HARLEM — Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders met with Rev. Al Sharpton at Sylvia's Restaurant Wednesday, the day after a big victory over Hillary Clinton in the New Hampshire Primary.
The pair talked for 20 minutes — sitting at the same table where Sharpton met with candidate Barack Obama in 2008 — before Sanders left without taking questions.
Walking Senator Sanders to his car after our meeting at Sylvia's. pic.twitter.com/vRbka2lGd2— Reverend Al Sharpton (@TheRevAl) February 10, 2016
Whereas Obama chowed down on collard greens and fried chicken in 2008, Sharpton said he and Sanders just drank tea with lemon "out of respect for my new physique."
Sanders is battling Hillary Clinton for the nomination and the support of black voters across the country. The meeting comes ahead of important primaries in South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama where the black vote will be critical.
"I think it is very important that he sent the signal that on the morning after a historic victory, the widest margin we've seen in the history of New Hampshire, he would come to Harlem and have breakfast," Sharpton said.
A recent poll found Clinton leads Sanders 76 percent to 22 percent among black voters in South Carolina, which represents a tripling of his support from 7 percent just a few months ago.
Standing next to Sharpton were former NAACP President Benjamin Jealous and state Sen. Bill Perkins, who both have already endorsed Sanders. Sharpton said he would withhold his endorsement until after meeting with Clinton next Thursday.
But Sanders was, Sharpton said, addressing issues of importance to black communities across the country.
"I asked him very bluntly about Flint, I asked him very bluntly about affirmative action, I've asked him very bluntly about issues of police brutality and police misconduct, things that I want to hear," Sharpton said.
"My concern is that in January of next year for the first time in American history a black family will be moving out of the White House," he continued. "I do not want black concerns to be moved out with them."
Jealous agreed, saying Sanders is the only candidate with a racial justice platform who is polling well against potential Republican challengers.
"This election is absolutely critical for our people," Jealous said. "It was critical in this moment for him to come meet with our senior statesmen here in Harlem."
Taheeb Medford, 28, a security worker who has lived in the neighborhood his whole life, said he had to come out and support Sanders when he heard he was coming to Harlem.
"There's what looks nice and what you know is real," Medford said. "Hillary Clinton is what looks nice. She sounds good. But I know Bernie Sanders is real. He's talking about the issues that I'm concerned about."
Tren'ness Woods-Black, the granddaughter of Sylvia's founder and namesake Sylvia Woods, said Sanders' visit "reinforces the importance of Harlem to presidential candidates."
But the family is also close with the Clintons. When former President Bill Clinton had his office in Harlem, he was a customer.
"We definitely don't choose sides," said Woods-Black who said she saw the restaurant's role as a place for the community to come touch policy makers.
"I'm certain that the next candidate to come our way — her first name will start with an H and her last name will start with a C," she added.