Stacey Abrams admits she was ‘worried’ during the 2018 Georgia election for governor
Pushing through her uncertainty, the former candidate shares how a talk with her grandma course-corrected and helped her regain focus
Stacey Abrams might not have won the Georgia gubernatorial election, but she is no loser.
The highly sought after social justice advocate and political darling spoke at the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, Inc. 2020 Clergy & Lay Leadership Conference about the now legendary race and all of the flaws in that 2018 election process.
From the onset, she had to set the record straight. While she was not victorious in the election, she did not lose.
To the assembly of over one thousand ministers and freedom fighters, she took the mic and basically preached to the congregation of supporters.
“When I go around the country talking about the work we do, I begin by announcing, ‘My name is Stacey Abrams and I am not the governor of Georgia.’” The assembly erupted as she continued, “I am not confused… But I don’t see that as a loss. There are those that would tell me that I need to learn to accept my place, that I lost that election. But the thing of it is, I didn’t lose.”
She said to the group, “I grew up in the tradition of the Methodist church. I grew up in Mississippi, the daughter of two people who eventually became pastors. I grew up understanding that in the space where I was born and the place where I was born, that if I used someone else’s definition of victory I was always going be behind.”
At 46, her steady cadence and confident swag represented a figure far more prepared for the mantle of the Civil Rights movement than many that preach in pulpits to Black people on Sunday mornings. Thus, it was apropos for her to keynote at this conference. Abrams, along with personalities like Candace Simpson and Tameka Mallory, are the new faces of the movement, connecting the heritage of the poor, Black and slavery-begotten-south with the sophistication of the resourceful, Black and access-plentiful- millennium.
She introduced those listening to her grandmother, Wilter Abrams, a woman who had just as much influence in her maturation as a leader than the green grass of Spelman College. In a reflection where she spoke about this feisty woman that even in her 90s watched MSNBC and fussed about politics gave her an extra push to stay in the race, fight for her people and moreover stay in the struggle creating impact with her voice.
Abrams shared, “In September 2018, as the election was heating up and stories were floating around the country about voter suppression that was being unveiled in the state of Georgia, I went home to Mississippi. I went back to my roots because my grandmother was ailing.”
“You would go to visit grandma, she had a rocking recliner where she sat in most of the day. She had a bed that sat right beside it and when you came into the room you sat on the edge of it and you took her hand. She was watching MSNBC and you didn’t want to interrupt her while she was mad that day.”
“When she got to a place where she would acknowledge your presence, she would mute the television and she would turn to you.” Abram continued as she recalled one of the last times she talked to her grandmother. “She wanted to talk about my election. She was mad.”
“She was mad at the man I was running against. She was mad at the man in the White House. She was mad that she couldn’t vote in Georgia. I said, ‘Well, grandma you never lived in Georgia.’ And she didn’t seem to think that was a rational enough explanation.”
“I said to her, ‘I am worried because this man I am running against is in charge of the election. He is the scorekeeper. He is the contestant. He is doing the box copy. He is the umpire and it’s gonna be hard.”
Abrams recalled her grandmother saying, “Have you done what you can?”
“Well, let me tell you about the first time I voted.”
As she recounted the story her grandmother told her, she shared that both of her parents were active in the Civil Rights movement, her father was even locked up. She also shared that while her grandmother could not be at the forefront of the movement in the 1960’s Mississippi, she contributed to the cause by providing bail money to get her children out of jail.
“In 1968, after the passage of the Civil Rights Act for the first presidential election which she would be eligible to vote in, she was sitting in the backroom of the three-room house. My grandfather was in the front with his brother LP and they were getting ready to vote. …They had gotten dressed because back then you used to get dressed up to go and vote.”
She said that her grandfather was calling her to come on so that they could go and vote and her grandmother said, “Jim, I don’t want to go.”
“What do you mean you don’t want to vote. You get to vote in this presidential election. What do you mean?”
“I am scared.”
Abrams said that her grandmother remembered the dogs, the hoses and the billy clubs and she was afraid.
Her grandfather tried to comfort her by saying, “But we won. The Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Voting Act of 1965 passed. Mississippi finally acknowledged the federal government. We get to go and vote.
Grandma told Abrams, “I sat there and I looked at my husband. I can’t do this, I am afraid.”
“But your children went to jail for this,” her grandfather replied. “Our friends and family… we’ve fought for this. Why won’t you come.”
Grandma said, “I wasn’t afraid of the right to vote. I was afraid of the power.”
Abrams continued, “We live in a country where people are afraid of power. Where we are afraid not of the things we are told we cannot have, we are afraid of the things we want. Because we are afraid we might get what we need. And as my grandfather took her hand and said, ‘Wilter, you need to come on,’ My grandmother said, ‘I didn’t want to go because I was afraid that if I got up and got out there, I might be disappointed. It might not work. But she screwed her courage up anyway.”
The crowd erupted as she continued to speak on the importance of the vote, resting on this anecdote to further stress her life’s mission.
But no applause was more thunderous, than when she said, “You don’t need to vote because someone died [so that you can have the right to vote], you need to vote so we can live.”
And it is about living. Voting is about as urgent as life or death when you account for all the aspects of one’s life that are impacted by the vote.
As of today, no Democratic candidate has invited Abrams on the ticket to be run as their Vice President. She told the ladies of ABC’s The View, that she would definitely consider running if asked.
“It would be doing a disservice to every woman of color, every woman of ambition, every child who wants to think beyond their known space for me to say no or to pretend, ‘Oh, no, I don’t want it.’ Of course, I want it. Of course, I want to serve America. Of course, I want to be a patriot and do this work. And so, I’d say yes.”