Hansen Clarke was born and raised on the eastside of Detroit. His father, Mozaffar Ali Hashim, was a proud UAW member who started working in the Ford Motor Company foundry before workers were allowed to organize. The toxic conditions of the workplace in those times took its toll, and he died when Hansen was only eight years old. After his death, Hansen’s mother, Thelma Clarke, supplemented her income as a school crossing guard by cleaning houses and using federal assistance.
Even in those difficult circumstances, Thelma recognized that her son had a gift for the arts, so she secured private lessons for him at the Detroit Institute of Arts. Hansen Clarke graduated from Cass Technical High School and, based on his artistic talent, received a scholarship from Cornell University. However, Hansen’s mother died during his first semester. His grades faltered and Hansen left school.
Returning home, Hansen Clarke started his own business, but when he lost it in a bad deal, he went on public assistance. He eventually lost his car and even was cut off of food stamps. He had lost hope.
Hansen credits the federal government for helping turn his own life around. He found a job at a neighborhood school mentoring students. The job was created by the US Congress through the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA). That experience shaped his belief that the government can be a force for good in people’s lives.
Not long after that, he returned to Cornell, encouraged by his priest and his Godmother. Re-energized and re-focused, Clarke was elected to the student seat on the University Board of Trustees (beating Ann Coulter in the election). He graduated from Cornell with a Bachelors of Fine Arts, then earned his law degree from Georgetown Law School.
After passing the Michigan Bar, Clarke returned to Detroit and dedicated his career to public service. He worked on the staff of Wayne County Executive Edward H. McNamara and became chief of staff for U.S. Representative John Conyers besides being elected to office.
Hansen Clarke’s Political Career
Elected to the Michigan House of Representatives in 1990
Re-elected to the Michigan House in 1998 and 2000
Elected to the Michigan Senate in 2002
Re-elected to the Senate in 2006
Elected to U.S. House of Representatives in 2010
Serves on Committee on Homeland Security and Committee on Science, Space and Technology
Votes along party lines 95% of the time
Listed as one of the most liberal members of Congress.
196 co-sponsored bills, 3 made into law
H.R. 4848- Save Our Neighborhoods Act of 2012, to save neigborhoods and keep families in their homes by encouraging mortgage loan modifications and suspending foreclosures and evictions.
H.R. 4308 – Detroit Growth and Stability Act of 2012 ($500 million for Detroit)
H.R. 4170 – Student Loan Forgiveness Act of 2012
H.R. 3462 – To require the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to make tuition payments for veterans enrolled in institutions of higher learning who are receiving assistance under the Post-9/11 Educational Assistance Program by not later than the tuition due date for the quarter, semester, or term.
H.R. 2920 – Detroit Jobs Trust Fund Act. Diverts federal taxes collected in Detroit into a fund for long-term economic development of the city. Suspends most local taxes during the five-year term of the program.
H.R. 2890 – To expand homeland security at public water systems and treatment works by allowing the Secretary of Homeland Security to include these facilities in the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards program.
H.Res. 365 – Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that Congress should cut the United States’ true debt burden by reducing home mortgage balances, forgiving student loans, and bringing down overall personal debt.
H.Res. 331 – Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the President should immediately reassess the United States mission in Afghanistan and redirect funding to strengthen homeland security, to create jobs, and to reduce the Federal deficit and debt.
Hansen is still an avid artist and supporter of the arts. His preference is painting in watercolors and oils. In 2007, Hansen married Choi Palms-Cohen.