The same Missouri city where the death of a black teenager sparked weeks of nationwide protest has just elected Ella Jones, its first woman and first black mayor. In a Tuesday election, Jones won out over her opponent Heather Robinett with 54 percent of the city’s vote, reports the New York Times. But Jones' historic election at a time where the fight for Black voices is more prominent than ever is only one step in a larger movement.
During her campaign, Jones vowed to continue changes enacted after teenager Michael Brown was shot and killed by a white police officer in 2014. One of the major motions she made was a federal consent decree, which is a legally binding agreement requiring reforms to Ferguson’s police department.
Both Jones and Robinett expressed their support of the protests in response to the death of George Floyd, with Jones condemning the violence among police that broke out in several cities, reports the NYT. “It’s just our time,” Jones told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “It’s just my time to do right by the people.” When asked what her election means for Ferguson’s black residents, she answered: “One word: inclusion.”
But this isn’t Jones’s first time being part of a milestone change. In 2015, the 40-year resident of Ferguson became the first black member of city council. According to her campaign biography, Jones has led a diverse career path from the beginning, too. She worked as a chemist and a church pastor before entering politics. “I’ve got work to do – because when you’re an African-American woman, they require more of you than they require of my counterpart,” Jones said shortly after her victory Tuesday night. “I know the people in Ferguson are ready to stabilize their community, and we’re going to work together to get it done.”
Jones’ election garnered the attention of some big names in politics and advocacy. Former President Barack Obama responded to the news of Jones’ election praising it as “a reminder of the difference politics and voting can make in changing who has the power to make real change.” Senator Kamala Harris congratulated the new mayor saying, “Your leadership in Ferguson will pave the way for a better future for the next generation.” Director Ava DuVernay also shared the news making a point to draw attention to its historic significance.
Jones is part of a steady increase of Black political influence in Ferguson since Brown’s death six years ago. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, at the time of Brown’s death, there was only one Black council member. Now, even with Jones leaving to take on the role of mayor, it is half, despite the fact that nearly 70% of the city's residents are Black.
This historic step is the first of many that need to happen to secure widespread, systemic change. It is also an important reminder, at a pivotal time, that there is still more work to be done. While this election proved to be one that brought great change, many in the U.S. will not have the opportunity to vote for months, and in the interim, advocacy and initiative to help protect the Black community is imminent.