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Official sworn in with ‘Autobiography of Malcolm X’

Mariah Parker

Mariah Parker

Before being sworn into officer as a Georgia county commissioner, 26-year-old Mariah Parker was asked if she would like a Bible on which to place her right hand.”

No.

Then she was asked if she would like to do it on a copy of the U.S. Constitution.

No.

Her choice, instead, was a paperback copy of “The Autobiography of Malcolm X.”

The doctoral student was being sworn in to serve as an elected member of the Athens-Clarke County commission, a seat she won by 13 votes.

“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.”

Parker has previously studied linguistics as a rapper, and goes by the name Lingua Franca.

She said Malcolm X’s life story inspires and informs her world view.

The book, written with Alex Haley, who would later win a Pulitzer Prize for “Roots,” mapped Malcolm X’s conversions from a poor boy who saw his father murdered, to a drugged-addled jailed criminal, to the face of one of the most misunderstood religious orders in the country, to a vocal civil rights leader who would ultimately become a martyr.

“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.”

There is another way … Order Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson’s book, “The Antidote: Healing America from the Poison of Hate, Blame, and Victimhood.”

Parker, who is getting her doctorate in language and literacy education, said she didn’t finish reading the landmark autobiography until about a year ago, but was struck by the parallels. She grew up poor in rural Kentucky. Overcame substance abuse. Struggled with mental-health issues.

“I was very lucky to break away from some of the generational patterns, by going to college and getting out of the town,” said Parker. “But I struggled, and I thought people only looked at me as having nothing to offer.”

A progressive, who describes herself as openly queer, Parker was motivated to run for office because of what she saw was a need for vocal leadership.

She beat Taylor Pass by 13 votes running on a platform of economic justice, reducing poverty and discrimination, affordable housing, fair-wage jobs, youth development, criminal-justice reform and marijuana reform.

“Malcolm’s willingness to uneditedly speak about black people at large, are qualities that I want to embody,” Parker said. “To speak out when I see things going wrong.”

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