Kinder from Meadville, Walker from Aliquippa to lead the discussion
Jaime Kinder and Dwan Walker are ready to kick off an unqualified discussion with Erie about the political and social challenges of being a black mayor in Pennsylvania.
Kinder, Mayor of Meadville, and Walker, Mayor of Aliquippa, will lead the discussion “Fixing Where We Rest Our Heads: A Candid Conversation with Two African American PA Mayors on the Personal and Political” on Thursday at 6 p.m. at Erie Arts and Technology Center, 650 East Ave.
The event is part of the Jefferson Educational Society‘s summer satellite programming, which brings speakers and presentations to locations in the Erie area.
The Jefferson Educational Society at 3207 State St. describes itself as “Erie’s think tank for community advancement.”
Admission to Thursday’s event is free and a catered reception will be held following the presentation. To register in advance, go to bit.ly/3nxD78s.
According to the Jefferson Society website, “In this moderated discussion, we will hear the candid truth about the trials and successes of elected officials who are marginalized people themselves. Audiences will have the unique opportunity to hear two historic community leaders talk about what it means to “fix where you lay your head”. “
Aliquippa Mayor Dwan Walker
Walker, in a phone interview, said a major theme of his remarks would be that “everyone has to get involved in a town like Erie, or a town like Aliquippa, to effect change. Support matters. Putting money in sweat.”
Walker said he was inspired to run for mayor after his sister, Diedre, was shot and killed in 2009 by a former boyfriend in a murder-suicide at her Aliquippa apartment.
“A month before she was killed, she told me I was going to be mayor of the town,” Walker said. “She believed it, so I ran.”
Walker, who works full-time at a security systems company, earns $2,200 a year as mayor of Aliquippa. He said he “easily works at least 80 hours a week” at both jobs.
“You’re voting for people to make a difference, but that’s just the beginning,” Walker said. “The end game is for everyone in the community to get involved to make the right kind of change.”
Mayor of Meadville, Jamie Kinder
Both mayors are Democrats. Kinder made history when she was elected in November, becoming Meadville’s first black mayor and the first black female mayor in the history of the Crawford County town of about 13,000.
A longtime resident of Meadville and mother of three, Kinder, 44, attended the University of Edinboro, studying sociology and African American history. She is co-owner of a Meadville company, Evolution Printing Systems, and previously worked as a cashier, factory worker and in cleaning services at Allegheny College.
Kinder told the Meadville Tribune in March 2021 that she entered the mayoral race because she wanted to stand up for “people on all sides, not just a privileged few.
“I believe that every person’s voice matters and should be heard when it comes to their government,” Kinder said.
His campaign platform included supporting efforts to improve downtown Meadville for businesses and residents, ensuring quality public spaces and advocating for safe and affordable housing.
Walker’s deep roots in Aliquippa
Walker has served as mayor of Aliquippa since 2011. He is the first black mayor in the city’s history.
Aliquippa, with about 9,000 residents, is located about 20 miles northwest of Pittsburgh in Beaver County.
Walker, 47, is a lifelong resident of Aliquippa and attended city schools there. He graduated from Robert Morris University in 1999, where he and his twin brother Donald played football. Dwan Walker graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Communications.
Donald Walker is a member of the Aliquippa City Council.
Dwan Walker said “Politics is not for the faint of heart. We should applaud anyone who wants to do this work and make a difference. And not everything has to be an argument. Sometimes agree to disagree, but move on.”
Walker, who said he has relatives in Erie, has been a visible and outspoken mayor on a number of issues, including city finances and gun violence.
Under his leadership, the city is poised to exit the state’s Law 47 program for financially challenged cities as early as this year. Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development in April 2021 appointed the town of Aliquippa recipient of the Governor’s Award for Excellence in Local Government, which recognizes municipalities for community improvements.
State recognition:Aliquippa officials praised for economic improvement
The DCED specifically recognized the efforts of city officials to stabilize the city’s finances and strengthen its economy after years of structural deficits.
Walker also has a tattoo on his left arm in memory of his sister. He urged public officials to do more to address gun violence in Pennsylvania and across the country.
“You can’t affect the switch sitting on the sidelines,” Walker said.
Parking at ECAT is available for Thursday’s discussion, and those attending must bring proof of COVID vaccination.