Stacey Abrams hinted at future political office (no surprise) defended a compromise on the voting rights bill in the House “because we need to make progress” and said of Juneteeth: “It’s important that we remember that this isn’t a celebration about the end of slavery alone, it is about justice delayed and nearly denied.”
“I say this having been one before and possibly one again – as politicians, our tendency is to say that a vote leads to instant action,” she said in a wide raging interview with Robin Roberts as she accepted the Tribeca Festival’s inaugural Harry Belafonte Voices For Social Justice Award Saturday, only a few days after President Biden signed a law making it a national holiday.
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Juneteeth started with the freed slaves of Galveston, Texas in 1865, although the Emancipation Proclamation had already freed the slaves in the South in 1863.
“It’s important that we remember that this isn’t a celebration about the end of slavery alone. It is about justice delayed and nearly denied. That for two years, even though the institution had been ended, we still found so many of our brothers and sisters held in captivity and bondage. Junteenth is about how we reclaim this place in our nation. How we are obliged to remember that the fight for justice doesn’t change simply when the rules change, or when someone else is elected. That the responsibility of pursuing justice remains every single day.”
Abrams sees voting rights as the key to making sure justice is not just “a concept or a hashtag,” including through her 2020 film on voter suppression All In: The Fight for Democracy. She’s also just published her 11th book and first legal thriller, While Justice Sleeps.
Abrams this week took some flak for backing a Sen. Joe Manchin ( D-West Virginia) compromise on voter IDs in the Voting Rights bill that is attempting to pass Congress against stiff opposition by Republicans in a divided Senate.
Good Morning America anchor Roberts asked her why.
“Because we need to make progress and his willingness to, instead of simply saying no, I don’t like, he said, here’s the place for us to start. I support that,” Abrams said.
Conservatives have muddied the argument, she said. “Voter identification simply means showing people who you are. No one objects to proving that you are the person you say you are. What we object to is restricting those proof points to make it almost impossible for people to meet the standards. If you live in a state where you can show your gun license but not your student ID, that is restrictive identification. We are simply saying both should count.”
Belafonte, who was a close confidant of Martin Luther King, Jr., had insisted that Abrams be the first recipient when he agreed to the award in his name, said Tribeca chief content officer Paula Weinstein, introducing the event that included a video message from the musician, actor and activist, now 94, and an appearance by Rev. Al Sharpton.
Abrams said she spoke to Belafonte in May. “It is a surreal moment to talk to someone you have admired, and mildly lusted after, since the moment he appeared on screen and that voice just rang out.”
“He leveraged his celebrity, his power and his integrity to create space for so many more people and he was willing to sacrifice his own success to build opportunity for others,” she said.
A tax attorney by training, Abrams served eleven years in the Georgia House of Representatives, seven as Minority Leader, and became the 2018 Democratic nominee for governor of Georgia, where she won more votes, at the time, than any other Democrat in the state’s history. She is the founder of Fair Fight, Fair Count, and the Southern Economic Advancement Project.