An estimated 150 people — mostly Black men — packed themselves into the vibrant, smoke-filled, first floor of NFL quarterback Cam Newton’s Fellaship cigar lounge Thursday night to hear remarks from Stacey Abrams.
The Democratic gubernatorial nominee and local radio personality Darian “Big Tigger” Morgan played host to what was billed as an invite-only Q&A session geared toward Black men, who had questions and a lot to say about the state of politics in Georgia.
Abrams began her address by pointing out how Georgia has left many of its residents behind. She said the state ranks 48th nationally in the division of mental health services, and has some of the nation’s highest rates for uninsured people and gun violence.
“At the top of every one of those demographics for every one of those metrics I listed are Black people, and embedded in every one except for maternal mortality is Black men,” she said. “We need a governor who actually sees our people and has a plan for our success.”
Back in 2018, Abrams fell roughly 17,000 votes short of forcing a runoff with Gov. Brian Kemp. Black voter turnout is up, according to early voting primary data, which means Black men could tip the scales in Abrams’ favor come November.
One of those men could be West End resident Trey Stanley, 27, an Abrams supporter who wanted to get a better idea of who she is as a person.
“I just want to know that she’s a human, know more about her, know what she plans on doing when, I believe, she gets the governor’s seat,” Stanley said before Abrams addressed the crowd.
During the event, Abrams spent about an hour answering questions and explaining her position on a range of issues affecting Black men in Georgia, including the economy, entrepreneurship, Medicaid expansion, affordable housing, and reducing gun violence.
Justin Matthews, a graduate student at Georgia Tech, had concerns about creating better economic opportunities for underprivileged men in Black communities across the state.
“A lot of young Black men turn to different things in their community because they don’t think there’s a lot of opportunity for them to actually grow and be successful outside of college,” Matthews said. “We need people that actually can speak for those in the trenches, for what they need in these communities.”
As for the message behind the event, Abrams for Governor campaign press secretary Jaylen Black said Black men are an important component of her candidate’s vision for “one Georgia.”
“Stacey values creating space for Black men to express their unique concerns and sharing her comprehensive plans that will ensure that Black men in Georgia have the opportunity to thrive,” Black said.
Abrams and Kemp were tied in the latest Quinnipiac poll released Wednesday. It’s a race voters like Chris Weekes will continue to watch closely. The Decatur resident and teacher said he was encouraged to hear about Abrams’ proposal to give raises to K-12 educators throughout the state.
“It sounds great,” he said. “I would love to see it in action.”