On its face, the excitement around Bottoms’ win could be viewed as identity politics in overdrive, but, in truth, it was so much more. A Black woman, in arguably the Blackest city in the nation—if not by the numbers, then definitely for the culture—with a name that has been mocked and denigrated by white people and so-called respectable Black folks as too “ghetto,” a Black woman with the kind of name that sends resumes to the bottom of the stack, became the HNIC and it was glorious. And while Bottoms rode that wave like a true Atlien—even throwing in a “yeek” to show it’s real—she quickly got down to the business of running the city, reminding the nation that while there is poetic justice in her name, her qualifications and leadership skills are the reasons she’s sitting in her seat. Still, it is critical that we unpack the substance beneath the sensation. Bottoms is Black; her name is Black; but are her politics in the best interest of Black people—and, if so, which ones? Bottoms, a graduate of Atlanta’s Frederick Douglass High School, received her undergraduate degree from Florida A&M University and her Juris Doctorate from Georgia State University College of Law. She served eight terms on Atlanta City Council before defeating businesswoman and former Atlanta City Council member Mary Norwood. During Bottoms’ time as mayor, she has eliminated Atlanta’s cash bail bond system, a draconian money-bail scheme that places a price tag on freedom for the most occupied and economically exploited communities, leaving them caged in modern day debtor’s prisons. Bottoms’ has also joined the Mayors Against Discrimination Coalition to expands rights and protections for the LGBTQIA+ community, and signed an executive order closing the Atlanta Detention Center to ICE detainees. “I, like many others, have been horrified watching the impact of President Trump’s zero tolerance immigration policy on children and families, Bottoms said in a statement. “My personal angst has been compounded by the City of Atlanta’s long-standing agreement with the U.S. Marshal’s Office to house ICE detainees in our City jail…but the inhumane action of family separation demands that Atlanta act now.”
Keisha, I know you are not the first female Mayor of Atlanta but you have just given all the girls in my community wings. We have several named Keisha and now they all believe in Black Girl Magic.I see positive behavioural changes & thoughts,because of your name & accomplishments— Cherrye Bess, M.Div. (@yvonnebess) February 3, 2018
In the face of rampant police brutality, a public education crisis, and persistent and rising housing and income inequity in Atlanta, Bottoms knows she has a tough job; she also knows she has a responsibility to the community from whence she came. She is a Black woman attempting to make executive decisions for her city with the weight of the (Black) world on her shoulders, but also the spirits of Black ancestors guiding her steps, even when she stumbles. “Only in Atlanta could a girl named Keisha, who attended Frederick Douglass High School on the west side, grow up to become the 60th mayor of the great city of Atlanta,” Bottoms said during her inauguration speech. “I know I stand here on the prayers of generations.” Indeed, she does. And there is a new generation of activists and organizers who will both cheer her on and hold her accountable every step of the way.
Take action to #StopAPD. Join today’s Twitter Storm directed at City of Atlanta Mayor, Keisha Lance Bottoms. @KeishaBottoms, as Mayor of Atlanta, we call on you to #StopAPD. Hold your officers accountable and end unlawful marijuana arrest. #Snap4Freedom #Snap4YaRights pic.twitter.com/O9RC4Gjug2— SNaP For Freedom (@Snap4Freedom) April 20, 2018