The city of Charlottesville, VA, selected Nikuyah Walker, its first Black female mayor, this week, which feels like a symbolic win given the past year of violence in the college town. Heather Hill was selected as the vice mayor.
Less than six months after a white nationalist rally turned deadly, the Charlottesville City Council voted 4-1 to approve Walker, an Independent. The part-time role is largely ceremonial in the city of around 47,000, according to the Associated Press, but it's an important move considering that Walker has been an outspoken critic of the city's establishment.
At a city council meeting in August, a few days after the "Unite the Right" event believed to be the largest white nationalist gathering in a decade, many residents were angry at then-Mayor Mike Signer, frustrated that the city had granted a permit for the rally and at the police for letting the violent clash play out.
"Why did you think that you could walk in here and do business as usual after what happened on the 12th?" Walker, then a City Council candidate, said at this meeting.
Walker, a grassroots organizer and the first Independent to be elected to the Charlottesville City Council since the 1940s, has already stirred up strong emotions. At one point, she called Signer a "white, liberal and progressive — a keeper of the status quo" and she has frequently called out racial and wealth inequality in the community in emails to city leaders. In return, the Charlottesville newspaper labeled her as "unabashedly aggressive." The blog Feministing called the article a smear and criticized it as employing the "angry Black woman" trope.
"I want to work with you. We need to create living-wage jobs, improve our schools, and make true affordable housing a top priority. I know what it takes to navigate complicated governmental agencies and get things done," Walker says in her platform.
Refinery29 reached out to Walker for an interview and will update this story if we hear back.