The opportunity I’ve had in life to surmount systemically tolerated obstacles should not be an exceptional story of resilience in our future. I’m engaged in the work to normalize access to opportunities for all in our
community. Together, we move Harlem forward.
Roots and early life
My maternal grandparents migrated from the Jim Crow South 75 years ago to escape anti-Black racism and build lives beyond picking cotton. Here in the North, they found union manufacturing jobs and raised seven children in a time when they reminisce that “every child was raised by the entire neighborhood”. My mother was the fifth child, known for never meeting a stranger and had a reputation for beating boys on the basketball court. During her 20s, many of those good union manufacturing jobs were eliminated and the crack epidemic of the 1980s hit hard. She soon became addicted like far too many others in that era. She told me that it took witnessing, in-person, the birth of my Godbrother to end her substance use. After a year of being sober, she became pregnant with me and I was born in 1991, a few weeks after Michael Jordan won his first championship ring.
Although I’m 29, I know my history and understand that our path forward must address the root causes of how we arrived at this crucial moment in time. My full name is Mario Leshon Harris Rosser, but my childhood nickname was Mank. I grew up attending a Southern Missionary Baptist Church with my Grandma, knowing Bloods and Crips in my neighborhood, learning about Malcolm X, coming home to eviction notices on my front door and reading a whole lot.
My Mom was a blue collar worker who drove the city bus and worked on assembly lines to take care of me. When I was 10 years old, she went back to college at the age of 40 to finally get her degree. Once she graduated, she began a new career as a substance use counselor, helping people in positions like the one she had been in. Compassion for the most underserved in our community is a value at the core of my heart and serves as the foundation for my political views.
Education and career
My journey to Harlem started in 2009 when I began college at Columbia University. During that time I studied economics, organized for the Obama campaign and started an initiative to help small businesses in Harlem grow. Columbia introduced me to lifelong friends from around the world, and exposed me to different cultures, societies, and shared struggles. There were many roadblocks to my success, including my mother’s cancer diagnosis during my senior year. However, seeing her proud face when I walked across the stage in 2014 was a highlight of my life.
After graduating, I started working in the Empire State Building at LinkedIn, the professional network dedicated to creating economic opportunity for all. I was impressed with the access to mentorship, training and jobs that LinkedIn gave to underrepresented college students who were encountering similar challenges that I had faced. I wanted to continue being a bridge. I’m elated to still be with LinkedIn today, after six years and several roles through which I’ve helped startup companies grow and have advocated for the hiring of more Black and Latinx team members. I’ve personally seen the power of tech apprenticeships to unlock upward economic mobility for young people from low-income families. We must create a more inclusive economy and I know there is more than enough room.
Public service, reality checks and advocacy
Outside of the private sector, I’ve dedicated my time to nonprofit leadership through America Needs You, a citywide mentoring initiative supporting first-generation college students, where I served as Chair of the New York Young Leadership Board. In this capacity, I introduced new programs, managed a $100,000 fundraising campaign, recruited volunteers and led a team of 30 working professionals. In Harlem, I’ve mentored high school students through my fraternity Alpha Phi Alpha Young Scholars program. I’m no stranger to civil rights, in 2020 I’ve organized protest marches, advocated for increased funding for anti-violence community based organizations and volunteered at food banks in the neighborhood to help alleviate food insecurity caused by COVID-19.
In 2017, my Mom passed after her four year long experience with lung cancer. She largely dedicated her life to those who are often neglected and sometimes shamed. People who’ve become addicted to drugs and alcohol. Kids without active parents. Criminal offenders. Drug dealers. Those without a dollar to their names. Good people. My values and heart have been more influenced by her than anyone else.
She taught me to serve our community and always keep those who are struggling top of mind. This passion has informed my entire career and I’m running for City Council because the office possesses the tangible power to move our community forward. Over the next several years, the decisions made by the City Council will have a larger than normal impact on the future of our City considering the severity of the problems we face. The time we’re in calls for resourceful, bold and responsive Council members. Those characteristics are core to how I operate and, if elected, everyday, I will seek to build support for an inclusive agenda that creates jobs, improves our neighborhood and directly addresses anti-Black systemic racism.