Stacey Abrams Urges NAACP to Plan, Pursue and Persist in Fight for Justice

Natalie McNeal

Every American must count in the voting booth and on the 2020 Census, former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams told the NAACP on Monday at the organization's 110th national convention in Detroit.

"We’ve got to start putting in place voter registration efforts today,” Abrams told the audience of about 1,000 at the Clarence M. Mitchell Jr. Memorial Luncheon. “We’ve got to make sure that the census is not just a conversation but an action plan that we are pursuing, that we’re already talking about what’s going to happen.”

Since running for Georgia’s governorship and narrowly losing in 2018, Abrams has raised her profile and become a big draw in Democratic circles. She delivered the Democratic rebuttal to the State of the Union address this year and has often been nudged into running for higher office.

However, Abrams said Monday that “Victory isn’t just about getting an office.” She is spending a substantial amount of time working on fighting voter suppression and championing get-out-the-vote efforts.

“This [was never] about me winning an election,” Abrams said. “It’s about transforming the electorate so that everyone in Georgia understood their power.”

Abrams ran down her Georgia election stats to the audience.

“Victory is about tripling the Latino turnout in the state of Georgia in 2018; victory is about tripling the Asian/Pacific Islander turnout in the state of Georgia in 2018. It’s about increasing the youth participation rate by 139 percent,” Abrams said.

“Victory was also about dispelling a myth that is told about our people time and again, that Black people have maxed out their promise. And maxed out their purpose,” she said. “We were told that we hit the ceiling of Black participation in Georgia because Obama ran and, well, that was it. I love President Obama. I voted for him every time he stood, but I know how many Black people live in Georgia. I know how many … Black people live in Georgia who deserve access to education, access to healthcare, access to economic security. And I knew that they were waiting for one more opportunity to make their voices heard.”

Abrams mentioned how some Georgians were followed home by authorities, had their offices raided and were under investigation for voting.

Abrams, a Mississippi native and Spelman College graduate, opened the keynote discussing how she, NAACP President Derrick Johnson and former NAACP President Benjamin Jealous worked together to stop historically Black college Mississippi Valley State University from being closed by the state in the 1990s. The school is still open. The lesson she learned then as a college co-ed?

“When you fight, you can win,” Abrams said.

D’Aungillique Jackson, 21, traveled from Fresno, Calif. to the convention to hear Abrams speak.

“I know that you’re not supposed to have idols, but I feel Stacey Abrams is the closest I have come to having one,” said Jackson, a student at California State University. “The way that she fights for grassroots organizing and represents individual power is so inspiring to me.”

Jackson is particularly impressed by how Abrams has opted to focus on organizing around fighting voter suppression after getting asked to run for president.

“So many people get onto that national stage and they are no longer connected to their people,” Jackson said. People like Abrams are “what separates a politician from a public servant.”

Natalie P. McNeal is the author of The Frugalista Files: How One Woman Got out of Debt Without Giving Up the Fabulous Life.

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