The Georgia runoff election on Jan. 5 will cap off what is sure to be the most consequential election of our lifetime. While the polls are still coming in, it is no secret that the outcome of this year’s General Election was determined by Black voters. 

The Black electorate showed up in November – and showed up strong, resolute and focused on enacting change. We showed up because there was too much at stake and we knew our lives depended on it. 

But our work is not done. Now we must do the same in Georgia. 

The balance of the power in the U.S. Senate will be decided by Georgia’s voters. In a state, where 32 percent of its residents are Black, we have the power to not only shape but change the direction of this country. Everything we are fighting for, from criminal justice reform, equitable healthcare, and housing to economic relief for our community who has been hit the hardest by COVID-19, is on the ballot in Georgia this January. 

There is simply too much at stake for our community for Black voters in Georgia not to mobilize and show up on Jan. 5. The change we seek will not come with a new administration alone. We need leaders in the Senate who will listen, and actively tackle the issues that are disproportionately impacting our communities. 

At its core, the NAACP’s mission is improving the experience of Black people in America. Our work is rooted in ending racial disparities and upholding the American ideals of equity and democracy. Our entire organization is grounded in the work we do in the community. 

We have a dedicated network of volunteers, community leaders, and activists in every neighborhood and city in the U.S. Each of them drives our outreach, engagement, and advocacy on the ground, and reflect the will and needs of the people.

For more than three years, we have been working to educate, organize, and mobilize Black voters because we know that Black Voices Change Lives. And in this last month, we saw the fruits of our labor come to life in a profound way. 

This past year, we invested more than $15 million to engage and mobilize our community to the polls. We employed a multifaceted, multiplatform campaign to reach our voters wherever they were. 

We spent millions on radio and digital ads that were targeted to voters across 29 markets in ten battleground states, ultimately reaching over 18 million people. We recruited 200,000 volunteers for our voter engagement efforts who made more than 675,000 calls.

We sent over 16.5 million text messages and distributed 4.5 million pieces of literature through socially distanced literature drops. We mailed over 4.5 million pieces of direct mail and sent 400,000 direct voter contact emails. And we protected our right to vote through an election protection hotline that was staffed by over 2,000 legal professionals.

We did all those things because we recognize that we cannot take a single vote or election for granted. As we’ve seen, the consequences of complacency can be dangerous and significant.

This election cycle was proof that the collective will of Black voters is enormous and has the power to change the electoral map in America. Now we are urging our friends, family and neighbors in Georgia to mobilize and make their voices heard.

We have always known the power of the Black community. When we mobilize, we change the very fabric of this nation and pave the way for a brighter, more just and more equitable future, not just for ourselves but our children and generations of Black Americans to come. And that is also why there are many who are trying to suppress our vote through frivolous lawsuits and voter challenges to more insidious tactics like removing ballot boxes in our community. 

We cannot allow the opponents of democracy to win by marginalizing and disenfranchising the power of Black voters.

This election cycle proved that the vote of Black people matters. And now we urge Georgians to make it count in this runoff election. 

Empowerment of the Black community has been and continues to be central to our mission. The work that started more than 100 years is now in the hands of the next generation of leaders who are carrying the work forward.   

The political change and reform we seek – that is critically needed, that our lives literally depend on – quite simply will not happen with a new president or one election. It needs our input, our participation, our ballots at the Senate, and continued civic engagement.

The work and the change we need to effect is far from over. Our lives continue to depend on making our voices heard and come this January 5th, I know we will not be silenced.

Derrick Johnson serves as president of the NAACP, the largest and most pre-eminent civil rights organization in the nation.

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