A world wide pandemic from an attack by an unseen enemy known as Covid-19, increasing public protests across the country led by Black Lives Matter against systemic racism in the criminal justice system and other institutions, police brutality in the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Rayshard Brooks; the deaths of two iconie Civil Rights leaders: Congressman John Lewis and Reverend C.T. Vivian – the crises facing the mayors of American cities in 2020 was a perfect storm of despair from the loss of people, jobs, faith in the federal government and too often hope for the future. And yet, a growing number of black women stepped up courageously to meet the challenges of local government leadership..
“I’m an independent reform candidate. I do not represent the past.” – Mayor Lori Lightfoot
Indeed, Mayor Lightfoot was elected mayor of Chicago, Illinois in April, 2019 to shine a bright light into the future as she became the first openly gay African American woman ever elected mayor of a major American city. Chicago is located in the Great Lakes region of the Midwestern United States, the 3rd. largest city in the country according to the 2020 census with a population of over 2.6 million people.
Two thousand miles west of Chicago on a peninsula between the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay lies the 16th. largest city in the country: San Francisco, California. In July, 2018, London Breed was elected mayor of that city in a special election to become the first African American woman to serve as mayor of this municipality which has a population of almost 900,000 people. According to Jay Barmann in the San Francisco News Tuesday, September 15, 2020, Mayor Breed said:
“People are pretty much tired of what we’re living in, as it relates to COVID. I’m tired of talking about it. I’m tired of living in it,” Breed said in her usually candid fashion in a press conference Tuesday. “I’m tired of doing all the things you are tired of doing, because I want to enjoy my life. I want to live. I want to go back to normal.”
But, she cautioned, we still haven’t turned any corners on the coronavirus, it’s still spreading in the Bay Area, and there’s even been an uptick in hospitalizations in San Francisco in the last week. “We are not out of the woods when it comes to COVID,” she said. (end of quote)
The driving distance between San Francisco on the West Coast of the US all the way across the country to the Mid-Atlantic region of the East Coast where the 20th. largest city in the country, Washington, D.C. is located, is a distance of approximately 2,800 miles. DC has a population of more than 720,000 people according to the 2020 census and in the mayoral race in 2014 Muriel Bowser became the first African American woman to be elected mayor of her city. Mayor Bowser brings a refreshing approach to gun control:
“You have a mayor who hates guns. If it was up to me, we wouldn’t have any handguns in the District of Columbia. I swear to protect the Constitution and what the courts say, but I will do it in the most restrictive way as possible.”
Ranking 36th. on the list of American cities by population sits Atlanta, Georgia with a population of almost 525,000. Atlanta is 625 miles south of Washington, D.C., considered to be part of a sub-region of the US known as the Deep South, and is located among the foothills of the Appalachian mountains. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, an African American woman, was elected mayor in 2017. In a speech addressing the Democratic National Convention in August, Mayor Lance Bottoms had these remarks on the importance of voting in the 2020 election:
“We know how important it is that we elect real servant leaders, leaders like Joe Biden and Kamala Harris—people of honor and integrity, who hold justice close to their hearts and believe that the lives of my four Black children matter. In the words of womanist poet Audre Lorde, “Your silence will not protect you.”
Finally, I felt compelled to check out black female mayors in other places like, let’s say Atlanta’s neighboring state of South Carolina, my home state for the past fifty years. Tann Vom Hove, senior fellow at City Mayors Research, listed two black female mayors from Hampton County (Francenia Ellis in Furman, pop. 275; Patricia Williams in Brunson, pop. 550), one from Union County (Mary Ferguson Glenn in Carlisle, pop. 450), one from Charleston County (Miriam Green in Awendaw, pop.1,300), one from Laurens County (Stellarteen Jones in Gray Court, pop. 800), and one from Calhoun County (Helen Carson-Peterson in St. Matthews, pop. 1,900).
Through my personal research of watching the 6 o’clock local ABC news last night, I was introduced to Mayor Alfred Mae Drakeford who is the first African American female mayor of Camden, SC in Kershaw County. Camden is 40 miles west of our house, has a population of 7,200 and is full of Revolutionary War history but is better known in our home as one of Pretty’s favorite “antiquing” towns.
Thank goodness for the black women mayors wherever they are regardless of the size of their cities – may they continue to serve their communities and always strive to preserve the Constitution of the United States against all enemies not only in 2020 but also in years to come.
America, America, God shed her grace on thee – and crown thy good with sisterhood from sea to shining sea. Amen.
Stay safe, stay sane, and please stay tuned.