In recent years, Harlem has been drastically changing and the Bronx isn’t far behind, with all these changes some would argue that new leadership and vision is necessary.
This is true for Michael Walrond Jr. who is affectionately known as Pastor Mike in the community and running against Rep. Charles Rangel and Sen. Adrian Espaillat for the 13th District Congressional seat.
The pastor of First Corinthians Baptist Church (FCBC) shocked many when he put his hat in the race against the longtime congressman, but it sparked a new hope and reinvigoration that the community is looking for.
“After being a pastor in the community for 10 years I became very much acquainted with a lot of the frustrations members of this congregation had, members of the community’s frustrations with the elected officials, the seeming disconnection between people and the elected officials,” said Walrond about his reason for running.
“People felt disconnected from the whole process and change and the transformation that’s taking place.”
His sincerity comes across every time he speaks at debates and engagements during the months leading to the primary elections on June 24th.
He’s proven to be serious about the election race by always being able to give well informed answers to questions using facts, figures, examples, and statistics that are consistent, where many politicians are found to be inconsistent, but by trade he isn’t a politician just passionate about people.
He has a proven track record of leadership in the community as the pastor of FCBC creating multiple outlets for growth and “reimagining” life despite people’s current situation. Also, with his church’s thousands of members, from its modest 300 members it had when he started 10 years ago, along with several community programs he’s put into place that are available to the community not just his congregation the connection to the people is there.
Walrond is looking to take his community efforts to the next level with his candidacy and help everyone in district 13 and on a federal level.
“It’s a step towards the next generation of leadership,” said Rev. Dr. Kahli Mootoo from Bright Temple African Methodist Episcopal church who weighed in on Walrond’s candidacy.
“I think he’s genuine and really cares about the community and that’s why he’s doing it.”
As far as immigration and being able to relate to it, Walrond is a son of immigrants and believes that immigration reform needs to be passed and understands that immigrants pump billions of dollars into the American economy because they usually own their own businesses which create more jobs.
“82 percent of small businesses alone are owned by immigrants,” said Walrond.
He continued on to say, “there’s a myth that if immigration gets passed then people are going to lose jobs, and I don’t believe that.” His research on the subject supports his beliefs.
“The Calvin Foundation found that in 2012 alone U.S. businesses that were founded and owned by immigrants actually created 560 thousand jobs and pumped $63 billion into the economy. We strengthen the economy and produce even more jobs by passing immigration reform,” said Walrond.
Both Harlem and the Bronx are very diverse with the African, Muslim, Domican, etc groups Walrond says, “I honor the inherit dignity of all human beings. It’s not about being a Christian it’s about being a human being.”
Besides participating in political activism, last October, the pastor opened up his church to Imam Konate after being evicted from his mosque in Harlem. “I think it’s a pathway to building stronger relationships and I think the eviction was unjust in many ways,” said Walrond about his friend’s, Imam Souleimane Konate, situation.
Walrond’s grassroots campaign against Congressman Charles Rangel and State Senator Adriano Espaillat may seem very ambitious to some, but he’s proven to be a worthy competitor among the men and staying focused on what’s most important- the people of the community he’s vying to represent.