First Person: How Black women organizers in Georgia inspired me to action

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Tara Young knocked on hundreds of doors in Georgia over the holidays. (Courtesy Photo)

As a politically engaged Detroiter, I felt relieved by the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. I work for SEIU Local 1 as an External Coordinator. My organization and hundreds of union members joined forces with Detroit labor to flip Michigan back to blue in the most recent presidential election. 

We worked hard and accomplished our goal. As election results across the country trickled in, I paid attention. 

Black and working people had been successful at turning states with a Republican stronghold into Democratic wins. Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan flipped. States like Arizona and Georgia, that were solidly red, are now emerging as blue states. 

At the same time, I felt disgusted by senators who bragged about blocking President Barack Obama’s agenda and were threatening to impede the election certification of president-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. But there was hope in Georgia.

In Georgia, runoff elections are required for all congressional, state executive, and state legislative elections in which a candidate does not receive a majority in the general election. The top two finishers in the general election advance to the runoff. Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock would take on Republican senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler for a Jan. 5, 2021 showdown that would ensure Democratic control of the U.S. senate.  

At first, I planned to work the phones or send postcards from my apartment in Detroit. However, I knew Stacey Abrams, the founder of Fair Fight Action, and Latosha Brown, co-founder of Black Voters Matter, two Black women, were actively working to turn out the vote. I had to do more. 

A week later, I was on vacation and knocking on doors in Georgia. 

From day one, I knew something different was happening. I have worked on political campaigns before. Knocking on doors is hard work. You are going to a stranger’s home and disturbing them — however important you believe the reason is. 

So when I knocked and read my script about Reverend Warnock and Ossoff, everyone stopped me and said — we voted by mail, or we have a voting plan, which they proudly shared. 

One voter surprised me when she said I was the fourth person who had knocked on her door.  I quickly apologized and she interrupted me and said, “No, that’s OK. This election is too important. Continue knocking no matter what people say to you.”

Change is happening in Georgia. We canvassed on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day, and received the same response but with holiday greetings. I even got a to-go plate — the family insisted.

Inspired by the Black women who created the plan to win Georgia, I knocked on hundreds of doors. 

Black women are at the forefront of so many of this country’s political organizations, working tirelessly and strategically. SEIU is one and it values Black Women. Brandice Mullen was recently named the Director of SEIU Local 1 and Charlesetta Wilson is Internal Member Services Director.  I plan and manage all external campaigns for the local and we count thousands of Black women in our membership. We understand organizing, like Abrams, who has worked for ten years to build a coalition to create lasting change in her state.

This week, Georgia sent two senators — who support unions, justice reform, voting rights, immigration rights and many other important issues — to Washington, D.C. 

I want to harness this same energy in the upcoming elections in Detroit. I’m grateful for my experience in Georgia and to all those Black women who inspired me. Detroit We Got Next.


Tara J. Young is chair of BridgeDetroit’s Community Advisory Council. Beginning the first Saturday of February she will have a featured segment aired every first and third Saturday at 9:30 a.m. on “On the Line with Rev. Horace Sheffield.” The show airs on Detroit 910 AM Superstation from 8 to 10 a.m..  Segment #TaraTheAdvocate will showcase bold commentary about activism, organizing, and politics. You can contact her directly at 411@TaraTheAdvocate.com

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