Alexander Sewell is a young man who believes in helping his community. He has worked with many organizations such as: TaskForce Preventive and Community Services, Campaign for America’s Future and Chicago’s Black Gay Men’s Caucus, an HIV/AIDS advocacy organization where he served as Youth Committee chair. Boys II Men Inc., honored him as one of the “2010 Phenomenal Man of Year” and earlier this summer he was honored by the Windy City Times in its annual Thirty Under 30, a listing of outstanding LGBT individuals (and allies) who are under 30 years of age. The 23 year old Chicago native currently resides in Washington, DC where works as a Legislative Fellow in US House of Representatives. PRIDEINDEX caught up with Sewell to discuss his accomplishments and plans for future.
PRIDEINDEX. Describe how you felt the moment you’d learned you were going to be honored as one of the “2010 Phenomenal Men of The Year?”
ALEXANDER: Being honored by Boys II Men Inc,. for the 2010 Phenomenal Man of the Year Award was a very humbling experience for me. Boys II Men is such a great organization. Here is a group of young men of color who are breaking down barriers, exceeding societal expectations and doing it with complete excellence – to be recognized by your peers for the work you are doing is very humbling for me, the greatest honor. It makes you stop and think “Wow – I’ve got to keep doing the work that I am doing because it’s making a difference,” I was so excited to meet the young men too. Their stories are remarkable. That night was very inspiring for me.
PI: While in college majored in Political Science, do you plan on ever running for public office? If so when?
AL: Well, I am very interested in politics and how effective public policy can positively impact lives. My life’s goal is to serve the public and make a difference in people’s lives. I am open to serving the public in any way that I believe I will have the most impact. There’s so much to learn and I have a few years to grow both personally and professionally. If I were to pursue elected office, I would like to be the best public servant I can be, so I will make a decision on whether to pursue public office when I feel that I’ve achieved the level of growth needed to be most effective.
PI: Tell us about your role with the Chicago Black Gay Men’s Caucus (CBGMC)?
AL: The Chicago Black Gay Men’s Caucus was such a great experience for me. I met such amazing people and the work of the Caucus is so important. Reducing the rate of transmission of HIV/AIDS in communities of color is something I care deeply about. I served as the Youth Committee Chair, so my primary focus was finding how we could address the HIV/AIDS crisis in 16-24 year olds. That entails a lot of listening because it’s important for us to hear from youth when are advocating for policies that will affect their lives especially since we want to be most effective. I helped formed the Youth Advisory Board within the Caucus, which has done some great work. I also had the opportunity to serve under Keith Green’s leadership in the Policy and Advocacy Committee. And as many of your readers who know Keith Green, he is such a hard worker who “gets it done,” he led the committee into a very productive period – we hosted community input events, lobbied in Springfield for HIV/AIDS funding, held voter registration drives, Mayoral meet and greets and more. I was the youngest member on the executive planning committee so it was very beneficial to learn from the giants in the community.
PI: Do you believe that your political aspirations could become hinder as a result of your involvement with CBGMC?
AL: No – the organization does great work. I am a man who wants to be involved in my community -I’m not sure how that could be a fault–if I were to have political aspirations. I am also an openly gay black man, there’s certainly no need to hide that. Maybe, that may ruffle some feathers who knows – truth is, being authentic, true to who you are and doing great work for your community earns folks respect. I’m not concerned with any negative implications of being who I am; my hope is that my contributions to my community are valued and the work speaks for itself.
PI: Tell us about your role with the Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) and some about some of the other organizations you’re involved in?
AL: CAF is a progressive think-tank in Washington DC. I, sort of, cut my teeth when it came to policy at this organization. I relocated to Washington DC with a vision of myself learning more about progressive policy ideas and solutions – I did that at CAF. I’ve had the opportunity to work with several organizations. I’ve tried to learn as much as possible about the issues facing our country through these experiences. It’s also helped in building a great network of people who are out there in the community doing great stuff. Recently, I was chosen as a 2011 New Leaders Council Fellow (Chicago Chapter) which is a political institute for progressive entrepreneurs. This is an amazing organization for folks who want to learn more about the political game, communications, campaign management, among other things. I would recommend this organization to anyone interested in gaining that experience. The best part was the great people that I met and the people who I had the opportunity to learn from.
PI: Why do you believe activism is so important?
AL: If we want to see our goals accomplished or our vision for our own lives and the lives of others realized we must be active within our community, petition our government and demand solutions to our problems. For me, activism is not just a right, it’s a responsibility that I have. I wouldn’t be here today without the activism of greats like MLK. Each generation passes the torch, so I am here to make sure that we continue to see progress.
PI: What factors lead to your decision to become an activist?
AL: My family also poked at me for always having a bleeding heart for others. It was all in good fun. My dad would point that I always wanted to help. And my grandmother would always tell me how important it is to know what’s going in the world, “know your history” and try to bring about change. We all have a purpose here on the Earth, I’ve found mine, and some would say “early” and that is and always will be to help others.
PI: Any mentors/influences?
AL: The list is very long. I’ve gained so many mentors in a very short period of time. Many of them, I tell every time I talk to them, how much they mean to me and how their advice and counsel has done so much for me – these are the unsung heroes. I will err on the side of caution for fear of not saying a name that has impacted my life. But, I am sure they know who they are. My mom, aunt and grandmother are certainly on the list – strong women. I am very influenced by the life’s work of President Obama, Martin Luther King Jr, Leader Nancy Pelosi, Sec. State Clinton, and Nelson Mandela; people who have broken down barriers – trailblazers.
PI: If President Obama were to call you up tomorrow and say ‘Alexander, I’ve created a new cabinet level position called The Youth Services Outreach Liaison and I believe that you would be perfect fit; tell me 3 things you need to get started? ” What would you say?
AL: I would say “Really? I think so, too”— I wouldn’t hesitate to take it. Three things that I would need: Prayer, the people closest to me and a list of goals he would like to see accomplished -then I am clear and ready to go.
PI: What else would you like to tell us?
AL: Thanks for taking the time to read about me. I am still take a “Wow, you want to learn about you want to learn about me approach to these sorts of things.” So I am grateful and humbled.