Meet the “Mayor of Harlem”

Meet the “Mayor of Harlem”

RA President Spends Her Days and Nights Boosting Neighbors’ Quality of Life

It’s not surprising that NY1 featured Diana Blackwell in its ‘One City, Many Mayors’ series in October. An unstoppable force of nature, Blackwell is driven by her desire to make her neighbors’ lives and her neighborhood the best they can be.

The Resident Association President of Samuel Apartments since 2009, Blackwell rises well before dawn to start her day at the RA’s office, often working until midnight. She takes care of emails and phone calls in the morning, works in the development’s garden she created, jets off to numerous meetings, speaks with local senior police officers and new recruits alike in her role as a Community Partner, discusses issues with her development’s property manager and superintendent, checks in at the community center for updates, and does research and answers emails in the evening. Her “open door” policy guarantees frequent interruptions from anyone seeking her assistance or advice.

“My parents raised us to be an extension of wherever we are,” Blackwell says, so being a neighborhood advocate is a natural fit. She credits her parents for teaching her the value of hard work. “This is a job with fringe benefits,” she explains, “like seeing a person get a job or enroll in a GED program and get their diploma or attending custody hearings with a single parent and seeing the judge find favor because the parent has a support system in place.”

Sometimes her own interests inspire Blackwell’s work. She involved herself in youth programming at the community center because “as a grandparent and community leader, I am looking at ways to ensure a safe place for youth.” After getting diagnosed with diabetes, Blackwell created a program that encourages healthy eating and cooking habits. The vegetable garden she established also educates people about the “benefits of healthy eating and provides an awakening to the taste buds when experiencing its produce firsthand.”

Blackwell believes that fostering better police/community relations is about “breaking bread, bringing people together so that relationship building will continue to grow and return to the old way of the police knowing us not only by face but by name too.”

Prior to her life in “retirement,” Blackwell worked for the phone company, was an administrative assistant and event coordinator at the Wildlife Conservation Society/Bronx Zoo, and served in the Air Force Reserve.

Having her service to the community highlighted on NY1 was humbling, Blackwell reports. The real reason she does what she does is simple: She wants to meet needs that are not being addressed. Blackwell feels that the biggest way she helps her neighbors is by providing information. “Contrary to most people’s belief, I don’t know everything,” she explains, “but I know where to find the resources they need.” Watch the NY1 piece on Ms.  Blackwell here:

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