Georgia Domestic Workers Come Together For Stacey Abrams
By Sofy Robertson
Georgia is home to governor candidate, Stacey Abrams, the first black woman minority leader of the Georgia State House of Representatives.
In this county, black domestic workers – nannies, house-keepers and home care workers – are spending their evenings knocking on doors for Stacey Abrams, who, if elected, would be the first black female governor in the history of the nation.
Using a canvassing app called MiniVAN, the canvassers are able to skip over houses inhabited by white people and target the voters of colour. Just over half of this immigrant-heavy county is non-white, but they are rare and sporadic voters ― so turning out the vote here could be crucial to Abrams’ election in what is now a razor-thin race against Republican Brian Kemp.
The canvassers work can be dangerous, causing the women to always remain in eye-shot of each other while canvassing. Occasionally, the app fails them and they encounter a house with a Confederate flag or some other white supremacist symbol. Sometimes there are run-ins with their fellow Georgians.
More than 300 domestic workers in Georgia, almost all of whom are black women, are running the largest independently funded ground game in the state ahead of this historic election. Their organisation, Care in Action, is the political arm of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, which represents 2.5 million domestic workers across the country. As part of their campaign, they are talking to voters of colour in four critical counties, from the Atlanta suburbs to rural southwest Georgia.
Nikema Williams, a state senator and the Georgia state director of Care in Action, says:
“Yes, we want to get Stacey elected, but it’s not just about getting a person elected. It’s about reclaiming our power, reclaiming our voice and making sure that our issues are uplifted, because we are living these issues every day as women of colour here in the South.” (Huffington Post)
Abrams’ election would directly and indirectly improve the lives of domestic workers. If elected, she would expand Medicaid, she supports requiring a living wage across Georgia and has a plan to reintegrate incarcerated people into society and guarantee access to quality public education for all children.
Abrams is the first candidate Care in Action has ever endorsed since Dorothy Lee Bolden, friend and neighbour of Martin Luther King Jr., founded the National Domestic Workers Union in 1968.
Abrams’ candidacy in Georgia comes at a time when women of colour are undeniably winning difficult elections for Democrats in the South. Senator Doug Jones (D-Ala.), for instance, defeated Republican Roy Moore in a special election last year, thanks mostly to the turnout among black women.
Their decision to come together is especially critical in Georgia at present, Abrams’ opposing candidate, Kemp, has been caught engaging in multiple attempts to suppress the black vote. Earlier this month, a report found that over 53 000 voter applications in Georgia, nearly 70% of which were from black people, were being stalled in Kemp’s secretary of state office, which oversees elections. Rolling Stone reporter Jamil Smith recently obtained audio of Kemp saying that Abrams voter turnout operation “continues to concern us, especially if everybody uses and exercises their right to vote.”
In a climate that is so racially charged, it would be a tremendous relief for women of colour in Georgia to see someone running their state who looks like they do and understands the lives they live.
Unlike previous candidates, Abrams is able to talk about the issues of her constituency from experience. She grew up in poor Mississippi, one of six children to working-class parents. She went on to graduate from Yale Law School but remains $200 000 in debt. Her brother struggles with drug addiction and has been in and out of jail. Her campaigns, therefore, to reduce student debt, expand access to substance abuse treatment and mental health services and rehabilitate incarcerated people all come from a place of experience and understanding.
Denise Small, a 50-year-old retired nurse who now cares for an elderly family member, is one of the canvassers for Abrams. When asked if she thinks that Georgia is ready for a candidate like Abrams, she responded:
“Oh, hell yeah. I think it’s time. Because the people that practice humanity in this world, they’re looking for someone who’s looking out for them.”