A University of Georgia doctoral student was sworn in as a county commissioner on Monday using a copy of “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” instead of a Bible.

As 26-year old Mariah Parker was sworn in as Athens-Clarke County Commissioner on the steps of the Athens City Hall, she raised her right fist and placed her left hand on the Malcolm X book, which was held by her mother, Mattie Parker, The Atlanta-Journal Constitution reported.

“They asked if I would like the Bible and I said no. My mother asked if there was a copy of the Constitution around. No,” Parker said. “I wanted Malcolm’s book. I think they saw it coming.”

Photos of Parker during her swearing-in ceremony have been making waves on social media.

Published weeks following the assassination of Malcolm X in 1965, his autobiography, which was co-written with Alex Haley, is considered by many critics and scholars as one of the most important autobiographies of the 20th century.

According to the AJC, the book “mapped Malcolm X’s conversions from a poor boy who saw his father murdered, to a drugged-addled jailed criminal, to the face of one of the most misunderstood religious orders in the country, to a vocal civil rights leader who would ultimately become a martyr.”

Parker noted how his story inspired her.

“Having seen the transformation of someone who came through a difficult background to become vocal and push conversations on race in a radical way is powerful,” Parker said. “Then he shifted course and saw race in a different lens as he got older. And the fact that he was arguably killed for his politics. These are things that I want to embrace.”

Parker, a doctoral student in language and literacy education, said she did not finish reading Malcolm X’s book until about a year ago. Having grown up poor in rural Kentucky, overcome substance abuse and struggled with mental illness, Parker drew parallels between her life and his.

“I was very lucky to break away from some of the generational patterns, by going to college and getting out of the town,” said Parker. “But I struggled and I thought people only looked at me as having nothing to offer.”

After perceiving a need for vocal leadership, Parker, a progressive who describes herself as openly queer, decided to run for office. Parker won by 13 votes after running on a platform of economic justice, reducing poverty and discrimination, affordable housing, fair wage jobs, youth development, criminal justice reform and marijuana reform.

“Malcolm’s willingness to uneditedly speak about black people at large, are qualities that I want to embody,” Parker said. “To speak out when I see things going wrong.”

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