Montana Elects Its First-Ever African-American Mayor

On November 7, voters across the U.S. seemed to express their revulsion at Trump’s divisive and bigoted politics and elected a swath of diverse candidates.

In one of the most remarkable wins, Wilmot Collins, a Liberian-American, unseated 16-year incumbent Jim Smith to become mayor of Helena, making him the first black mayor in official Montana history. (Helena elected an African-American mayor in 1874, before the city was incorporated and 16 years before Montana became a state.)

Collins’ story is riveting and inspirational.

He and his wife Maddie fled war-torn Liberia in 1990. When they reached Ghana, they were rushed to hospital, starving and sick. Collins weighed in at 90 pounds, his wife at 87.

They arrived in Helena four years later, petitioned successfully for refugee status, worked hard to become U.S. citizens and have remained in Montana’s capital city ever since.

Wilmot Collins is now a child protection specialist for the Montana Department of Health and Human Services and Maddie Collins is a registered nurse. They have two grown children. 

Collins ran on a platform of increasing funding for public safety and he especially wants to address the issue of homelessness in Helena, particularly among veterans and teens.

His election is striking and brings much-needed hope for the future.

As The Guardian points out:

“Montana is not the whitest state in America; nearly 7% of its 1 million residents are Native American. But it is by far the least black, ranking dead last, with less then one percent of the state’s residents being African American.

That, coupled with reputational stains like the white supremacist Richard Spencer’s short-term, but exceptionally high-profile residency in the north-west of the state, led to a collective gasp nationwide on news of Collins’ election.”

Let’s add in here that Montana has voted Republican in the last 10 presidential elections, with the exception of 1992. However, the cities of Montana are mostly left-leaning, while rural areas are solidly Republican.

Here’s what Collins had to say of his victory:

“What I think the community is saying is, ‘we don’t care about the color of your skin, your creed, your sexual orientation, we are looking for the best possible candidate to move us forward’ and they believed I was the one.”

Donald Trump, are you listening? The residents of Helena are telling you to move on from your bigoted, racist policies.

“After last night’s historic firsts for many leaders across the country, Wilmot is confident that the future of this country favors a union of people from all different walks of life,” a campaign spokesperson said in a statement.

As Care2’s Robin Marty discusses here, today’s voters are fired up with disgust at the current administration’s hate-filled attitudes toward so-called ‘minorities’ and want a government that represents all of us. 

That’s why on election night, we saw a slew of African-Americans, Latinas, trans women and men, Muslims and Sikhs, Asian-Americans and other ‘minorities’ winning at all levels across the country. 

As an immigrant from the U.K., I see another important takeaway. The U.S. has been seen as a welcoming place to make a new start by people fleeing political and economic violence. I wasn’t escaping a civil war in my country, but the U.S. provided me the much-needed opportunity to re-make myself in a new place.

But our current POTUS continually ramps up the hatred against immigrants and refugees. 

“Coming here provided me a second chance. A second chance at life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That second chance provided me family,” Collins said earlier this year, in response to Trump’s first ban on immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries entering the U.S.

“There isn’t any evidence of refugees in the United States of America actually committing terrorism acts. When we label refugees as that we are lying to the world. We are lying to the public,” Collins said.

In spite of the lack of evidence, Trump’s chief of staff John Kelly last week suggested that between zero and one refugees should enter the U.S. each year.

A huge shout-out to Helena, Montana and to Wilmot Collins for rejecting that message of hate.

Here’s Collins’ advice to refugees: “I will tell them that you have to have thick skin. There will be people that will say things that aren’t true about you. But there are more decent people in this state than there are bigots. There are more decent people in this state than there are racists.”

Congratulations and thank you, Wilmot Collins!

Photo Credit: Screenshot from YouTube video

45 comments

Stephanie s
Stephanie s5 days ago

Too this long?

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Winn A
Winn A28 days ago

:-)

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Winn A
Winn Aabout a month ago

Congratulations!!!

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Joan E
Joan Eabout a month ago

Congratulations.

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Just Human
Just Humanabout a month ago

Go Montana! Moving to Montana soon, gonna be a dental floss tycoon (FZ)

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HEIKKI R
HEIKKI Rabout a month ago

THANK YOU

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One Heart inc
One Heart incabout a month ago

Thanks!!!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cABVKIPk_u0

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Marija M
Marija Mabout a month ago

Surprise, surpride...

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Danuta W
Danuta Wabout a month ago

Thanks for sharing

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Tania N
Tania Nabout a month ago

Thank you.

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