By Nathaniel Smith
With the November elections right around the corner, this is our moment as Black men to realize a values revolution in Georgia for our communities. In 2020, the state of Georgia proved a pivotal swing state in terms of national politics. All eyes were on us and in that moment—most Georgia voters decided that we deserved better. People voted their heart, conscious, and values. Today is no different and we need to lift our voices and votes again to disrupt systems of oppression and rise above fear.
As the leader of Partnership for Southern Equity (PSE) I have learned the most powerful antidote for fear is the transformational power of love in our pursuit of what Dr. King called the Beloved Community. During this election, we need to center justice and love as a transformational force in ways that we have never done before for the sake of current and future generations. The current attack on our democracy and civil rights is eroding our collective humanity. The divide around our values is so pervasive that if we do not act now, we may not realize true freedom in this lifetime.
The role of democracy is sacred in ensuring that we all get to live in a more perfect union and enjoy a society where all people regardless of race are free to reach their full potential and enjoy our inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. These values and ideals are what make us American, and the sacred duty of voting serves as a spiritual bridge between he sacrifices of our ancestors and the responsibility to fight for a better tomorrow for future generations.
Policies, laws, and rules are merely a representation of the values of people in power. Our present-day policies and politics are regressive. With the recent unraveling of key legislation and the encroachment of the supreme court on the rights and liberties of us all, we are moving back to the ideals of yester-year when Jim Crow segregation was the law of the land. History has proven that these were our most shameful moments as a society, yet today we stand idle and watch the fabric of our rights be unraveled by partisan politics and extreme policies covered in the stench of greed and fear.
Fact is—the truth hurts. Before we can heal as a nation, we must courageously face the shame of our past and chart a new path forward together. Therefore, we should not be spectators in shaping the present and future we all need. If we do not learn from our past, we are doomed to repeat it. Although the tactics of today are less overt, they are just as dangerous because they are resilient, invisible, private, adaptive, always on message and are frankly killing Black people who try daily to escape the system of white oppression.
Atlanta has always led the nation in appealing to its moral conscience. This unique posturing has helped us rise above economic decline when faced with civil unrest. When riots gripped the rest of nation in the wake of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., it was business leaders alongside Black clergy and Black elites who came together to stem the tide of violence by realizing the “Atlanta Way” – moving the community to the foreground in decision making. While the implications of this election will affect Atlanta and Georgia, the consequences and stakes are high for the entire nation.
I want to be clear that this piece does not aim to minimize the role of women, particularly Black women in this movement. Rather I am hoping this serves as an impassioned call to action for Black men to step up and exercise your voice and power. No candidate will win this election without the Black Male vote, and it is incumbent upon us to step up and get involved. Black men have been consistently outvoted by Black women in elections for the past 30 years. In fact, there was a 10%-point gender gap in the Black voting population in 2016; meanwhile, that same election year saw only a 3%-point gender gap amongst White voters.
We need to vote like our lives are on the line because they are! Although we all have a duty to get involved in elections, I am laying this responsibility at the feet of Black men who often feel marginalized, disenfranchised, and invisible in a system that is working exactly how it was intended. For this reason, the projected 33 million Black eligible voters nationwide will have such a great impact on the upcoming election. Black Georgians in particular account for a third of eligible voters in the state, which will likely determine the outcome of the Governor and Senate races.
Voter apathy should not deter people, especially Black men from voting. Being frustrated with the status quo should not compel one to vote against their own best interest. When Donald Trump made a speech and appeal to Black voters in 2020 by stating: “what do you have to lose.” This should have been a red flag and wake-up call that some politicians see Black people as helpless, powerless, and uninformed. Instead, although 83% of registered Black voters identify as Democrats, about 1 in 5 Black men voted for Trump in 2020. Do not reward these antics with an apathetic vote or no-vote, rather interrogate the policies and values of the candidates and make a better choice. Simply put, I am asking you to vote for equity.
We are all better together and the numbers don’t lie. According our “Employment Equity” report, if we had full employment in Georgia across all racial and gender groups, our economy could be $12 billion stronger every year. Imagine what that would mean for all of us – a better education for all our children, more capital for small to medium-sized businesses, stronger infrastructure, less poverty, and more economic power to win against global competitors.
This is our moment to shape the future for our children and grandchildren by turning out in these key elections that include but are not limited to: Governor, State Senate, Secretary of State, Attorney General, and so many others. Below are some brief descriptions of key races and the responsibilities of each office. I urge you to educate yourselves about the candidates and vote for Equity.
US Senator: This seat belongs to one of two federal lawmakers representing Georgia in the US Senate. US Senators can author, sponsor, amend, debate, and vote on bills which may become national law. Senators also play an important role in determining who runs the federal government, through confirmation hearings that influence presidential appointees.
On the Ballot:
Chase Oliver (Libertarian)
Herschel Walker (Republican)
Raphael Warnock (Democrat)
Governor: The Governor is the chief executive of the state who oversees Georgia’s executive branch. The Governor has significant influence over which laws get passed, because they can veto any legislation. Georgia lawmakers need a two-thirds majority in the State House and State Senate to override a governor’s veto, so the governor almost always has the final say in Georgia law. The Governor also is responsible for appointing heads of judicial and state offices, such as the Department of Education, Department of Transportation, Department of Public Safety, and more.
On the Ballot:
Brian Kemp (Republican)
Shane Hazel (Libertarian)
Stacey Abrams (Democrat)
Lieutenant Governor: The Lieutenant Governor (LG) is the second highest elected official in the state, right behind the Governor. The LG acts as the President of the State Senate; in this role, they collaborate with advocates to introduce legislation, and play a major role in selecting which bills go up for debate. Additionally, the LG casts the tie-breaking vote in the State Senate when necessary.
On the Ballot:
Burt Jones (Republican)
Charlie Bailey (Democrat)
Ryan Graham (Libertarian)
Secretary of State: The Secretary of State (SOS) manages several key administrative functions for the state, particularly related to elections, voting, and business licensing. The SOS oversees elections, manages voter rolls, and prepares ballots. Additionally, the SOS is in charge of registering new businesses as well as renewing business licenses and permits, an important process for economic growth in the state.
On the Ballot:
Bee Nguyen (Democrat)
Brad Raffensperger (Republican)
Ted Metz (Libertarian)
Attorney General: The Attorney General (AG) is the chief lawyer representing the state of Georgia in legal cases. The AG is also the governor’s legal advisor. In addition to representing the state in court, they also help to maintain justice in Georgia by filing lawsuits against individuals or companies that violate laws.
On the Ballot:
Chris Carr (Republican)
Jen Jordan (Democrat)
Martin Cowen (Libertarian)
Down ballot statewide offices include: Agriculture Commissioner, Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner, State School Superintendent, and Labor Commissioner. These offices are very important for the everyday lived experience of Georgians, and it is important to educate yourself on the candidates for these offices too. You can read more about these positions and the candidates at Branch.vote or ReadySet.vote.
DISTRICT AND COUNTY OFFICES
Additionally, you will have a number of offices on your ballot specific to the districts that you live in. These offices include: US Representative, State Senator, State Representative, County Commission Chair, and Soil and Water Conservation District Supervisor. Get acquainted with these offices and the candidates at Branch.vote or ReadySet.vote.
This is our opportunity to seat an accountable electorate that will advance issues of Equity such as: affordable housing, workforce development, entrepreneurship, climate and clean energy, and health. We cannot afford to allow racists systems and structures to minimize the ability for all people to reach their full potential. Now is not the time for Black men to stay out of social policy and politics. No matter what political party tries to persuade us that it is wrong to face the ugly truth of the inequities caused by America’s racist foundations, we have a duty to honor the truth and chart the path forward toward healing and repair. We have the map toward freedom and liberation.Voting for equity helps us move towards a more just destination for us all.
Nathaniel Smith is the founder and chief equity officer of the Partnership for Southern Equity. More information can be found at www.psequity.org.
 Igielnik, R. (2020, September 2). Men and women in the U.S. continue to differ in voter turnout rate, party identification. Pew Research Center. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/08/18/men-and-women-in-the-u-s-continue-to-differ-in-voter-turnout-rate-party-identification/
 Moslimani, M. (2022, October 12). Key facts about black eligible voters in 2022. Pew Research Center. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2022/10/12/key-facts-about-black-eligible-voters-in-2022/
 Pew Research Center. (2021, March 25). 1. Democratic Edge in party identification narrows slightly. Pew Research Center – U.S. Politics & Policy. https://www.pewresearch.org/politics/2020/06/02/democratic-edge-in-party-identification-narrows-slightly/
 Pulley, B. (2022). Stacey Abrams Struggles with Black Male Voters in Georgia While Wielding National Clout. https://www.bnnbloomberg.ca/stacey-abrams-struggles-with-black-male-voters-in-georgia-while-wielding-national-clout-1.1830876