The Civic Life

For advocate, young politician Malcolm Kenyatta, seeking change is part of everyday life

(Photos from Left to Right) Malcolm Kenyatta (right) Malcolm Kenyatta introduces Sen. Corey Booker during a gathering in West Philadelphia. Photos courtesy of Malcolm Kenyatta.

In one week’s time, Malcolm Kenyatta hosted a panel discussion on poverty in North Philadelphia, introduced presidential candidate Hillary Clinton at a rally, and had coffee with Lilly Ledbetter, the namesake for President Barack Obama’s first piece of legislation, the Fair Pay Act of 2009.

As a possible Clinton delegate to the Democratic National Convention, he’s guiding United States Senator for New Jersey Cory Booker through a few Philadelphia favorite spots before heading to a house party with the city’s district attorney.

“We’ll just be walking around, talking to voters,” he tells a reporter, discussing his plans to start the tour off at Sonny’s Famous Steaks in Old City that afternoon.

At 25 years old, Kenyatta nurtures more civic and social impact than many people do in a lifetime.

Perhaps he was born for it.

Kenyatta’s grandfather was Muhammad Kenyatta, a civil rights activist who ran for mayor, and who was a victim of FBI fraud and harassment in the 1960s. The agency had forged a threatening letter that warned against him travelling to Mississippi.

Politics is “basically the family business,” Kenyatta said in an interview with the Philadelphia Gay News. “No one ever told me there was a separation between our daily lives and politics. It was always part of everything we do. Whether it’s how and where we cross the street or where something gets built or whether women get equal pay for equal work.”

“I don’t have to be in office or have a cool, funky position in politics,” he continued. “But, as a concerned citizen, I have to find a way to be involved. … It’s important to try to make the world a little bit better.”

Kenyatta does so, not just with his civic pursuits, but with every facet of his life.

He was born in North Philadelphia, received a degree in strategic communications from Temple University, and continues to live in that neighborhood.

He sits on the board of the Liberty City LGBT Democratic Club, an advocacy organization designed to build political power for the city’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens. But Kenyatta’s passions seem endless, so at times you can also find him mentoring youth in writing and performance art. His full-time job is member engagement coordinator for the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce.

But on this day, he’s hard to catch up with.

“Quick change of plans,” he says, in regards to the former meeting location in Old City with Cory Booker. “We’ll be at Rittenhouse Square around 2:30.”

And he’s off.


The Civic Life
Sheila Simmons - Contributor

Sheila Simmons brings many years of writing and communications experience to her work for Liberty City Press. She began her professional writing career at the Philadelphia Daily News, where she covered Business, City Hall and Education.


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