Alligator, Mississippi has a new mayor. For thirty (30) years, Robert Fava has served as the tiny town’s mayor but a new day has come. Tommie ‘Tomaso’ Brown is Alligator’s mayor. In a town that is mostly Black, and with the only three businesses operating, and all owned by Whites, Mr. Brown’s win has made history.
Tommie Brown said he ran on a platform of “change.” Mr. Fava said he ran on a platform of “30 years of dedicated service.” Mr. Brown promised the residents of Alligator a swimming pool and a recreation center. Mr. Fava said he was also ready for change and stepping down is a “weight off my mind.”
Mr. Brown said he never thought a Black man could be the mayor of Alligator, but Barack Obama inspired him.
When he won, I decided that I knew the changes that needed to be made here and I thought that I could make those changes.
Among Mr. Brown’s plans for the towns is to get more government funding to give people better living conditions. He has plans for the children in the town. Without a phone or fax machine in the town, Tommie asks:
How can we communicate with the outside world and ask for things?
Much of the town was jubilant that a Black man would now mayor the town. Jennifer Green, described as a “black mother of 10,” and 31 years old, told this story about losing Mr. Fava as mayor:
Some youngsters ran into Mr Fava’s store to taunt him. “They was pulling down their pants, shouting, ’Kiss my black ass, because we got a black mayor’, swinging their things around and throwing stuff,…”
Ms. Green has her doubts about Tommie Brown:
He says there’s going to be lots of changes and everything with all these kids running around here.
But he do the same thing they do, drinking beer and stuff. You’ve got to stay at home and study the town. Alligator is the kind of place where if you leave your door open, when you come back there ain’t nothing in your house.
There’s guns. Kids knock on your door asking for a beer at three and four in the morning. I get 14-year-olds asking me if I want weed or whatever. They should have just left Mr Robert in there.
Tomaso won’t do anything about any of it. He’s going to put his hand in the cookie jar just at the wrong time and get caught.
The three businesses in town are Mary Ann’s Country Store owned by the the Fava’s, Gator’s Grocery and Diner, owned by Mr. Fava’s brother Ronnie, and Bruno’s Liquors and Convenience store owned by Fava’s cousin Vito Sbravati.
Bruno’s Liquors is a busy place, “with the scent of marijuana” in the air and the sidewalk teeming with Blacks “drinking beer and whisky and dancing to music from a boom box.” Robert Fava said Aligator is a quiet town, except when “we get that Voodoo and Rap music.” Bruno and his wife, Christine were G.W. Bush donors and Bruno’s grandfather came to America from Italy via Ellis Island. Bruno calls Tommie, “Tomaso Obama,” and Bruno says he doesn’t “go by black and white. I go by right and wrong.”
Mayor Tommie Brown’s town of Alligator, Mississippi is located about 90 miles south of Memphis.
Photo credit: Julian Simmonds