Carl Sharif, the brainy, hard-nosed South Ward political power broker who helped launch Cory Booker’s career in local politics, has died.
Booker once called Mr. Sharif his “political sensei.”
A master builder of Newark political operations, Carl Sharif got his start in school board politics and as an administrative assistant to Mayor Ken Gibson, and most recently championed Booker’s ward and citywide races, his son Darrin Sharif’s successful 2010 Central Ward campaign, and last year’s Shavar Jeffries mayoral campaign.
He once advised Booker that the fledgling local politician needed to walk the Central Ward in its entirety in order to reach voters.
Mr. Sharif had been ill for many years but doggedly pressed on with his myriad political activities.
He was 75.
STATEMENT FROM MUHAMMED AKIL, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF PARENT COALITION FOR EXCELLENT EDUCATION
REGARDING THE PASSING OF CARL SHARIF
“Carl brought magic to so many people during his decades of service. While he was often respected as the man behind the curtain, his greatest strength was his ability to listen. My most fond memory of Carl will be sitting in his office along side PC2E staff on Stuyvesant Avenue brainstorming the launch of our organization. After listening to others, Carl was often the last person to speak – and had a special way of incorporating different points of view into one overall vision.
“For someone who was so deeply involved in so many campaigns, Carl was not political – he was straight forward, he was honest, he was bold and he truly cared. Carl’s lifetime of work – and the results it brought – were never based simply on winning elections, it was based on advocating for policy, fighting on behalf of the disenfranchised, doing was was right and always looking toward the future.
“PC2E was lucky to have Carl as an advisor in the months leading up to our launch. He personally touched every member of our staff, and his legacy will forever live in the work we do.
“Having spent a lifetime strengthening the voice of parents and the entire city of Newark, he was the inspiration behind the PC2E mission.
“We will deeply miss our friend and our father. Our team’s thoughts are with his great family and the City he loved – Newark.”
Thoughts from his son, Eric best captures the sentiment of many on the man and impacts he has had on our community.
My Dad could compose a poem on the fly. He chirped to singing birds and they chirped back. He said that he always wanted to play the xylophone but could make good trumpet sounds with his mouth. He could also sing a song with his own lyrics, whistle, or blow his trumpet mouth to make up his own songs contemporaneously too.
Some saw his good humor but most didn’t see his silly side. He felt he was put on this planet to do something significant for his people and sacrificed everything to fulfill the “mission.” He had zillions of ideas to make the world better.
Never knowing how to answer when a stranger asked what his occupation was, he once answered “thinker.” He was a wordsmith, always going over what he had written and changing a word here and there to make what he wanted to say both succinct and elegant (my word, not his).
He loved music of all kinds – Jazz, classical, new age, pop, rock, blues, funk etc. – there was of course Tony Bennett, Nat King Cole, Sarah Vaughn and Ella Fitzgerald. But what about MJQ and Bach? He told me Quincy Jones was the first rapper (“The Dude”) and listen when he would try to wail like Morgana King (his favorite female singer because her voice and style were so unique). And conduct the orchestra with him to Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 2.
He never would argue which was aggravating to those of us who wanted to argue sometimes. When faced with bad news or pessimistic prognoses, his response was to find a way to fight back, turn the bad into good and look on the optimistic side of things; albeit, losing was not an option.
He kept at his desk a writing (writer unknown) that in part said: “Problems are my teachers….There is no problem I cannot conquer….My will, my strength, and my determination are always greater than any problem I face….Because I know that problems are a key ingredient in my spiritual and mental education and preparation, I recognize that all problems are important to me….I do not fear problems—I solve them. I do not ignore problems. I confront them. I do not avoid problems—I conquer them….’Solutions’ are the stepping stones to my success, and ‘Winning’ is my way of life.”
He shunned the limelight, always pushing others to take the reins. He cared deeply about the next generations, always exhorting them to learn and absorb and fly away with strength, dignity and power. We don’t need permission was his mantra along with the mission comes before the troops, among others. and man, could he dance a mean salsa…