Vi Lyles made history in Charlotte on the 7th of November by being elected as the city's first African American mayor. With 59% of the vote, she defeated Republican Kenny Smith who received 41% of votes. This is yet another win for Democrats in Charlotte, where Democrats have won five back to back mayoral races, ending with Pat McCrory.
According to her website, Lyles mother Mary was a teacher and her father Robert owns a construction company. Growing up in Columbia, South Carolina, she thought that by moving to a big city, she wouldn't face the same type of racism and discrimination she did back home. Unfortunately, Charlotte was no different at the time, and this inspired her to work towards creating a better living environment for everyone.
With 30 years of experience in city government and public service in Charlotte, her list of accomplishments include working for underrepresented neighborhoods and increasing investment towards affordable housing. Lyles received her Bachelor of Arts in political science from Queens University and graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a Masters of Public Administration.
Lyles' win is a huge step towards a more inclusive and progressive Charlotte. Being the largest city in North Carolina, it is becoming more and more diverse every day. The large population of minorities in Charlotte have not had much representation throughout the years, so seeing a woman of color take on such an important role will have a huge impact in the community. Better representation means better laws for those forgotten, and more importance on issues that other mayors wouldn't have really thought about.
Personally, her win means a lot to me for various reasons. Being a woman and a minority myself, I look up to her because she was able to overcome barriers I familiar with. I am usually the only Hispanic in most of my classes, and truthfully sometimes it is a little intimidating. Also, I am studying political science and I know that it is hard for women to be in politics because we are underestimated, even if we are just as qualified as a man applying for the same job (take the case of Hillary Clinton). Representation really does matter, and when we see someone who looks like us achieve their dreams, it shows us that anything is possible through hard work.
Vi Lyles's win was just one of several historic wins across the country in Tuesday night's elections. In Minneapolis, Andrea Jenkins became the first open transgender person of color to win a seat in the city's council. In Hoboken, New Jersey, Ravinder Bhalla was elected as the city's first Sikh mayor and in Seattle, Jenny Durkan won as the city's first lesbian mayor.