A Caribbean American legislator in New York has won a top position in the United States .
Bronx Assemblyman Michael Blake, the son of Jamaican immigrants, won one of the vice chairs positions in the Democratic National Committee (DNC) at an insiders’ meeting in Atlanta, Ga, over the weekend. Queens Congresswoman Grace Meng won the other vice chair position.
With the election of new Chairman Tom Perez, the number of New Yorkers in the DNC leadership comes to three.
Out of 814 votes cast with a 211-vote threshold for election for two female at-large vice chair positions, Meng received 216.5 votes, while Maria Elena Durazo, a prominent Californian labor leader, received 228.5 votes, according to the New York Observer.
It said that Blake, a 34-year-old veteran of former US President Barack Obama’s presidential campaign and White House, received the most votes — 171 — for the remaining position, open to a male or female out of 411.5 ballots received.
But a second round was held because all contenders fell short of the 206-vote threshold, the Observer said. It said Blake won 237 votes in the next go-round after several candidates withdrew.
Both Blake and Meng called in their platforms for rebuilding the Democratic Party’s infrastructure to support new candidates for local office, the Observer said.
It said the race for the chairmanship was divisive, as progressives — led by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders — favored Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison over Perez.
In his victory speech, Blake called for party unity.
“We have to leave here united,” he said. “We cannot walk out of here as Obama Democrats or Hillary Democrats or Bernie Democrats, we are a united Democratic Party, and that is who we are.”
In a show of unity, Perez asked the 400-plus DNC members to elect Ellison his deputy chairman. They complied, and Ellison accepted the post, the Observer said.
The Bronx-based Garifuna Political Action Committee (Garifuna PAC), a nonpartisan organization that provides opportunities for Garifuna and Communities of Color to participate in the American political process, congratulated Blake on his election. Garifuna PAC had endorsed Blake for DNC vice chair.
The Garifuna are an ethnic group of mixed ancestry – descendants of Carib, Arawak and African people living along the Caribbean coast in Belize, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Honduras. They originated from St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
In its Dec. 23 endorsement, Garifuna PAC said “Garifuna’s issues are New York’s issues, and we stand ready to work as full partners with all segments of the Bronx’s society to address our current ordeals and fulfill the promise of a bright future.
“Assemblyman Blake has worked directly with our community to help bridge the divide between our community and the local government administration,” it said.
Since his election to the New York Assembly, Garifuna PAC said Blake has “proven to be a friend and supporter of the Bronx Garifuna community, sponsoring an event to celebrate the contributions of the Garifuna-American community to the city and state of New York, cosponsoring a bill to include the History of the Garifuna People in New York State Education Law, and moderating an event that brought together young men of color, police officers, and community leaders discuss healing community relations.”
A seafaring people, the Garifuna arrived in the United States as merchant marines during World War II.
New York City is currently home to the largest Garifuna population outside of Central America, with an estimated 200,000 living in the South Bronx, Brownsville and East New York in Brooklyn, and Harlem in Manhattan.
US Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke who represents the 9th Congressional District in Brooklyn, was among members of the Congressional Black Caucus who had had also endorsed Blake.
“As a fellow Jamaican-American, it is with great pride that I endorse Michael Blake for DNC vice chair,” Clarke said. “Michael is absolutely committed to organizing on the ground, mobilizing communities to vote and communicating how policies are directly impacted by political decisions.
“I have been a surrogate with Michael on countless occasions and have seen how hundreds of people are motivated to action because of his words,” she added. “He is exactly what we need as a party to heal and unite.”