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Six Months on Substack
A thank you letter to everyone who has helped me along the way
When I first published on Substack six months ago, I never could have imagined all that would come next.
After the June primary concluded, I had the itch to try something new - to really “go for it”. While I had considered writing about local politics for some time before then, I now felt the time was right to give it a try. As you all can probably tell, these Substack pieces are labors of love - often totaling between 5-7 thousand words apiece. I had briefly dabbled in posting pieces on Medium before, and, if you really want to see my growth as a writer, I urge you to check them out. I wrote about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s 2018 victory in one and gave predictions on the Mayor’s race in another.
Keep in mind, I did not study journalism or take any kind of writing classes in college, so this certainly was an interesting turn.
In the spring and early summer of last year, every chance I got, I would read Substack pieces by Ross Barkan and Matt Thomas, two folks that most people who are subscribed to this newsletter likely know quite well. Their work, one way or another, was incredibly interesting and compelling. Those two, more so than anyone else, gave me the mere idea that something like this was actually possible. I felt genuinely inspired.
Not only that, but, in spite of my youth or “lack of experience”, I knew deep down that I had something to contribute to this broader NYC politics ecosystem. Whatever I lacked in formal writing experience, I made up for with organizing work done across the five boroughs throughout my most formative years. What I did not know (literally SO many things) could be mitigated with careful, exhaustive research and meticulous attention to detail.
Post-election day, I found myself at Ross Barkan’s book party, celebrating the release of his new book, “The Prince”. I spoke to Ross briefly, and asked him what I should do, given my passions and interests. Without hesitation, he encouraged me to start writing on Substack. If that conversation does not take place, there’s a strong chance The Narrative Wars never comes to fruition.
I took that advice, but I still needed to find something worthwhile to focus my first article on.
That brings us to the infamous subject of that first piece: the legend himself, Charles Barron. While I had been familiar with the work that both Charles and Inez had been doing in East New York for over two decades, I did not know much about the ins and outs of their life story. On a random afternoon in late June, I started reading about Charles Barron, and I could not stop. Whether it was old clippings from the Village Voice, YouTube videos, or archived speeches from his Assembly website - I was endlessly fascinated.
As I read further, the more I developed a strong respect for Mr. Barron. It became increasingly clear that Barron was often not covered fairly by the press, much less with the nuance that his Black Socialist beliefs deserved.
Obviously, I am just a kid, but I did try my damndest to really dig deep into the nuances and countless forces at play, while giving Barron the respect I believed he was due.
Editor’s Note: Still to this day, my favorite video of Charles is a 2012 speech he gave during his Congressional campaign at Linden Park (or as Barron and the locals call it, Sonny Carson Park).
It was the perfect first piece, and overnight, I felt my life change for the better. While my writing has undeniably improved since then, I have resisted some temptation to rewrite or re-edit some of the piece, because I feel as if that moment should stand alone - as the essence, flaws and all, should remain the same. Even now, that is still my all-time favorite, both content-wise and for sentimentality. I think the same can be said for many of you.
Since then, it has all been a dream come true. I started off with a small network, and I’m really proud of how this project has grown since then.
At first, I had fewer than 250 Twitter followers, now I’m over 900, which is quite surreal. For me, the best way to introduce my work to new people has been through Twitter direct message, which has helped my work reach tens of thousands of people online.
To all those I’ve sent messages to, thank you so much for not only reading, but responding as well. I cannot tell you all how much that means to me.
No matter whether your following is fifteen or two-hundred fifty thousand, I appreciate all the support. Whether you’ve retweeted, liked, forwarded the newsletter to friends, or just hung back and digested the pieces with a morning cup of coffee, I sincerely appreciate every little bit.
But by far, the best part of this whole project has been meeting and connecting with so many of you. Cliches aside, memes aside, I consider many of you all as friends. We’re a little community here, or that’s at least how I like to think of it. I have been very fortunate to have already met some of y'all in real life, and I have no doubt that the rest of us will cross paths eventually.
In lieu of all this, there are some folks who I’d like to thank specifically.
What has been your favorite piece so far? Let me know !
It’ll be hard to do her justice with words, but I’ll try my best.
After closely following my local City Council race, I began organizing on Rebecca’s campaign team upon returning home from college. It’s one thing to read about a candidate, watch them in various forums, and hear buzz about them in neighborhood circles. However, It’s entirely different for them to actually exceed your expectations, much less blow them away - Rebecca did just that.
She is magnetic, but doesn’t need to be the center of attention - true versatility that is quite rare in this work. An honest, fair, and compassionate boss, Rebecca’s hard work only further inspired me to grow and reach my best. She’s tough as nails, but has a very caring spirit and empathetic heart. Through it all, she remained committed to her staunch progressive values, even if it cost her electorally. It takes guts to unapologetically talk about Defunding the Police on the Upper East Side.
It is really difficult to run for office and come up short, because, among a myriad of other emotions, it is extremely demoralizing. After all that, what actually changed?
Well, I’m here to tell all of you that Rebecca made a big difference in my life, and I know I’m not the only one. While it may not be all what she hoped for, it is more than almost anyone else can say. That is what creating a legacy is all about.
Some people are admittedly good candidates but lousy friends. And some of your best friends would definitely make for crappy candidates. Very few can do both.
I am here to tell you that Rebecca Lamorte, the person, my friend, is everything one could hope for, especially given that politics, at times, can be a very cold world. Twitter is great, but there is no substitute for real life. At the end of the day, that is the stuff that really matters. And I know that Rebecca will be there for a very long time.
Every single person deserves a mentor, and a friend, just like that.
While sometimes defined by his hot takes, I would like to talk about a different side of Ross. As a young person in this field, I am always brimming with questions. Ross has consistently, time and time again, always shown a willingness to help me. Whether I’m asking something as mundane as what would be a good time to publish, or if I float piece ideas his way, he has always engaged in nothing but good faith.
That tendency to pay it forward is something I really appreciate. Especially in my early days, Ross helped me reach larger audiences and get the ball rolling. As I discussed earlier, without his writing and encouragement to pursue such a project, I would not have even considered starting this Substack. I count myself lucky to know he is someone I can talk to.
Ah yes, how could I not? While I obviously owe a degree of gratitude to Charles for being the ever intriguing, polarizing figure he is - which makes for great writing and interesting subject matter - that is not why he is on this list.
Mr. Barron, for all of what you might read in the paper or watch online, is a genuinely kindhearted man. For all his seniority and stature within the community in East New York, he is nothing but welcoming and warm. In spite of wide discrepancy with respective life experiences - I, a young white man from Manhattan versus Charles, a former Black Panther raised in the Lilliard Ward Housing projects - I have always felt respected and valued by Mr. Barron. The same goes for Mrs. Inez Barron and Keron Alleyne, as well.
Not only is Charles Barron generous with his time, but he is quite thoughtful and deliberate with his actions. I am fortunate to have the opportunity to learn from him. These are not the tales that give Charles the headlines, but they are the ones that create lasting memories.
There are SO many more folks who I want to thank, so I will do my best now. I will inevitably leave someone off and I sincerely apologize. These are some of my most consistent supporters. Without them, this Substack does not exist. Huge Shoutouts to the following:
There are also folks who are very supportive behind the scenes but for work purposes etc maybe cannot say so publicly - which is totally cool - just know I see you, and I respect your privacy, so I won’t list you here. But I promise, you are not forgotten.
Shawna Morlock (even bigger shoutout to your kiddo)
Jesse Drucker (shoutout to your son as well)
NO IDC NY
Harry Walton - my FIRST subscriber !! And favorite campaign manager
Aaron Narraph Fernando
Julio Peña III
Juan Manuel Benítez
There are also countless other folks who read, but may not have a huge online presence, so unfortunately I haven’t gotten to know them as well. But I nonetheless appreciate all their help and support, and they deserve to be recognized. Thank you all so much.
However, nothing can replace having great people in your everyday life, who, even if they don’t particularly care for politics, unconditionally support you.
I want to thank both my parents for always believing in me. I also want to show love to my fantastic friends that help make my life a better place. I want to thank Aidan Lilani, Bryan Bruwer, Charlie Mather, Caroline Zhi, Kristi Byun, Jack Beck, Connor Crovo, Eric Murray, and Garrett Ganley.
But most importantly, my rock through it all, Ana Luque, is the best partner anyone could ever ask for. I love her dearly, and I always will.
Six months ago, I made one of the best decisions of my entire life. I’ve had the privilege to meet some incredible people, all while writing about some interesting things along the way. I would not change a thing.
You all have quite literally watched me grow as both a writer and a person.
That’s very special, and I always want to cherish it. I don’t know what this journey holds, but I do know that this writing project is very important to me. I hope that I can look back in another five, ten or twenty years and have a real legacy of work to look back on.
As I survey ahead to the future, I am very excited. Not just for mine, or ours, but our city’s too.
Until next time. Much love.
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Email me at Michael.James.Lange@gmail.com