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Georgia: Looking for the answer to a victory

Magdaleno Rose-Ávila  |  Issue: February 2021

Punching a hole through the darkness

Jon Ossof and Rev. Raphael Warnock
Earthshaking victory in Georgia
Jon Ossof, Georgia’s first Jewish Senator and Rev. Raphael Warnock, Georgia’s first Black Senator. The victory handed control of Senate to Democrats.
Facebook Photos and Video Stills

The years 2020 and 2021 expose the interior walls of what had been a strong Red state that was easily in the pocket of the Republican Party: Georgia. But something knocked down the doors we saw an electorate waiting to be freed. For years, their voices were silenced by racism, voter and economic oppression. But this community of color, sprinkled with good progressives, would not lose hope.

Every movement has faced defeat at the polls, in contract negotiations, in the media and yet we continued to find ways to live and, yes, thrive. There is an old Indigenous Mexican saying: “They thought they could bury us, but we were seeds. Yes, and as seeds we would sprout again.

Two years ago, Stacey Abrams ran for governor of Georgia after years of grassroots organizing and voter registration by herself and others. Her opponent at the time was the Secretary of State of Georgia; he refused to recuse himself. What he did in effect was to suppress the vote so that Abrams could not be elected.

Georgia voters
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In many instances, a losing candidate disappears into the political woodwork. But Abrams knew that this struggle for a fair fight was bigger than herself. She and others went back to work educating and organizing communities of color, youth and decent-minded citizens.

We moved to Georgia in February of 2020. We had lived in Atlanta during 1985-88 when I worked with Amnesty International. During that time, I worked the 13 Southern bible-belt/death penalty states and got to work with Coretta Scott King, the Rev. Joe Lowery (then Director of SCLC), Concerned Black Clergy, NAACP and many progressive communities.

Since that time there has been a sea change in the demographics of Georgia. There were major increases in the Black and Latino communities. Also, there was a new and more progressive and diverse youth population coming up which did not accept the norms of yesterday.

Earthshaking victory in Georgia
FB photos and video stills

The demonstrations around the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and many others drew tens of thousands of youthful demonstrators for many days joining Black Lives Matter demanding justice and an end to racism. And at almost every event there were folks doing voter registration.

We all knew that the 2020 presidential election was crucial and that we would all need to involve ourselves. Little did we know that the pandemic would change our organizing and campaigning so historically embedded into our election cycles. We could not have the person-to-person contacts we were accustomed to having.

Quickly we would find ourselves getting organized by Abrams, the NAACP, Lean Left, Indivisible, Latino groups, unions and others.

The Biden/Harris win surprised everyone, especially the Trump campaign. The result was also that given the votes that the two Senatorial seats would be in a runoff to be held on January 5. This was difficult given the various holidays and office closings.

There was a most creative campaign by the Democratic Party with so many elements that we were able to pull out voters a second time. Historically, there is a low turnout for special elections in a particular the communities of color. But this time the ground game was strong and effective.

It is incredible that a Black man and a young Jewish man have been elected senators from a reliably Red state. Next up is electing a strong and smart Black woman as governor and making serious changes to the state legislature.

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