Landon Dais knows that living in Harlem with his last name comes responsibility. The 27-year-old is son to longtime Harlem community leader Larry Dais and has the desire to live up to his family name by helping those in his community. “My father has expectations of his sons,” he said. “I think, unfortunately, in our community, we don’t put enough expectations on our sons. My father has done something that, to me, has more influence on Harlem than some of the people who get more recognition.” Just like his father, Dais wears many hats in the community, ranging from political volunteer to youth mentor. He serves as a consultant for Harlem Congregations For Community Improvement, Inc. (HCCI), where he works with the Construction Opportunities Program, he helps people obtain their GED, learn construction skills and get jobs. Clearly, Dais also doesn’t shy from giving back to his community.
He is the president of the Uptown Democratic Club, where he started the organization’s youth division. He’s also an advocate for education, working in the public schools with the organization City Year mentoring students. Born in Harlem, his family later moved to Mount Vernon, where he attended Fordham Preparatory School. He went on to Morehouse College, where he earned his degree in business management in 2003. While at Morehouse, Dais joined Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. He said, “I’m truly a Morehouse Man. Morehouse was a growing experience for me. Two of my biggest idols that I look up to went to Morehouse: my brother, Larik Dais, and my pastor, Dr. Rev. Calvin Butts of Abyssinian Baptist Church. I always knew I was going to Morehouse.”
After Morehouse, Dais followed his father’s footsteps by going to Columbia University to obtain his master’s degree in real estate development. He’s previously worked at Turner Construction as a purchasing agent, working on many projects, including the new Yankee Stadium.
During the presidential election, Dais worked closely with the Barack Obama campaign, mobilizing young people to register and vote. He also volunteered in many of the phone banks during the campaign and urged others to join him. And while working in Harlem as a Democratic Party leader, Dais is now considering a run for public office. He seeks change in several things in his community.
“I am against the current 125th Street rezoning and the current Columbia expansion plan,” he said. “We have to make sure that we negotiate something for the people. I also believe in mixed-income housing.” Dais added that he would like to see a change in education in the community. He notes that while there are some positives and negatives in public and charter schools, he believes the two should remain in separate buildings. He also wants to see better treatment and more help for small businesses.
In the past, Dais admits that what he wanted out of life was financial gain. But due to some life-changing experiences, including the deaths of two close friends of his, he came to the realization that helping out is more fulfilling. “When I look in the mirror, I want to see something that I’m proud of and something my parents and my family are proud of,” he said. “My dad could’ve worked for a Fortune 500 company. In reality, we might not have been rich in money, but we were wealthy in family and community, and that’s more important to me.”
In March, Dais’ life will be showcased on the new BET reality series “Harlem Heights.” The show features him and seven of his young professional friends as they live their lives working and dwelling in Harlem.