Geoffrey Canada ’74, founder and president of the Harlem Children Zone, recently became a senior adviser for Mike Bloomberg’s presidential campaign. Canada endorsed the former New York City mayor on January 19.
Canada has known Bloomberg for years.
“Mike and I started on education issues when he became mayor,” said Canada in a phone interview with the Orient. “When he decided he wanted to come up with a plan on poverty, I co-chaired his poverty commission. We called it the Commission on Economic Opportunity, and we were trying to come up with some scalable strategies to reduce poverty in New York City.”
Having worked with Bloomberg in the past, Canada was willing to help his presidential campaign.
“When the [Bloomberg] campaign called and asked if I would participate, I said yes under one condition. The condition was … support for a bold and unprecedented claim around issues to redress the systematic discrimination of African Americans in this country,” he said.
As part of this effort, Canada worked with Bloomberg to create the Greenwood Initiative, which the campaign announced in January, that addresses the systemic barriers that have prevented Black Americans from building wealth.
“I was happy to participate in creating the [Greenwood] Initiative. And I think, to be quite honest, it is the best policy platform for African Americans of any candidate in the race.”
This is not the first time Canada has helped on a presidential campaign—he supported former President Barack Obama and briefly worked with 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
Despite his support for Bloomberg, Canada said he would not want to be a part of any presidential administration.
“I told President Obama I wasn’t going to join his team when he became President; and when Hillary Clinton was running, I told her team, I’m not going to take a position if she wins and I’ve made it clear here with the Bloomberg campaign. I’m not interested in running for politics myself nor joining political administration,” said Canada.
Canada has been critical of Bloomberg in the past, particularly regarding Bloomberg’s support for stop-and-frisk policies during his tenure as mayor which gave officers the right to stop and temporarily detain, question or search an individual for weapons or contraband—a program that was accused of racially profiling its targets.
“Mike would say himself that I was one of many folks who told him that he was making a huge mistake with that,” Canada said. “But I’ve also said that Mike is not the only one running for president who’s had trouble with issues in the minority community when it comes to criminal justice.”
Canada cited former Vice President Joe Biden writing the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act which he said “led to the incarceration of literally hundreds of thousands of African Americans across this country.”
“It wasn’t just [Biden]. [Sen.] Bernie [Sanders] signed on to that. When it comes to guns in this country, you begin to look at the slaughter happening in poor communities and Bernie’s record on that is really abysmal and he is responsible to some degree on why we don’t have an assault weapons ban,” Canada added.
Canada said he is worried about what it would take to beat Trump in November.
“I think that if you look at what it’s going to take to win this election right now, the Democratic National Committee has about $10 million, while the Republican National Committee has about $200 million. It’s going to be a wholesale attack which we’re not going to be able to respond to unless we have a candidate who has the ability to fight back on all of the platforms.”
Despite his fears, Canada believes Bloomberg can defeat Trump.
“Out of all the candidates, Bloomberg is someone I trust in November and believe in,” Canada said.