For Jamarhl Crawford multi-tasking isn’t just a way of working, it’s a way of life. Crawford is well known in Boston as a poet, hip-hop artist, community activist and publisher of Blackstonian.com, a newspaper dedicated to Boston’s Black community. Now he’s added politician to that list upon his announcement of his candidacy for Boston’s City Council seat in District 7. The lifelong Roxbury resident has built a reputation for taking our leaders to task and holding them accountable for the good of the community. He sees his new role as a natural fit.
“I am deeply rooted in this community and for me to betray or fail my neighbors in District 7 would mean that I am betraying and failing those in my own family, as well the legacy of all of the Black Boston greats who came before me,” he says.
Crawford’s experience is one that is rooted in Roxbury. Crawford and his family are no new comers to the neighborhood. They have been there since 1938 on Ruthven Street in a house where his Grandmother socialized with “Detroit Red” who would later in life be known as Malcolm X. He views his run for office as part of his family’s ongoing contribution to Boston’s history of arts, culture, business ownership, and black self-reliance.
“My life has been a merging of arts and culture, activism and organizing,” the fourth generation Bostonian explains. “My experience has spanned from the high life to street life, the statehouse to the jailhouse.”
It hasn’t been all roses. Crawford’s life has seen its highs and lows to be sure. He has been upfront about the unsavory parts of his past. Crawford, in spite of his genuinely good examples, found himself in and out of trouble as a young man. He sees his bumpy past as a prime reason for his viability as a politician.
“I have experienced everything that makes up this community, from the highs, to the lows, to all that lies between. Like you, I have been unemployed, and struggled just to keep my head above water. I have lost friends and family to violence, to drugs, to prison and disease. By supporting me for city council, you are saying: No more politics as usual. No more letting folks skate and get over. No more mediocrity. By trusting me with your vote, you are demanding advocacy, action and accountability for this community. Che Guevara said ‘A true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love.’ Love forms the basis of my activism and organizational work. I can unabashedly state that I love my people. I love my community.”
Crawford’s expressions of “love” take a boots on the ground, practical approach. While others talk about the problems he has rolled up his sleeves and went to work. Crawford and a small dedicated team of volunteers, many of them youth, have fed hot meals and delivered groceries to over 1,200 individuals and families in need as part of the “Feed the Hood/Feed The People” and “Fill Your Fridge” programs. Started during the Occupy movement under the banner of Occupy The Hood Boston, powered by the generous donations of community members and retailers this grass roots feeding program has been doing great work since November 2011.
Crawford recently announced a unique and ambitious initiative to incentivize peace and promote anti-violence. Crawford, himself a Hip-Hop and Spoken Word Poetry artist sealed a multi-national distribution deal and came up with a creative concept to provide opportunities for youth to express themselves positively. The program will offer distribution deals for high school students through a multi-national network from which they will get paid from sales. In order to be eligible for the program students whether solo-artists or groups will be required to maintain at least a “C” average, good attendance and sign a pledge that they will refrain from violence, crime and drugs. Students will also be required to gain parental permission and maintain positive lyrics, images and themes.
“I believe in, as the youth say, “keeping it 100%,” he says. “I tell the truth, even if the things I say and the issues I bring forth are tough to hear. This country has a painful past that has shaped who we are today. That past lives in all of us, and it’s up to us to find solutions that are fair to everyone, and not just a select privileged few. I am uniquely suited to serve and represent this district. Regardless of whether they vote or not, residents can count on me to do what is right rather than what may seem safe, and to respect, value and protect all constituents.”