Repping North Philly

Malcolm Kenyatta, KLN ’12, talks about how growing up in North Philadelphia put him on the path to be the PA House’s first openly gay person of color.

image of Malcolm Kenyatta
Photo credit: Ryan S. Brandenberg

Being the PA House’s first openly gay person of color feels... great, but it’s not enough. I hope my election gets poor kids and LGBTQ kids saying, “Hey, I want to run for office. If Malcolm did it, I can, too.”

On growing up in North Philly... I was lucky to grow up in the best neighborhood in the world where people work hard and care for one another. But like any community where folks are struggling economically, there were issues with trash and blight. When I was 11, I told my mom about the changes I wanted to see, and she said, “If you care so much about it, go do something.” So I ran for junior block captain. 

I benefitted from...  a lot of the services that I’m trying to make sure exist for other families. I grew up in poverty, but my parents never let that stop us. There’s a moral case and an economic case I make in addressing poverty. Every single day people get up in the face of tough odds and work their asses off.

On how to ease tensions between Temple and neighbors... The relationship has to be built on trust and mutual respect. The neighborhood’s not going anywhere, and neither is Temple. We now have to live together, where the neighborhood’s growth and Temple’s growth are not mutually exclusive, but mutually inclusive. 

—By Kyle Bagenstose, KLN ’11