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Home POLITICS The battle for political power in the 'blackest city in America'

The battle for political power in the ‘blackest city in America’

One woman bluntly stated that the mayor and city council needed to break up and get along. “I would like to see some guardrails put up to eliminate the public infighting that happens in the city,” she said.

There are, after all, all of them stressful and pressing matters for the city. The population shoots up. Citizens of South Fulton are on average and relative to the state and nation slightly wealthier and slightly better educated and a higher percentage of them own their homes compared to residents of the Atlanta and Fulton County. Violent crime is going down. But it is the only full-care hospital. closed earlier this yearand residents also complain about the shortage of supermarkets, restaurants and bank branches, among others.

Away from City Hall, in response to the current mayor’s rhetoric, the former mayor and current city council members and local state legislators reject his pleas that the “Blackest City in America” ​​be “Black on Purpose.”

“I think it emphasizes the wrong thing,” Edwards said.

“They are not positive for the city,” Bruce, one of the state representatives, said of those terms. “When we created the city of South Fulton, we didn’t create it to be the blackest city. It just turns out that way because that’s what lived there.”

“Wakanda forever?” fellow state representative said Debra Bazemore. “I’m like, ‘You know that’s fictional, right? you know that was a movie?’”

“I was born and raised in Savannah,” said Councilwoman Helen Willis, “and they didn’t become one of America’s top tourist spots by selling it as a majority black city.” She recalled a recent puzzling conversation with a developer. “One of the things that was shared with me was: ‘I wanted to go in and meet the leaders, but I have to be honest with you: when I heard ‘Black on Purpose,’ when I heard ‘The Blackest City in America,’ me being Caucasian, that was very intimate for me. Does that mean you don’t welcome me because I’m Caucasian and you guys are ‘the blackest city’, you’re ‘black on purpose’? And I had to spend time explaining to this person that he wants to expand his business in our city and that he’s doing a great job with the business that he currently has that no, that’s not the vision, and that’s not the narrative of the majority. of the council members. That is a person. That’s not how we feel.”

“My grandparents were sharecroppers. My great-grandparents were slaves. Does that mean I need to lead with it in every conversation all the time? No,” Councilwoman Natasha Williams said. “I think when you start to focus on the things that divide us, you lose sight of the things that bring us together.”

She emphasized in an interview with POLITICO the importance of increasing the city’s business tax base by attracting certain types of well-known businesses.

“Starbucks, if you’re listening, I’ve got room for you!” she said with a laugh.

It’s a typical approach that exasperates kamau.

“The ‘black on purpose’ policy is to stop begging,” he told POLITICO. “If Starbucks doesn’t do it, then we start our own cafe,” he said. “Now, if you needed to say ‘Starbucks’ because you think white ice is colder, that’s a different conversation. If you need the Starbucks name to make you feel like you have value, then that’s another conversation we need to have.”

Same thing, in Kamau’s opinion, with grocery stores: Publix, Kroger, whatever big supermarket chain people say they want to see in South Fulton. He essentially described a food cooperative. What kamau wants instead of external recruitment is internal development, a kind of socialism specific to South Fulton. “Yes,” he said. “Afrosocialism”.

He understands that he can’t do any of this without the majority approval of the seven-person city council. Currently, he has no support from anyone. And without allies on the city council, he has almost no power. One seat is up this November, one open because Mark Baker left to run in a congressional primary and lost, and kamau is endorsing Drew de Man, a white socialist farmer backed by the Working Families Party with a handlebar mustache. .

“I pray that I win,” Kamau said.

“What happens when I go in?” de Man told POLITICO. “They know I’m a Khalid supporter, so that’s a bit sticky. But they won’t want to appear reluctant to work with the ‘diversity’ candidate. I will present myself in good faith and work with people. I’m a consensus builder and can usually be pretty convincing.”

And then four more seats are available next year. And kamau has another three years as mayor. “I need four votes to pass something,” he said, “and that’s where we’re really going to test it.”

The question, then, for the mayor and city council, and for the charter commission, is not so much what South Fulton will be five years from now, but what it will be five years from now, or 10 or 20 years from now. For many, if not most residents, more important than the philosophical questions about blackness are the practicalities of governance, the more traditional, even mundane, markers of municipal health, as well as the banal and goal-oriented indicators the “amenities” of middle-class wealth. . And that, in turn, is important to the city because the decades-long migrations of Black people in and around Atlanta that have always influenced the shape and tenor of Black political power ultimately shaped South Fulton and made it what it is. it is. But migrations, by definition, are not static. They are not permanent. There is always the Following “The next great migration”, and that too is a less conspicuous part of the current discourse here.

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