Mariah Parker, a Ph.D. student and rapper who goes by the name Lingua Franca, was sworn into office as Athens-Clarke County, Ga., commissioner on June 5, 2018.
Screenshot: jay dexter

Since Tuesday’s elections held throughout the nation, an already iconic photo has been sweeping the internet—of 26-year-old Mariah Parker taking her oath of office as Athens-Clarke County, Ga., commissioner for District 2, with her mother holding, not the Bible or Quran, but another good book: Alex Haley’s Autobiography of Malcolm X.

Parker, who reportedly won by only 13 votes, ran as a progressive, and on her campaign website she declared that “it’s time for bold, progressive leadership in Athens.”

“My platform centers around economic and racial justice,” said the millennial,
according to the Red & Black. “The policies of this town have been structured, deliberately, to ensure that a certain class of people will continue to thrive and a certain class of people will continue to not.”

Athens-Clarke County has recently been in the news for one of its police officers deliberately hitting a black man with his cruiser.

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In a discussion after her election, Parker said that she wants to take on affordable housing and gentrification, particularly as it relates to the University of Georgia.

“The university extracts a lot of resources from this community and doesn’t give back enough,” said Parker, who is a Ph.D. student in linguistics and a rapper who goes by the name Lingua Franca.

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She added: “The racists have all the money, still, so it’s economically advantageous to cater to them. If we had a black middle class, those places would integrate on their own.” Parker listed her No. 1 priority as setting aside 30 percent of city contracts for black- and Latino-owned companies, according to Flagpole.

Parker filled the county-commission seat vacated by Harry Sims, who left his seat to run for mayor. After her swearing-in ceremony on the steps of Athens City Hall, Parker walked into the commission chamber to take her seat behind the rail.

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Parker also takes her place in a burgeoning movement of black, progressive candidates who eschew neoliberalism and embrace the so-called radical politics of economic and social empowerment for marginalized communities, aka power to the people.