Georgia at a Crossroads, State Rep. Nan Orrock Says

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(APN) ATLANTA – “Georgia is at a critical point, at a crossroads. We can go one of two ways. We can reverse the progress we made, that is a distinct possibility,” Georgia State Rep. Nan Orrock (D), 62, told Atlanta Progressive News. Or we can create a new progressive future.

“I do think there’s a new stirring in the land,” Orrock said.

“And finally, in Georgia, Bush’s numbers have dropped below 50%. And then I look at groups like Georgia for Democracy. There’s new initiatives. New infrastructure. New organizing efforts. The use of the Internet. There’s new energy out there of people trying to educate the public,” and promote civic engagement, Orrock noted.

Orrock is one of the original Civil Rights Movement veterans and members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). “My record is, I can be counted on to stand up and speak up and work against reactionary policy and work for progressive measures. I’m not cowed or intimidated, even when my vote is in the minority.”

She has “toiled in the vineyards of the [Georgia] House” for a quarter of a century, and is today running for the Georgia Senate seat, District 36, being vacated by Sam Zamarippa (D).

Senate District 36 had the highest proportion of voters supporting Kerry out of all Georgia in the 2004 Presidential Election. To represent a Senate district would be a great opportunity for Orrock. Senate districts represent about 150,000 people each; House districts only about 45,000 each.

Atlanta Progressive News sat down with Orrock to learn her thoughts on Georgia’s future.

“Who’s in the seats making policy in the state is going to determine,” what happens, Orrock said. “I can’t send a strong enough message to people: It’s time to stand up and take it back! We’ve got critical races here that are going to determine Georgia’s direction.”

“Also, Atlanta has a lot to offer. In our last administration, the Governor was embracing the leadership of Atlanta. Are we going to go back to where the leadership of Atlanta is not incorporated into the leadership at the state level?” Orrock asked.

“The leadership in the [State] Senate [representing districts in Atlanta] can play a determining role,” in how that plays out, Orrock said. “We have Democrats all across the state, and our challenge is to weave the issues and concerns from across the state and stand together… to set the temperature of the debate; not just be a thermometer!”

Voter turnout is crucial. Orrock organized voter registration drives back during the Civil Rights Movement, and there’s a new generation that needs to be registered.

“There’s two countervailing trends,” Orrock said, regarding the psyche of today’s voters. “One is a deeper and deeper alienation from American politics out of feeling their voice doesn’t matter, because of so much corruption and money changing hands. The voting discrepancies and questions of votes being counted furthers the idea that the vote doesn’t count.”

And yet Orrock sees hope.

“The countervailing force is the outrageous story of the 2000 election and the Republicans down there intimidating poll workers. There was an outrage. That reenergized people who said, ‘We’re not going to have the vote taken away!’ There’s a new level of consciousness. There are loads of courageous people registering people to vote,” Orrock reflected.

“It’s like, you crossed the line! I have to pay attention to this! I thought I could focus on my next job and whether I’m going to get married.”

Independent media will have a role in shaping Georgia’s political future, Orrock said. “You celebrate when the media is out there as an independent voice,” Orrock said. “There’s a damper that’s been put on the independent media voice. The impact of money on media has been huge.”

“Independent media is hugely important and it’s under threat in this country.”

“I was one of the founders of The Great Speckled Bird. Originally there were six of us. It was at the height of the Vietnam War and we felt in the South, in Atlanta, there was an absence of a progressive perspective. The AJC [Atlanta Journal Constitution] certainly wasn’t opposing the war in Vietnam,” Orrock recalled.

“It’s amazing the footprint it had. It was iconic.”

“In 1963, the first thing I’d done in activism was step into the March on Washington,” Orrock recalled. She worked for SNCC under Julian Bond [today NAACP Director], while John Lewis [today US Congressman] was Chair in the Summer of 1964. In 1964, she spent the summer organizing in Mississippi, followed by community organizing in Virginia in 1965 and 1966.

“My experience marked me for a lifetime, it changed my life,” Orrock said.

About the author:

Matthew Cardinale is the Editor and a National Correspondent for Atlanta Progressive News and may be reached at matthew@atlantaprogressivenews.com

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This article may be reprinted in full at no cost where Atlanta Progressive News is credited.

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