The Story of Stacey Abrams

The Story of Stacey Abrams

Once upon a time, there was a little girl named Stacey who really liked counting.

She was born in Mississippi, a beautiful State with a very famous river running through it, that gave life to many tales and legends.

Stacey’s parents were both Methodist pastors and she was the second-eldest of six siblings. Yes, six!

“One - Andrea!
Two - Stacey, that’s me!
Three - Leslie, where are you Leslie?
Four - Jeanine!
Five - Richard!
Six - Walter! Walter! Raise your hand immediately”

Stacey loved making a roll call of her brothers and sisters, as they were walking home from Church, all giggly with excitement from being on their own like grown-ups, their little feet running in puddles and fields, rushing back to a marvellous Sunday roast with deliciously tender sweet, sweet corn.

There were three principles that Mr and Mrs Abrams wanted their kids to follow:
“One - Go to school
Two - Go to Church
Three - Take care of each other” - The kids would all recite out loud in a choir while sitting at the dinner table.
This was their family’s way of saying grace.

In order to give their kids better opportunities at school, the family then moved to Georgia, a sunny State right by the enormous Atlantic Ocean, where the air is sweet and warm on most days, and smells of peaches and grits.

Stacey was an incredibly gifted student: she excelled in all subjects, and when she was in first grade, she was ahead of the rest of the class. In cases like this, what normally happened was that the student would be invited to skip first grade and join second grade immediately, but in Stacey’s case there seemed to be a hold-up.

You see, Stacey was one of the few black students in her school and it turned out some teachers wanted to wait until two other white girls caught up with her, before moving her. When the only Black teacher in the school found out about this, he immediately phoned her parents. Stacey overheard the call:
“This isn’t fair. You have to fight for Stacey, Mr and Mrs Abrams, she is one of the brightest kids I’ve ever seen and she deserves to be in second grade.”

And so they fought.

One day, while Stacey was sitting at her school-desk day-dreaming, the Principal came to get her, and took her outside for a walk on the lawn.

“What have I done? Am I in trouble?” - Little Stacey thought to herself, frantically panicking, while looking up to the Principal, one of the tallest men she’d ever saw in her whole life.

The Principal stayed silent, until a young lady approached them. Then, his face warmed up into a smile:
“Stacey, this is Miss Blakesley. She is going to be your teacher from now onwards, welcome to second grade”.

Again, she was the only Black kid in the class, but she was eager to learn and never spent too much time thinking about it. She liked her classmates and bonded with them quickly.
Her parents’ three principles were in her head like a mantra, over and over again.

The second grade incident stayed with Stacey and - as she grew up - she appreciated how that teacher, despite not knowing her, had fought for her. Like him, she wanted to fight for the people in her community, even for those she didn’t know personally. So she became involved in politics.

She was elected in the Georgia House of Representatives and got a chance to see up close how hard it was for many people in her State to be heard.

“What could I do to help some more?” she thought. So she decided to run for Governor of Georgia.

Her opponent was a man called Brian Kemp and he was the Secretary of State, which is the person who oversees elections to make sure it is a fair process. Mr. Kemp, though, wasn’t very good at his job: while he was in charge, he cancelled over 1.4 million voter registrations leaving a staggering number of citizens without the opportunity to cast their vote.

When the electoral results came out, the poll-watchers sat down and counted: 1, 2, 3, … 1,932,685. She had gotten so many votes! Yet, they weren’t enough: she had lost by 55,000 votes.
“This is not fair” said Stacey “I am not governator as I hoped I would be, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t fight.“.”

And fight she did.

She started an organization and called it “Fair Fight Action”. Then, she and her team got on the phone.

They started calling every single person who had seen their voter registration cancelled, and all those people who had lost hope and hadn’t even tried to register to vote - they called so many people that it took years to get to the bottom of their very long list, but - by the end of that process - they had registered 800,000 voters.

When you tell a person they can’t vote, you’re telling them “we don’t need to hear from you, you don’t matter.” Stacey and her team, instead, had called each person to tell them the opposite: “you matter. And you matter so much that I am here with a team of people and we are fighting for you!” Just like her teacher had done when she was in first grade.

When the next election came, those people showed up. It was time to vote for the President of the United States. And they voted like never before. They voted with the confidence that when you cast a vote, you are telling your country and the world “I matter. Listen to what I have to say.”

Sometimes, when we see injustice, we may be tempted to think “I’m just one person. This is too big for me, there is nothing I can do to make this better.”
In those moments, think of Stacey. She kept on counting: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, all the way up to 800,000. She gave hope back to people who thought no one would ever listen to them, and she changed the course of history.

Francesca Cavallo
Sylvia K. Bertolotti