Mariah Parker, PhD, is a linguistics scholar, a former Georgia County Commissioner, a rapper (under the stage name Linqua Franqa) and organizer with Raise Up the South, the Southern arm of the Fight for $15 and a Union workers movement.
Mariah first made headlines after being sworn in as an Athens-Clarke County Commissioner, at age 26, with a their hand on a copy of The Autobiography of Malcolm X held by their mother. Photos of Mariah taking the oath went viral, highlighting the growing numbers of millennial Black people making their voices heard in local politics nationwide. As County Commissioner, Mariah focused on creating economic stability and racial justice as well as criminal justice reform and raising the minimum wage.
They recently resigned that position to work as a labor organizer with Raise Up the South, a pivot that gives Mariah the opportunity to fight for social justice outside the constraints of political office. The move also coincided with the release of the music video for their single, “Wurk,” a powerful pro-worker, pro-union piece that has once again thrust Mariah into the headlines when the song went viral.
They have performed the hit at union conventions and rallies as well as New York’s Lincoln Center, a performance RollingStone magazine called "explosive" and pointed to how the "queer, Black, nonbinary Southerner...dominated the stage, all sinewy limbs and kinetic energy and rapid-fire couplets. Those same tongue-twisting revolutionary rhymes and hyperliterate lyricism shine on their new album, "Bellringer," with lyrics on capitalism, police brutality, mental health, emotional turmoil, and workers’ rights smoothly cutting through the alternating slices of Southern hip-hop, neo-soul, indie-pop, and avant-garde electronic vibes that populate Parker’s extended musical universe."
Mariah's outspoken commitment to racial and economic justice have garnered the attention of other media as well including CNN, The New York Times, Teen Vogue, National Public Radio, Al Jazeera, The Nation, Afropunk, The Root, and The Bitter Southerner, among others.
They are a popular speaker on campuses nationwide. Audiences describe Mariah as "charismatic,” “engaging,” “authentic,” and “inspiring.” Their electrifying live and virtual presentations call audiences to self-reflection and action in their lives and in their communities.
Seeing the Staircase: Running For Office “Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase.” — Martin Luther King, Jr. Two years ago, Mariah Parker would have never imagined herself running a political campaign, let alone her own. She was a young, queer Black woman, a student, rapper and community activist. Yet as she saw injustices all around her and the need for someone to talk action, she realized she had to step up, joining the wave of young woman of color across the country running for and winning political office. In this presentation, she discusses what it means to take the first step in faith, and what “the full staircase” could look like for an abolitionist inside the world of government.
Taking the Leap: From Hip Hop to Local Government As a leading rapper in Georgia's hip hop scene, how did Mariah Parker draw on that experience to seek a seat on the local county commission? In this semi-autobiographical presentation, Mariah talks about how she realized that the skills of hip hop artists are applicable to the political sphere as well - the ability to gather and move a crowd, the skills to articulate your ideas creatively and succinctly in a way that inspires people to action, the connection to the problems that the community is facing, and fearlessness in standing up to speak your truth in the face of opposition.
Rest and Resilience in the Face of Political and Pandemic Challenges In the face of unprecedented political challenges and the ongoing circumstances of the pandemic, burnout feels omnipresent and inevitable. As well, self-care is often co-opted by corporate interests who create the illusion that rest is something you buy or that it’s an individual’s problem rather than society’s, the result of policies and practices of capitalism and white supremacy. How can we create robust care practices to continue to fight the systems that are failing us? In this presentation, Mariah teaches participants to reclaim self-care as an act of resistance and will lead participants through some of the daily practices they have cultivated in making the balancing act of work, parenting, school, art, and politics sustainable. Learn about radical gratitude, rest as a journey, creating portals to care and other nourishing mindsets and activities that can be built into any schedule, on any budget, to evade burnout and foster political longevity.
Solidarity Across Debilities: Why Black Disability Justice Matters “Two cousins with bipolar diagnoses. One in rehab, her son in jail for murder; another stands before you today.” In this talk, Mariah draws upon family histories to illuminate the linkages between mental illness, mass incarceration, and our current healthcare system, arguing for new vision and tighter embrace of disability justice within our movements for Black life.