MFD Interview with Don Calloway


Democrat Don Calloway is running to represent the 71st District in the Missouri State House of Representatives. He was born and raised in St. Louis County. Both Calloway's father, Don Sr., who is a Vietnam vet, and his mother, Jonell, are career employees of the federal government, with 60 years of national service between them. At Alabama A&M University, Calloway was a scholar in political science and government, involved with his fraternity and varsity baseball, and was elected President of the Student Government Association. After college, he attended the Boston University School of Law, where he developed his skills in law, constitutional processes, and drafting legislation. There he discovered a passion for using the law as a vehicle for advancing public policy.

After law school, Don became licensed to practice in Missouri and Illinois, and is now an attorney in downtown St. Louis. He maintains an active pro bono practice, providing much-needed top quality legal assistance to indigent clients. His intellect, vigor, and record of community service have earned him the support of elected officials, pastors, neighbors, and community leaders throughout the 71st district and the St. Louis region.

Don is a staunch progressive and believes in an inclusive vision of politics, where people from the full spectrum of political ideology have a voice in their future. Don is also a music enthusiast, and spends a good deal of time exploring new music and new artists. I spoke with Calloway about his thoughts on music and politics, and his vision for the future. His website is

Aaron Agulnek: Thanks for taking the time to chat with us. What makes Don Calloway groove? What are the current favorite five songs on your playlist?

Don Calloway: Wow, this is extremely difficult. You should know that this list looked different yesterday, and will look different tomorrow, so I feel compelled to go over your limit of five. I would have to go with "My Song" by Labi Siffre, "Swahililand" by Ahmad Jamal, "Vibrate" by Andre 3000, "Acknowledgement" by John Coltrane, and -- man, this is tough, I know that some artists’ feelings will be hurt -- "Act Too, Love of My Life" by The Roots. My all time favorite song is "Some Day We'll All Be Free" by Donny Hathaway. That seems to be right – but let me reserve an extra spot, in case I’m leaving one out.

Agulnek: If you could have dinner and talk politics with five musicians, alive or dead, who would they be?

Calloway: We must start with Nina Simone. She made some seminal statement songs. I'm not really into his music that much, but I would be intrigued to dish with Bob Dylan. Then I would need some truly global political and cultural perspective, so I'd talk shop with U2, Hugh Masekela, and Robert Nesta Marley.

Agulnek: Some in the press have been comparing recent national campaign events to rock concerts. What was the first concert, and the last, that you attended?

Calloway: No doubt about that. You should see some of my rallies! My first concert was 1987's Michael Jackson Bad tour. My mom took my brother, sister and me. I remember that Mike collapsed toward the end and claimed some illness. In retrospect, maybe he was just being dramatic. He sure knew how to work the crowd! Just last month I saw N.E.R.D., one of my favorite contemporary artists, in a small venue here in St. Louis. They played stuff from their entire catalogue, and Common made a surprise appearance. It was incredible!

Agulnek: Don Calloway has just been elected President of the United States of America -- who plays the inaugural ball?

Calloway: Does it make me an egomaniac if I have played this out in my mind many times? I'll do you one better and give you the lineup for the entire day of inaugural festivities. The Alabama A&M University Choir would sing at the nondenominational interfaith services in the morning. My friend Marlissa Hudson, a wonderful classically trained opera singer, would provide the lunch-hour entertainment. Then give me the Blind Boys of Alabama and New Edition for some afternoon shindigs. But the BIG SHOW, in prime time, would have to be Stevie Wonder, John Mayer, and Outkast.

Agulnek: Artists have often used their medium to be strong and early catalysts for social progress and for calling out societal injustice. Which artists and songs inspired your view of politics?

Calloway: I remember being a kid and being inspired by Michael Jackson’s "Man in the Mirror." The message from that song still rings true. We can really only expect change in others when we demand it from ourselves first. Again, even though I don’t consider myself a very big Dylan fan, I admire his ability to use real-life examples to draw attention to issues like racism and poverty. Songs like "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll", "The Hurricane," and “The Death of Emmett Till” forced us to confront injustice and question our sensibilities. Also many of the songs in the Stevie Wonder catalog compel me to answer a greater call. But in terms of contemporary social progress to be made in America, I keep "Some How, Some Way" by Jay Z, and "Around My Way" by Talib Kweli on heavy rotation. Both are gems!

Agulnek: Rumor has it you have been known to croon a little bit at open mic nights. Any comment?

Calloway: The rumors are true. I used to go to open mics in Boston during my first year of law school to sing and compete for a $25 or $50 prize. I think I won a few times, but always with an oldie, like "Try a Little Tenderness." What was lacking in talent I made up for in energy. Fifty bucks sure meant a lot to a broke law student!