By Keyanna Jones
Georgia gubernatorial candidate, Stacey Abrams, has launched an effort to secure the votes of Black men in Georgia. Abrams, a Democrat, started her focused conversations with Black men last month, identifying the demographic as the linchpin to the success of her campaign for Governor. According to Abrams, her drive for the Black male vote has been informed by research and statistics compiled from recent polling data. Armed with that information, she purposed to have focused conversations with Black Men in Georgia about her platform, to impress upon them why she is better suited to address and represent their issues, as governor.
Although polling data suggests that she has experienced a dip in her rating with Black men (https://www.cnn.com/election/2018/exit-polls/georgia) Stacey Abrams is no stranger to campaigns or politics. She began her political career in the Georgia House of Representatives in 2007, representing House District 89, where she served until 2017. In 2010, she made history as the first Black woman to be elected House Minority Leader in the Georgia General Assembly. In 2018, Stacey Abrams ran for governor of the state of Georgia, facing Republican, Brian Kemp in the general election (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stacey_Abrams).
Although Kemp was the Secretary of State, and in charge of overseeing that very election, he was still allowed to run as a candidate in the same election. Many in Georgia are still questioning the ethics surrounding such an allowance. Abrams lost her bid for governor, and started Fair Fight Action, a 501 (c)3 Non-profit Organization, to address the issue of voter suppression in Georgia. She is also the founder of Fair Count, Fair Districts, and New Georgia Project, which is a voter registration and engagement organization.
On Thursday, August 25, 2022, people came from across the state to the Spice House in Lithonia, GA (DeKalb County), to hear exactly what Ms. Abrams would have to say to Black men. They came with various concerns, including the lack of affordable housing; barriers to voting for returning citizens; the high cost of utilities; public safety; police-community relations and more. Moderated by Love and Hip Hop Atlanta's Young Joc, the conversation began with the most basic question of why she decided to run again, then evolved into more pointed questions surrounding specific issues.
When asked why she wants the job of Governor of Georgia, Abrams began by saying, "because I've been doing the job before I got the job." She touched on the founding of New Georgia Project, highlighting the fact that the organization came about through her efforts to secure healthcare for every Georgian. She went on to say, "for Black men in particular, Brian Kemp has done nothing to move your lives forward. That's why I want this job; and that's why I need Black men to show up.....you need someone in that seat who understands the pain that people feel. I am not running on a whim, I am running with a purpose!"
On the subject of higher education, Abrams says that she would like to create 20,000 apprenticeships where young people can earn while they learn. She also wants to restore free Technical College in GA, and ensure need-based aid is available for college students who are either food insecure or housing insecure. When it was mentioned that the current unemployment rate in Georgia is quite low, she responded, "We may have low unemployment; but there are too many of us who have multiple jobs," insisting that there are too many workers in Georgia who do not earn a living wage. She went on to talk about the low percentage of Black Entrepreneurs and said that she would implement an Entrepreneur Learner's Permit to cut the red tape to achieving entrepreneurship.
When asked directly, "What is your plan to make sure Black men and their families feel safe?" Abrams answered that she would repeal "criminal carry" and "guns everywhere," meaning that she would ensure that carrying a gun in the state of Georgia would be regulated. She then talked about addressing gun violence in the community and the root causes that contribute to crime. For some, that answer sufficed, but for others it wasn't enough. Jimmy Hill, father of Jimmy Atchison, who was murdered by former Atlanta Police Officer, Sung Kim, in 2019, was among those who were not satisfied with the answer.
He was joined by:
- Ingrid Smyrna - mother of Andrew Junior Smyrna, murdered by State Trooper Brandon Byrd in 2020
- Venethia Cook- Lewis - mother of Vincent Demario Truitt, murdered by Cobb County Police Officer Max Karneol in 2020
- Kathy Scott- Lykes - mother of Jarvis Lykes, murdered by State Trooper Michael Bradley Nolen in 2017
- Dalphine Robinson - mother of Jabril Robinson, murdered by Clayton County Officers Dwayne Parkin and Charlie McDaniel in 2016
They all showed up at the event to hear Abrams's stance on the issue of police brutality. Because they are still seeking justice for the murders of their children (who were all Black men), it was pertinent for them to know where Abrams stands on qualified immunity and whether she would push or even support legislation that holds police officers accountable who unjustly murder Georgia residents.
When asked what she would you say to those who are still on the fence about voting for her, Abrams replied:
"1) voting is not magic, it's medicine.
2) I need help - I need you to vote all the way down the ballot.
3) I need you to talk to anyone who didn't come into this room."
While there were mixed reactions to the platform and points presented by Abrams, the overwhelming majority of attendees expressed their appreciation for her willingness to engage with the community. The results of the November 08, 2022 General Election will tell whether her points landed on fertile ground, or fell onto deaf ears.