Mayo’s Democratic Activism

Mayo Makinde’s long career in Democratic politics began modestly enough - with a gleaming white suit.

It was 2005, and young Mayo had just returned to Columbus after graduating from Western Kentucky University. “I was always interested in politics,” he remembers. “My degree was in political science.

So, I looked on the Internet for the local Democratic Party and discovered they were having some sort of an event at the Renaissance Hotel Downtown,” he says. Mayo called a phone number on the web site and was informed he could attend the gala event.

But Mayo immediately realized he had only one suit, a bright white one that his mother, Lara, had bought him several years before. Young Makinde never had the nerve to tell his mom he hated that suit, so it remained unworn in the closet.

But now he had no choice. It was the white suit or nothing.

As he roamed the halls of the Renaissance, he was in awe of the well-known political figures in attendance. Among the notables were Mayor Mike Coleman, TV personality Jerry Springer who was considering running for Ohio governor at the time and the late U.S Rep. Stephanie Jones from Cleveland, the first African-American woman elected to the U.S House from Ohio.

Even among the political glitterati, Mayo stood out in the crowd – for one reason. He was the only attendee wearing a white suit.

Before long, Congresswoman Jones, who was obviously curious about the young man in the glistening white suit, approached Mayo. “Who are you?” she asked with a broad smile. The recent college grad told the congresswoman about his background and his strong desire to become active in the Democratic Party.

Jones turned to a friend and said, “Hey, get Bill Anthony over here. There’s someone I want him to meet.” Seconds later, Anthony, then-chairman of the Franklin County Democratic Party, and Makinde were conversing about life and politics. Anthony invited Makinde to have lunch two days later. That lunch launched what became a life-long friendship. “Talking with Bill at that Bob Evans restaurant was like attending a class on Politics 101,” Makinde laughs. “I learned more about politics during that single lunch than I did in all my political science courses at college.”

And best of all, Bill paid for my meal.”

In no time, Makinde was volunteering. “Bill told me I had to pay my dues to the party and the community, do the grunt work,” Makinde recollects. “I worked my butt off, and I loved it.” Every day he showed up at party headquarters, licking stamps, stuffing envelopes and working phone banks. He walked neighborhoods handing out literature and talking with voters and installed yard signs. And he got involved in the community.

His dedication paid off, and he was asked to undertake more important roles. Mayo served as Franklin County coordinator for Barbara Sykes’ bid for state auditor, campaign chair of Kevin Boyce’s campaign for the Ohio House and a member the minority out-reach committee for Ted Strickland’s gubernatorial campaign.

Makinde has been at the forefront of the Ohio Democratic Party’s progressive wing. He is one of the founders of the state chapter of Our Revolution and the current leader of the state chapter of Progressive Democrats of America.

Mayo also has taken his fight on behalf of everyday Ohioans directly to Congress, the White House and the Statehouse.

With Our Revolution and the AFL-CIO, Makinde urged the White House and members of Congress to reinstate the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act, which once protected average Americans against the excesses and risky practices of financial institutions. As a member of the board of the Single Payer Action Network-Ohio, Makinde lobbied state legislators to enact Medicare-for-all.

He has also lobbied Congress on such issues as education, housing, economic development for minority-owned businesses and the environment.

Makinde’s other political activities include:

  • Member of the Franklin County Central Committee from Wards 17 (South Linden) and 26 (East Columbus).
  • One of two volunteer staffers for the State Legislature’s Black Caucus.
  • Former vice president of the Franklin County Young Democrats, the first African-American to hold this position.
  • A founder of Ohio Young Black Democrats.
  • Ohio chapter leader of the Progressive Democrats of America.
  • Delegate for presidential candidate Bernie Sanders at the Democratic National Convention
  • Former member of the Franklin County Democratic Candidate Screening Committee.
  • Previous candidate for the Ohio House.