Mariah Parker on protesting, policing and public office in Athens

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Mariah Parker turned her political activism and Hip-Hop experience into a run for public office, becoming the first LGBTQ person elected to the Athens-Clarke County Commission.

Throughout her transition from activist and artist to elected official, Parker has thrived to be her authentic self – blemishes and all. In fact, she argued, that’s why she’s won two elections to the county commission in two years.

“I’m a hip hop artist. I cut my teeth in political speeches and organizing through telling my stories and they’re being myself and then making audiences laugh, cry, connecting with them on a person to person level,” Parker said in a new episode of Podcast Q.

“That’s largely why I also won office is being who I am, being very upfront about my past struggles with substance abuse, with my past struggles with mental illness, with my foibles as a young person that aren’t necessarily a phase that I went through. It informs who I am now, I’m trying to say, and they’re things that people commonly go through,” she added.

But being an activist – she’s organized or taken part in several racial justice demonstrations – as well as a performerpodcast host, graduate teaching assistant, doctoral student and public official makes for long days and nights.

What fuels her? Passion and self-care, Parker said.

“When you’re passionate, it just kind of fuels you through the fatigue and through the overwhelm at times. Building a lot of really intentional self-care practices into my day is critical to help keep that fiery passion alive. But once that flame is stoked, it’s kind of self-perpetuating and so it’s easy to work these long days to get it all done,” she said.

In this episode of Podcast Q, Parker also discussed how she would fight coronavirus as governor, turning protests into lasting political reform, reimagining police and the rainbow crosswalks coming to an Athens intersection.

Listen to the podcast above and subscribe with your favorite podcast app.


  • (0:51) Winning her first full term
  • (1:31) Why she ran for public office
  • (3:30) Her love for District 2, which she represents on the Athens-Clarke County Commission
  • (5:27) Linqua Franqa, dive bars and being a Hip-Hop artist
  • (7:29) Long days (and nights) of doing what you love
  • (8:40) Importance of self-care during coronavirus and racial justice activism
  • (9:59) UGA needs a re-opening plan that focuses on worker safety
  • (12:50) Lack of leadership in the state during the pandemic
  • (13:55) How a Gov. Parker would fight this pandemic
  • (15:10) Governing as your full messy self
  • (20:36) Queer leadership in racial justice protests in Athens
  • (21:40) Recovering from her coronavirus infection
  • (24:18) A model for reforming policing in Athens
  • (27:24) Turning protests into lasting political change
  • (30:08) Decriminalizing marijuana in Athens
  • (30:50) Threats as a “yardstick for how well I’m doing”
  • (32:03) Balancing being a high-profile LGBTQ leader and representing her commission district
  • (33:43) Rainbow crosswalks – and possibly a nondiscrimination ordinance – are coming
  • (35:37) How #TeamBidenHarris can do better


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