Ezedi gives it a 'go' for an at-large council seat

EzediEzediThis year's race for at-Large City Council just got a bit more interesting.

Long rumored to be considering a run, Egobudike Ezedi Jr., currently director of the Roxbury YMCA, called the Reporter on Tuesday to say he's in.

"I've been on the D.L., but now I'm coming out," Ezedi said. "I've been wrapping things here at the Y, so I've been trying to keep this quiet. The buzz is out there because I've been exploring it. And I'm at the point now where I've made a decision to run."

Ezedi, 36, already has a little political history behind him.

In 2003 he ran for the District 4 council seat against incumbent Charles Yancey - generating enough endorsements and momentum to have been considered a favorite until Yancey's core reacted, propelling the councillor to a narrow victory with 55 percent of the vote.

Unlike the Ezedi-Yancey contest, Ezedi has few competitors among the current field running for at-large who are likely to motivate black voters as well as he can. And recent events, including Barack Obama's election and FBI charges against Sen. Dianne Wilkerson and Councillor Chuck Turner, seem to have invigorated that voting bloc - which could in turn make an Ezedi endorsement a hot property for mayoral contenders.

"You look at some of the things that have happened nationally and locally, there's clearly a need for leaders with integrity and character," said Ezedi.

A past that includes working in the community for Congressman Michael Capuano - traditionally attentive to Mattapan and Dorchester - can't be harmful to Ezedi's cause either.

In recent years, Ezedi has added to his resumé a two-and-a-half year stint at the helm of the Roxbury YMCA at Warren Ave and MLK Boulevard, a centerpiece of the Roxbury community where he grew up. He also spent time as a mouthpiece for Boston University during the height of the controversy surrounding the Level 4 "Bio-Safety" Lab being built on just off Albany Street in the South End.

Ezedi's 2003 candidacy for council marked a key moment in recent political history. Ezedi's challenge of Yancey was heralded by the local press - including the Reporter - as an opportunity to add to the ascendancy of the Young Turks on the council. In a highly unusual break with council etiquette, Ezedi even drew open support from some of Yancey's colleagues - including Councillor Michael Flaherty, who famously derided Yancey as a "fraud" in the pages of the Boston Globe in the run-up to the primary. That sort of institutional support for Ezedi triggered a backlash among district four's base, rallying long-time supporters to Yancey's cause.

Yancey's press liaison Ken Yarborough didn't immediately return a call for comment about Ezedi's latest bid.

On April 3, Ezedi - who lives in Dorchester - will begin a nine-month leave of absence from the YMCA to run his campaign.

"Although my decision to suspend my activity at the Y and run for office is a "bitter-sweet" one," Ezedi wrote to his fellow employees, "I find great comfort in knowing that my bid for city-wide elected office will give me an opportunity to expand the great work that has been done at the Roxbury Y."

May Vaughn-Ebanks will be taking the wheel at the Y during his absence.

Ezedi serves as an associate minister at the 2000-plus-member Morning Star Baptist Church on Blue Hill Avenue, which draws worshippers from all over Greater Boston. Though that might not necessarily translate into endorsements from heavyweight groups like the Boston Ministerial Alliance that include ministers from many churches - it could happen.

All of this is a house Ezedi has slowly built on what he would call a solid community foundation.

"The Y was like my springboard to get back into political life," said Ezedi, who notes that Martin Luther King once spoke at the same facility. "Your political activity comes from your community activity. Taking charge of your own house comes first, then you take charge of your own street, then your community and it goes from there… Here at the Y, I'm not the director, I'm the lead servant, and that's the attitude I take. I'm a servant first and that's the approach I take to everything I do."

It's also one that he stresses will include the entire city, a necessary move to win an at-Large seat. "It will look like the city," answered Ezedi when asked about the members of his campaign team.

Ezedi's announcement, which he says will come officially in April, leaves only one widely-known fence-sitter: Ayanna Pressley, a Dorchester resident who is John Kerry's political director. Pressley is a name that is on every political pundit's tongue but her own, as she will not speak on the record to any reporter about her intentions as of yet.

Other rumblings are felt however in District 7, where Carlos Henriquez recently told the Reporter he's "90 percent sure" he's running against incumbent councillor and defendant Chuck Turner. If rumors are any bearer of eventual truth, that race and others may find multiple challengers.

George "Chip" Greenidge Jr., who facilitates political discussions in the younger generation of up and comers of color and seems to know all of them, said he sees a growing surge in political participation.

"There has been a lot of people who have come to me and talked about setting up committees," said Greenidge, without revealing any names. "People have been having those coffee table discussions."