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Atlanta Civic Circle Democracy

What I’ve Learned: Andrea Young, ACLU of Georgia

By Tammy Joyner

Georgians are settling into a different political landscape from a year ago. With the elections over, Atlanta Civic Circle is asking prominent Georgians to reflect on last year’s political machinations and provide insight on the state’s future.

First up is civil rights activist and Georgia native Andrea Young, who is marking her fourth year as head of the state’s ACLU, a national organization that works to defend individual liberties. Young is an attorney, educator, and author who has spent her career fighting for civil and human rights. She is the daughter of Andrew Young, former Atlanta mayor, U.S. congressman, and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.

Andrea Young. Credit: ACLU of Georgia website

Andrea Young

Title: Executive Director

Organization: American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia

Q. What was the biggest lesson learned from the 2020 presidential election?

A. The Atlanta Way has spread to the suburbs. We see a multi-racial, multicultural coalition, now in Cobb, Gwinnett, Henry, Douglas, and Rockdale counties, as we have seen, already, in Fulton and DeKalb. Voters elected local officials who committed to addressing racial justice in the criminal legal system; embracing immigrants as neighbors and running government as a public service meeting community needs. People had local as well as national candidates to vote for in November.

 Q. What was the biggest lesson learned from the Senate runoff races?

A. Black voters lead the way. Stacey Abrams recognized the potential of the Black electorate in Georgia. What we learned in January of 2021 is that Black voters will turn out under challenging circumstances — when candidates speak to the issues that matter most to them — and when there is a Black candidate with a record of service to the Black community.

Q . What expectations do you have for Georgia’s two new senators? 

A. Georgia voters responded to specific promises on relief from COVID; racial justice and ethical, competent government that puts Georgia families first. I expect the senators to keep those promises.

Q. What is the biggest challenge facing metro Atlanta?

A. The biggest challenge facing Metro Atlanta is a state government that is hostile to Atlanta and the Atlanta Way — tolerant, inclusive, innovative, open, pragmatic, science-based and fact-oriented. Metro Atlanta will have to fight to prevent rollbacks of voting rights in this legislative session and gerrymandering of legislative districts. Despite submitting a 10-page letter to Congress on the accuracy and fairness of the election, the secretary of state wants to make it more difficult to vote by mail.

 Q. Where do we go from here?

A. We continue to build our multi-racial, multicultural coalition and strive to be a state worthy of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Jimmy Carter- our two Nobel Peace Prize winners. That inclusion is Atlanta’s secret sauce. It is why our population grows and people of every race, creed, color, national origin, sexual orientation and identity continue to flock to Metro Atlanta bringing their talents, work ethic and energy with them. We have Dr. King’s vision of a “Beloved Community” and we keep working toward it.

Want to know more?

The Georgia ACLU is a nonpartisan statewide group working to defend people’s civil liberties and rights through legal, legislative, and community action. For more details, visit the ACLU of Georgia’s website.

(Header photo by Maria Saporta)

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