Don’t Look Back

Upon launching Beyond Her this past January, I began compiling a list of notable women I wanted to interview for the site. This list of admirable women whom I have admired up close and afar all seemed like perfect candidates to share wisdom from their cups that runneth over. 

I didn’t want stiff and rigid conversations with these women about their accomplishments or the obvious things that gave them notoriety. Instead, I wanted to chat with them as their sister and friend. I wanted them to dig into the wellspring of their heart to talk about hardships, setbacks and cultivating the spiritual landscape of their lives.

When Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms took her oath of office as the newly elected Mayor of Atlanta on January 2, 2018, I knew she was going to be the first woman we turned our camera lens. Beautiful and poised, energetic and thoughtful with her words, she embodied everything you envision in a leader. She radiated light, and that was different coming from the politicians I was accustomed to seeing. When she agreed to take an interview on the only available day her busy schedule would allow, I jumped for joy.

Before the interview, the humble and personable Mayor Bottoms emerged from her office in her ballet flats to see if we were ready and to say hi. She gave me a warm smile, followed by a hug and said to knock on the door and let her know when we were done putting the finishing touches on lighting and she was good to go.  I knew at that moment; this was going to be everything I envisioned. 

Although I was prepared to have an hour-long conversation with the Mayor, the duty of service called for me to cut the interview in half.  With a few minutes to spare, before Mayor Bottom emerged from her office, I quickly tossed questions that seemed less relevant and reframed the pace by which I would lead the conversation. At that moment, I said to myself, “Rise to the occasion, Brandi Harvey.”

Upon sitting down, I informed Mayor Bottoms that this interview was not to discuss her first 100 days in office, nor her stance on public policy measures. This conversation was to examine the journey through womanhood, motherhood, career and spiritual callings. We wanted to know her heart and the love that drives her to greatness.

From sorority life as members of Delta Sigma Theta to the things our Mothers said about the young men we dated in the past; we found common ground that made me feel like we were old acquaintances who just needed to catch up on a Wednesday afternoon.

What I loved most about Mayor Lance-Bottoms is her willingness to share the moments that don’t make the evening news. From one of the biggest arguments with her husband before entering the mayoral race to her struggles with infertility, she quietly tells her truth straight from her heart. I was surprised to hear a politician share anything but perfectly framed family stories but, Mayor Bottoms helped me understand, that she was here to teach us all a lesson in how to journey BEYOND perceptions.

Often, we believe we have people pegged a certain way. We think we know their lives, the matters of their hearts and the level of adversity they have faced in their climb to success. We examine perfectly coiffed hair and well-maintained clothes and assume that no hardships could have ever befallen their heads. As we engage in intimate conversations, we learn that real authenticity comes from moments of transparency and having an open heart.

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms proves that the future is female and her journey BEYOND is awe inspiring. May you find your superpower, dream big and silently listen to the voice within for guidance and grace.


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