UC Berkeley alum, social activist runs for mayor

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UC Berkeley alumnus and social activist Kahlil Jacobs-Fantauzzi — who has been a Berkeley resident since 1994 — held a press conference Thursday to announce his decision to run for mayor, making him the 10th candidate to announce plans to run against incumbent Tom Bates.

At the press conference, which took place outside of Berkeley City Hall,  Jacobs-Fantauzzi spoke about how his experiences in art, media and teaching have inspired him to run for the mayoral position. He also talked about the importance of reaching out to the Berkeley youth and hip-hop communities, which he has worked with for the past 20 years.

“I’m running as a hip-hop mayor — someone who has something to say in a different way,” Jacobs-Fantauzzi said.

Jacobs-Fantauzzi — who many at the conference said was known for his support of Berkeley-based radio station KPFA and for Bay Area schools fighting budget cuts — also spoke about how music, media production and art can be a means for Berkeley youth to express themselves. For this reason, Jacobs-Fantauzzi created the student organization Students for Hiphop in 1994 in order to promote hip-hop as a culture and to provide outlets for students to speak, MC and DJ freely.

Rafael Feliciano, Jacobs-Fantauzzi’s longtime friend and campaign coordinator, said the candidate’s activism is one of the reasons he is supporting the campaign, even though Feliciano is an Oakland resident and cannot cast a vote in the Berkeley election.

“Kahlil has always been politically active,” Feliciano said. “He values the needs of the low-income side. I realize I’m not going to be able to vote for him, but I offer my support.”

Jacobs-Fantauzzi said he already has many ideas on how to change the city of Berkeley to be more open to the arts and green innovation through the development of community organizations and events.

“I have many different plans that allow people to feel respected, small businesses to feel supported (and) artists to feel engaged, like the Oakland Art Murmur or Grind for the Green, (an organization) which uses solar energy to provide a platform for people to speak,” he said.

During the press conference, Jacobs-Fantauzzi and his two competitors, Councilmember Kriss Worthington and Jacquelyn McCormick, announced they will be endorsing each other in what Jacobs-Fantauzzi called a “Berkeley progressive alliance.”

“The three are working together to defeat Bates,” said McCormick’s campaign manager, Joshua Wolf.

Worthington also expressed his support for Jacobs-Fantauzzi, who used to work for the council member as a city commissioner, calling Jacobs-Fantauzzi an “amazing organizer of students.”

As for Jacobs-Fantauzzi, he said one of the most important reasons he is forming the alliance is to bring change to Berkeley politics.

“It’s the first time you’re going to see true democracy in Berkeley,” Jacobs-Fantauzzi said. “I’m calling it a movement to see change and a better Berkeley.”

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Jacobs-Fantauzzi has been a Berkeley resident since 1997. In fact, Jacobs-Fantauzzi has lived in Berkeley since 1994.