Rangel has been the face of the district for four decades. Then an ambitious preacher named Michael Walrond came along. Now they’re fighting over the future of America’s most symbolic black neighborhood.
At 11:30 a.m. sharp, Walrond, who normally preaches in jeans, arrived at St. John’s in a dark suit and tie, his bald head cleanly shaved. As the 30 or so people took their seats and the smell of waffles, bacon and salmon croquettes wafted in from the kitchen, Butts introduced his guest. Then, for 15 minutes, Walrond spoke about the various efforts he began at his church — an educational and wellness center, a program that feeds children before school, a food pantry that sought to serve 20,000 families a year — that he would like to expand, if elected to the House. He talked about his concerns with the local schools, particularly co-location, the disputed practice of housing several schools in one building. Then he threw open the floor to questions.