Just another ex-South African Marylander running for public office in Charm City..
Q: What memories do you have of South Africa?
I was fifteen when I left. All of my formative years were spent there. There are really two sets of memories. One would be the times spent with family and friends..we had a very close community there. On the flip side, I grew up in the wake of apartheid. I was living in a country that had these institutional policies of intense segregation. Obviously, change didn’t happen over night, but due to the true leadership of Nelson Mandela, the country transitioned. Growing up as a kid in that, leaves the most amazing impression. I remember the referendum.. I remember the day that Mandela was released from jail. We were gathered around a TV watching with excitement and anticipation.
Q: Was it hard for your parents to leave?
Leaving was difficult. My parents were intensely committed to their kids future. Once they realized we could have better opportunities elsewhere, it wasn’t even a choice. Their sacrifice was tremendous. They were in their late to mid forties. to leave everybody and everything they’ve known..it was brutal.
Q: Was it a culture shock for you guys?
Huge. ::laughs:: Other than the language being the same, almost everything else was different. I was fifteen, and that’s a tough age. You’re just..starting to understand the world, yourself. The school I went to in South Africa had about 125 kids total..my class in Georgia was 450 kids in my class alone. I didn’t know where that many people came from ::laughs:: The closeness of my family is what helped. As tough as it’s going to be, we’re going to make it together. I always say I got on that plane to the United States a boy, and got off a man. Our lives were changed instantaneously. All the creature comforts I had as a boy, ::snaps:: gone.
Q: Have you gone back?
Yes I have! The last time I went back was about ten years ago. I’d loved to go back. I think I’ve been so fortunate to have opportunities, and my life has been so full, it keeps me busy. You have to go back for two or three weeks to get the full experience..I just don’t have the time.
Q: I hear that you grew up playing in bands…what did you play instrument wise?
I fondly remember myself as a good singer/songwriter…not sure if anyone else did! I was however the lead singer of the band. My stage presence, people skills and songwriting ability were probably much better than my actual vocals ::laughs::
Q: What is the most embarrassing song that you own?
Some people might consider this embarrassing, some might not. I have Phil Collins ENTIRE collection..
Umm so do I!
Nice! That’s awesome.
I don’t mind the Peter Gabriel stuff, Phil Collins just took them to another level.
I’ve watched ALL the documentaries on Genesis, the Behind The Music..big BIG Phil Collins fans here at the Friends of Mark Edelson headquarters.
Q: What is your favorite song of the last year?
I love the new Alabama Shakes. “Sound & Color” is right up there for me. I’ve also been listening to a band called Mutemath. Their new album “Vitals” is pretty cool.
Q: How did you end up in Baltimore?
When I graduated from college in Atlanta, I wanted to go to law school. I was always interested in seeing Baltimore. I have a few cousins who live here, and they were always asking me to come up. For my parents sake, it’s an hour and a half from there home, so it’s not too far. There would’ve been issues if I would’ve moved to the West Coast and only an eight hour flight away ::laughs::
Q: When did you know you wanted to be a lawyer?
That’s a good question. My parents always tell this story because I don’t remember. I was in primary school and apparently I bumped something over on the teachers desk..total accident. I stepped out to try and find the teacher, but in the interim she came back and she accused the troublemaker of the class of doing it. I went to her and explained that I did it, it was a mistake, but he couldn’t have done it. That night, my parents got a call from the teacher and said “You better start saying ‘My son, the lawyer’ because your son has a very strong feeling of right and wrong. You should prepare yourself.” I love people..I love public speaking. I enjoy creative arguments and solutions to problems..I’ve always liked the idea of representing someone who may not have their own voice.
Q: What is your favorite part of living in Baltimore?
It’s a city where if you work really hard, and surround yourself with the right people, and get a little lucky, you can have an effect on people. That’s REALLY unique. That gets me excited to get out of bed every day. It’s incredibly exciting that we can potentially build something for people who want to work hard. Plus, the food is just amazing. The restaurants are incredible!
Q: Who inspires you and why?
From a very young age, Nelson Mandela. If you think about the depth of his ability to empathize and forgive…as well as his ability to lead. The country was torn apart. The only reason the country didn’t implode is because of his vision and bring people together.
My parents are the two most inspirational people I’ve ever met. They’re so strong, and so warm. They would sacrifice anything for the people they love.
Q: What inspired you to run for City Council?
A combination of the things we’ve discussed. Seeing a country that was desperate for leadership, and being able to see Nelson Mandela take a society that was destroyed, and put it back together. When you fast forward to the opportunities we have in Baltimore..to become a first class city for transportation and to be a hub for entrepreneurship in Central Maryland. The City Council is the epicenter of where that starts. I’m…drawn to be a part of that.
Q: What is the hardest thing about campaigning? Is it exhausting?
It’s an everyday commitment. The key is focusing on what you can control. Yes, it is exhausting, but anything worth having isn’t supposed to be easy. I plan to work to exhaustion to represent my constituents as Councilman, and I’ve developed great skills of multitasking in these past few years. This is great practice for what it will be like to be a Councilman that is successful in responding to constituent concerns.
Q: How does it feel having millenials AND people from other generations supporting you?
It’s the most exciting and energizing part of this journey. Look, we have a message and vision for our district that reaches across generational lines. I am thrilled to have the support of groups that are sometimes weary of each other. It speaks volumes to our ability to effectively represent and connect with our District, and most importantly: to bring people together.
Q: Spending a day on the campaign trail with you, I saw different neighborhoods with different needs. How do you balance that?
Overall, we identified issues that we believe matter to everyone: crime, transportation, city services, and education. However, as we continue to meet our neighbors and get our message out around the district, we learn of specific issues that matter to specific areas. Vacant-to-value credits around Patterson Park, zoning concerns in Highlandtown and the waterfront, and a disturbing lack of city services and police protection North of the park. These needs are in lock-step with our message, and in fact, help it resonate even further. We need an effective Councilman that is thoughtful, aggressive in representing his constituencies, and does not promise the impossible. I believe District 1 residents see that in me and we will continue to emphasize our practical and pragmatic approach to public policy.
Q: If you could describe Baltimore in one word, what would it be?
‘Potential.’ Awe inspiring LIMITLESS potential.
Q: What is your one wish for Baltimore in 2016?
My wish is for everyone currently in office, and everyone running, to be brave enough to help tap into that limitless potential I mentioned earlier. THIS is the election where we can change things for EVERYONE in our city, not just a select few.
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