Great to know the rise in domestic terrorism by white nationalists has not deterred Georgia’s domestic workers from going door to door to get out the vote. These brave women deserve not only recognition but a medal. Glad to see they took precautions to keep each other safe.
On a Thursday in October, six black women wearing bright orange T-shirts and jeans pull into this squeaky-clean north Atlanta suburb just before sundown, after what should have been a half-hour drive from the city took more than twice as long in traffic. They are domestic workers by day ― nannies, housekeepers and home care workers ― but they spend their evenings knocking on doors for Stacey Abrams, who would be the first black female governor in the history of the nation.
The plan is to skip over the houses inhabited by white people and target the voters of color. The women have a canvassing app, MiniVAN, that helps them to know which are which. Just over half of this immigrant-heavy county is non-white, but they are rare and sporadic voters ― so turning out the vote here could be crucial to Abrams’ election in what is now a razor-thin race against Republican Brian Kemp.
The work can be dangerous, so the women always keep each other in eye-shot while canvassing. Occasionally their app fails them, and they encounter a house with a Confederate flag or some other white supremacist symbol. Sometimes there’s a run-in with their fellow Georgians — an older white couple, for instance, backing their white Ford pickup out of their driveway and pulling up next to the women I’ve accompanied today. A Kemp sign pokes out of the couple’s yard in the distance, and a large German shepherd pants in the backseat. The wife rolls down her window and asks the women what they’re doing there, while the husband snaps pictures of one of them and the license plate of their car.
More than 300 domestic workers in Georgia ― nearly all black women, plus two men ― are running the largest independently funded ground game in the state ahead of this historic election. Their organization, Care in Action, is the political arm of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, which represents 2.5 million domestic workers across the country. They’re talking to voters of color in four critical counties, from the Atlanta suburbs to rural southwest Georgia, that could feasibly turn from red to blue if more non-white voters showed up at the polls.
While the proximate goal is getting Abrams elected, the domestic workers’ efforts are a continuation of an activist movement that began in earnest at the midpoint of the last century. For the most part written out of the popular history of postwar social movements, domestic workers, in fact, were a driving force in the fight for labor and civil rights. They played a central, if largely invisible role in the Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott in 1955 and 1956. “Beginning in the 1960s, household workers organized forums, spoke publicly, circulated pamphlets, gave testimonials, and lobbied legislatures,” writes Premilla Nadasen in Household Workers Unite. What began as “a grassroots movement of domestic workers,” Nadasen adds, “evolved into a mass movement which fundamentally redefined black women’s relationship to the world of work.”
Abrams grew up poor in Mississippi, one of six children to a mother who worked as a librarian and a father who worked in a shipyard. She went on to graduate from Yale Law School but is still $200,000 in debt from student and credit card loans. As a single woman, she became the first black woman minority leader of the Georgia State House of Representatives, and she writes romance novels on the side. Her brother struggles with drug addiction and has been in and out of jail.
When Abrams talks about reducing student debt, or expanding access to substance abuse treatment and mental health services, or rehabilitating incarcerated people, she is speaking about those issues from experience.
Denise Small, a 50-year-old retired nurse who now cares for an elderly family member, says she trusts Abrams for that reason. “When she talks about these issues, it’s not only on her mouth, it’s in her heart. Her agenda for revamping the criminal justice system, mental health care, it’s just all valid and all necessary.”
Read the full HuffPost article at Georgia Domestic Workers Mobilize For Stacey Abrams In The Birthplace Of Their Movement