Hundreds of people squeezed past protesters and into Local 16, a U Street bar where they could schmooze with Newark Mayor Cory Booker and D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty.
The two young mayors -- Fenty's 38 and Booker's 39 -- held a joint fundraiser for their 2010 reelection bids. Organizers said they expected the party to rake in a sizeable amount of cash for the candidates who have already raised $2 million each.
Booker was charismatic, wowing the crowd with jokes and his status as a walking book of "Bartlett's Familiar Quotations." While Fenty talked about "results-oriented" governing, Booker drew applause and laughter by peppering his speech with jokes, James Baldwin, Martin Luther King Jr. and a little Latin: "E pluribus unum."
"Out of many comes one," he said.
On a less serious note, he opened by teasing the audience, explaining that in the next 30 minutes, President Barack Obama was going to...."shave his head like Fenty and me."
Before the mayors spoke, contributors had to listen to Eric Broyles, a District businessman who introduced the mayors when they were just council members nearly eight years ago. Broyles was the man of the hour -- a Vernon Jordan-in-training. But he was clearly nervous as he gave a speech to try to answer why he came up with the idea of the joint event.
The idea, he said, had its origins in a trip to Mexico where he was "playing golf to clear my head," a statement that drew laughter from the crowd and appeared to throw Broyles off. During the golf trip, he met a disabled man, which made him think about the struggles of abused foster child Antwone Fisher whose story turned into a Denzel Washington-directed film. The movie made Broyles turn to his Bible. He then went back to a poem Fisher wrote: "Who will cry for the children?"
Broyles said Fenty and Booker do.
That's when Fenty stepped in with a speech about how he was inspired by Booker, who grew up in an affluent neighborhood with IBM-employed parents moved into Newark public housing and took on the political machine there.
Fenty said, "Politicians who run for office have got to do it from the grassroots up. What started a long time ago with that grassroots campaign in Newark transformed the country."
"You've got to engage the people, listen to the people and that's ultimately how you should make decisions," he said.
The dozens of protesters outside had come to call attention to Fenty's decision to close a downtown homeless shelter and the sale of public land. Fenty has said the shelter was being closed as part of his effort to provide permanent housing for the chronically homeless; the city's goal was to place about 400 people in apartments in the first wave of the program. Some homeless activists, however, have said a shelter in downtown is necessary for those homeless people who use services in the area.
The protesters were outside yelling, "one-term mayor," but inside the fundraiser stayed on script.
Fenty was followed by Booker, who peppered his speech about advocating for social change, with several jokes. Booker said he was tired of coming to D.C. and being mistaken for Fenty at Starbucks and in cabs. "This brother is skinnier than me, younger than me and better looking than me," Booker said to laughter.
But he added that he was older, wiser and a better basketball player.
Or how about this serious joke via his father? "I was so poor. I was po. I couldn't afford the other two letters."
Booker then asked just how far the country has come with a black man in the White House. He talked about creating more business, more jobs, developing a green economy and reforming education. "The most important people in our schools are the kids who go there," he said.
The issue of education was one of the reasons D.C. Attorney Alethia Nancoo said she signed on to be a host of the event. "In 10 years, our school system is going to be one that my children can go to," said Nancoo, mother of a 14-month-old.
Fenty "is single-handedly revamping our education system," she said, referring to his takeover of public schools.
She said Booker has been equally impressive.
"Two powerhouse mayors of African American descent....They're my age. I'm 40," she said.
-- Nikita Stewart
Mayor Fenty and Newark Mayor Cory Booker.
Mayor Fenty talks with broadcaster and former Washington Redskins star Rick "Doc" Walker at the fundraiser last night. (Photo by David Nakamura, TWP.)