Mobilizing the Grassroots for a Big Win in Alabama

Photo: DeJuana Thompson,

Photo: DeJuana Thompson,

A mere few months ago, the New York Times and other media outlets were writing off the South in general and voters of color in particular for being disinterested in politics and in voting for Democrats. Now that Doug Jones has handily defeated Roy Moore in the Alabama special senate election, the media is catching up.

“The Alabama special election … affirms that the coalition that elected and re-elected an African-American as president of the United States remains a majority of the country’s population. By combining a large and inspired turnout of voters of color with the meaningful minority of whites who consistently vote progressive — even in a state like Alabama — Democrats can win across the country.”

“African-American voters were a decisive force in the election, showing up in huge numbers and casting nearly all their votes — 96 percent — for Mr. Jones.” 

By late November, the Democratic party had spent nearly $7 million on TV ads aimed at white voters and online fund-raising to continue to pay for those ads. Even after the previously “unwinnable” race had been deemed a wide-open contest.

At the same time, black organizers, particularly women – like DeJuana Thompson of Woke Vote and LaTosha Brown of Black Voters Matter – were mobilizing and organizing.

Airllift knew of 30 black grassroots groups around the state that needed money fast to hire organizers. We were part of an amazing operation that moved $300,000 to these groups almost overnight. We helped fund 30 local grassroots partners that hired 600 organizers and 108 "Righteous Vote Faith Captains," ran GOTV (Get Out the Vote) rallies in 6 major cities, engaged students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and provided rides to the polls in rural Black Belt communities.

Most importantly, we gave people who were already on the ground the tools to amplify their powerful voices. We helped give them the ability to build something for themselves by focusing not just on the election at hand but on helping them build the infrastructure to sustain their operations year-round, so they could continue to galvanize their networks to make change long after the current election cycle ends.

That last is at the heart of what Airlift is about. We seek to duplicate Alabama’s success story in Georgia and Florida, and around the U.S.


NewsSuz Lipman