Mariah Parker, Progressive Slate Elected in Athens, Georgia
Parker’s race was a Special Election to replace former Commissioner Harry Sims, who resigned his seat to run for Mayor.
Parker ran on a platform of economic and social justice, racial equity, ending discrimination, and alleviating poverty.
Parker was part of a five-person slate running on similar issues that won in May. The other new commissioners will take office in January and they are Patrick Davenport, Tim Denson, Russell Edwards, and Ovita Thornton.
Denson took part in the 2015 State Capitol protests for Medicaid Expansion in Georgia, in which Denson was arrested for civil disobedience.
Parker took part in two swearing-in ceremonies.
The first ceremony caused quite a stir on social media with Parker, looking a lot like Angela Davis with her 1960’s Afro hairstyle, fist in the air and right hand on a copy of The Autobiography of Malcolm X.
The second swearing-in ceremony was very traditional inside the commission chamber.
Parker tells Atlanta Progressive News that she has encountered a lot of trolls online who ask her “Why do you hate White people?” because they did not like the way she swore in.
“It is important to clarify that l do love all of my community and everyone. I believe that everyone is harmed when oppression exists in our community, and fighting racism and economic injustice is to the benefit of all,” Parker told APN.
“Everyone’s lives will benefit from more equity in the community and it will bring people across cultural divides with more communication and give people access to wider swath of the human experience, where currently it locks people out from getting to know each other and building bonds,” Parker explained.
In the Athens for Everyone (A4E) questionnaire, Parker’s answers are encouraging.
Parker supports free public transportation, safer and expanded pedestrian and cyclist infrastructure, fifteen dollars an hour minimum wage, access to quality and affordable childcare, decriminalization of marijuana, affordable housing, inclusionary zoning, rent stabilization, and reverse redlining. These are some of her priorities.
“If you are a Black male in Athens-Clarke County, you are five times as likely to get arrested for marijuana,” Parker said, quoting a recent study.
“If you decriminalize across the board… you are going to level the playing field racially and people will not be targeted because of their skin color.”
“People who are charged with minimal amounts of marijuana become felons as a result. They get incarcerated and thus have a difficult time getting employment, access to grants to go back to school, have a hard time finding housing, and this puts them on a negative economic spiral,” Parker said.
Parker supports an Athens Civil Rights Committee as a critical step toward full civil rights protections for all Athenians.
“Because so much poverty is tied up in racial discrimination, they deserve a dedicated civil rights committee and a comprehensive anti-discrimination ordinance which ensure that everyone has access to affordable housing, good jobs, public transit, and other basic human needs,” Parker said in the A4E questionnaire.
APN asked Parker if recent elections of progressives in Georgia and other U.S. states indicate a backlash to President Donald Trump’s autocratic tendencies and discriminatory policies toward minorities.
“It’s a backlash but also people are waking up to their own potential for public service,” Parker said.
“If we have a President of the quality that we have currently, then what would preclude an everyday ordinary person from pursuing public office that probably has better morals than he does?” Parker said.
“Anyone can run for office” she said, adding the best person for the job may be you.
Expect the new Commission in Athens-Clarke County Commission, a joint city-county government, to be more humane and more inclusive with more policies that actually help average people.
(END / Copyright Atlanta Progressive News / 2018)