Hansen Clarke, Has Some Story.” National Public Radio, August 4, 2010.
Scott Kurashige, “Meet Hansen Clarke: The Dems’ Rising Star from Detroit.” Huffington Post, August 4, 2010.