Shirley Chisholm, the trailblazing New York congresswoman who was the first black woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and the first black candidate on a major party’s presidential ticket, once said, “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.” The phrase served as a mantra and rallying cry for Cincinnati’s Tamaya Dennard in her campaign for City Council last year.
It was her first bid for public office, and Dennard won. On Tuesday, she and the rest of the nine-member council took their oath of office. Dennard, in Chisholm-esque “unbought and unbossed” fashion, came with her own folding chair.
Photographed at her swearing-in with a candy-apple-red chair in her hand (no gunmetal gray here), Dennard made clear what changes she would like to see in Cincinnati.
“I’m here to work on issues at the root cause, and not Band-Aid solutions,” Dennard said. “Yeah, we can open more shelters, but we need affordable housing. We need income-based housing. That’s the issue.”
Dennard also talked about her own experience with poverty, according to WVXU Cincinnati. Hailing from College Hill, a lower-middle-income neighborhood deeply impacted by poverty and crime, Dennard said, “My mother, struggling to put food on the table, used to tell me, ‘It’s not what people call you, but what you answer to.’”
WVXU reports that Dennard was also sworn in as the City Council president pro tempore, which would allow her to serve in the mayor’s role on the council if the mayor and vice mayor were not available.