Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms is speaking out about the drug arrest and incarceration of her famous father, soul singer Major Lance, and how it shaped the political career path she would ultimately carve for herself.
“I never talked about it,” Bottoms, 49, told Yahoo News about the personal impact of her father’s arrest. “There was a lot of shame. Maybe once or twice I talked about it publicly and once or twice privately.”
Once Bottoms did go public about her father’s arrest, she realized she had a lot in common with folks in her community.
“A lot of times, especially when we’re elected officials, we feel the need to dial back who we really are and what our experiences are,” Bottoms said. “It wasn’t just my story; it’s our story — it’s a lot of people’s story.”
The famed mayor said the “worst day” of her life was discovering her father’s side hustle: dealing drugs.
During a police raid of the family’s home, she recalled her dad being escorted out “with his hands behind his back” and telling his daughter “it was going to be OK,” Bottoms said. “There were just men all over our house, and they had torn everything apart. My toys were in a cardboard box, and they had torn that up.”
The police ordered Bottoms and her siblings to sit on the living room couch as they continued to ransack the apartment.
“We sat there for hours and cried and eventually my sister and brother got up, but I was afraid to move because they’d told us we’d be in trouble if we did,” Bottoms said. “That day was the death of our family. My parents divorced while my dad was in prison. We were never a family unit again.”
Lance was sentenced to 10 years, but only served four years behind bars, and moved from one Georgia prison to another.
“I chuckle about this now, but wherever he was is where I would say he was living,” Bottoms said. “Oh, yeah, my dad’s living in Columbus now, or Jackson, or Eatonton. You talk about the shame of my 8-year-old mind.”
Following his release from prison, Lance suffered multiple health ailments until he died of heart failure at the age of 55.
Bottoms would go on and forge a personal bond with Xochitil Bervera, director of the Racial Justice Action Center, and activist Marilynn Winn, who helped her understand the inner workings of criminal justice reform.
“We weren’t always in lockstep,” Bervera said of Bottoms. “She came and asked about criminal justice reform. She said to us, ‘I want to know more. Teach me more.’”
Bottoms used her famous father’s arrest to fuel her passion for criminal justice reform.
This article continues at Yahoo News.