As 2015 comes to an end, another “first black (insert accomplishment here)” can be added to the list.
On Dec. 1, the small, formerly rural community of Douglasville, Georgia, about 20 miles outside of Atlanta, elected its first female mayor — and its first black one.
Rochelle Robinson, a 20-year resident of Douglasville who served on its city council from 2002 to 2006, won in a runoff election. With all precincts reporting and absentee ballots counted, Robinson won 62 percent of the vote to defeat former Mayor Harvey Persons, who received 38 percent, according to the Douglas County Sentinel.
Robinson, 52, told The Huffington Post that the morning of the election, she read that 60 years ago on Dec. 1, Rosa Parks sat down on the bus in Montgomery, Alabama.
“I was just overwhelmed and that was the first thing that came to my memory: Rosa Parks sat down 60 years ago today, so that I could stand up in this city,” Robinson said. “I’m standing on so many shoulders. I did not get here by myself.”
Douglasville is changing rapidly. In 2000, white people made up 64 percent of the population — slightly more than double the percentage of black people in the area (30 percent). Those numbers basically flipped by the 2010 Census, which found that nearly 56 percent of Douglasville’s population was black and around 36 percent was white. In September, Gary Sparks became the city’s first-ever black police chief. And in December, Marcia Hampton became the first-ever black (or female) city manager.
Robinson was next. She attributes her passion for politics to her mother, who Robinson says “was very active in the movement.”
“We were very aware of what was going on in our community,” Robinson said. “She had me marching on the Board of Education when I was in the third grade for equality and books. So I believe my mom planted the seed for me being in service, being aware and connected to the community.”
We won!!! Thank you Douglasville…now the real work begins! God is Awesome!
— Rochelle Robinson (@RochelleR4Mayor) December 2, 2015
Mike Miller, a member of the Douglasville City Council, said that while he is happy Robinson was able to make history, he supported her because he believes she is a “wonderful person” and a good choice for the position.
“I’m glad that she’s the first black female [elected], but my position of supporting her is because I think she will do a better job,” Miller said. “I look at her ability to be a great person and a great leader.”
Robinson, originally from Ohio, is no stranger to breaking barriers. In 1984, she became the first black cheerleader at Youngstown State University near Cleveland, Ohio.
“I am an ordinary person that has prayed and done extraordinary things through God, who has given me the strength to do it.” Robinson said. “I just want to serve and I want to be a servant leader, but also take us into the future.”