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When asked how he’s feeling on the eve of Election Day, Antonio Brown is “inspired”.
Usually, in the waning days of a campaign, a politician will say they are “encouraged”, “energized” or “optimistic”. They’ll use some term to highlight their campaign’s momentum and impending victory. But the way Brown spoke about his run for Atlanta mayor as it enters the final 48 hours was different. His inspiration comes, not from his own opportunity for success, but rather in the people of the city he hopes to have the chance to lead.
“I think so many young people and organizers see themselves in city and local government because of this campaign,” Brown said. “It gives me hope and faith that even more people are going to engage and get involved.”
Brown, a sitting city councilor and self-described activist, is running to “reimagine Atlanta”. For Brown, this means “creating a socio-economic shift“. He says his aim is to “create an inclusive ecosystem” where every Atlantan has the supports, resources and opportunity to thrive.
In an extensive, thirty-page policy overview, Brown highlights plans to target areas of inequity that exist across the city.
If elected, Antonio Brown will not only be among the city’s most progressive mayors, but he will be one of its youngest ever and the first LGBTQ mayor in Atlanta history.
It is all, in a word, ambitious. But Atlanta is no stranger to ambition.
The key ingredient to Atlanta’s future? Young people.
The city once controlled by the Confederate Army during the Civil War would become the epicenter of the Civil Rights movement less than a century later. Now, Atlanta is the nation’s largest majority-Black city, boasting the 20th largest economy on earth.
This is the spirit of Atlanta that Antonio Brown sees as he hopes to catalyze transformational change. He has no illusions, however, that this change is impossible if Atlanta’s younger generations are not a key part of it.
“Young people have got to feel empowered,” Brown said emphatically. “They’ve got to feel government. They’ve got to know that government is there to assist them.”
On his Instagram account, Brown cited a recent poll in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that showed 29% of young voters age 18-29 had little to no knowledge about Tuesday’s election. That same demographic reported that 44% had yet to decide on who they were going to vote for.
“Young people, wake up!” Brown wrote. He said the youngest voting demographic holds a “significant amount” of power “if they show up at the polls. “This is our future and our children’s future,” he went on. “Make the right choice and vote!”
Brown doesn’t just see young voters as key to his campaign’s success, but key to Atlanta’s success as a whole.
For Brown, this moment is pivotal for Atlanta’s future.
“If we don’t act now, Atlanta is going to be a city you don’t even recognize,” Brown told The BWSTimes when asked if he had a message for young voters. “We are going to see a continued increase in the unsheltered population and, sadly, more and more people are going to have to resort to crime just to survive.”
Crime has become the biggest issue in the Atlanta mayoral race. Incidents of violent crime are up more than 25% across the city as communities still reel from the trauma of the pandemic, economic downturn and rise of white supremacy over the past years.
Most of Brown’s opponents, including former mayor Kasim Reed, call for increased hiring of police in order to reduce crime. Brown’s plan seeks to address the root causes of crime in the city instead. In addition to significant housing and economic supports, his plan will enhance officer training measures, increase non-emergency responders to manage mental health and other crises and focus on building community trust and conflict resolution measures.
Candidates for local office across the country have pushed to move systems from a carceral-focus to a care-focus. Mayoral candidates like Maya Wiley in NYC, India Walton in Buffalo and Greg Robinson in Tulsa fought these uphill battles. Like each of them, Brown knows the drive toward change doesn’t rest on the outcome of a single election.
‘I want every single person in our city to be heard’
Brown says his push for “reimagining Atlanta” will continue “regardless of what happens in my race for mayor”.
In a recent televised debate, Brown asked voters a simple question as he stood on stage with other candidates who have each been in office for a decade or more.
“They have told you about all of the great things they want to do for Atlanta,” Brown said. “But you have to ask yourself: why haven’t they been done yet?”
“I decided to run for mayor because I wanted disenfranchised communities to be heard,” Antonio Brown said. “I want every single person in our city to be heard.”
November 2nd is the final day to vote in Atlanta’s mayoral election. If no candidate receives over 50% of the vote, the top two will compete in a runoff on Nov 30th.