In her essay in the National Urban League’s 2022 State of Black of America Report, NGPAF’s fierce and inspirational leader, Nsé Ufot, holds nothing back. From detailing how and why she got involved in politics and organizing to her leadership of one of the largest civic engagement organizations in Georgia, to the bold action we need right now to protect our democracy, Nsé’s truth-telling and vision is exactly the motivation we need in this moment
Georgia Goddam: Why Southern Organizing is the Essential Guide to Defending Democracy and Building the New America
On January 5, 2021—after months of 12+ hour work days, thousands of miles traveled on Georgia’s highways and backroads, and countless conversations with voters—I watched a son of Savannah who is only the third person to lead Ebenezer Baptist Church since Dr. King was assassinated, my friend, and former Chair of New Georgia Project’s Board of Directors win his race for the U.S. Senate.
Senator Warnock’s historic victory, alongside those of Senator Ossoff and President Biden, was supposed to solidify enough political muscle in Washington to finally pass legislation that would secure the basic rights of millions of Americans—especially Black folks. While we got some of that from the temporary relief included in the American Rescue Plan, the White House and the Senate have been unable to deliver on the larger, structural reforms demanded by Black communities in Georgia and across the country. We are still waiting for the programs and resources included in Build Back Better, still waiting for student debt cancellation, and, of course, still waiting for federal voting rights protections. Meanwhile, the predictable whitelash that came in response to our growing power—from the January 6th white supremacist insurrection at the U.S. Capitol to new voter suppression laws in states across the country, including Georgia—continues to reverberate.
I wish I could say I was surprised by everything that’s happened since January 5, 2021. But I grew up Black and poor in an immigrant family on the southside of Atlanta, and I’m all too familiar with the structural reality of white supremacy. That reality includes the many political, organizing, leadership development, and so-called “social justice” spaces that never fully welcomed my curiosity, my questions, my priorities, and certainly not my Blackness, as a young activist.
That's why I set out to build a political home for folks in Georgia who have been excluded and left behind for too long—Black folks, brown folks, young people, rural Georgians, LGBTQ+ folks, and whoever else has had the systemic odds of inequity stacked against them. We are unapologetic about demanding the rights and resources that we are owed. At the top of the list? The right to vote.
We may have lost the most recent fight in the Senate for federal voting rights protections, but, like our movement predecessors, we are playing a long game. And we are doing so during a moment where Black Americans are building more and more power across different facets of society. We showed up in unprecedented numbers and elected our first Black woman Vice President. Black artists continue to set the tone, standard, and conversation in music, film, dance, theater, poetry, and on the canvas. The President honored his commitment, and we now have our first Black woman Supreme Court nominee. And, in a few months, Georgians will, hopefully, elect America’s first Black woman governor. Now is our time, and we will not give up.
That’s why it’s important to remember that the victories of the Civil Rights Movement were not won overnight. Nor were they won by a handful of people supporting a singular cause. They were won over decades of fighting across multiple issues and vectors of society, with millions of people creating or participating in Black-led movements during a period of intense anti-racism, pro-Black power, anti-war, feminist, student, and organized labor activism. And that’s exactly what we need today.
The failed January Senate vote on federal voting rights legislation is our proof. It clarified for the rest of the country what many of us already knew. It showed us who is willing to center our rights, and who still cleaves to a racist status quo. Who insists that they are on our side even as they demand that Black America continue to work with a political party that barely believes in our right to exist—much less wield actual power. Most importantly, it showed us the limits of what our current elected leaders in Washington are able, or in some cases, willing, to do for us.
New Georgia Project Action Fund and the communities we organize with and for will not relent in our sustained demand for federal voting protections. No matter what happens in Washington, we will be on the ground in our state registering voters, turning them out to the polls, and making sure their votes get accurately counted—all while expanding our movement and organizing for federal student loan debt cancellation, raising Georgia’s minimum wage, Medicaid expansion, access to reproductive healthcare, and environmental justice. And make no mistake: we will vote out anyone who stands in our way—regardless of partisan affiliation. That’s why protecting and expanding the right vote is paramount in our struggle for a more just future. It is both the tactic and the goal.
As Black people, we are well-seasoned at fighting for our basic rights in a society that was founded on plantation capitalism. And like the fights that have come before, this moment requires a broad and deep movement in Georgia, in the South, and across the country to guarantee a future for our democracy that includes and prioritizes the growing power of Black people. That future cannot be achieved by siloed organizing, and it cannot be achieved by Black people alone. And we shouldn’t be surprised. Afterall, collective liberation requires collective power.
I am proud to help lead a multi-racial, multi-ethnic, cross-class, intergenerational movement in Georgia that is building power with and for Black communities. Our recent victories are proof of what’s possible in our state and in our country when we move together. We must sustain, expand, and align our movements across issues, economic strata, and regions to create an unstoppable force that cannot be denied or ignored. This is how we move from the present state of Black America to the future that is our right. This is how we collect what is owed. I hope you will join us.