Bill Clinton Loves Being Connected to Harlem
By maintaining a satellite office in the Adam Clayton Powell Building on 125th St, Bill remains faithful to Harlem. Some residents feel he abandoned the community in 2011, when he moved his main office downtown to the city’s business district. It’s unfortunate, but understandable that he, like most corporate entities—including black CEO’s such as Ken Chenault of American Express—want quicker access to other power brokers.
In the 1992 presidential primary, when Clinton won 75% of the black vote, Toni Morrison famously called him “America’s first black president.” She wasn’t speaking about his ethnicity, but of his unification of black people who massively voted for him as their best hope. It’s undeniable, and rarer than one might think, that he, a white man, was as comfortable among black crowds, as white.
In 2001, when Clinton first arrived in Harlem, the community was in a tailspin from drugs, crime, abandonment and finger pointing.He got Harlem excited again. Some people blame him for starting Harlem’s gentrification. Maybe, but I believe it was inevitable—the Bronx and Staten Island are up next. Bill will always be down with Harlem. For that, I respect the guy and wrote a novel about him and Alexander Hamilton, who lived in Harlem. Not many Americans know that, although more know now, because of “Hamilton,” Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hit Broadway play.
Both Clinton and Hamilton were flawed, and many of their failures, particularly involving the opposite sex, follow a similar path. When you throw in charisma, good looks and empathy for the downtrodden, it provides all sorts of story possibilities about these two men, some of which I tell in my novel, “Afterlife in Harlem.”