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'If you want to be it, you have to see it first': Grand Prairie has 2 Black city council members for first time in city's history

"We do need young people willing to take that step and be active in public office," Steve "Junior" Ezenou said, the youngest elected Grand Prairie city councilmember

GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas — Grand Prairie will have two Black men serving as city council members for the first time in the city's more than 100 years of existence.

An election was held on May 1, 2021, for terms ending in May 2021. A runoff election of the top two candidates for District 6 and 8 was held on June 5, 2021.

With 53.4% of the votes in the run-off, Kurt Johnson won the city council district 6 seat, and with 51.2% of the votes, Steve "Junior" Ezeonu won city council district 8 at large seat. This means Ezeonu was elected city-wide, not just by his district.

This is the first time Grand Prairie will have two Black city council members serving at the same time.

"You win with diversity," Johnson said. "I've traveled around the world and had the opportunity to learn and grow from other cultures. That can strengthen a city. We want everyone to have someone to take new ideas from."

Ezenou is also 22 years old, making him the youngest ever city councilmember in Grand Prairie history. He and his family moved from Nigeria to America when he was 2 years old.

"We do need young people willing to take that step and be active in public office," Ezenou said. "I want to give back. I want to make other people's lives better."

Ezenou said he believes God calls people to improve their communities, which is a big reason why he pursued public office at such a young age.

"Diverse representation is important," Ezenou said. "I think that especially for the youth to see someone that looks like them and has a similar background to them can make a huge impact. If you want to be it, you have to see it first."

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The first Black man elected to Grand Prairie's city council was James Kellum. He served from 1979-1981 and then again in 1983-1989. 

"Grand Prairie has been good for me," Kellum said. "I've raised my family here. It's a good city. It's a growing city. It's a progressive city. Some of the finest people are living here."

Kellum also sent his congratulations to both Ezenou and Johnson, saying that he sees both of these men as qualified and deserving of these positions.

"I think it's important for anyone to have a heart to serve," Kellum said. "I think it requires a lot of work, a lot of thought and a lot of sacrifice. I think Grand Prairie is in a great place."

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Ed Hemphill was then elected and served from 1990-1994. He served in the Navy from 1971-1975. He first met Johnson 15 years ago, as he is also served in the Navy.

"I'm elated," Hemphill said. "He's a man of integrity, and I expect him to serve with integrity. I have a lot of optimism for the future of Grand Prairie."

Hemphill said having people from the Black community elected onto city councils across the country is important.

"I think it's imperative that the African American voice be heard all across this nation," Hemphill said. "I love this country, and I love everything about our system. We are about to become the next group that is truly included in the melding pot of this country."

Both Kellum and Hemphill still live in Grand Prairie and are active in the community. While Hemphill runs a real estate consulting business in downtown Grand Prairie, Kellum is retired and is still very active volunteering in the community.

"I would say we've had more of a brotherhood because of the Navy." Johnson said about his relationship with Hemphill. "We both agree growing the city and unifying the city is going to be key moving forward."Johnson said.

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Ezenou said during his time on city council, he hopes to help improve some of the lower-income areas of Grand Prairie.

"I want to bring about a different perspective," Ezenou said. "Certain parts have infrastructure that dates back to the 50s or 60s that need to be worked on. I want to be able to shed some light on that and speak up about those issues."

Johnson said he plans to work to ensure both the Grand Prairie Police Department and Grand Prairie Fire Department are fully funded and fully trained.

To see a full list of the Grand Prairie election results, you can click here.