Chet Whye moved to Central Harlem nearly 17 years ago after moving from here Denver. But he wasn’t politically active in the area until 2008 when President Barack Obama ran for office. During the campaign, he worked as executive director of the Harlem4Obama campaign, and then founded the nonprofit Harlem4 Center for Change which focuses on reducing youth violence, and improving healthcare, food and elder issues, among others.
What attracted you to Harlem?
I was conditioned like most people to be afraid of Harlem, to not really see it as the gem that it is. Someone had invited me to function here and I got lost that night walking through the streets looking at all the amazing brownstones. The people are so loving and the culture is so vibrant.
What changes would you still like to see?
There is a corporate dominance of 125th Street and small businesses feel threatened.
I also think there isn’t enough as far as recognition of the culture, and affordable home ownership – not affordable housing. The key is ownership. Just as we could put up condos that cost a couple million, we could do affordable co-ops that people could buy.
What makes you stay?
The people and the movement to make it an even better place. Its’ a challenge to me; I always feel like there’s things that aren’t done. And on a weekend I could take a night and stay in my neighborhood and not run out of places to go to.