Bethlehem NAACP calls for more diverse voices on city council

Written by on January 26, 2022

Bethlehem NAACP calls for more diverse voices on city council

By Megan Frank
January 26, 2022

Longtime activist Esther Lee is president of the Bethlehem NAACP. ( WLVR photo)

BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Next week, Bethlehem City Council will vote on a new member to fill the vacancy left by William Reynolds. He resigned earlier this month when he was sworn-in as mayor.

Council has been taking applications to fill the seat and the upcoming vote has sparked a conversation about a lack of diversity among members.  

Listen to the story.

In its more than 100-year history, the governing body has never had an African American serve.  It’s an issue that the Bethlehem NAACP hopes will change. 

Longtime activist and president of the Bethlehem NAACP Esther Lee says it’s “problematic” that the city has never elected or appointed an African American to City Council. 

“Everybody talks about inclusion, but they haven’t included African Americans and we’re here,” said Lee. 

According to 2020 U.S. Census data, Bethlehem’s population is mostly white.  About 25% of residents are Hispanic or Latino and fewer than 10% are African American.  

Lee says underrepresentation is an important issue to the thousands of African Americans in Bethlehem who want to be represented in local government.

“[Council should] show a balance of people and right now it doesn’t reflect that,” said Lee. 

Lee said several African Americans have run for council over the years.  She’s run six times herself.  

Council got a big shake up this year when the first all-female majority council was sworn-in.  

The city has not released information about who has applied for the vacant council seat.  

The vote takes place next Tuesday, Feb. 1. The application window closed on Jan. 25.

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