Mo' better; Maurice Cummings--street life to politicking

NAYABA ARINDE Amsterdam News Editor | 8/23/2012, 1:51 p.m.
"Even when I am not at work, I'm at work, because I represent a public...
Mo' better; Maurice Cummings--street life to politicking

"Even when I am not at work, I'm at work, because I represent a public figure, and I work with my community all day, every day. It's 24/7. I love what I do."

Maurice A. Cummings brings the street lexicon into the corridors of political power. He is the archetypal boy-done-good story. This 39-year-old father of two is the special assistant to Assemblyman Keith L.T. Wright. Yet, Cummings does not sugarcoat his past. He spent 18 months in prison on a drug conviction in his 20s. A complete turnaround has him now in the halls of government at Harlem's epicenter, the storied Adam Clayton Powell State Office Building.

Saying that he spends three quarters of his day in the office or interacting with youth and the community, the mentoring, volunteering special assistant to Wright--the Democratic state chair--his is a familiar face uptown.

Cummings looks unassuming--the kind of guy who could be either the one who called the meeting, the cat who is the subject of the meeting, the dude on post for security for the meeting or the city official sent to monitor the meeting. He has a comfortable swagger that is Bed-Stuy-Brooklyn-raised, Harlem-working, Panama- and North Carolina-tested.

"My friends call me Carlton Banks. Yeah--I can do the dance too," he grins, "but I am able to switch up from the 'hood to the halls of Albany, no problem. My friends know the real me."

As he journeyed through that time of life when one finds one's niche, Cummings had stints as a business owner and DJ with Brooklyn's Finest (security and entertainment), a sales associate in a clothing store, a supervisor at a substance-abuse rehab center and a graphic designer with major advertising firms.

He studied finance at NYU and got into banking for a decade until he was hired to work on the Manhattan borough campaign of one Keith Wright. He was the deputy field director for the Wright for the Future campaign in 2005; one year later, he was the special assistant.

"I just got tired of numbers," Cummings said of his decision to leave banking. "I love my job here, working with and for my community. I love being behind the scenes, oiling the engine of a handsome car."

Humble but by no means punkified, Cummings explained that his "responsibilities working in the office of the assemblyman include getting the coffee, writing letters for the elected official, being the community liaison, participating in public speaking engagements and even going on humanitarian missions like taking supplies to the poor in the Dominican Republic or taking medical and dental supplies to earthquake-ravaged Haiti."

Want to get him going? Talk about inner-city youth.

"I know these young people," he smiles. "I love working with these young people. I mentor them, I work with them, go to the schools.

"I'm really involved in the Stop the Violence movement with regards to the gangs, especially with our annual anti-violence clinic. I work with the Rev. Vernon Williams, Iesha Sekou, Karriem Muhammad and Jackie Rowe Adams. I do it 'cause I'm from the streets, I'm from Bed-Stuy. I speak straight to the kids. They relate to me. I can directly understand what it is they are going through, what they might be feeling."