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The stakes are high for people of color; Democrats must win US Senate runoff

Morehouse College 133rd Commencement (Photo credit: Sistarazzi for Steed Media Service)

Georgia’s runoff races for the U.S. Senate could shift that chamber’s balance of power. Rolling out’s Editor-at-Large Rashad Richey talks with Democratic nominee Jon Ossoff about his fight to topple Republican incumbent David Perdue. This is the first in a series covering what’s at stake.

So Jon, there was a lot of excitement during the November election. Why should people be excited to come back out and vote for you in this run-off?

Because we have the opportunity to make real change if we win these two Senate races. We can make the next two years the most productive for civil rights and voting rights legislation since 1964 and 1965. We can establish healthcare as a human right for all people in this country, no matter how much is in our bank account or what ZIP code we live in. We can pass infrastructure and jobs and a clean energy program that will create millions of jobs and save our environment. We can raise the minimum wage to 15 dollars. We can make four-year degrees at public colleges and HBCUs debt-free. We can relieve the burden of student loan debt for so many young people. But if we don’t win these two races, Republicans in Washington will block all of them. So we’ve got to get out and vote.

You’ve said all HBCU graduates — private and public schools — should graduate debt-free. What’s your plan?

I will offer legislation to expand the Pell Grant program so no American has to take on a penny of debt to get a degree from an HBCU or public college, period. And I will help direct additional Federal resources to HBCUs to upgrade facilities, expand programs in critical fields like medicine and nursing, science and engineering and education to increase Black representation in those fields.

COVID-19 has ravaged the Black community, first responders and frontline workers. A lot of workers, most at risk, happen to be people of color. What policy can be implemented, if you’re elected, to make sure we have a healthy society where all people can live, work and play?

First, we need to get economic relief directly to working people. That means direct stimulus payments. That means hazard pay for folks keeping the country running at personal risk during this time – people stocking shelves, driving buses, working as techs in clinical settings, rideshare services. We need immediate relief for small businesses so they can keep people who are facing eviction or foreclosure employed. We’ve got to empower health experts — doctors and scientists — to lead the health response. I’ll vote for direct economic relief and to make testing and vaccines free for everyone. Folks need to know we’re at serious risk with the vaccine available first and foremost to those with wealth. Making it available and free to all Americans will require legislation. Let’s vote to make that possible.

Early voting is underway in Georgia. Find your polling location on My Voter Page.

–karen araiza
Karen Araiza’s award-winning work as a journalist includes a National Emmy for work on struggles facing law enforcement and a National Murrow Award for documentary and storytelling on the opioid crisis.