'The Rent is Too Damn High" party founder talks about his new movie, running for president, and facing eviction.
Do you think your rent or mortgage is too high? Well, so does New York native and political hopeful Jimmy McMillan.
McMillan, a Vietnam veteran, has run for office six times including a 2010 stab at governor of New York, bolstered by such a colorful debate that he created a frenzied online following for his party, “The Rent Is Too Damn High.”
Now, the tenth degree black belt aims to run against Barack Obama in 2012 for the US presidency and is premiering a documentary called “DAMN!” in New York City on August 12 to raise campaign funds.
McMillan is also fighting eviction from his rent-stabilized apartment in Manhattan because his landlord alleges that the politician actually lives in Brooklyn.
ESSENCE.com chatted with the local celebrity about politics, his housing fight and why our rent is so damn high.
ESSENCE: You ran for Governor in 2010 and your platform was very convincing. Why did you begin “The Rent Is Too Damn High” party?
JIMMY MCMILLAN: I was walking past a homeless shelter at 4 in the morning and there was a little four-year-old girl sleeping on the floor with a roach crawling out of her mouth and I said that’s it.
I’m hoping more people understand that this is a national emergency and no one is talking about it but Jimmy McMillan. I’m hoping that my movie “DAMN!” can give people more insight about my need to make money to take this campaign nationwide. I started the movement on a retirement check but now I need the people’s support. Go to Renttoohigh.org, buy the DVD and give us the resources.
ESSENCE: You’ve had so many different jobs, from a stripper to a postal worker, but don’t you currently make your living as a marital arts instructor?
MCMILLAN: No, I’m a retired postal service worker and I’m one hundred percent disability. I have scrap metal in my body and I’ve also been exposed to Agent Orange while I served in Vietnam and have deformed children. I’m actually sterile now and have been single for 30 years because of it.
ESSENCE: You’re fighting an eviction from your Manhattan apartment, what happened?
MCMILLAN: When I was a private investigator for New York state, I uncovered something and I was taken off the street at gun point, tied to a tree, doused with gasoline and questioned. I knew my family wasn’t safe. Brooklyn is my party headquarters, but I can’t tell you where I live. I can say that my family lives at my apartment in Manhattan, the landlord broke my son’s cover by sending the eviction notice to court. He can’t evict me because my family still lives there. I’m going to file an order of protection against him next week and if that doesn’t work, I’m going to file a harassment lawsuit. I just have to hope that no one will target my family like they did me.
ESSENCE: You’re running for President of the United States in 2012 against Barack Obama as a Republican. Many would say that party is actually making the rent too damn high …
MCMILLAN: “The Rent is Too Damn High” party didn’t get enough signatures to get on the ballot, though that’s in the appeals court, so I decided to run on the opposite side of Barack Obama because he don’t know what to do. Obama or the Republicans won’t be able to stand the heat that I’m about to bring down on them. If I’m able to get on a debate, I’ll send them all home crying. The paramedics better be standing by.
ESSENCE: In “DAMN!” you say if someone would’ve told you you’d be a celebrity at 65, you wouldn’t have believed them.
MCMILLAN: I still find it hard to believe, where was all this attention when I was 25?
“DAMN!” premieres in theaters tonight.