By Ryan Joy
Washington, DC – It’s a brisk fall day on Bruce Place, Southeast. The sun is out and the air is refreshing. According to residents gathered in the area, so is the presence of a particularly charismatic man among the several people passing out turkeys and boxes of sides to the families of students at Johnson Junior High School. That man is Rodney “Red” Grant.
It’s Thanksgiving-week 2021. Washington’s mayoral race is nearly a year away. However, “Red” is already conspicuously giving. He’s a celebrated actor, but this is not an act. His presence isn’t a part of the race, but a continuation of a humanitarian mission that he began long before he threw his hat in the ring as a candidate. There are career politicians among the competition. But Mr. Grant isn’t one. He’s running a campaign based on decency, kindness, and sincerity.
On this day he passed out food outside his daughter’s school in Ward 8. The very next month he was downtown handing out dozens of hot gourmet soul food meals to those affected by The District’s housing crisis. The week prior, he helped secure a donation of uniforms for a highly successful youth football program in Ward 7 so that they could look sharp as they went away to win a national travel tournament.
Over the last 16 months, he’s marched shoulder to shoulder with mothers of young victims of gun violence down Martin Luther King Avenue after the tragic death of 6-year-old Niyah Courtney. When the students at Howard University slept in tents staging protests, he served as a pillar of support, passing out food, water, blankets, and other necessities. He put together a barbecue and concert for the residents of the Langdon area in Northeast that also doubled as a graduation celebration for students in his “Don’t Shoot Guns Shoot Cameras” program, which teaches city youth the art of filmmaking. He also took a bus load of kids on a tour of Audi field through his outreach program “Beyond Your Block”. Red has been called to serve his community. He has honed in on reclaiming the grand potential of our future leaders.
Although Red exchanges warm smiles and hugs with excited residents who recognize him as he travels through the city on his “Listening Tour,” there is a respectable intensity about him and the citizens who shake his hand and share their concerns about the District can see on his face that #purposeoverpopularity is more than a hashtag.
His listening tour events consist of Mr. Grant and the volunteer members of his “Team Red” support faction fanning out to all sections of the city, with the goal of touching the public and letting the people share their vision for a rehabilitated, rejuvenated Washington. They’ve been from Eastern Market to Eastover, from happy hours and March Madness events in hip Adams Morgan establishments, to Pride events at Anacostia Park, and Parades down Foxhall Rd.
When he speaks publicly, he emphasizes the importance of youth outreach programs. He himself was a participant in Mayor Marion Barry’s “Summer Jobs” program. He shares plans based on the information gathered from the citizens of the city, putting emphasis on affordable housing, education equality, advocating for small businesses, supporting the LGBTQIA+ community, increasing public safety and quality of life, and making DC an anti-poverty city. He’s forged amazing changes and put forth impactful programs as a private citizen. Imagine what he could do from the Mayor’s office!
It’s been some time since the city had a mayor who felt familiar, like a father, brother, uncle, nephew, or neighbor figure. But then there’s Rodney Grant, taking teens bowling and on go-kart expeditions. He and his wife Noell host stately fundraising events, dressed to the nines, as the portrait of leadership. But they also roll up their sleeves and personally gather petition signatures, and stage trash pickups alongside Minnesota Avenue, off of which sits “Red”’s childhood home. Mrs. Grant is more than a partner who also fundraises, but also a former police officer, with a wealth of information and insight into the psychology of policing, who could ease the current disconnect between officers and communities.
Over recent years, Washington, a once-great town, has fallen from higher heights. Crime is up. Quality of life is down. Residents are facing economic, social and mental health crises. The present and future have been bleak for our children, neighbors and elderly. Comedians are observationalists, who rely on a keen connection to what’s going on around them. And in Mr. Grant’s estimation, what’s been going on around town in Washington over the past few years has been concerning enough to warrant and necessitate his candidacy.
Rodney Grant has reached the highest levels of success in his entertainment career: film, television, national tours. But the District’s troubling recent reality has brought “Red” down to the ground and grassroots level, to aid the many individuals suffering in our nation’s capital. He has been compelled to give back to the community in which he was raised, and elevate the standards of living for people with the values that were instilled in him which propelled him to personal and professional success.
Critics will say, how can a comedian fix the serious issues facing the city? I guess they mean the problems that the career candidates have created and failed to also solve. Rodney “Red” Grant is more than an entertainer. He’s an entertainment executive, seeking DC’s executive office. Comedy ultimately is about making observations and connecting with people, and that’s what makes Red such a strong leader. To know him is to love him. To meet him is to appreciate him. To understand his mission and motivation is to respect his vision. He’s true to himself, true to his family, and true to his team. He has the makings and qualities of a historically great mayor and all the quadrants are a stage, but this is not a joke!
NOTE: Readers are encouraged to follow Rodney Red Grant on social media at @redgrant on Instagram. Red will be hosting numerous meet and greet events for voters around the city and he encourages everyone to come and share their concerns and suggestions pertaining to the District. You can visit Rodney “Red” Grant’s website at www.grant4mayordc.com