Thu | Mar 4, 2021

‘We were tired of the division’ - Caribbean nationals turned out big in Georgia 2020 election

Published:Tuesday | January 19, 2021 | 12:07 AMLester Hinds/Gleaner Writer
Vice President-elect Kamala Harris campaigns for Democratic US Senate challengers Rev Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff on December 1, 2020, in Columbus, Georgia.
Vice President-elect Kamala Harris campaigns for Democratic US Senate challengers Rev Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff on December 1, 2020, in Columbus, Georgia.

Jamaicans and other Caribbean nationals in Georgia turned out in huge numbers in the 2020 presidential elections as well as the senate run-off elections in numbers not seen in the past in a flexing of their political muscles.

According to Jason Walker, founder of Caribbean Georgia Vote, the presidential and senate run-off elections saw some 300,000-400,000 Caribbean nationals turning out to vote.

He said that in Fulton, DeKalb, Henry, and Cobb counties, where large numbers of Jamaicans and other Caribbean nationals reside, the turnout among them was overwhelming.

Formed in August last year, Walker said Caribbean Georgia Vote has, among its objectives, the task of motivating Caribbean nationals in Georgia to turn out in significant numbers to vote and to build the community into a strong political entity going forward so that their voices are heard and they have a seat at the table.

“We need to be a powerful political voice in the political sphere going forward,” he said.

Henry pointed out that individually, the community has people at some of the highest levels in government, business, and other areas, but it is not a cohesive force when it comes to flexing its political muscle.

It is his view that the turnout among Caribbean nationals in the Georgia Senate run-off elections is what pushed both democratic candidates over the finish line to victory.

Walker said the group is doing the heavy lifting to build the community into a powerful force politically in Georgia.

“During the 2020 presidential and the senate run-off elections, Jamaicans and Caribbean nationals were really motivated to come out and do their part to ensure victory for the Biden-Harris ticket and the Democratic senate candidates,” he said.

Walker said that Caribbean nationals did canvassing by knocking on doors, putting up the Democratic party signs in their yards, manning phone banks, and using social and other media forms to get the word out into the community to motivate them to turn out to vote.

HEARTENED BY YOUNG VOTERS

So determined were they to vote that many took advantage of early voting or waited in long lines on election day to cast their ballot.

He said that he was very heartened to see young people participating in the elections in Georgia.

“It was very good to see even many Rasta men, who normally said they did not trust the system, motivated enough to go out and vote. They were energised and very involved in the process,” he said.

“It was amazing to see so many of us out there in an overwhelming number,” Connie Witter, a former journalist and community activist, said. She added that not only did Jamaicans and other Caribbean nationals turn out in a big way to vote, but they made substantial contributions both monetarily and in kind to the campaigns.

“Large numbers of Jamaicans waited to make sure that the votes cast were counted. Several worked in polling stations while many others carried out canvassing duties,” she said.

Jamaicans provided transportation to those who needed it as well as provided food to people who waited in lines to vote, Witter said.

“We made sure that people got ballots, and if they did not, we gave them the information about where to get their ballots,” she said.

She said the community was motivated because they were tired of the division and wanted a change.

Donna McLeod, a Jamaican State Representative in the Georgia House, also spoke highly of how motivated Jamaicans and other Caribbean nationals were to participate in the recent elections.

“We saw steep involvement in the political process this time around,” she said.

McLeod said Caribbean nationals delivered in every area of the campaigns.

“They did a lot of outreach within the community to get people to the polls,” she said, adding that the leadership of many Caribbean organisations was willing to do what was necessary to secure the win for the Democratic senate candidates.

“Jamaicans showed up in a big way and worked together to secure the win,” she opined.