The Black Mecca Of The South May Be In Danger Of Losing Its Black Power
Atlanta's mayoral race has huge implications in Georgia and in the nation.
December 05, 2017 at 4:00 pm
In the age of President Donald Trump, black power has become the prime target for the unremitting backlash of white rage. And the greatest symbol of black power in the South since 1974 has been Atlanta.
The city affectionately called "The Black Mecca of the South" has had a black mayor since the '70s and hasn't had a Republican mayor since the 1870s.
Atlanta's tradition as a black mecca has cultural significance because of its place in civil rights, black intellectualism and music history and its influence on rap, R&B and today's film culture.
However, that can all change after today's heated election between Democratic mayoral candidate Keisha Lance Bottoms and Independent candidate Mary Norwood. The two women hope to fill current Mayor Kasim Reed's seat as leader of one of the most important black cities in the nation. The only issue is that Norwood is not black.
Bottoms has major endorsements from Democratic stars like Senators Cory Booker and Kamala Harris as well as Reed. As a city councilwoman from southwest Atlanta, she has a connection to the people that Norwood really can't fake. All major celebrities really believe in her too.
Norwood has been accused of being a staunch Trump supporter, has been criticized for damning and disparaging comments aimed at black residents and there are allegations that she isn't an independent but a Republican.
In an exclusive from Rolling Out, an old recording from a meeting between Norwood and the Buckhead Young Republicans revealed how she spoke about black people after her 2009 loss to Mayor Kasim Reed by an estimated 700 votes.
“It’s a lot harder to drive a van with six felons, you know guys who are going to commit felonies by voting illegally, if somebody’s watching," she said.
"So what happened was, they knocked on the door Saturday night, and said, ‘Jimmy Johnson, you are out here in Mableton, and we are glad for you. And you’re getting money from the government. But you’re still registered on Henry Thomas Drive. And we just need you to come back in on Tuesday and vote on Henry Thomas Drive.”
How can this be? How can Norwood be in a contested mayor's race with a viable candidate like Bottoms?
Everything isn't as it seems in Atlanta. While Reed has been a serviceable mayor who has overseen the construction of the new Georgia Dome, decreased homelessness and created affordable housing, he has also allowed widespread gentrification.“When you have a black mayor tearing down two historically black churches to build [an Atlanta Falcons] football stadium and gentrification pushing folks out, people in the inner city feel like the black leadership has walked away from them,” said Derrick Boazman, 51, a former Atlanta councilman and local black talk radio host on WAOK 1380 AM.
The question is "Do black voters believe in black candidates?" Bottoms faces an uphill battle to earn voters' trust in black leadership. Author Maurice J. Hobson, assistant professor of African American Studies at Georgia State University, told NBC News that black leadership in the city must return to a time when Mayor Maynard Jackson helped foster stronger relationships with black businesses.
If Bottoms is dedicated to helping grow black businesses, stem gentrification and uplift the poorest areas of the city that have felt abandoned, she could win.