Thursday, June 18, 2009

Republican in Harlem? Brandon Brice Showing the Community Side of Republicanism

by Tiffany Shorter

Brandon Brice is a community organizer and an active Republican in Harlem. Republicans working in the black community is not generally a normal concept. Self-empowerment, financial success and small government are words usually associated with the Republican Party, but not community involvement. Brandon, however, shows that Republicanism and community work are not mutual exclusive but can co-exist.

Why are you in Harlem? You have a Bachelor's degree from Howard University in Business, worked for the United Nations as well as corporate America, so why drop the larger salary to work in the community?

I've lived in Harlem for five years now and have seen a lot. The increasing numbers of single mothers, black folks losing their homes and livelihoods and seniors being displaced at rapid rates across uptown- it just isn't right. I decided that I wanted to help my neighbors because Harlem is my community.

Do you think your community efforts fit within Republican values?

Yes! Getting people to understand how taxes, affordable health care, housing and small business opportunities affects them is being Republican. Educating people about certain opportunities and policies helps them to make informed decisions. This allows them to create the life they want for themselves.

What is one of your successes since working in Harlem?

I helped get a lot of kids get into college this year- some got into top schools including the Ivy League. For four years I have been in mentoring program that helps young black and Latino males get into college. I knew I had to commit myself to this program when I realized kids from the South Bronx and Harlem were not being asked questions like, " what do you want to do with your life?" Or ,"what college do you want to go?" That to me was just unacceptable. If you want to keep kids out of jail, get them educated. Get them into college.

Where did you go to college?

Howard, and it was a great experience. It is a liberal school, so it was a good training ground for me to defend my ideas as a Republican.

So you were a Republican before college? Did you come from an affluent family?

I am a son of a single mother. And I became Republican while going to Howard. In high school, a teacher of mine told me to always keep an open mind about politics and to take a look at the history of the Republican Party. He was a Republican. I wasn't sure about the Republican Party until my junior year at Howard, when I interned for J. Dennis Hastert, former Speaker of the House and Ken Melman, former chairman of the Republican National Committee. After working with these leaders and looking at the history of the GOP, I am convinced of two things- that Republican policies can work and that Republican ideas are badly marketed.

What do you think are areas of development for the GOP?

We got to talk about the issues that matter to people. We can't talk about stem cell research to people who got no jobs. We've got to address the issues by region and by need.

How can you be a black Republican in an Obama America? How can you tell other African Americans to consider any other party than the Democratic Party without feeling like a sell-out?

I'm a Republican, but I am a black man first. So deciding to become a Republican is based on who I am and what ideas can work best in the black community.

Brandon Brice is a graduate of Howard University and is a former fellow of the New Jersey Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University. As a long time member of Republicans for Black Empowerment, Brandon is an active contributor to Brandon Brice has worked as a policy intern for the former House Speaker Honorable J. Dennis Hastert and has served as a fellow at the United Nations. He has been featured on C-SPAN's Road to the White House, BET's What's At Stake and Hot97 with Lisa Evers. Brandon is a proud member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc, and attends the Greater Abyssinia Baptist Church.

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