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NEWS | March 1, 2024

Army Reserve officer makes history as first African American elected to city council in Berkley, Michigan

By Sgt. Natalie Pantalos U.S. Army Reserve Command

“We all win when there is diversity because diversity makes us all better,” said U.S. Army Maj. Clarence Black, plans and operations officer for the 364th Theater Public Affairs Support Element. He is personally ensuring that his community has more diverse leaders while making history as the first African American elected to Berkley City Council (located in the Greater Detroit area).

Black grew up in inner-city Detroit and has lived in Berkley for the past 16 years. He was inspired to get into city politics to set an example for his children and other children of color. He wanted to show them that there are leaders who look like them and to know that “this is their city too.”

Black has served in the Army Reserve for almost 14 years, first as a signal officer, then in logistics, and public affairs. Thinking about his Army career and balancing it with other demands, Black advised, “you better know why you are doing this and have no doubts about where it belongs in your life because this is not easy.”

He also emphasizes the importance of knowing your purpose, or “why,” before stepping into a local election. “A strong “why” will make you grind when you are exhausted and help you to focus amidst a sea of distractions.” Black said he is grateful for the support of his campaign team, family, and friends.

At times Black was told that he was running a “no-win campaign.” He was new to city politics and, noted that “Berkley’s demographics are 88 percent white and 3.2 percent black.” Black and his team overcame these challenges through personal courage, targeted outreach, yard signs, mailers, and events.

“We gave the citizens of Berkley an opportunity to get to know me and we believed that once they got to see and know me, that they would see past color and give me an opportunity to lead.”