Nestled in the heart of northeast Georgia lies Athens-Clarke County. Athens is home of the University of Georgia, a premier school for both academics and athletics, along with a vibrant, eclectic college-town scene. The Athens music scene birthed such diverse careers as that of alt-rock stalwarts REM, campy pop stars the B-52s, country chanteuse Jennifer Nettles, and 2000s hip-hop star Bubba Sparxxx. Exciting cuisine and a wealth of cultural experiences make Athens a unique place to live and play. (Full disclosure here: I’m an alumnus of UGA, and I still enjoy visiting both the campus and the town of Athens.)
Athens is a bit of an anomaly in north Georgia. In the midst of reliably red counties, Athens-Clarke County is a bastion of blue. Recent elections brought what campus news site The Red & Black called a “progressive wave.” Every candidate who won on the ballot in May carried an endorsement from the far-left group Athens for Everyone, an organization committed to, among other issues, “opposing white supremacy, patriarchy, and all institutions of unjust power.”
One of the most fascinating candidates in Athens’ blue wave is Mariah Parker, the newly inaugurated commissioner for the county’s 2nd district. The 26-year-old is studying for her doctorate at UGA, and she records and performs hip-hop under the moniker Lingua Franca. She threw her hat into the ring late — February, to be exact — but she was able to barely coast in along with the other radicals in Athens.
African-American sites like The Root and Blavity have taken notice of Parker, in part because of what Blavity referred to as “the most poppin’ fro,” but mainly for her unusual swearing-in earlier this week. Parker took her oath of office not on the Bible, but on a copy of The Autobiography of Malcolm X, and with the fist of the Black Power salute rather than raising her right hand.
Parker’s oath of office stirred up some controversy at the ceremony and began to garner national attention.
“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 told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I wanted Malcolm’s book. I think they saw it coming.”
Parker has caused a stir, both for her decidedly throwback look, which brings to mind Angela Davis and other black nationalist leaders of the ’60s and ’70s, and for her solidly radical political positions.
The issues page of her website demonstrates just how far left her ideas are. She advocates for fare-free public transit and seeks to add full sidewalks and bike lanes to every street in Athens-Clarke County, a tall order, especially on some of the older, more narrow residential streets in town. She pledges to push for “affordable housing” throughout the county, all while somehow keeping property taxes from going up (which is not exactly a typical leftist notion, but that’s only because rising property taxes “prioritize the rich”).
Her question-and-answer session with Athens for Everyone reveals even wilder leftist positions. She favors a ban on single-use plastic bags and rails against the student apartments that have sprung up all around the UGA campus. She has declared war on the state policies that, in her own words, hurt “working women and LGBTQ communities– groups to which I also belong– as well as on Latinx, immigrant communities, and the disabled.” Discrimination and poverty are her largest pet issues, as evidenced by the closing statement in her Athens for Everyone interview:
Though my every policy position is oriented toward the alleviation of poverty, people of color have been purposefully kept poor by discriminatory practices and unjust economic policy, thus the end of poverty and discrimination are inextricably intertwined as my two most important foci as commissioner.
Mariah Parker is just one of the phalanx of far-left activists taking the reigns in Athens-Clarke County — not much of a surprise in a college town. But above all the rest, she’s already created a nationwide stir, and she has all the ingredients to become the next face of the left in America. I can’t help but wonder how long it will take the mainstream media to make Parker their next darling. Keep an eye out, and remember that you most likely heard of her for the first time right here.