History Making Senatorial Democratic Victory in Georgia
Well, I feel like singing with Ray Charles “Georgia on my Mind” and with Gladys Knight and the Pips that I’m taking a “Midnight Train to Georgia”. Hallelujah! Praise God history was made in Georgia on January 6, 2021.
Around 3:30 a.m I had another unbelievable experience related to political elections, that took place in the State of Georgia. This time it was the victory of the Reverend Dr. Raphael Warnock in the Georgia senatorial race. He defeated a White woman, Kelly Lynn Loeffler, in a run-off election. He became the first Black Senator from Georgia. There have been only eleven Black senators since Reconstruction. The first two were Hiram Rhodes Revels and Blanche K. Bruce, both from Mississippi.
Rev. Warnock spent time in New York studying at Union Theological Seminary and was a student minister at Abyssinian Baptist Church under the leadership of the Pastor, Rev. Dr. Calvin Butts.
The Reverend, pastors Ebenezer Baptist Church, the family church of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., where Dr. King did his first pastoral work. Also, it was the church of the late, legendary Congressman John Lewis. While I can’t recall having any personal, civil rights, or Seminary connection with Rev. Warnock, I’m sure if he were in New York at any period of time and was active in any of the above circles – we would have had to make contact. I am sure that we were in some church-related meetings. However, even more, touching for me is that Rev. Warnock was born in Savannah, Georgia, and lived in public housing approximately a half mile from where I was born on Victory Drive (43rd Street). He was the eleventh child of twelve and the first generation in his family to go to college-Morehouse.
In the early morning, as I reflected on his victory, my mind went back to my childhood years growing up in Savannah. Rev. Warnock and I share another similar experience. His father was a minister. My grandfather pastored Asbury Methodist Church in Savannah Georgia. I remember going to school for the first time, Florence Street School, and playing in Cans Park on 45th Street, not far from where I lived on the corner of 44th and Florence Street. Vivid in my recollection was the rigid segregation laws. The constant humiliation to which black people were subjected, the fear that seemed so pervasive. Where we lived, with my grandfather and mother, aunt and uncle, cousin and brother during the early years of my life on said streets was the dividing line 44th Street going East was where the White folks lived in beautiful white houses, tree-lined streets, and manicured lawns. Traveling West on 44th where Black folks lived. There were a few well-kept houses along the street but most of the dwellings deteriorated. There were fields between the houses and the streets were unpaved and it seemed there were little puddles of water all the time. Before the age of eight, I would stand in the middle of the street and study the difference and wonder why. I know it was before I was eight as I am eight years older than my baby brother and he was not yet born.
My father has become a minister and was sent to Augusta to pastor a small congregation that Bishop Marcelino Manuel da Graça also known as Bishop Grace had started, I found the same cruelties of the segregation system. The Chinese owned almost all the Bodegas or the “Mom and Pop” grocery stores. On one of my stays in Augusta Georgia, before I was ten years of age, I was hired as a grocery boy delivering groceries and working around the store. This time I observed the economic disparities. Black people were impoverished, scraping up money to buy inferior products- paying more and getting less! I began to practice the Robin Hood principles before I knew the story. I tried to even the playing field in some way by giving the people more than what they were paying for. I knew I was going to get caught but I tried to do as much as I could before my termination.
I was about eleven or twelve when my father expanded our church to Brooklyn, NY. I would go back to Savannah and Augusta occasionally as my grandparents still lived in Savannah; later they moved to Jersey City, NJ where my mother lived and had separated from my father. He lived in Brooklyn, NY.
When I became a Minister, Pastor, and later National Bishop of The House of the Lord Churches, I would return to Augusta and Savannah frequently. Each time, observing the snail pace progress of the South.
My civil right and political struggles eventually brought me into contact with Reverend Jesse Jackson. We became great friends starting with Operation Breadbasket, which was the economic arm of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) – the organization that Dr. King established. When Rev. Jackson decided to run for the presidency in 1983, he asked me and Assemblyman Al Vann to convene Black leaders to help him decide whether he should run. When he put his hat in the ring, I was with him from the very beginning. In fact, it was at our church in September 1987 at Jackson’s request we convened the Black leadership of New York which helped him make the decision to run.
One of the most memorable times of the campaign was when we decided that I should go back to Savannah to campaign. I remember the days and nights walking the streets campaigning in Savannah. I lived with my mother who had moved back to Savannah and I remembered how I tossed and turned throughout the night in disbelief that I was actually campaigning for a brother that I knew so well- we were really running for the President of the United States.
Savannah Georgia had changed as had the old South. Gone were the White only signs and other conspicuous manifestations of racist institutions, and for the most part behavior and it seemed that some Whites were changed. But racism was still there. A few years before racism was blatant and blazingly cruel. And now, we were actually going through the town campaigning. I was out early in the morning observing on the day of the election and I was so ecstatic; everywhere I went, lines of people were waiting to vote. Unfortunately, we lost the race but we won the masses of people who were later to be encouraged to become politically, and socially involved and would win political elections in every sector of society.
In 2008 President Obama threw his hat in the ring. I went back to Georgia to campaign for him. See my book In My Lifetime. Again, the overwhelming emotional experience was even more intense. But equally important was our daughter, the Reverend Leah Daughtry, who was the CEO of the Democratic National Convention (DNC), having served for six years as the Chief of Staff for the Democratic Party. She made history when Hillary Clinton ran in 2016, she was asked to be the CEO of the DNC again. And again, she did a magnificent job as attested to by all.
In 2003, I went back to Savannah and Augusta to campaign for Charles Champ Walker Jr. who was running for Congress. Interestingly enough, earlier on the day of the 2020 Senatorial runoff election, I found an old poster that had been produced by the Walker campaign. He was not successful.
Watching the Biden and Harris Presidential/Vice Presidential returns on election night, I went back through the emotional experience of campaigning in Georgia. And now, here I was, once again watching, studying, experiencing, and hoping for victories in another campaign. Thank God, this time we won!
How sweet it is! As I have stated it is hard to comprehend, to really believe it has happened, a Black man has won the senatorial race in Georgia. Rev.Warnock was not the only one who made history in the senatorial race, his running partner Jon Ossoff, also won the other senatorial seat. He is only thirty-three years old which makes him the youngest senator elected from Georgia. The victory of the Democratic Senators is super important for it evens the number of Senators between the Democrats and Republicans which means that the Vice President casts the deciding vote and since Kamala Harris is now the Vice President she will cast the final vote should there be a tie. This gives Democrats a majority vote in both houses and also the White House. It should make it much easier for Mr. Biden to get his agenda implemented.
Already the President-elect has laid out an ambitious 100-day plan which includes Covid-19, an increased stimulus package, international changes, etc. I hope that Mr. Biden will achieve his goal.
What we, all of us can do immediately is implement the preventive measures as it relates to Covid-19. It is even more critically important that we obey because Covid-19 has mutated or there are various strands and we are told it is more contagious than the original Covid-19.
To be continued...