Atlanta got a mayor named Keisha.
The meme began circulating on the internet shortly after the election and celebrated Atlanta’s new mayor: a native who attended public schools and a historically black university. A woman whose name many consider synonymous with black girl identity.
“It’s more of an ethnic name; it’s not one you would normally hear in political arenas,” said Keshia Chenault, who has known Bottoms since they joined a sorority together at Florida A&M University. “When I hear her name, our name, I take pride. She is our mayor.”
Keisha Lance Bottoms was sworn in Tuesday in front of a crowd filled with supporters and well-wishers, many of them black women who helped to push her to victory and now see themselves in her success. Her “village” showed up in droves: Delta Sigma Theta Sorority sisters in red, members of The Links and Jack and Jill local chapters, and her Impact Church family.
“I am most proud of seeing Keisha as a woman, a wife, a mother and a public servant,” said Robin Turner, owner of the Pesos Mexican Cantina in Decatur and another one of Bottoms’ sorority sisters from college. “She is an inspiration to me and for all young women and women period in the United States.”
The orange and green of FAMU was visible throughout the crowd. Metro Atlanta has one of the largest alumni populations outside of Florida. University President Larry Robinson carried with him a set of fliers with pictures of Bottoms and other alumni who serve as mayors across the country. He said they show there is more than one way to measure the success of institutions like FAMU.
“Longer term, the best indicator is what do your graduates do once they leave?” Robinson said.
FAMU can’t take all the credit for Bottoms’ victory, he said, but he believes it is where she cultivated an interest in public service and the skills needed to win. Now, Rattlers everywhere take pride.
“It’s big to all of us, whether you stay in Atlanta or not,” Robinson said.
Bottoms’ relatives also filled several rows. Her cousin, Dwayne Robinson, said it was surreal to see her being celebrated at an event attended by rapper T.I., Congressman John Lewis and former mayor and ambassador Andrew Young, who was also a close confidant to civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.
“I’ve seen her going from being a regular attorney to judge and all the trials and tribulations with that,” Robinson said. “Keisha is a testament that Dr. King’s dream is still alive.”
LaGuana Lawrence Albarracin joined the campaign as a volunteer after seeing one of Bottoms’ commercials on TV. Through the course of the campaign, she connected on a personal level to Bottoms, her family and her story. She was emotional during the inauguration when Bottoms talked about her children, losing a nephew and wanting to improve education for Atlanta children.
“I was a part of it,” Albarracin said. “I helped. I walked those subdivisions.”
Albarracin said she also feels a sense of excitement around the Bottoms’ administration. It is not unlike how she felt when Barack Obama was elected president.
‘This thing is so big,” she said.
Bottoms referenced “black girl magic” in her victory speech on Election Day. During her inauguration ceremony, she also embraced that her name in and of itself adds symbolism to her mayorship.
“Only in Atlanta could a young girl named Keisha …” she started before being interrupted by applause and a standing ovation. After several seconds, she continued: “who attended Frederick Douglass High School on the west side of Atlanta go on to become the 60th mayor of the greatest city of the world.”
LaShandra Little, president of the Atlanta Suburban Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, said the significance of Bottoms being not just a black woman, but one with a name so closely aligned with blackness, goes beyond the meme.
“Until you see someone in a position, you don’t necessarily know its attainable for you,” Little said. “Somebody named Keisha born and raised in Atlanta just like me can grow up and become mayor.”
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