In Shelby County, Tennessee a wave of over 20 African American women have been elected in primary and general races this year.

The county, which includes Memphis, has seen unprecedented election results this year with several first-time candidates winning at the polls.

MSNBC’s Trymaine Lee sat down with eight of the 20 women at the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis to discuss the astounding results. All of the women who sat down with Lee have already won races in Shelby County this year.  

“You can see nationwide there has been an interest in black women stepping from behind the scenes and running for office,” State Representative Raumesh Akbari said. “In Shelby County, we sprinkle black girl magic all across the field, everywhere."

State Senator-Elect Katrina Robinson continued by sharing what inspired her to run for office.

“I grew up with a single mom on public assistance. I’ve been the woman who had to sleep in the car with her kids,” she stated.

Robinson owns one of Tennessee’s only black-owned nursing schools. She started the institution because she felt there were not enough post-secondary education opportunities for those who didn’t have a traditional pathway in life like herself. She said the entrepreneurial endeavor is what led her to politics.

Tamika Gipson, the first woman and African American to hold a Circuit Court Clerk seat, also shared her story.

“It was just an amazing feeling to not only represent Shelby County but to show my children that they can do whatever they want if they put their mind to it,” she explained.

The youngest amongst the group of candidates was London Lamar, a 27-year-old State Representative-Elect. She shared that she galvanized young people by going into local neighborhoods, asserting “we will vote when given strong black candidates."

“How many of you all had beat guys to get where you are?” Lee postulated to the group.

“We had to fight a different way in order to gain respect from the men that we were sitting next to,” responded Wanda Halbert, elected Shelby County Clerk.

“It’s almost like they can’t believe that someone who looks like them, someone who looks like their mother, is on a microphone or standing and talking to a large crowd of people waving to the public. It’s a beautiful feeling,” she continued.

“It sends a message, not only to women, black women but to men. Especially in this me too movement, to all men out there that you know what, these are women who need to be respected, they’re smart, they’re savvy, they can do this,” added School Board Commissioner Michelle McKissack. 

“The tribe of black women that support and lift us up has made all the difference for us,” Raumesh Akbari added. 

Shine on, ladies!

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