New Harlem Runners: Rodney Capel and Basil Smikle

They've shunned politics to become entrepreneurs, professors and financial gurus.

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For the last 50 years, almost every powerful black politician from New York has come out of Harlem. Considered the black elite, these men -- from David Dinkins to David Paterson -- were well-connected and uninterested in sharing power with anyone outside their black boys club. But as the old guard begins to crumple under the weight of its own hubris, a new generation, including Rodney Capel and Basil Smikle, is emerging and challlenging old notions of what it means to be politicaly connected. 

The collapse of the black political dynasty is creating opportunities for a new generation, but running for office isn't part of the plan. 

In the span of a few months, the ground seemed to open up and swallow New York's first black governor, its black powerhouse in Congress and a beloved elder statesman, all products of the Harlem machine that for decades forced whites in New York and leaders across America to accept blacks as full-fledged partners.

The collapse of this dynasty has pained Harlem, and there are no rising stars to carry on. The new political elite is less interested in getting elected than in having influence in a broader sphere of the community. With their Ivy League educations, button-down shirts, blazers and jeans, the next generation represents a victory of sorts for the previous one, because the younger men occupy a place in society that the old guard could not have imagined.

They're busy as consultants to black and white politicians and as lobbyists. They teach at majority-white universities and are regulars on political talk shows. They're connected to an array of ministers, educational reformers, community leaders, politicians and entrepreneurs across the city, not just to a handful of men from central Harlem.

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