- Lenora Fulani is the country’s leading black political independent. A developmental psychologist and founder of the country’s flagship youth development program, the All-Stars Project, she is best known for her two runs for the presidency as an independent in 1988 and 1992.
In 1988 Dr. Fulani became the first African American and first woman to run for the presidency and appear on the ballot in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. After the 1992 elections, Fulani helped launch a joint effort with the Perot movement (Perot joined the cause later) to create a multiracial, pro-reform, national political party. In 2004, she spearheaded the Choosing an Independent President 2004 (“ChIP”) process through which independent voters came together— not as a political party—but as a movement of Americans who share a commitment to reform the political process. ChIP was influential in Ralph Nader’s decision to run as an independent coalitional candidate for president.
A longtime agitator for black political independence, Fulani has often sparked controversy with her unorthodox views on black voters and electoral politics. The prevailing view is that black interests are inextricably tied to the Democratic Party, a view Fulani passionately disputes. As a leader of New York’s Independence Party, her efforts reached a new level of accomplishment in 2005, when 47% of black voters in New York City broke with tradition and voted for the Independent/Republican Mike Bloomberg for mayor.
The daughter of a baggage carrier on the Pennsylvania Railroad and a nurse, Lenora was raised in Chester, PA. A youth leader in the Baptist church and in high school government, she won a scholarship to Hofstra University on Long Island. She pursued graduate studies at Columbia University’s Teacher’s College and the City University of New York, where she earned a Ph.D in developmental psychology. From 1973-1977, she worked as a guest researcher at Rockefeller University, specializing in the interplay of social environment, and learning with a particular focus on the black community. At Rockefeller, she decided the problems facing ordinary Americans of all communities required her to do more than just study them.
Since that time, she has combined a career as a psychologist and a social activist. As Chair of the Committee for a Unified Independent Party, Fulani has brought thousands of Americans—including young people—into activism as independent voters. As Senior Program Advisor of the All Stars Project, she has helped spearhead programs using a unique performatory approach that teaches young adults how to go “beyond themselves” and acquire new capabilities in the process.
Fulani has been an ardent crusader for structural political reform such as term limits, ballot access reform, and same day voter registration. Her two presidential runs inspired political reforms—among them legislative initiatives in Congress and a reform of Federal Electoral Commission regulations for candidate debate sponsorship. Fulani has gone to court more than ten times in the last 20 years to open up the ballot to insurgents and independents, protect the rights of political and racial minorities in the electoral process, and to challenge unconstitutional state regulations which limit the growth of minor parties.
Dr. Fulani has been a featured guest on countless TV and radio programs including: Business Unusual, Crossfire, The McNeil-Lehrer Report, Hardball with Chris Matthews, the Larry King Show, Inside Politics, Washington Journal, Charlie Rose, Road to the White House, America After Hours, Primetime Justice, Inside City Hall, BET’s Nightly News, McCreary Report, Geraldo!, Tom Synder, the Jim Bohannon radio show, and NPR’s Democracy Now. She is the author of hundreds of articles and op eds on politics and current affairs which regularly appear in print.
Her personal account of her 1992 presidential campaign, The Making of A Fringe Candidate 1992, was published by Castillo International in 1992. She is also the editor of The Psychopathology of Everyday Racism & Sexism, published by Harrington Park Press and has presented papers at numerous conferences, including: “Political Socialization as Supplementary Education: How Performing and Creating New Identities Helps Black Children Learn and Develop,” at the National Invitational Conference on Supplementary Education in Washington, D.C. and “Discord, Discourse and Development” at the Humphrey Institute Policy Forum, sponsored by former Congressman Tim Penny.
Political Chronology and Candidacies
- • 2005 – assembled “Bloomberg on ‘C’ Coalition,” a network of black and Latino community leaders, who organized and inspired an unprecedented 47% of African American voters to vote for Independent/Republican Mike Bloomberg
• 2004 – leading advocate for Ralph Nader’s candidacy for President as an independent
• 2003 – championed a referendum on nonpartisan municipal voting in New York City
• 2002 – elected to the statewide Executive Committee of the Independence Party of New York
• 2001– spearheaded a drive in which 25% of the African American voters of New York City voted for Mayor Michael Bloomberg
• 1999 – won 46% of the vote in race for Reform Party Vice Chair position in Dearborn, Michigan
• 1998 – part of a team that organized over 100 New Yorkers, many of them under the age of 30, to run for the Independence Party State Committee. Re-elected to State Committee of the Independence Party
• 1997 – founding member of the national Reform Party; chair of the platform committee on education.
• 1997 – led youth voter registration drive in New York that registered over 8,000 new voters
• 1996 – elected to State Committee of the Independence Party
• 1996 – campaigned nationally for the Perot/Choate ticket
• 1994 – campaigned for ballot status for the Independence Party of New York.
• 1994 – founding member of the national Patriot Party, one of 110 delegates representing 23 states
• 1994 – co-founder of the Committee for a Unified Independent Party (“CUIP”); a think tank and initiative center for independent politics. Among CUIP’s current initiatives is a campaign to introduce legislation for same day voter registration at the federal and state levels
• 1994 – received 21% of the vote in Democratic primary for New York Governor
• 1992 – independent candidate for President of the United States. Qualified for ballots in 40 states and received federal matching funds
• 1990 – independent New Alliance Party candidate for Governor of New York
• 1988 – independent candidate for President of the United States. Qualified for federal matching funds and appeared on the ballots of all 50 states becoming first African American and first woman to do so
• 1988 – New Alliance Party Chair
• 1986 – independent New Alliance Party candidate for Governor of New York
• 1985 – independent New Alliance Party candidate for Mayor of New York City
• 1982 – independent New Alliance Party candidate for Lt. Governor of New York
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- "Dr. Fulani′s lecture was not only timely and provocative, but it provided an opportunity for Vanderbilt students to really think about our political system, its problems, and potential solutions. Dr. Fulani challenged the audience to abandon dated notions about what consists of our electoral and policy making institution and to create new alternatives that include Americans in coalitions, instead of excluding them."
Eleanor Fleming, Vanderbilt University
"It was a pleasure hearing from and meeting Dr. Fulani.. . . Dr. Fulani introduced a new perspective on electoral politics. We normally spend a lot of time arguing about Democrat or Republican and forget the most important thing - the people. Dr. Fulani reminds us that a vote is a voice, and we have to use it to express what is important to us and to hold our elected officials accountable."
Alison Moore, Black Law Students Assn., Columbia University Law School
"Thank you for your participation in the Black Political Issues Forum 2000. It certainly would not have been successful without your dynamism, intellectual fervor, and passionate retorts. As we discussed, I would like to make the forum an annual event, and I would absolutely love to have you back again, and again!"
Delonte Gholston, President, Swarthmore College Democrats
". . . very, very thought provoking discussion. Many students stayed after and continued to ask questions. Usually students are content to listen and not think for themselves..."
Paula Harrell, Faculty, North Carolina Central University
"I wish the halls of Congress could have such an environment with room for dialogue, debate and disagreement . . . "
Former Minnesota Congressman Tim Penny, at the 23rd Annual Pan-African Student Leadership Conference at Mankato State University, on Dr. Fulani′s ′commitment to dialogue.′
"Dr. Fulani was a captivating speaker who, through the use of personal experiences, political anecdotes and disturbing statistics, inspired students to seek alternatives to the status quo. She was refreshingly accessible in her interaction with the audience. People will leave believing in the necessity of a third political party in the U.S. "
Erin Culbertson, Organization of Women Leaders, Princeton University
Suggested Speaking Topics:
- Black America Goes Independent
- New Trends in Voter Alignment: Why Americans Consider Themselves Independents
- Women Can’t Change Anything: They Can Only Change Everything
- Growing Up Black, Female, and Independent
- Utilizing Controversiality to Grow the Independent Movement