He has a knack for getting attention - by heckling candidate Barack Obama on the 2008 presidential campaign trail, for scuffling with police inside City Council chambers in 2009, and by landing a prime half-hour television platform on NBC10 last night.
Rahman, who uses the name Diop Olugbala and tried without success to place that name on the ballot, says the city should redirect much of its spending on police, prisons, and courts to programs improving communities.
(The city's latest budget projects $889 million in spending on those three departments in 2011-12 - $551 million for police, $227 million on prisons, and $111 million on courts.)
A resident of Germantown for the last three years, Rahman was arrested in 2009 for disrupting City Council proceedings while protesting the death of a 14-year-old Frankford boy who was shot in a confrontation with a retired police officer who was delivering pizzas.
A Common Pleas Court judge eventually found Rahman guilty of aggravated assault and sentenced him to two years' probation.
Rahman contended that it was officers who assaulted him. "I wasn't interrupting anything. I was just raising up a sign," he said. "The community didn't have anyone in Council courageous enough to raise these issues."
He also confronted Barack Obama during the 2008 presidential campaign, organizing a protest in St. Petersburg, Fla., that accused Obama of avoiding issues of critical importance to the black community, including predatory lending and police shootings of minority youths.
Rahman settled in Philadelphia about 10 years ago after joining the Uhuru movement. Its local office is a storefront near 38th Street and Lancaster Avenue and now serves as Rahman's campaign headquarters.
He was born in Brooklyn but educated around the country, the result of his father's relocations as an Army drill sergeant.
He lived in West Oak Lane during kindergarten and first grade, attending the Sister Clara Muhammad School in West Philadelphia while his father was stationed at Fort Dix. Rahman spent part of his childhood in Germany and Somerset, N.J., before high school in El Paso, Texas, and college at the University of Texas, where he majored in linguistics and African American studies.
The Philadelphia schools are failing communities, he says, by focusing on test scores but not providing students with skills to earn a living.
Rahman said he favored popular election of a citywide school board, but with members elected from geographic districts to ensure representation of all communities.
Rahman became a union organizer after graduation, working two years for UNITE, the Union for Needle Trades and Industrial Textile Employees, before joining Uhuru.
He qualified for the Philadelphia election ballot by obtaining more than 4,000 signatures from registered voters. The minimum is 1,846 - 2 percent of the highest vote-getter in the last municipal election in 2009, when Seth Williams was elected district attorney with 92,273 votes.
His campaign caught a break after NBC10 broadcast a half-hour of questions in an "Ask the Mayor" forum for Mayor Nutter in September. Under pressure from Republican mayoral candidate Karen Brown and Rahman, the station later decided it owed the same time to them.
Appearing on the station Tuesday evening, Rahman said he would reduce the size of the Police Department. He said he favored creation of a "community-controlled police advisory board" that would have the power to subpoena, hire, and fire police administrators and officers.
Contact staff writer Bob Warner at 215-854-5885 or email@example.com.