Party affiliation: Working Families Party
Second job: This my only job.
What inspired you to run for Mayor?
The Mayor is the spokesperson for our City, and in our City, runs City Council Meetings. The Mayor sets the tone for what we talk about and how we talk about it. I ran for Mayor to lead our citizens through some courageous conversations about what kind of government we want to have and what kind of city we want to be. I believe as the America’s Blackest Big City (South Fulton is 92 percent African American) we must be #BlackOnPurpose — which means ensuring our policies measurably improve the lives of Black people and dismantle the structural inequalities we face. Because African Americans are at or near the bottom of nearly every measurement of American success — from healthcare to housing, education to economic development —improving the lives of South Fulton’s African Americans will not only improve life for 92 percent of our citizens; but by extension, all people.
What are the three most pressing issues you believe your city faces? How are you addressing them? What people or entities are you enlisting to get these things done?
1. Culture Change/Civic Engagement: The City of South Fulton was never designed to be a city, but a suburb of Atlanta. So in addition to lacking access to infrastructure like sidewalks, transit and commerce & entertainment outlets, we also suffer from lack of political infrastructure and shared identity. We are increasing citizen engagement with informative & interactive meetings and town halls, and a more fun social media.
2. Economic Development: We are building live/work/play communities that attract millennial entrepreneurs by building on what South Fulton is already known for — being an incubator minority enterprise and popular music, art & culture.
3. Income Inequality: A child born poor in metropolitan Atlanta — the cradle of the Civil Rights movement — is more likely to die poor here than anywhere else in America. I want South Fulton to be a model of the Beloved Community that Dr. King wrote about, where our Economic Development never loses sight of “the least of these.”
Describe your main goals for your first term in office.
- Increasing our city’s name ID, both nationally and amongst our own citizens.
- Increasing civic engagement and voter turnout.
- Becoming the economic capitol of the African diaspora in addition to already being its cultural capitol.
To what do you attribute your campaign’s success?
Being radically honest with citizens. Period.
How will you foster a strong relationship with your constituents and ensure you are addressing their needs?
As a Councilman I was known as being very accessible. As Mayor I am amplifying my accessibility with initiatives like #MayorMondays, where every week anyone can walk into city hall meet and meet with the Mayor. In our City the Mayor’s Office is only allotted two staff people. I have made one of those positions the city’s first Public Advocate who serves as an ombudsman to help shepherd citizens through the bureaucratic maze that can confront them when they come to their government for help.
You ran as a Democratic Socialist against Democrat candidate Bill Edwards, the first mayor of South Fulton, and won in the runoffs. How do your values as a Democratic Socialist inform how you govern?
Our society is sick because instead of loving people and using things, capitalism has taught us to love things and use people. Socialism sounds scary and exotic to some Americans but African and other indigenous cultures are inherently socialist. The first thing African slaves did upon winning their freedom was to start Free Colored Schools which educated both black and working poor, white children. The Black Panther began a free lunch program for children in the 1960s which has become the model for the USDA’s breakfast & programs offered in all American public schools today. So when I talked about using tax dollars to fund Blighted Property Abatement program, speed bumps or free & reduced programming in our parks for our young people and Senior, South Fultonites immediately understood that kind of “sidewalk socialism” or “sewer socialism.”
Why are you proud to call your city home?
South Fulton is my hometown. When folks talk about Atlanta being a Black Mecca, most of what they are talking about is South Fulton. From celebrities like Outkast, SNL’s Keenan Thompson and Kandi of the Real Housewives (who are all my former classmates) to legendary Civil Rights leaders like the late Congressman John Lewis, South Fulton has been the center of Black Culture for decades.
We have urban areas, but also very bucolic, rural areas. We have a dozen farms & wineries.
Click here for a map to learn more about South Fulton. (Created by Maggie Lee)