How one job changed mayoral candidate Farad Ali’s life

"Why mayor?" we asked Farad Ali

Hear an excerpt from our Facebook Live interview with mayoral candidate Farad Ali on Wednesday, Oct. 25.
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Hear an excerpt from our Facebook Live interview with mayoral candidate Farad Ali on Wednesday, Oct. 25.

Durham mayoral candidate Farad Ali’s says the way you solve poverty is jobs. When his dad got a job working for IBM, that changed the whole trajectory of his family, Ali says. It led to his family moving from Brooklyn to Durham when Ali was a kid.

Ali has spent his career in banking and business, with a term on city council. He serves on several boards, including the Southern Coalition for Social Justice and chairs the Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority, which he likens to being “mayor of the air.” He’s running for mayor of Durham versus Steve Schewel.

In the municipal primary, Schewel received 51 percent of the vote and Ali 29 percent. Ali has since received the endorsement of outgoing Durham Mayor Bill Bell.

With Schewel already serving on the city council in an at-large seat, Ali said that electing him — Ali — as mayor means voters get both Ali and Schewel.

“You vote for me, you keep Steve. You don’t vote for me, I’m gone,” he said.

Ali Bell
Durham Mayor Bill Bell, right, endorses Farad Ali, left, for mayor. Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan dvaughan@heraldsun.com

Working in Durham

Ali went through the Durham Public Schools and two of his four children are in DPS schools now. He graduated from Jordan High School and went to UNC Chapel Hill for undergrad and got his MBA from Campbell University. He is CEO and president of The Institute, where he has worked since 1999. The Institute works for minority economic development.

Ali was previously a banker for Wells Fargo, BB&T and RBC.

“I’ve been experienced in business, but I’ve also been experienced in community development,” he said. “The African-American community and the Latino community does not have as much wealth as the white community ... I’m trying to create a strategy so they’re better off.”

Police interactions

The responsibility of the Durham Police Department falls under City Manager Tom Bonfield rather than the city council, but Ali said he is confident in DPD Chief C.J. Davis.

“A lot of times we talk about these subjects as if they’re academic subjects, and it’s not academic when you’re an African-American living in a place where maybe you’re poor or you maybe feel like you may get pulled aside. We have to be taught how to respond,” Ali said.

He was pulled over by Durham police in Southside during his council term, which ran from 2007 to 2011. Ali said he drives a big Chevrolet Suburban with tinted windows and had his daughter in the car with him at the time. She started crying. A police officer was aggressive and wouldn’t tell Ali why he had pulled him over when he first asked, Ali said, nor let him get out and look to see if his tail light was out.

“When you have police officers who feel like it’s OK to do that, it leaves a bad taste in the community,” Ali said. “It’s important we have better engagement with police officers.” He said he’s pleased with Davis’ focus on community policing and changing the culture within the police department.

Culture of diversity

Ali says that people and community need to be incorporated into development, giving the example of if a developer wanted to build on Durham’s historic Black Wall Street, which is Parrish Street.

“We can have a culture of diversity,” he said. “It’s so important that we have a competency of council that understands all these communities. I represent a different community.”

Ali lives in South Durham now but said he’s been around and has lived at eight addresses in Durham since 1977.

“I bring resources to council that won’t be there [if he loses]. I think I bring connectivity to the community – the grassroots and the grasstops to build one Durham,” he said.

Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 7. Early voting continues until Nov. 4.

Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: 919-419-6563, @dawnbvaughan

Candidate for Durham mayor Farad Ali

Watch an hour-long Facebook Live video interview with Farad Ali at https://www.facebook.com/theheraldsun/videos/1503961042995852/

Read Ali’s platform at faradali4mayor.com/

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