Mariah Parker is as unapologetic about her Blackness as they come. The Georgia activist, 26, raised her clenched fist, brought her mother and a copy of Malcolm X‘s poignant autobiography to her swearing-in as Athens-Clarke County Commissioner for District 2 on Monday (June 4).
With the move, Parker showed that her politics are rooted in power. “They asked if they would like the Bible and I said no,” Parker, who stood next to her mom Mattie Parker during the ceremony, said, according to the Atlanta-Journal Constitution. “My mother asked if there was a copy of the Constitution around. No, I wanted Malcolm’s book. I think they saw it coming.”
From a physical and political standpoint, Parker brings to mind multihyphenate Angela Davis, whose towering Afro and raised fist symbolized her alliance with the Black Panthers and activism. Parker, like Davis, has won praise from people of color for her advocacy for justice. Her swearing-in photo has been spread all over social media, and her words have been quoted on numerous platforms.
“Having seen the transformation of someone [Malcolm X] who came through a difficult background to become vocal and push conversations on race in a radical way is powerful,” Parker said, referring to the late and outspoken leader. “Then he shifted course and saw race in a different lens as he got older. And the fact that he was arguably killed for his politics. These are things that I want to embrace.”
Parker’s life parallels Malcolm X’s life in that both have come from rough upbringings. The activist, who is getting her doctorate in language and literacy education, was raised in poverty in rural Kentucky. She faced substance abuse and mental health issues before leaving home to attend college and become a doctoral candidate at the University of Georgia.
Parker has overcome many of her past struggles and wants to continue to defy the odds as commissioner. The activist, who is progressive and referred to herself as “openly queer,” won against challenger and Athens native Taylor Pass by 13 votes. She ran on a “platform of economic justice, reducing poverty and discrimination, affordable housing, fair wage jobs, youth development, criminal justice reform and marijuana reform,” according to AJC. She plans to be a great leader, carrying on the fight that Davis and Malcolm X dedicated themselves to for years.