133,010 steps to take back the Senate
Courtesy of Marcey Lynn Jones

Marcey Lynn Jones was one of 70 UNITE HERE volunteers from New Haven, Conn., who spent one month knocking on doors to speak with voters in Georgia about how they could make a difference in the Senate runoff elections. She shares her experience below.

In the beginning, when I arrived in Georgia from New Haven, Conn., I realized how serious everything was to keep us, as canvassers, safe from COVID-19. The strategy of UNITE HERE, the union organizing our work in the Peach State, was ideal for all canvassers to be safe and do our job with others in mind.

After four hours of training, I was placed in the field to start canvassing. I noticed that the area I was assigned was an impoverished mostly Black community. When I began knocking on doors, many people were nice, with several already willing to vote for Warnock and Ossoff.

Courtesy of Marcey Lynn Jones

But the hardest part was the people who didn’t realize how important their vote was, especially in this race that would have an impact not just in Georgia but across the whole country. I felt empowered at every door that I knocked on because I felt like I was working to save the life of the person who answered, not just to get their vote.

Within my first two weeks before the Christmas holiday vacation, I assisted my lead in keeping the team strong and ambitious continuously. On the hardest days, we faced threats of gun violence, fights, hearing gunshots, and people yelling out for help. This made me aware of just how much we needed to stay covered and safe daily.

Some of the people that I met seemed to be locked in their homes and did not trust anyone. At one point, I even thought I wasn’t going to make it, but I reached for the strength from John Lewis, Martin Luther King, and Malcolm X, and boosted myself to continue. I began sewing masks on my days off with my fabrics and mini machine which I set up in my room, taking my inspiration from the flags from back home and African statues I found in my very limited time on walks. I got homesick a few times, but these things kept me going.

But after my experience, I can say that I officially love Georgia. The state’s beautiful working class, even though many face the daily dangers of poverty and violence, went out to vote, knowing how important this race was. I really appreciate that UNITE HERE provided Uber rides to people who would otherwise not have been able to vote. Some did not have enough money to get on the bus. Others had childcare issues, but they were able to bring their child with them in the Uber.

Support from Stacey Abrams helped encourage Jones and other volunteers to keep at it, even when the days got hard. | Courtesy of Marcey Lynn Jones

Many stories will stay with me from the weeks I spent walking 133,010 steps to take back the Senate.

There was one family of eleven on our voting list. After going to their house four times, I was finally able to get five members of the family to vote. They would not have voted otherwise. When I was able to reach the mother of the household, she helped the rest of the family understand what it really meant for them that Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell blocked the $2,000 stimulus relief checks—that would have been multiplied by eleven for their family!

One young woman, Ronica, and her husband have three kids. She seemed to be very introverted and would not look me in my eyes. I asked her if she was going to vote for Warnock and Ossoff. She said, “I really don’t vote.” When I asked her why she said her vote didn’t matter.

I explained that when COVID-19 started, her two current senators invested in body bags and told Georgians everything was going to be okay. That was the first time she looked me in the eye. I explained to her how many times the Senate blocked President Barack Obama’s agenda and how winning majority control of the Senate would change that.

Ronica hadn’t voted in the November presidential election but was happy to learn that voting in the Senate runoff would still count because it would help President-elect Biden get through the legislation needed to fight COVID-19 and help the unemployed.

I told her that the rich would continue to get richer if we don’t win the Senate and that people like McConnell just took thousands in stimulus relief out of her home. I asked, “What can you really do with $600?”

Her answer was, “It is already gone.” She had to leave her job because the kids were learning virtually at home rather than in school. Her husband’s hours had been cut at his job. So they used the money they did get to catch up on their mortgage and taxes, leaving them not enough to even grocery shop.

The next day, Ronica went to vote in an Uber. Her husband had registered to vote, but too late for this election. Even though he couldn’t vote this time, he is still a new registered voter.

The funniest story was when a 25-year-old young man opened the door at one house. I asked for him and his mom. We had an awesome conversation because he was already aware of how government worked. But he didn’t understand that he had to vote again, so he asked his mom, “Why didn’t you tell me that I needed to vote again?” Her answer was “’Cause you got common sense!”

The words of Rev. Raphael Warnock at a car rally of 1,000 people told volunteers what had to be done. | Courtesy of Marcey Lynn Jones

I found out he plays his video games and she watches internet TV, so they hadn’t paid much attention to the news. But she assumed he knew she had already voted. So I got him an Uber, and he went to vote.

In all, the experience has been life-changing for me. In my 48 years, I would never have thought I’d see the kind of shift we saw in Georgia in the presidential election. Now, I was a part of turning Georgia blue a second time, this time for two Senate seats. I got to hear Rev. Raphael Warnock speak at a car rally of 1,000.

I am humbled and will carry on the things that I’ve learned about people in my 34 days in the South. Georgia has changed the world and elected the first Black and Jewish U.S. Senators in history. Keep your eyes on Georgia because I know they’re not done.

I can see myself back there in two years helping fight for Stacey Abrams again. She helped us stay encouraged, and I know it wasn’t easy because I had seen the streets of Georgia as a Black woman and it was hard work. I know she must have worked even harder.

I will always remember the car rally of 1,000 people where Rev. Raphael Warnock told us: “Get up. Get dressed. Put your shoes on. And get ready, Georgia!”


CONTRIBUTOR

Marcey Lynn Jones
Marcey Lynn Jones

Marcey Lynn Jones is a community organizer and loving mom, active in New Haven, Connecticut.

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