The Savannah Yamacraw Branch of ASALH presented a forum on African-American mayoral leadership in Savannah, highlighting issues of housing, the economy, unity and race relations. The event included a discussion with the three living Black mayors and a former city council member, who represented the administration of the late Floyd Adams, Savannah’s first Black mayor.
The forum was presented to review the impact of the four African American mayors beginning 25 years ago with the election of Adams, who passed away in 2014.
The forum was held Sunday, August 15, 2021, at Kingdom Life Fellowship. The program participants were former mayors Otis Johnson and Edna Branch Jackson, as well as current Mayor Van R. Johnson, in addition to Jones. Joseph Silver, president of Silver & Associates, an education consulting firm, moderated the forum.
A diverse audience heard the panel make suggestions about how the community should go forward on a variety of issues.
“Once you become an elected official, you have to think about all of the people,” said Jackson, as she recalled the importance of mayors representing the entire community, not just one group.
Mayor Van Johnson talked about how important it is to be good leadership role models for younger people who look up to past and current leaders as they aspire to become public servants.
“People are watching us,” the current mayor said.
One topic discussed was the issue of race relations in Savannah. Former mayors Otis Johnson and Jackson encouraged current local leaders to come together to get things done. “We need to have more conversations about race,” Jackson said.
The Savannah Yamacraw ASALH branch was founded in 1977 during a meeting initiated by civil rights leader W.W. Law. Carolyn Blackshear is the branch president.