No, they were not part of a line-up of the latest awards show. They were just some of the national voices who weighed in on the Atlanta mayoral run-off race on behalf of candidate Keisha Lance Bottoms.
As the days wound down to the December 5 contest, Black America went on high alert, worried It was in danger of losing the nation’s Black mecca–the only blue light of hope in the red state of Georgia.
Black folks in Atlanta have been here before. In 2009, current Atlanta mayor Kasim Reed faced a run-off race against the same candidate, Mary Norwood, the White affluent self-proclaimed independent candidate, who actually displayed strong leanings to the right.
And just like after her last loss, Norwood demanded a recount after Tuesday’s election, holding off the official declaration. Being a sore loser comes with the territory for the candidate who, this time, faced attacks charging her with being a secret Trump supporter; her campaign treasurer even openly supports 45.
Getting here wasn’t easy for 47-year-old Bottoms. The Atlanta native, who hails from the same high school named for Frederick Douglass as T.I., faced far more stumbling blocks Reed. The Florida A&M University alum and attorney waded through a sea of mayoral hopefuls that included 11 candidates–all Democrats, with the exception of Norwood. She won with 26 percent of the vote to Norwood’s 21 percent in the November primary to force a run-off.
Reed’s endorsement proved highly controversial for Bottoms. Norwood hammered away, charging massive corruption during Reed’s administration, citing a federal probe that has not directly implicated him, and claiming that Bottoms would be a continuation of the alleged bad behavior. Norwood also accused Reed’s predecessor, Atlanta’s first female mayor, Shirley Franklin, of corruption in 2009.
Reed’s aggressive–some even charged bullying–style didn’t help his cause. As a result, the Howard University alum won a lot of enemies during his tenure, including Franklin, a one-time ally.
Is Atlanta in Danger of Losing its ‘Black Mecca’ Status?’
So instead of an election about Bottoms and Norwood, Reed became the focal point. Emotions were so high that Reed’s main nemesis and outgoing city council president Ceasar Mitchell, who many thought would face Norwood, challenged him to a fist fight. In lieu of a brawl, however, Mitchell, whom Reed taunted at different points during the general campaign, didn’t sit out the endorsement phase of the election and crossed party lines to support Norwood.
Franklin, who declared Norwood incompetent in 2009, even crossed party lines to make a point. Citing ethics concerns, Franklin even stood at a press conference supporting Norwood over Bottoms–a young African American from the city’s predominantly Black Southwest side community where Franklin also lives.
Three other one-time Democratic mayoral candidates–a Black man, one White man and a white LGBT woman (with considerable support)–also backed Norwood. Former 2009 mayoral candidate and Reed opponent Lisa Borders, who backed him in the 2009 runoff, also publicly supported Norwood in the wee hours.
Bottoms appeared against the wall and victory seemed unlikely. Atlanta’s Black community was splintered and heated debates erupted on social media. Many well-connected black Atlantans declared that they would vote for Norwood instead of Bottoms, despite the fact that she lives on the predominantly black Southwest side of town with them. Others were undecided. So Atlanta’s streak of Black mayors, going all the way back to Maynard Jackson’s historic win to become the first in 1973, seemed likely to end. Headlines blared: “Is Atlanta in Danger of Losing its ‘Black Mecca’ Status?’ “
Rolling Out writer A.R. Shaw published a controversial article about a secret recording of Norwood addressing the Buckhead Young Republicans in June, where she allegedly used “racially coded language.” She made Black voter fraud claims against Reed, and used “felon” and “government assistance” in veiled descriptions of African Americans. The recording garnered national attention in Black communities across the nation, even prompting Roland Martin to weigh in last week on NewsOne Now.
“And so for all the little girls out there who need somebody to believe that you’re better than your circumstances. I need you all to remember that black girl magic is real.” –Keisha Lance Bottoms
The recording was such a game-changer that Bottoms on Sunday kept peppering Norwood with questions about the meeting during their last debate before the election.
National reinforcements also came that day in the on-ground presence of U.S. senators Booker and Harris. Booker came to Bottoms’ campaign office before visiting church services that morning and Harris, a Howard Bison like Reed, showed up in the evening after the debate to throw her support to Bottoms, emphasizing how critical Atlanta was to not just Black America but to Democrats. Both Booker and Harris came to Atlanta in the midst of battling Trump’s GOP-backed tax plan.
Days before Killer Mike, who entered the national political arena by supporting Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton, publicly urged black Atlantans to support their own against Augusta native Norwood. T.I. also made several appearances with Bottoms. Both Killer Mike, whose partner, El-P, in Run the Jewels is White, and T.I. have mass young White crossover appeal. They, not just civil rights leaders and elected officials, greatly impacted the outcome. And just after midnight, Bottoms, touting “Black girl magic,” took to the podium at her party and declared victory.
“And so for all the little girls out there who need somebody to believe that you’re better than your circumstances,” said Bottoms, the wife and mother of four adopted children, after recalling the teachers in her black middle school on Atlanta’s Westside named for Ralph Bunche who believed in her and pushed her. “I need you all to remember that Black girl magic is real.”
Despite the recount, mainstream media have essentially declared Tuesday a victory for Black Atlanta, which did show up big time for their very own. But it was also a battle between old and new Atlanta. Bottoms would not be 759 votes victorious if it were not for the youthful hip-hop culture and Atlanta’s Black Hollywood and ATLWood status. Atlanta’s young White people as well as a lot of the gay community also assisted Bottoms in that slim victory. Norwood who led the crusade to destroy Atlanta nightlife in 2003 created a lot of young enemies and they didn’t forget this election. Also many others voted to preserve Atlanta’s cool status and the 65-year-old Norwood just didn’t fit the bill.
Black Girl Magic is very real and now Atlanta is about to have a mayor named Keisha.