The night Randall Woodfin won the hotly contested race for mayor of Birmingham, he stood shoulder-to-shoulder with dozens of his Morehouse brothers. Alumni of all ages and backgrounds were part of the community that knocked on doors, donated to his campaign, and flew in from cities as far as Los Angeles and Houston to celebrate Woodfin’s victory earlier this month. Together, these men formed a lifetime commitment of brotherhoood.

“Bonds that I’ve built from my four-year experience at Morehouse… it’s lifelong,” says Woodfin.  

The support from his college family helped garner Woodfin a historic win. At 36 years old, he is the youngest mayor-elect in Birmingham’s modern history, a city once known as “Bombingham” due to racial violence against African-Americans during the Civil Rights Movement. He returned to his hometown to attend law school, served as an attorney for the city and after losing his first attempt, went on to win a seat as president of the school board.

Now Woodfin is charged with leading a community hopeful for revitalization but also plagued by surging gun violence, the kind which claimed the life of Woodfin’s nephew this past summer and his older brother five years ago.

“Our message to any young boy who lives in the city of Birmingham is that I’m no different than them,” says Woodfin.  “I have the opportunity, they have the opportunity.  All this killing, violence and dropping out of school doesn’t have to be that way.”

Woodfin’s victory is also inspiration for a generation of progressive black millennials who want to enter politics and shake things up.

To them, he offers the following advice:

“Never ask for permission to do the right thing.  Just do it… Always plan. Spend the time in the space you want just executing… Surround yourself with people who are going to push and support your dream.  Life will always be full of naysayers and people who tell you to wait or you can’t win.  Do it anyway because it’s your own personal dream.”

Watch our full interview with Mayor-Elect Randall Woodfin above and tell us which political races in your community to watch by messaging theGrio’s Facebook page.

Learn more about how to support black candidates running for office at www.thecollectivepac.org.