MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Shelby County Commission voted on a resolution Monday afternoon to create an Black Caucus.
The goal is to establish equal rights and opportunity for all communities in Shelby County. The vote regarding a Black Caucus was unanimous in the commission chambers but not before commissioners spoke up in support of their peers.
The resolution, which was sponsored by 8 of the 13 commissioners, hopes that a Black caucus will provide a political voice and presence for Black residents of Shelby County.
“I want this to be something that Memphis and Shelby County can both win. We can be the example of other communities across the nation. That’s going to be my first challenge to the black caucus,” Commissioner Edmund Ford Jr. said.
Commissioner Mark Billingsley added, “The plight of our Black citizens in Shelby County is not a Democratic thing or Republican thing. It should be a challenge for each one of us, and I continue to be up to that task.”
There is precedent for the Black caucus. The resolution cites the Congressional Black Caucus in the U.S. House of representatives, which was originally established in 1971.
With issues like police relations, environmental racism and gun violence all inciting public protests in Memphis across the last year alone, county commissioners want to make sure local governing bodies are representing the residents of Shelby County.
“I’m just glad to hear that you want it to be a space where we can collaborate on issues and discuss issues that are hurtful to our community,” said Commissioner Tami Sawyer.
The resolution had strong backing and moved quickly, with all 13 commissioners voting in favor.
All commissioners are welcome to be involved with the Black Caucus, as they hope to advocate and improve issues affecting the Black community in Shelby County.