Stacey Abrams is in familiar territory.
Less than a month out from the November General Election, the Fair Fight Action founder is crisscrossing the state of Georgia with a message she’s held onto since her 2018 campaign: every voice should be heard, and every vote should count.
In the four years since her upsetting defeat, Abrams has shown that for her, a dream deferred does not dry up. It does not fester. It does not die. Instead, it builds grit and momentum and clarity—the kind that gives one the audacity to believe that what has never been done, is still very much possible.
Abrams wants to be the first Black woman governor in the nation. But in order to make that happen, the former Minority Leader for the Georgia House of Representatives must reach those who feel overlooked—and that includes Black men. “I believe in reaching constituencies where they are,” Abrams tells EBONY during a recent phone interview. “And we know that Black men have long been ignored by politicians of every party, particularly Republicans.”
Leading up to the 2020 presidential elections, campaigns set their sights on capturing a voting bloc that has historically leaned left but has shown signs of party fatigue in recent years. Long considered a sure bet for Democratic candidates, Black men created a political paradox in 2020, with the vocal support of Donald Trump and perceived interest in Republican talking points. The move prompted those in the political sphere to create a narrative that the vote of Black men was “up for grabs” and it forced candidates to be more deliberate in their approach.
Over the last several months, Abrams has been spending considerable time engaging in discussions with Black men in a series her campaign has coined “Stacey and the Fellas.” The mutual exchange has given the author and activist an opportunity to hear what the people of Georgia need while getting face time with the constituents who have the power to make her dream a reality.
“We know that although Black voters vote fairly strongly for Democrats, it is insufficient to not always check in and make certain we're being responsive,” says Abrams. “My mission is to have conversations and to share how my plans will actually benefit and serve their needs.”
Among Abrams’ plans is a focus on education, healthcare, COVID recovery, jobs, and closing the equity gap between minority and non-minority businesses in state contracts—a move that would help to bring economic equity to the southern state and, as she points out, greatly benefit Black men. As it stands, Georgia is 33 percent African American or Black. Yet Abrams notes that Black businesses receive just 2.2 percent of the business revenue. On the state contracting side, only 7.7 percent of all minority businesses get these contracts. “That means we are not only disproportionately disinvested,” Abrams asserts, “but the access to the dollars is also almost impossible to achieve.”
Georgians having the ability to achieve greater is a common thread among the politician’s crowning campaign proposals. It ties together her efforts concerning Black men, her advocacy for voting rights and her very personal devotion to smoothing out the snags in the current education system. During our interview, Abrams expressed her concern for Black boys over the ramping up of safety resource officers in school and the lack of funding for educator salaries and educational resources.
“We know it's more likely that young Black boys are going to be disciplined more harshly and that tends to put them on the pipeline from school to prison, “ Abrams laments. “And we also know that the disinvestment in our educators means it's less likely that our kids are going to get the help they need.”
Abrams’ solution is to fully fund education starting in pre-K, and make certain that students who either don't finish high school or don't want to go on to higher education can still attend a technical college, and get access to the kinds of training that leads to middle-class jobs and middle-class income. The Spelman grad also wants to make certain that those who do wish to seek higher education can afford it.
“Georgia is one of only two states in the nation that does not provide need-based aid. And Black students are not only the most likely to not get merit aid,” Abrams says, “they're the most likely to use it.” Though funding for higher education remains an ongoing conundrum on the federal level, Abrams says in the Peach state, it shouldn’t be. “We can do all of those things with the funding we have in the state right now,” she insists.
According to the State Accounting Office, Georgia currently has a budget surplus of roughly $6.6 billion—cash that Abrams is adamant about investing in the people. “I want to make sure that we create opportunities for jobs and for small business ownership,” Abrams shares. “Every solution I offer is about how do we help people not only succeed but thrive.”
In order for Georgia to flourish, Abrams says it needs a leader that is ready to invest in it. Though the heralded leader has been down this road before, she says things are empirically different. “People are suffering,” Abrams says. And although we’re no longer under the thumb of “someone who wanted to run the country like a dictatorship,” she believes the assaults of COVID, the continuation of racial violence, and the ongoing economic anxiety have left people, Georgians exhausted.
Abrams sees an urgent need to expand health care, an urgent need for teachers to be paid a living wage, for investments to be made in Black businesses, for Black families to find stable housing, for Black boys and girls so get the kind of education that will set them up for the future, and for all Georgians to have an opportunity to build wealth —the kind that ensures a better future.
For the political titan the next few weeks come down to one central belief she’s held onto along with her gubernatorial dream: This is about values and whether we will have a Georgia for the many or a Georgia only for the privileged few.