On yesterday’s (May 1) episode of “The Blackprint,” host and REVOLT CEO Detavio Samuels sat down with ambitious political figure and former mayor of Atlanta Keisha Lance Bottoms. In the dialogue, the mother of four and impactful community leader was able to open up about her origin story, why being authentic is better than wearing a mask, and her belief that you should never allow your past to determine your trajectory toward success.
During the episode, they jumped right in and started from the beginning. Bottoms explained that her childhood was anything but ordinary. The Atlanta native is the daughter of Grammy-nominated R&B singer Major Lance. Because Bottoms’ father was in the entertainment industry for the first eight years of her life, the family traveled internationally, resided in England, and according to Bottoms, “lived a pretty incredible life.”
While life was looking good for her family, it also revealed some hard truths. The former Atlanta mayor transparently shared that one day when she returned home from school, she witnessed her father being arrested. As she emotionally reflected, Bottoms recalled that, that moment was the last time the family ever lived together. She expressed, “This was a valuable lesson that really good people can sometimes make bad mistakes.”
Experiencing a huge life transition like that changed Bottoms’ mindset. That particular moment was a catalyst for her not wanting to struggle as an adult. As Bottoms grew older, she believed in not having expectations. The young go-getter believed that things can be taken away from you as quickly as they are given, so you have to work hard to get to where you are going and no matter how many times you fall, you have to get back up.
The discussion pivoted to Samuels and Bottoms talking through her college and early career years. Since she carried the “Work hard to get where you’re going” mantra with her when attending HBCU Florida A&M University, she graduated with honors and decided to pursue law at Georgia State. While there, the FAMU alum also practiced general law at a law firm during an externship. Years later, Bottoms and her now-husband decided they wanted to start a family. Once the couple adopted their son Lance, the promising politician decided to shift careers and became a part-time magistrate judge. Bottoms had come a long way and with her work ethic, she was set on achieving even more. Next, she ran for Superior Court judge in 2008. Unfortunately, the Atlanta native lost the race and dealt with depression the following year.
“I remember sitting on my floor and I had all these bills around me. I maxed out all the credit cards that I had. We had put all of our savings into this race and it was gone. I was having this conversation with God saying, ‘OK, you told me to go do it. So now what?’” she said.
To get through the low phase after the judge race, Bottoms enjoyed running. One day, she ran up a huge hill, and this is where she received the phone call that turned things around. Bottoms was given the opportunity to run for Atlanta City Council. The politician stated, “I was so intent on not failing again. So I suspended my law practice. My mom and I would go out every day and stop by McDonald’s. I would get an Egg McMuffin and I would also bring a bag of almonds. Then, I would knock on doors from eight in the morning until six in the evening. I ended up winning that race without a run-off.”
Keisha Lance Bottoms served on the Atlanta City Council for eight years. As a city councilperson, she ended up facilitating the sale of the Atlanta baseball stadium, Turner Field. The young powerhouse had a couple of battles to fight through but felt she was capable — so capable that the political figure knew her career was just beginning. “My office was inside of Turner Field. I’m sitting in this empty stadium and I’m looking around. I say to myself, ‘If you can sell a stadium and take on the Atlanta Braves, then hell yea you can be mayor.’ I knew I could do it. The question was did I want to?” reflected Bottoms.
After a fateful moment in church, Bottoms received the message she was waiting for. In 2017, she ran for mayor of Atlanta, Georgia. Before the race, Bottoms was accustomed to wearing a mask as a survival technique, given her upbringing. But, it wasn’t long before she realized showing up authentically was the best decision for her to grow and take control of her identity.
“I am glad I was able to share that part about my father when I was running for mayor. I maybe only talked about my father going to prison twice. Once when I was in church and the other time in elementary school. I never really talked about it publicly. So to have the freedom and willingness to share that part of me was liberating,” mentioned Bottoms.
Samuels then asked the politician what the moment was like for her when it was time to remove that mask. She responded with an Audre Lorde quote: “If I [didn’t] define myself for myself, I’ll be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me, and eaten alive.” This quote helped the Atlanta leader navigate the political space and motivated her to get ahead of the narrative of who she was before other people created one for her.
After a long race, Bottoms won the mayoral candidacy by 832 votes. She said the feeling was indescribable. “I felt like I was having an out-of-body experience. I walked into the ballroom and it was pandemonium. I felt like I was floating. For my speech, I just started speaking from my heart. I said for all the little girls out there, I want you to know that Black girl magic is real.”
She continued to say, “For everyone who has counted you out or thought you weren’t good enough… when your circumstances make you think you weren’t good enough, you are enough.”
As always, if you liked this recap, tune into new “The Blackprint with Detavio Samuels” episodes every other Monday at 5 p.m. ET on the REVOLT website, YouTube channel and app. You can watch the latest installment with Keisha Lance Bottoms here.