Emory scientist wants to be Tucker’s first LGBTQ city councilmember

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An Emory University research scientist wants to make history twice by being the first Black and first LGBTQ member of the Tucker City Council.

Imani Barnes is making her first run for public office and wants to succeed Councilmember Matt Robbins, who is in his final term in the District 2, Seat 1 spot. 

“I want to represent the single parents, the Blacks, the LGBTQ and I want to represent the diversity of Tucker, all in one person,” Barnes told Project Q Atlanta.

Barnes, 39, grew up in DeKalb County and graduated from South Carolina State University in 2004. She’s a research scientist in the Division of Animal Resources at Emory School of Medicine and is the founder of I Can Become Anything, which works with teens on communication and life skills. Barnes is also pursuing a doctorate in public health at Emory.

She first became interested in local politics after George Floyd was murdered by police in Minneapolis last year.

“It just really made me look at what my city was doing for the current events that were going on at the time,” she said.

Barnes found it “mind-boggling” after realizing there are no people of color on the Tucker City Council. The city’s population is 37 percent Black, 12 percent Hispanic and six percent Asian, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The DeKalb County city was incorporated in 2015 and elected its first mayor and city council in 2016.

Barnes said it is “imperative” that the council becomes more diverse.

“We need to represent the others,” she said. “I feel like it’s time. Tucker is growing, they’re trying to build a convention center here, and we can’t just have a convention center for white people.”

Barnes also wants to revive a push for an LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance in Tucker. Twelve cities in Georgia have such measures, with 11 passing in just the past three years.

Several LGBTQ appointees to Tucker boards and commissions wrote a draft of an ordinance and presented it to the city council in 2019. But it stalled amid complaints that Mayor Frank Auman and some members of council intentionally delayed it.

There is a large LGBTQ population in Tucker, according to Barnes.

“Are people just going to be able to discriminate against people for their life choices?” she said. “The laws need to change with the people. You want to protect and you want to make people feel comfortable about living in your city. And you want people to stay here.”

“I don’t want to have to move to Doraville or Brookhaven because I’ll feel safer there. I want to stay here,” she added.

Barnes also wants to make housing more affordable in Tucker.

“It’s expensive to live here,” she said. “I’m a single mother and I’m in school and I work full-time and I have to support my one child. I know how hard it is to afford life in Tucker.”

“My whole focal point is taking a community stand on issues. a community approach, getting feedback from the community and bringing it into the council,” she added.

Qualifying for the election is in August and the election is in November.

This story is made possible by Google News Initiative’s Journalism Emergency Relief Fund.

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