Photo courtesy of Rashan Prailow
Rashan Prailow is proof that it's not about where you start, it's about where you finish.
For Prailow, he started in his hometown of East Camden, New Jersey, a city currently ranked as one of the most dangerous cities in America. He went on to barely graduate from high school in 2007 with a 1.1 GPA and a total of 97 absences; he then dropped out of Camden County College during his freshman year. Little did Prailow know, in 2009, the historic election of Barack Obama would change the entire trajectory of his life.
"I recall how symbolic his election was as the first Black president," Prailow told Because of Them We Can. "I was sent to the Camden County Jail nine days after Barack Obama assumed office on January 20, 2009. When I was released and acquitted of the non-violent drug related offenses, Obama's representation of Black male excellence gave me hope that I too could make it in America."
With that newfound hope, Prailow returned to college to obtain his associate's degree in business administration and became one of the two African American students to graduate with honors with a degree in political science from the University of Pennsylvania in 2016.
"Approximately six years later (after Obama was elected), I was working as an intern at the Obama White House," Prailow shared. "At that moment, I truly felt the importance of representation."
So much so, that the former Obama White House Staffer made it his mission to use his platform to tell his story and be a role model for the youth in his hometown community. Now, the 29-year-old is taking it a step further and making a run for a seat on Camden's City Council. If elected, Prailow will become the city's youngest and only millennial council member.
I’m excited to formally announce my candidacy for City Council in the Special Primary Election to represent Ward 3 East Camden. I was born and raised in Camden’s 3rd ward and all that I’ve become is attributed to my experiences in this special section of our beloved city. / After years of mentorship and speaking, I’ve come to the conclusion that the most effective way to make a lasting impact on someone’s life is to influence policy that will shape the direction of their life for the greater good. / Although I’m running for City Council in Ward 3, my intention is to be the youngest serving and only millennial on Camden’s City Council. / Camden is rising, but for this city to reach its fullest potential young professionals need to have a seat at the table. I will provide new energy and creative solutions while acting with a sense of urgency to solve issues in Ward 3 on behalf of our residents. East Camden let’s get to work #prailowforthepeople #camden #runforsomething
Here are his campaign's goals:
1. "To bring back the Citizens of East Camden Council to work alongside Ward 3 residents to ensure that their concerns are being heard and solved in timely fashion."
2. "To fund a mentoring and tutoring program for all youth grades 4 - 12."
3. "To use at least two of the several vacant lots to create local community gardens due to the lack of fresh produce and create a green community."
"With over 200 vacant housing units, I'd like to introduce a fiscally responsible $1 housing program to advance home ownership and to generate revenue for the city," Prailow explained.
There were a lot of reasons to not run for City Council in the same section of the city where I failed out of school and was arrested. / However, I decided to commit my life to service and giving young men from the hood an alternative perspective of what they can become. Myself, 9 years ago was a split decision away from becoming a criminal statistic and further marginalized for the rest of my life. / With a less than 25% voter turnout in my hometown of Camden, I had to attempt to change this lack of involvement for the betterment of us all.. #camden #VoteJune5 #Column9 #citycouncil #runforsomething #millenials #betonyourself #prailowforthepeople
Prailow also hopes to inspire other young people to become politically engaged. He credits Jewell Jones, Michigan's youngest state representative, with being one of his inspirations, explaining: "Jewell represents the new generation of young Black politicians: smart, in touch with his community and the culture, and unapologetically himself."
When we asked Prailow what advice he would offer other young people who want to run for office one day, he said: "When people tell you that you're too young or unprepared, don't believe them."
Camden's Special Primary Election is set to take place on June 5th.