Meet Mariah Parker, the politician who rejected the Bible and was sworn in on Malcolm X’s autobiography

December 10, 2019 at 03:00 pm | Activism & Campaigns, Women

Mohammed Awal

Mohammed Awal

December 10, 2019 at 03:00 pm | Activism & Campaigns, Women

Picture: CHRIS MCKAY

Mariah Parker was 26 when she was elected county commissioner in Athens Georgia.

During her swearing-in ceremony in June 2018, the rapper-turned-politician stunned everyone by placing her hand on The Autobiography of Malcolm X instead of the usual Bible during such occasions in America.

Parker now 27, it was reported then rejected two options presented by officials at her swearing-in before settling on the autobiography.

Published in 1965, just weeks after his assassination, “The Autobiography of Malcolm X,” is regarded by many critics and scholars as one of the most important autobiographies of the 20th century.

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.

Photo: Raphaëla Alemán

Malcolm X was one of the most influential African American leaders of the 20th century. Born Malcolm Little in Omaha, Nebraska on May 19, 1925, to Earl Little, a Georgia native, and itinerant Baptist preacher, and Louise Norton Little was killed by a streetcar in 1931. 

“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 as a rapper studied linguistics and goes by the stage name Lingua Franca. She won the commission seat by just 13 votes and Malcolm X’s life is her source of inspiration and mirror in which she views the world,

Thus taking her oath office on The Autobiography of Malcolm X simply encapsulates her view of the world.

Pictures of Parker being sworn in with her hands on the book many consider radical went viral on social media.

“I honestly did not expect there to be such a clamoring of public response,” Parker told Teen Vogue in a chat when asked about the social media responses. “It just seemed to me to be the sensible thing to do given my politics and who I am.”

She also told the Journal-Constitution: “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.

“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.”

Parker is a Ph.D. student in linguistics. She raps about patriarchy, feminism, and her intelligence. She grew up poor in rural Kentucky, overcoming substance abuse and struggled with mental health issues.

Those experiences motivated her to run for the commissioner seat to bring changes to her locality.

Acknowledging how lucky she was to have broken away from what she calls generational patterns by going to college and getting out of the town, Parker said: “But I struggled and I thought people only looked at me as having nothing to offer.”

Calling herself as “openly queer”, Parker was motivated to run for office because she wanted to bring the needed change her community was lacking.

And to do that she relies on Malcolm X’s Autobiography.

“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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