Farad Ali has a background in business diversity consulting, which he wants to use to push forth a vision of "One Durham" as one of Durham's six mayoral candidates.
Ali—a former city council member—seeks to increase civic engagement and bring together diverse sectors and people in the Durham community. He said he decided to enter the mayoral race after speaking with his family, friends, current Durham mayor Bill Bell and Mayor Pro Tempore Cora Cole-McFadden. He has thus far secured endorsements from two of the city's most powerful political action committees—the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People and the Friends of Durham.
"Durham today [is] going through a big growth, [but] with a focus on equity and a desire to have some smart growth and inclusion," Ali said. "I thought I could be an asset to the city as mayor... 'One Durham’ allows us to focus on the benefits of having a city that's so diverse and using that diversity to inspire change and create innovation.”
Since 2014, Ali has served as the president and CEO of the Institute, a Durham-based consulting and services firm focused on business diversity. He also chairs the Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority Board, in addition to sitting on a number of other local boards. From 2007 to 2011, he served on the Durham City Council.
Tyrone Baines, a supporter of Ali and the founder of the NCCU Public Administration Program, praised Ali's commitment to diversity. Ali grew up with Baines’ son and later crossed paths with Baines in their work on economic development.
"If I look at how Durham has developed recently—in all of the development downtown—I think that a part of Durham has been left behind, places like East Durham," Baines said. “You can't talk about fair housing without talking about having a job. You can't talk about having a job without talk[ing] about an education preparing you for the job.”
But Baines also noted that representing and bridging the diverse segments of Durham could be challenging.
“The real challenge is going to be bringing people together,” Baines said. “But Farad has proven that he can do that. I am excited about the opportunity to see him work across those lines because I have seen him work across them before.”
'Someone who knows the challenges'
Another of Ali’s supporters, Hampton Dellinger, also lauded Ali’s ability as a leader. A longstanding Durham resident, Dellinger grew up in Durham and is a former North Carolina Deputy Attorney General.
"I think we are a very cohesive community, but we could be even more united. Farad is a uniter," Dellinger said. "Farad is so well known and so well respected across all of the different segments of Durham. He is known in the business community and known by those interested in social justice and civil rights."
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In addition to supporting Ali’s prior campaign to become city councilman, Dellinger has worked with Ali and his colleagues at the Institute. Dellinger characterized economic development and increasing wages as key issues for Durham, which he believed Ali has ample experience in.
“Farad is someone who knows the challenges out there, but is able to work within the system to be persistent and to achieve progressive change,” Dellinger said.
Connection to Durham
Like Baines and Dellinger, Ali has a long history with Durham. Although he was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., he moved to Durham soon after. Ali went to Jordan High School and raised a family in Durham.
“I love hanging out with my family in Durham,” he said. “I do stay-cations in Durham.”
Ali said he has been inspired by his mother and father—who grew up in South Carolina and the inner-city of New York, respectively—for showing him how to overcome obstacles and create more opportunities for himself.
"I have watched them toil their way through struggle, through being working-poor to raising two sons and giving them an opportunity to attend college,” he said. “[I've learned] that your current condition doesn't necessarily determine your outcome in life."