HARLEM — Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson brought his message of self-reliance to the neighborhood on Wednesday during a campaign lunch with local business and religious leaders at Sylvia's.
“What has happened traditionally, particularly since the 60’s, is you’ve got certain people saying, ‘There, there you poor little thing, you can’t take care of yourself, we are going to take care of you,’” he told reporters before sitting down for the meal, which was closed to the press. “And we got people who believe that they can't survive on their own, which is absolutely ridiculous.”
The GOP hopeful, who was one of the ten presidential wannabes in last week’s national debate on Fox News, said the government should focus more on providing vocational and educational training that invests in people than in traditional social programs.
“I think it’s important for people to understand that there are two ways to handle this,” he said. “One way is what's been going on since the 60’s where supposedly the war on poverty, we've spend 19 trillion plus and we got more poverty, we’ve got more people on welfare.”
Carson went on to say, “We need to look at the things that do work. What has worked is when people invest in other people with mentoring programs with various types of job programs and training programs.”
Harlem residents were intrigued by the Republican candidate’s visit.
“I like him, he’s a good brother,” long-time resident Edward Brown said. “I liked what he had to say on the debate, he spoke very well.”
Brown saw presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama visit Harlem but he has never seen a Republican candidate in the neighborhood. He said Carson’s visit sends a strong message.
“Look at Trump,” he said. “He don’t come up here, all of his businesses are downtown.”
Other residents said converting black Democrats to the Republican party is a tall order.
“I think it’s a hard sell,” said James Johnston-Lynch, 50, who was eating at Sylvia’s during the visit.
Johnston-Lynch, a Democrat, has seen previous black Republicans as vain attempt by the GOP to appeal to black voters. Carson, however, seems different, he said.
“I feel he is a genuine candidate,” he said. “He is not like the other one — Herman Cain — I couldn’t get behind that guy.”