A commissioner elected last month in Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, chose to be sworn into office this week placing her hand on a copy of Alex Haley’s “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” rather than the Bible, while lifting her right hand in a fist.
In announcing her candidacy in February, 26-year-old Mariah Parker said, “My platform centers around economic and racial justice,” according to the University of Georgia newspaper 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,” Parker, a doctoral candidate in linguistics at the university, said.
The newly elected commissioner won her seat by just 13 votes.
Parker’s top issues include providing affordable housing and addressing the gentrification of Athens, particularly as it relates to UGA.
“The university extracts a lot of resources from this community and doesn’t give back enough,” Parker told Flagpole after her victory.
“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,” she argued.
Parker wants to see 30 percent of city contracts set aside for African-American- and Latino-owned businesses.
The young elected official describes herself as openly queer, and also goes by her rapper name Linqua Franqa.
Parker’s decision to be sworn in with a copy of Haley’s “Malcolm X,” which was held by her mother Mattie Parker, may have something to do with a famous quote attributed to the Muslim political activist.
In a 1962 speech in Los Angeles, Malcolm X said, “The most disrespected person in America is the black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the black woman. The most neglected person in America is the black woman.”
Parker told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution she was offered the Bible for the swearing-in and chose the Malcolm X book instead.
“They asked if they would like the Bible and I said no. My mother asked if there was a copy of the Constitution around. No,” Parker said. “I wanted Malcolm’s book. I think they saw it coming.”
She said she was inspired by Malcolm X’s story.
“Having seen the transformation of someone who came through a difficult background to become vocal and push conversations on race in a radical way is powerful,” Parker said. “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.”
Former President Barack Obama lauded Haley’s book in his autobiography “Dreams from My Father.”
“Malcolm X’s autobiography seemed to offer something different,” Obama wrote. “His repeated acts of self-creation spoke to me; the blunt poetry of his words, his unadorned insistence on respect, promised a new and uncompromising order, martial in its discipline, forged through sheer force of will.”
Malcolm X was assassinated in 1965 at the age of 39 by members of the Nation of Islam after he renounced the group in favor of more traditional Sunni Islam and founded the Organization of Afro-American Unity.