African American leaders who are making a difference

Hidden History

ODESSA, Texas (Big 2/Fox 24) – We have numerous Black leaders here in the Permian Basin working to make a difference.  Among them, two people on the Odessa City Council and a woman who’s one of the longest tenured city employees.

From the civil rights movement to an African American becoming the President of the United States, African Americans have been making reforms for decades including here in the Permian Basin.

Malcolm Hamilton, Odessa City Council Member, said, “We are a big melting pot of different individuals coming from different countries.”

The City of Odessa, though marred in history, has seen major steps over the last 20 years.  The city boasts two African American city council members and a woman who is among the longest tenured in the city.  Their goals are to continue to make the Permian Basin a better place for everyone to live.

Mari Willis, Odessa City Council Member, said, “I believe that to whom much is given much is required.”

“It gives you an opportunity to have your finger on the pulse of the community,” said Hamilton.

Hamilton has been on the Odessa City Council for three and a half years.  He wants to focus on rejuvenating the Permian Basin with business booming for every race.

“Return it at least to its prior state, where there were all kinds of minority businesses flowing throughout the neighborhood,” said Hamilton.

Willis has been on the council for about a year.  As a retired teacher, she has seen firsthand that things can still get better.

“We still have a long way to go because there are still changes that need to happen,” said Willis.

We can’t forget Darlene Mays, the Code Enforcement Education Administrator.  She has worked for the city for almost 41 years, making her one of the most familiar faces.  Over the years she learned one big thing, to not just listen but hear the other side.

“We’re going to have our disagreements but we don’t have to become disagreeable,” said Mays

They all hope to make life better for future generations.

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