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Clarke, Hansen Hashem (1957- )

Hansen Clarke is a Democratic politician, lawyer, and artist who represented the 13th District of Michigan in the U.S. Congress between 2011 and 2013.  Born March 2, 1957 in Detroit, his father, Mozaffar Ali Hashem, was an undocumented Bangladeshi immigrant, and his mother Thelma Clarke was African American.

Clarke grew up on Detroit’s lower east side where, in1964, his father showed him a picture of Dalip Saund (the first Indian congressman) a year before the representative passed away. Clarke who was eight became interested in politics.  His mother, a crossing guard, raised him with the assistance of food stamps, and encouraged his interest in oil painting. He attended Cass Technical High School and then graduated from Governor Dummer Academy in 1975.  The following year he was admitted to Cornell University on an academic scholarship. During his freshman year, his mother passed away.

While at Cornell Clarke successfully ran for the student seat on the University’s Board of Trustees to defend need-based scholarships to disadvantaged students. He graduated with a B.F.A. with a focus on painting in 1984, and acquired a Juris Doctor degree at Georgetown University in 1987.

Moving back to Michigan in 1987, he passed the Michigan State Bar  and quickly became very active in politics, serving as staff member for the Wayne County Executive between 1987 and 1988 and then as Chief of Staff to Representative John Conyers between 1989 and 1990.  Clarke won a seat in the Michigan House of Representatives in 1990 but was defeated in 1992.  He then served as an associate executive and administrator in Wayne County government from 1993 to 1998 before being reelected to the State House of Representatives in 1998 where he remained until 2003. While he failed in his bids for Detroit City Council (2001) and mayor of Detroit (2005), he became a State Senator in 2002 and was reelected in 2006.  During that time he served as Treasurer of the Michigan Legislative Black Caucus.

In 2007 he met and married Choi Palms-Cohen, a legal

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