Darnell Roberts
4 min readMay 12, 2020


Obama, Harlem and Crab Fritters!

Scene: Harlem, New York

Date: November 4th, 2008

Event: Barack Obama elected at the 44th President Of The United States.

That event changed my life. I was a young Investment Advisor, with wavy hair, a killer wardrobe much better than my Boss. I also and a penchant for designer sneakers. I spend a few years bouncing around various firms on Wall Street after being a burnt out, stressed out Stockbroker. Fed up with the industry, I was looking for a new career that would make me feel like I was accomplishing something.

I wanted to feel like I was making a difference, because I wasn’t. I was too busy being busy. I wasn’t broke, I was irresponsible with money.

Too busy trying to fit in instead of standing out.

But this night, I found an epiphany.

As the Election Coverage rolled on, the tension at Mobays Lounge was palpable (the best Crab Fritters I’ve ever had). I felt like I was just casted as an extra on A Different World.

That was Black Excellence before it became hashtag #BlackExcellence.

State after state had gone for Obama, whom I saw just a few months before at the Apollo Theater and sadly didn’t know who he was. I heard the rapper Common mention his name in a song, but I was too consumed with the daily ticker on CNBC’s Squawk Box on to be knowledgeable about politics.

Silly me…

When CNN declared Obama the winner, I went into a trance. Somehow my feet were still on the plush pavement but I was definitely floating. I hugged total strangers. Even collected a few phone numbers of a few bystanders who could have been my leading Lady, if I’d called them back.

Silly me…

I walked through Harlem all night. There were honks and sirens and fist pumps and two stepping and full bellied bellows from the streets. I stayed out all night. No really, all night. I finally stumbled into a Diner in the wee hours of the morning because I didn’t want to sleep. I literally bounced around, bar hopping until the Sun came up. And I wasn’t alone. The streets were packed! I wish I could teleport my body to every black neighborhood in the country just to see if the tears flowed the same way on different faces.

Jon Snow’s 2008 report from Howard University following Barack Obama’s historic US election victory.

It was like a racial apocalypse and people suddenly didn’t see color. I saw people from all races and background hugging, crying, shouting, dancing in the streets. It was sanctified and I couldn’t grasp the sensation. There was no precedent. My incandescent mind was not yet developed enough to understand the gravity of what just happened.

Sure I knew WHAT had happened but as I kept having conversations with strangers I realized the we are far more similar than we are different. At least in Harlem, a centerpiece for black culture, yet it was slowly meandering towards a new gentrified destination for yuppies and hipsters.

I went to work the next day, but my spirit was still on Lenox Avenue.

Mario Tama/Getty Images North America

I eventually quit the Wall Street hamster wheel, and I got a job as a canvasser with the #WorkingFamiliesParty. Welcome To Brooklyn!

I got a job making ten bucks a hour to knock on doors for then Councilman Jumaane Williams, now NYC Public Advocate Jumaane Williams. Then I took an assignment working for them Councilman Bill de Blasio, now NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio.

And just like that I was a Community Organizer, or whatever I told my Mom I was doing now.

And just what, I haven’t looked back since!

Now I help run campaigns getting good people elected and became a consultant to change makers and active advocate to many causes that I care about.

Senator Kamala Harris Campaign Event in Miami

No, my hair is no longer wavy but I’m still dressed to the 9's and still love my Prada sneakers.

And yes, I finally found that career that makes me feel like I accomplished something.

And I did.

And I am…

And I ain’t stopping!





Darnell Roberts

New York Made, Miami Paid. I used to work for Wall Street, now I work for All Streets. Twitter: @mridontsleep