Microphones, cameras, and silence engulfed the room as many waited for the arrival of Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. The door suddenly opened. Her countenance – as well as her bright orange dress – enlightened the room, producing a sea of smiles across everyone’s faces.
Mayor Bottoms arrived as the guest speaker for Florida A&M University’s Homecoming Convocation on Oct. 5 at the Al Lawson Center. The excitement in her voice as she gave an inspirational speech for the audience made it quite evident that she felt like she was finally home.
Bottoms was born in Atlanta, Georgia but received her Bachelor of Science in Broadcast Journalism from FAMU. Although she spent her time scrambling to get rundowns and other journalistic work done while in college, life had other plans for her.
In December 2017, Bottoms was elected Atlanta’s new mayor – making her the second African-American woman to hold that position in the city. But even with that historical title, the Atlanta native showed no signs of pressure. Reflecting on how Atlanta has shaped her, Bottoms explains the drive and ambition she sees in the city.
“Atlanta, I think for so many people, raises the level of expectation,” Bottoms said. “You may not be that person yet, but you can certainly see it and you know that it can be real, especially if you are an African-American.”
Regardless of the accomplishments made, Bottoms carried herself like every other alumnus. The amazement and amusement in her eyes showed how much she had missed, as she entered new areas on campus.
Her interaction with every other alumnus and event attendees, however, was nothing short of amazing. Valerie Stay, a first-time homecoming attendant, was able to attend convocation with her friend who was a FAMU alumna and shared how she felt about the mayor.
“I loved how sweet her voice was,” Stay said. “But yet, she has so much strength and tenacity when she expresses her words. As a woman, that’s everything.”
During convocation, Bottoms was awarded the 2018 FAMU Distinguished Award, the highest award given by FAMUs National Alumni Association.
Supporters believe her political accomplishments have also transcended into social accomplishments. Charles Woodland, an Atlanta resident who was in attendance, has been showing his admiration ever since Bottoms was voted in.
“It’s always wonderful seeing someone that looks like you and is from the same place as you accomplish so many things that weren’t prominent before,” Woodland said.
The journey is worth more than just accomplishments for Mayor Bottoms. To her, it is the process to become greater and to be a mechanism for change. But although she has made the accomplishments she’s had, she believes that it isn’t just her, but Rattlers doing the same everywhere.
“It’s not always about speaking loud. It’s about carrying ‘the big stick’ and putting in the hard work. It’s the reason that I am mayor of Atlanta and it’s the reason that there are Rattlers all across this country at the top of their field changing their communities and changing professions,” Bottoms adamantly said.