PROFILE: Michael Blake is a pastor, politician, associate producer, consultant, and campaign manager
Michael Alexander Blake, born in The Bronx, NY with a heart murmur on Christmas Day, is named after two historic Jamaican public servants – Michael Manley and Alexander Bustamante. This beginning probably explains his foundation of faith, politics and putting his heart and soul into all opportunities.
When describing the path his life has taken, Michael Blake humbly refers to the words of his mother who remarked that the family had gone, “from no house to the White House.” Blake has committed himself to public service and to the empowerment of others like him, who may not have direct access to opportunities to participate in the policy and political debates that shape this nation. Blake’s family story is a testament to his achievement. His family emigrated to the U.S. from Jamaica seeking new opportunities, but facing many new challenges.
Michael faced challenges in the quality of his education – his New York City elementary school, P.S. 79, is featured in Jonathan Kozol’s Savage Inequalities: Children in America’s Schools yet still rose to graduate from Northwestern University – making his story all the more remarkable.
Blake currently is the National Senior Consultant for Green For All, the leading voice for green jobs for communities of color, while also doing governmental, political and constituency outreach consulting. He recently served as the Campaign Manager for Reshma Saujani’s campaign for New York City Public Advocate
Previously, Michael served as the Senior Advisor for the Office of Public Engagement for President Obama’s 2013 Presidential Inaugural Committee. Prior to that appointment, he served as the National Deputy Director of Operation Vote for President Obama’s 2012 re-election, the constituency outreach program for the Obama for America campaign and helped expand the diverse electorate who voted for President Obama. But before the national opportunities, Blake’s path to public service is a testament of what happens if you just trust in your dreams, anything can be possible.
While an Associate Producer in Chicago, Blake felt that he was not helping people in the ways he should be at the time. So, he interned twice a week for former State Senator Jeff Schoenberg (D – Evanston, Illinois). One day, a woman walked in need as she was at risk of losing her home and only having a week to get the help. Because of what Michael witnessed from his humble beginnings, he and the team worked diligently to help the woman, she kept her home, returned to say thank you and then Michael knew that his path was clear – it was to serve the people. He considered several opportunities, but it was when Henry Tamarin (President, UNITE Here in Chicago) told Michael of the “Yes We Can” program that everything changed.
Blake first met President Obama in 2006 when he joined the Obama organization as a participant in the “Yes We Can” political training program, which trained ten young Americans to run and execute a political campaign. Blake maintains that Obama was the same caring, intellectual and transformational individual at their first meeting that he is today as President and encouraged him to think beyond his present circumstance saying, “Michael, Dream Big Dreams”.
Blake started his political career in Michigan, where he successfully co-organized three state house campaigns in the 2006 election cycle and was promoted to become the Director of External Affairs for the Michigan House of Representatives serving in Michigan Speaker of the House Andy Dillon’s cabinet,.
His affiliation with Obama would continue through the 2008 Obama for America campaign, in which Blake worked in eight states over 20 months, starting as the Iowa Deputy Political Director and Constituency Outreach Director and ending as the Michigan Deputy Director and Political Director. Shortly before the Iowa caucuses, a 2007 Time Magazine said, “Michael Blake may have more to do with Barack Obama’s chances of becoming President than anyone besides the candidate himself.” Blake humbly disagrees.
Following the campaign, Blake joined the White House staff as Associate Director of Public Engagement & Deputy Associate Director of the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, coordinating African American, Minority Business and county and statewide elected official outreach. He created the White House Urban Entrepreneurship Summit series, which sought to foster public, private and not-for-profit partnerships and provide strategic advice to attendees.
Blake was honored as one of “The Root 100” in 2012; featured in Jet magazine as one of 15 black politicos behind President Obama’s re-election; and recognized by MSNBC in 2011 as one of the Top 10 Black Politicians on the rise.
The Bronx, New York native is a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. He is also an Exhorter in the African Methodist Episcopal church and a member of Allen Chapel AME church in Washington, D.C. with the Rev. Dr. Michael E. Bell, Sr. as pastor.
Michael Blake often paraphrases his favorite scripture of Romans 8:18 and the words of Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick by saying “in 2008, we changed the guard; but in 2012, we guard the change.” Blake’s life has been dedicated to that charge and his hope is that history will forever know that the change has been guarded.