“Go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.” -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
By Erick Johnson
The fallout continues in Washington, D.C.
On Wednesday, January 13, President Donald Trump was impeached in the U.S. House for inciting the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6. The final vote to impeach was 232 to 197. Trump is the only president in U.S. history who has been impeached twice while in office. About 217 votes were needed for impeachment.
Trump will be out of office when the Senate takes up the impeachment case, but it is expected he will have a more difficult time of being acquitted the second time around. At least two-thirds of the Senate is needed to convict Trump of impeachment.
With the question of impeachment behind us, the nation again returns its focus to additional weighty matters.
Cops from other cities are being outed after joining white supremacists in storming the Capitol. Employees and executives at companies are being terminated for participating in the mayhem.
About 640 miles southwest from the Capitol is Atlanta, Georgia. Many Black folks with a Southern twang simply called it ’Lana. The city of Atlanta has long been dubbed America’s Black Mecca.
With its antebellum roots, Atlanta went from a deeply segregated town to being the capital of the Civil Rights Movement. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. harvested his army of soldiers preaching from the pulpit of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church.
In the early 1990s thousands of Blacks from across the country flocked to Atlanta, hoping to be among the many professionals climbing the corporate ladder and living the dream that was a reality only for whites.
In recent years, entertainment mogul Tyler Perry rewrote Atlanta with a new script that transformed the leafy Southern town into “Black Hollywood,” with his movies and new, multi-million-dollar mega film studio complex that hosted a debate in the Democratic Presidential Primary in 2019.
What’s happening in Atlanta and the rest of Georgia today is no movie, but a real-life blockbuster. The city has suddenly become the capital of Black political power that has connected Blacks to their past and to their King. The Peach State that was the last to become one of America’s original 13 colonial states is undergoing a dramatic change on the political landscape.
After years of voter suppression and weakened voter turnout, Blacks have emerged as a political force in Georgia, a state in the Deep South that has never before in its 232-year history elected a Black Senator to the U.S. Congress.
Now, Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff have flipped the Senate to Blue, broken the chains of white privilege in Georgia politics and transformed the Black vote into a powerful force among a new generation of millennials. They, along with Stacey Abrams and South Carolina Congressman James Clyburn and Black voters in Georgia, are the new “Dream Team.”
They defied the white political establishment and ushered in a new era of Black political power that took King’s philosophy of nonviolent social change to the polls, helping to oust Donald Trump from the White House. Their efforts gave America its first Black female vice president from a historically Black university and a predominately Democratic Senate.
With the coronavirus pandemic still rising in cities, many Blacks in America this weekend will celebrate Martin Luther King Day honoring King at home.
But in the South, King’s legacy will be especially felt in a region that has re-emerged as the epicenter of the Reverse Migration, where Blacks have returned to their roots with renewed hope, optimism and faith in political power.
The South’s Black voting bloc is credited with saving President-elect Joe Biden’s campaign from defeat in the Democratic Primary in South Carolina, and the South is where Blacks carried him to victory in Georgia.
The South is also the place where enslaved Blacks helped white landowners build the wealth of their plantations. Today, freed Blacks took down a rich, white billionaire president, who for the past four years failed to denounce white supremacy as its hateful rhetoric spread throughout the country.
Who would have thought that the South would be the Republican president’s downfall in his re-election campaign? And who would have thought Biden would be redeemed in South Carolina after Clyburn blessed him with an endorsement that eventually put him over the top during the Democratic Primary?
The election of Warnock and Ossoff, members of the Dream Team, is redefining Southern living. Blacks south of the Mason-Dixon line did more than protest the police shooting of Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta last June. They took their frustrations to the polls and made the loudest statement, one that shook up the white political establishment.
During the General Election on November 3, 2020, 21 percent of votes were cast by voters ages 18-29, making young people the age group most supportive of Biden, according to Tuft University’s Center for Information & Research On Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE).
Young Black voters in Georgia chose Biden over Trump with a margin of 90 percent to eight percent, while young white voters in Georgia backed Trump over Biden 62 percent to 34 percent, CIRCLE said.
Abrams, a lawyer and former state legislator who lost to Republican Brian Kemp in Georgia’s gubernatorial race, saw Georgia changing during her campaign.
Thousands of Blacks were moving back to Georgia from Blue states, including Illinois. They included Latinos and Asians, who normally voted Democrat.
Abrams was credited with getting an estimated 800,000 Georgia residents registered to vote. While Ossoff deployed 2,000 mostly young Black workers to help with his get-out-the vote campaign, Abrams focused heavily on voter registration drives. Another group had 1,300 volunteers who monitored polling locations to ensure that people could exercise their right to vote.
All this was done in a politically repressive state during a coronavirus pandemic where COVID-19 cases in Georgia were among the highest in the country, and notable because turnout among Black voters is usually low during non-presidential elections.
Georgia is turning into a purple state surrounded by a sea of Southern red states that often elect Republican presidents and senators. But a new political movement is growing in Georgia and may spread to South Carolina, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Arkansas as Blacks move back to their southern homelands to reclaim their heritage. As demonstrated in Georgia, fighting Trump’s hate with nonviolent trips to the polls is the best way to honor King’s legacy.
As it turned out, Black voters show- ed up in record numbers for Georgia’s Senate runoff election last week. According to the Associated Press, more than 4.4 million votes were cast, about 88 percent of the number who voted in November’s contest, when turnout was 68 percent overall.
Black voters in Georgia were the deciding force in both Democratic senatorial victories, particularly in urban and rural communities with large Black populations. Black voter turn- out was especially high in Fulton, Dekalb and Gwinnett counties, which make up Atlanta’s metro region.
According to exit polls, turnout for the Senate races was high overall, reaching more than 80 percent of the turnout in the November General Election. That rate was slightly higher in predominantly Black districts.
Roughly 93 percent of Black voters supported Ossoff and Warnock. Ossoff earned 92 percent of Black voters in the runoff election against Republican incumbent David Perdue, compared with 87 percent in November.
According to NBC data, Warnock won 92 percent of Black voters against Kelly Loeffler, a rich white multi-millionaire Republican, and WNBA owner of the Atlanta Dream, who was vocal about prohibiting the Black Lives Matter movement from erecting messages and signs during WNBA games.
How fitting it is that Warnock is the senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King preached for years. Warnock grew up in the Kayton Homes public housing projects in Savannah. According to his website, Warnock grew up with eleven brothers and sisters who were taught the meaning of hard work.
If there is one hymn that could sum up the past four months for Warnock and Black voters in Georgia, it is “We Shall Overcome.”