On the Record
by Dan Bush
Feb 17, 2009 | 3122 views | 0 0 comments | 36 36 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Jordan Thomas
Jordan Thomas
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Like millions of Americans across the country, Brooklyn for Barack co-founder Jordan Thomas had no idea who then-Illinois State Senator Barack Obama was when he took the stage at the 2004 Democratic National Convention.

After watching Obama's breakthrough speech on television, Thomas was instantly hooked to the "skinny kid with a funny name," (as President Obama referred to himself that night), and his vision of a new kind of politics.

"I'm somebody who became civically engaged around the Obama campaign," said the 38-year-old Thomas. "I followed politics when I was a teenager but never really put myself out there."

This changed quickly after Obama announced his presidential candidacy in February of 2007. Thomas had been following Obama's lightning-quick political ascension - from DNC keynote speaker to U.S. Senator to presidential hopeful - with interest. Once Obama officially threw his hat in the ring, Thomas, a Clinton Hill resident who works for a film company and as a consultant, decided to jump on board.

"I knew that I supported him and felt very deeply about his presidential candidacy," Thomas recalls thinking at the time. "I wanted to involve my friends and family but didn't have a plan."

Taking advantage of the internet technology Obama's campaign would soon become famous for, in February of 2007 Thomas used a feature on the official Obama campaign website to start his own grassroots organization, which he called Brooklyn for Barack.

Within four days more than 70 people had joined the group. All of them, said Thomas, were "clamoring for action."

The group began meeting regularly and as more and more members joined developed a concrete mission. "We wanted to be a clearing house where we could ensure there was activity in every neighborhood focused on getting Obama the [Democratic presidential] nomination," Thomas said.

As Obama's popularity grew, and he emerged as Hillary Clinton's only rival for the party's nomination, Brooklyn for Barack expanded. Once Obama secured the nomination in the summer of 2008, and prepared for a grueling general election campaign against Arizona Senator John McCain, the group exploded.

"We estimate that there were at one time more than 7,000 people volunteering for our organization," said Thomas. During the nearly two-year primary and general election campaigns, Brooklyn for Barack volunteers, working out of two Brooklyn offices, and in coordination with Obama's New York campaign team, spearheaded borough-wide voter registration drives, get-out-the-vote initiatives, did canvassing, and even bused activists to the neighboring battleground state of Pennsylvania.

The group's signature moment came in August of 2008, when it co-hosted a large Obama campaign rally at the Brooklyn Marriot hotel. Obama spoke there, and called Thomas personally afterwards to thank him for his work.

"The guy's got a world-class mind," said Thomas of the president, who he met four times during the campaign. "I really like how he can bring people together from different backgrounds and have a respectful conversation. I find that very appealing."

Thomas said Brooklyn for Barack has no plans of slowing down just because their man made the White House. The group is thinking of filing officially as a non-profit, and exploring ways to establish itself as a permanent grassroots organization.

"We are considering how to help folks empower themselves and strength Brooklyn," said Thomas, who is currently writing a screenplay based on his experiences of the past two years. "We really are trying to build something that's going to have longevity."

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