MARTINEZ, Ga. (WJBF) – After just a few moments of listening to the Negro National Anthem, Franklin Delano Williams remembered being just a young boy at the March on Washington in 1963.
“If you’re looking at the Lincoln Memorial, on the left hand side of that pool, them trees on that side, I was in one of them trees. That was where I sat not knowing that you were a part of history,” he recalled.
While there, he heard Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speak.
“That speech resonates with me to this day,” he told us
Those words lifted Williams through the Civil Rights movement all the way to 2023 where Dr. King’s legacy motivates him as the Deep Canvass Manager for New Georgia Project.
The Black-led, grassroots organization launched its civic engagement and organizing work on MLK Day at one of the CSRA’s Dr. King events at Abilene Baptist Church. To honor his legacy, it has a 2023 goal, at least 40,000 registered voters across the Peach State, work that’s done simply by knocking on doors and attending public events in the Augusta area.
“I was one of them like, well it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter. But as we kept coming to events like this, I realized it did matter. I realized our vote does count in some ways. I try to tell that to people my age as well,” said Shamarius Bolton, New Georgia Project Lead Canvasser.
Williams along with recent college grad Shamarius Bolton are working to help younger people move voting to the top of their agenda too, making it personal.
“Young people need to understand that if I don’t like the lunch at school or the this and that at school, somebody that voted for whoever went to congress is the one who passed the bill for the school lunch program,” Williams explained.
And he said even if people are already registered to vote, maybe they relocated and require new information about how to cast a ballot. Either way, he said his work pushing people to the polls with New Georgia Project has a deeper meaning for him.
“When I was old enough to vote, I couldn’t vote because, you say wait a minute, yes you could,” he said of his past. “Well they had these little rules. You had to take a test to vote. It was something ridiculous like they would have a jar of marbles sitting on the counter and you had to tell them how many marbles was in that jar. Where I grew up, most Black people were not registered voters because they couldn’t pass the test.”
It’s been 60 years since Dr. King penned his letter from a Birmingham jail. So, NGP will also launch its Letter4Power campaign, a letter writing initiative to demand progressive change from leaders in Georgia.