Back in the days when the city’s bonfires were still raging, it would have been unthinkable that Al Sharpton would be celebrated by the mayor and the governor at a lavish birthday party.
But if you live long enough, the world will take some funny turns. Twenty-five years ago, Sharpton would have been picketing The Four Seasons; now, he’s its guest of honor.
Sharpton’s remarkable move to the center of power cannot be adequately summarized or explained in a very brief column – but with his 60th birthday looming tomorrow, it’s worth remembering that he was once on the ramparts drawing heavy criticism and praise for his role in events that became touchstones and shorthand in our local political vocabulary: Howard Beach, Tawana Brawley, Bensonhurst.
A protest candidate for mayor, the U.S. Senate, and President, Sharpton served as catnip for reporters who were looking for a good quote and some quick insight on an often-bland campaign trail.
It’s a very different story now – with Sharpton having the ear of the mayor and seeing his former top staffer serve as the chief of staff for the city’s First Lady. Remarkably slim and well-tailored, it will be very curious to see if Sharpton has a third act in his career as he enters his spry sixties.