Rashawn Davis is a Jackie Robinson Scholar from Newark, New Jersey, attending Georgetown University. A senior, Rashawn is majoring in Government and hopes to one day become the Mayor of Newark. At age 20, he is planning a run in 2014 for a City Council seat representing the West Ward.
Q: Why are you running for office particularly at such a young age?
A: I think when you look all around the country you see young people innovating and leading in areas of technology and business. There is no reason why young people can't innovate and lead in the same way through Government. In the City of Newark, 33% of our population is between 18 - 30 and our city's most chronic issues such as crime, unemployment, and poverty, disproportionately affect young people. We need to have someone on the city council that understands the needs of young people and has the innovative spirit of a young person. That is why I am running.
Q: How has your campaign been received so far?
A: At first, people were skeptical of both my age and experience. My team and I spent a lot of time going door to door and explaining to residents not only my experience with internships in various City Halls and municipal departments, but we also spent time simply explaining how if Newark is going to grow into the city that it can be, then we need young people to step in and take leadership roles to guide our city into the 21st century. Increasingly, people are starting to hear our message and respond to our vision for Newark. Some of our biggest critics have now become our biggest allies.
Q: How has the Jackie Robinson Foundation, particularly its Mentoring and Leadership Development program, helped you as you pursue this political office?
A: I know that I would not be here without the Jackie Robinson Foundation. Not only was I inspired by the various speeches and seminars during the annual Mentoring and Leadership Conferences to make a difference in my community, but JRF really gave me a whole network of people that I could tap into for advice, support, and direction. JRF has played a major role not only in my decision to pursue office, but in my development as a person.
Q: What do you see as your major challenges as you seek office?
A: I think our biggest challenge would have to be name recognition. Newark is a huge city, and my Ward alone has about 70,000 people. My team and I have spent a lot of time just trying to meet as many people as possible. Many of my opponents have been around Newark for 20 or 30 years, so many people already know their name and their missions. This is indeed a challenge, but I am sure it is a challenge we will overcome.
Q: Do you think you will win?
A: Yes. My team and I have a very unique message and we bring a freshness to Newark politics that has not been seen in 10 or 15 years. As long as we remain honest, visible, and connected to residents we will continue to distance ourselves from other candidates. Moreover, even if we lose the election, we still win because we took a chance and challenged the status quo. Most importantly we gave a voice to so many people in our city who have gone unheard.
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