Education Reform

Friends Who Stood Up for Reverend Warnock Report on Their Journey with Him

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Bill Eville wrote an article about his family’s long friendship with Reverend Raphael Warnock. They became friends years ago, maintained a close relationship, and worked on his campaign.

Here is an excerpt from the account of their experiences:

One summer, about nine years ago, when my daughter was three years old and the Rev. Raphael Warnock came for his annual visit to Martha’s Vineyard, she grabbed him by the hand and led him upstairs to her room to take him on a tour of her extensive dead bug collection.

Raphael reminds us of that moment while letting on that his son, now two years old, has a dead bug collection, although his is more specific.

“Lady bugs,” Raphael says with a deep laugh. “He collects dead lady bugs.”

It is New Year’s Eve. Pickle (her nickname) is now 12 years old and instead of showing Raphael her dead bug collection she is canvassing for him every day in Atlanta, going door to door to get out the vote and help voters in his historic U.S. Senate run, to poster the streets and, at this moment, to hand him a hat and noisemaker to celebrate the New Year.

My wife, the Rev. Cathlin Baker, and Raphael have been friends since they met as Union Seminary students in the 1990s — studying together, fighting for social justice together, marching together and growing together. Their relationship deepened, along with the whole family, as Raphael came to preach at the West Tisbury Congregational Church every summer on the Vineyard, and Cathlin preached twice at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta.

And so when the Georgia runoff election for the U.S. Senate was announced we made the decision to drive to Atlanta to help out in any way we could. We left the day after Christmas, bringing with us family friends Kyra Whalen and Jennifer Frank.

Election day is five days away and we feel honored that Raphael has chosen to spend a quiet New Year’s Eve with us, along with his sister Wandetta. The windows are open, we are masked and social distanced, but we are together.

Raphael tells us stories about the campaign trail, about all the people he has met around the state, about hiring a staff and learning the ways of campaigning (his first), and the origins of his puppy commercials which went viral.

In turn we tell him about watching training videos every evening and then being deployed around the city during the day, getting out the vote and helping to counter voter suppression.

Most of the neighborhoods we visit are poor, disenfranchised places where people struggle in ways I cannot imagine. In a former life I would have avoided these neighborhoods. Now I take my children there and burst with pride as I watch my 16-year-old son Hardy walk up to a stranger’s door to encourage him to vote. I am impressed with Hardy and to be honest I am a bit impressed with myself as a parent, offering up this experience to him. But my bubble quickly pops as a hard looking young man comes to the door and tells Hardy to get off the porch in expletive-laced words.

We beat a hasty retreat.

That is what the ground game looks like. Moments of anger or knocking for nothing — no one home yet again — offset with moments of beauty when a woman comes to the door and you explain that her absentee ballot has been rejected for any number of reasons but here is how to fix it and she puts her hands together in prayer and thanks you.

At one house Pickle and I knock on a door and then step back to create social distance while we wait for a response. But as I step I nudge something metallic. I look down and see that I have kicked a bullet shell casing. In fact, the front yard is full of bullet shell casings. Pickle and I back away quickly and move on to the next house.

As Pickle relates this story to Raphael, he suggests that we come to Savannah for the weekend. He will hold a rally there, in his hometown, with Vice President elect Kamala Harris, among others.

Open the link to read the rest of the story. You will enjoy reading about election night at the Warnock headquarters. His victory was the victory of a multi-racial coalition. It might signal a new day for Georgia, a day.

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