Good news: We have reason to ‘lift every voice and celebrate’
Often when I talk about the dramatic change we need for America to live up to its promise of a “more perfect union,” I frame it in terms of national elections, congressional majorities, and the White House. It’s a natural tendency among political observers and commentators.
But the reality is that, in the real world, practical change that lifts our nation and impacts our daily lives — from housing to justice reform — may echo through the halls of Congress but it’s implemented in city halls.
That’s why I’m so excited to see newly-elected mayors such as Eric Adams in New York City, Andre Dickens in Atlanta, Justin Bibb in Cleveland, Ed Gainey in Pittsburgh, Malik Evans in Rochester, N.Y., Ken Welch in St. Petersburg, Fla., Waylyn Hobbs in Hempstead, N.Y., and Tyrone Garner in Kansas City, Kan., leading a wave of African Americans into city halls where they can build a capacity for change unlike anything we’ve known for generations.
And if you think this is just some statistical anomaly, there are others. Take a look at Mayor Eric Johnson of Dallas, Mayor Sylvester Turner of Houston, Mayor Hardie Davis Jr. of Augusta, Ga., Mayor Frank Scott Jr. of Little Rock, Ark., Mayor Ras Baraka of Newark, N.J., and Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba of Jackson, Miss.
Cities including Denver, Birmingham and Montgomery, Ala., Shreveport, La., Charlotte, N.C., and Charlottesville and Richmond, Va., all have Black mayors. In addition, George Flaggs Jr. is mayor of Vicksburg, Miss., and James Perkins Jr. is mayor of Selma, Ala. Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, the daughter of Taiwanese immigrants, is the first Asian American woman to serve in city hall.
Now, if this all seems overwhelming, it is. It’s also historic. Following the November 2021 elections, more American cities are set to be led by Black mayors than at any other time in our history. So, similar to what the “Black national anthem” says, let’s lift every voice and celebrate.
Of course, it’s not just because there is probably no one better to take on the NYPD’s long history of racial injustice than Eric Adams, or that the poverty in Cleveland is personal to Justin Bibb. It’s not just about Andre Dickens’ stance on gun violence, or Ed Gainey’s plan for the environment.
Yes, the policy is mighty important — but so is politics.
The reality is that 14 percent of Black men in 2016 and 12 percent in 2020 voted for Donald Trump for president. If that number had been any higher in the 2020 election — particularly in states such as Pennsylvania and Georgia — Joe Biden would not be in the White House. So, it’s not a stretch to argue that African American men are one of the most impactful voting demographics in the next election — if not the most impactful.
But this new wave of Black mayors — most of them men — gives us an opportunity to register, organize and mobilize Black men like never before, and to transform these voters into a true force for change.
Imagine that. Imagine if Congress members had to address the fact that Black men are half as likely to earn a bachelor’s degree or higher than white men because, if they didn’t act to address the nation’s educational disparities, they likely wouldn’t be reelected.
Imagine a Congress that made equal housing and closing the “school-to-prison pipeline” true priorities. Imagine if I didn’t have to point out that one in three Black men born today can expect to spend part of their lives in prison, and the leading cause of death for Black men younger than 44 is still homicide. These are real-world problems for African Americans. Imagine if congressional careers hung in the balance right beside our lives.
That’s why I’m so excited to see a changing America begin at the City Hall level. We should all celebrate this change. It’s more than a headline — it’s history.
Antjuan Seawright is a Democratic political strategist, founder and CEO of Blueprint Strategy LLC, a CBS News political contributor, and a senior visiting fellow at Third Way. Follow him on Twitter @antjuansea.
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