Several of the country’s Black women mayors made their way to Essence Festival this weekend for a candid discussion about the hard work they’re doing within their cities. The roundtable served as the culmination to an ESSENCE x Policy Link initiative that brought the women together for the purpose of strategizing and building within a sisterhood.

New Orleans’ first African-American female mayor, Latoya Cantrell, used her time on the Power Stage to touch on the camaraderie and support of her political peers as well as speak to the purpose behind their power as women in leadership. “Even if the answers are no, we’re making it happen ya’ll,” she cheered.

Cantrell is also making sure that economic equity is being worked on in her city. “The culture bearers need to get their fair share,” she said. It’s an issue that Cantrell says is of great importance for her and one that she has chosen to prioritize during her administration.

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A different kind of equity is top of mind in Rochester, New York for Mayor Lovely Warren. “Education is the issue that challenges our city the most,” Warren said of her quest to give every child in her constituency a quality education. “The miseducation of our children has us trying to repair broken men,” she added.

For Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome, correcting Baton Rouge’s infrastructure issues is critical. She shared that the effort will lead to opportunities for contracts. Atlanta’s Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms hopes to correct the issues within her city’s criminal justice system, pointing to the closing of the city’s jail, elimination of cash bail bonds, and the ending of harboring ICE detainees in jails as evidence that the work has already begun.

Though the women serve as “firsts” for their city, Karen Wilson-Freeman of Gary, Indiana was intentional in saying, “To be the first is an honor but to be responsible we have to ensure that we aren’t the only ones. That is my purpose.”

Warren added, “We are our city’s first responders, our mayoral seat belongs to our communities, not us.”


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