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White Leaders in Majority Black Town Refuse to Let Elected Christian Mayor Serve

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By Aallyah Wright, Capital B

NEWBERN, Ala. — There’s a power struggle in Newbern, Alabama, and the rural town’s first Black mayor is at war with the previous administration who he says locked him out of Town Hall.

After years of racist harassment and intimidation, Patrick Braxton is fed up, and in a federal civil rights lawsuit he is accusing town officials of conspiring to deny his civil rights and his position because of his race.

“When I first became mayor, [a white woman told me] the town was not ready for a Black mayor,” Braxton recalls.

The town is 85% Black, and 29% of Black people here live below the poverty line.

“What did she mean by the town wasn’t ready for a Black mayor? They, meaning white people?” Capital B asked.

“Yes. No change,” Braxton says.

Decades removed from a seemingly Jim Crow South, white people continue to thwart Black political progress by refusing to allow them to govern themselves or participate in the country’s democracy, several residents told Capital B. While litigation may take months or years to resolve, Braxton and community members are working to organize voter education, registration, and transportation ahead of the 2024 general election.

But the tension has been brewing for years.

Two years ago, Braxton says he was the only volunteer firefighter in his department to respond to a tree fire near a Black person’s home in the town of 275 people. As Braxton, 57, actively worked to put out the fire, he says, one of his white colleagues tried to take the keys to his fire truck to keep him from using it.

In another incident, Braxton, who was off duty at the time, overheard an emergency dispatch call for a Black woman experiencing a heart attack. He drove to the fire station to retrieve the automated external defibrillator, or AED machine, but the locks were changed, so he couldn’t get into the facility. He raced back to his house, grabbed his personal machine, and drove over to the house, but he didn’t make it in time to save her. Braxton wasn’t able to gain access to the building or equipment until the Hale County Emergency Management Agency director intervened, the lawsuit said.

“I have been on several house fires by myself,” Braxton says. “They hear the radio and wouldn’t come. I know they hear it because I called dispatch, and dispatch set the tone call three or four times for Newbern because we got a certain tone.”

This has become the new norm for Braxton ever since he became the first Black mayor of his hometown in 2020. For the past three years, he’s been fighting to serve and hold on to the title of mayor, first reported by Lee Hedgepeth, a freelance journalist based in Alabama.

Continue reading at CAPITAL B

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FM Editors
FM Editors
Faithfully Magazine is a fresh, bold and exciting news and culture publication that covers issues, conversations and events impacting Christian communities of color.

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