We are on our way home. We were blessed to be part of the most politically important day of our lives. I don’t mean that feeble attempt at a coup d’etat Wednesday in Washington. That was a loser’s last-ditch effort to maintain his hold on the headlines. When those patriarchal white supremacist Nazi hooligans stumbled into our nation’s Capitol at least five people died. It was tragic as well pathetic.
I mean the real revolution. In Georgia where new American heroes Stacey Abrams, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, Senators-elect Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, African American sororities and fraternities, suburban housewives, Fair Fight Action and Stand Up and Vote, knocked on doors, made phone calls, held online rallies, organized. They created a groundswell that resulted in the largest turnout ever for a run-off election, over 4.2 million voters, out of 5 million in the general.
While Nero fiddled for his sheep, cajoling them to overthrow the Congress, solid election victories by Warnock and Ossoff assured that Democrats will control the Senate. We spent about an hour at the Ponce de Leon Library, a major polling station in a multiracial community. There was no waiting line, one or two voters showed up every five minutes. Some organizers provided free hot wings, water, candy, snacks and great music.
Over at the C.T. Martin Recreation Center it was a different story. We spent a couple of hours observing, talking and celebrating. There were always 15-20 people waiting in line. It took about 40 minutes to go through. Eighty percent of the voters were African American women of all ages. We could tell by the kind of questions they asked that many were first timers. Abrams said that there were over 100,000 new voters for the run-off who had not voted in the general election. Stand Up and Vote organized a great party with social distanced dancing. There was music, candy and of course masks and hand sanitizer.
Celestine, one of the workers, said they were trying to make the event special.
“Our people have worked hard for the right to vote. Some of our ancestors have been jailed and killed for it. We want to be sure that people, especially young people, understand that voting is more than a perfunctory routine. It is a sacred obligation paid for by the blood and sweat of our ancestors. Georgia is just the beginning. This is a movement. We are going to create organizations like this all over the South led by the people”
By early evening it was clear to us that the Dems were going to win. On Monday we had paid our respects at tomb of Coretta and Martin Luther King outside of Ebenezer Baptist Church. We decided to visit another sacred place, South-View Cemetery. It had been built by African Americans during the 19th century after they had been ill-treated at Atlanta’s white cemetery. We stood at the foot of the recently dug, surprisingly modest grave.
We said prayers over the remains of Congressman John Lewis.
Perhaps, more than any other single person, John was the reason this revolution was coming to fruition. In 1965, his skull was cracked by the police as he marched across the Edmund-Pettus Bridge in Selma. The world saw it. President Johnson saw it. Johnson promised, “we shall overcome.” A few months later Congress passed the Voting Rights Act. John’s long walk to freedom led to the ballot box at C.T. Martin’s and a hundred, a thousand, other places like it.
On Tuesday, Jo and I were not the only ones thinking of John Lewis. There were “GA — we voted” stickers all over the place.
We know on whose shoulders we stand. We also know whose hands we are in — Black women. They won this victory by organizing, organizing, organizing … in the middle of a pandemic no less. Their children are being killed by police and racists. Their families are in the direct path of this pandemic. Their jobs were cut first. They are the front-line workers. They know what to do about it. Defund the police? No, Defund all of white supremacy! Thank you for saving our Democracy, Sisters.
Charles Dumas is a lifetime political activist, a professor emeritus from Penn State, and was the Democratic Party’s nominee for U.S. Congress in 2012. He lives with his partner and wife of 50 years in State College.