Hashim Walters is a New Orleans native with dreams and aspirations as big as the next adolescent. In addition to pursuing a mass communications degree, he spent a lot of his time being a leader at Birmingham-Southern College and after graduating in May of 2017, he ran for mayor of his beloved city at the age of 22.
Adolescent: At what point did you say “I’m going to run for mayor of New Orleans”?
Hashim Walters: It’s crazy how it started. Something that I would tell my friends and advisors in college is that I wanted to run for mayor of New Orleans by senior year. Honestly, I don’t remember saying that, but I began to put things together my sophomore year. I did a lot of research on the dates and deadlines of the election and what it would take to register as a candidate. I thought about how old I would be and whether I would graduate on time. I also did research on some of the biggest issues in New Orleans and those that affected young people. I did that for three years and then my senior year I said, “Okay, I’m going to go and step out on faith.”
Adolescent: Have you always been interested in politics?
Hashim: I got into politics when I was 16. I was approached by one of my mentors in high school, and he wanted me to join SGA. I joined and was extremely excited because I had never participated in student government before. I became the secretary that year, but we still needed a president. There was a vote, and I was elected. As exciting as it was, it was also very nerve-racking. I had no experience with SGA and didn’t feel qualified to be president, but I took on the task. I loved it from day one and realized that politics was what I wanted to do with my life.
Adolescent: What did it feel like to be one of the youngest mayoral candidates in the U.S. at the time?
Hashim: I was one of the youngest at the time for a major metropolitan city. Another was Ken Snapp, a friend of mine who ran for mayor of Detroit. He was 21 years old. We were running at the same time, and it was a great experience. I wouldn’t take it back for the world. There were a couple of times when people thought that I was too young, but I told them that it’s time to let young people have a seat at the table. It’s long overdue. You’re never too young to make a change. Change can happen anywhere and with anyone. I think we changed a lot of minds about young people’s place in politics.
Adolescent: Why do you think it’s important for young people to be involved in politics?
Hashim: Although numbers have shown that we’re not too active at the polls, I think that the situation that we are in has forced us to get involved. The things happening in the White House are horrible and detrimental to the progress that we’ve made. I think young people are the ones who spark change and that we can change our country for the better. Social media and technology allow us to connect with each other in better ways than ever, and we have to learn how to use it to our benefit. Our message is that we will no longer stand by while politicians make selfish decisions. We have to vote them out. We need to be loud. Politicians who don’t want to see the world progress need to be voted out. The situation that we are in right now is very serious, but I think that we can make an impact.
Adolescent: You ran as an independent, correct?
Adolescent: How do you feel about the major bipartisan conflict going on in the U.S.? Did that influence your decision to run as independent?
Hashim: I believe that both sides are clearly at odds, and I believe that young people are making the case for being truly independent. I don’t think that our generation necessarily resonates with the Democratic or Republican party. We’re in a situation where nothing is really getting done on either side. I think both sides need a complete rehash. New methods need to be developed. Young people are saying that there’s no sense in having these differences. Humanity should be put first.
I ran as an independent because I didn’t resonate with either party. I consider myself a man of the people’s party. I said that many times throughout my campaign. I wanted a campaign completely dedicated to the people and justice. I think many agreed with that. A lot of people believe that there’s no other option beside Republican or Democrat and that’s not true. I think that it’s up to young people to break this mentality. In the end, young people have always had a sense of independence throughout history. We’ve always had a sense of change, and I think that we’re challenging the idea that party politics should be put over people.
Adolescent: What does the future look like for you in politics?
Hashim: My dream is still to become mayor of New Orleans but in the meantime, I’m doing what I can to make sure that people aren’t forgotten. I’m working with the city council, and I want to make sure that young people and the generations after us have the resources to help themselves. It’s very important to me. I’m young, but I have an obligation to do something now.
Hashim currently works for the New Orleans City Council and is an active member of his community. He is focused on lending a hand and listening to what others have to say.