Activist Spotlight: Jobie Crawford
During the 2018 U.S. midterm elections, Jobie Crawford was a sophomore at Spelman College, a historically-black college in Atlanta, and energized by Stacey Abrams’s campaign for governor of Georgia. Crawford believed Abrams’s call for affordable housing, social justice, and environmental protection would mean great progress for Georgia. While Crawford grew up in Thomasville, Georgia, and in Philadelphia, she was a registered voter in Pennsylvania. To participate in the 2018 election, and to vote for Abrams, Crawford registered as a voter in Georgia.
On Election Day, she went to the polling site at Booker T. Washington High School a few minutes away from her campus. She quickly found that voting there was not a smooth process. She recalls seeing long lines and voters who were confused about if the high school was their assigned polling site. Crawford says when a poll worker could not find her registration, she requested a provisional ballot.
“I knew that was within my right as a voter, [but] he told me that he was running out of provisional ballots — and how fair would it be to give me one and not others who are also waiting for one,” she recalls.
Crawford asked the poll worker to double-check her registration, and the second time around, he found it. Even though she was able to cast her vote, she was alarmed to see so many other black and brown voters, some with young children tugging at their legs, frustrated by the process.
“There are some things that I thought I’ll never have to experience because of the people who came before me because they’ve done the work so I won’t know what it feels like to be told I can’t vote,” she says recalling stories her grandparents and grandaunts and uncles told her about racism, classism, and sexism, in Georgia. “This is the one thing that I thought I did not have to worry about.”
Crawford comes from a family of changemakers. Her mother worked on President Obama’s campaign in Georgia and is currently the state director for a Super PAC in Pennsylvania. Her father is a minister of the African Methodist Episcopal Church and has been preaching since he was 15.
“I feel like I’ve grown up around two people who are my greatest influences in life,” she says of her parents. “I’ve always been taught that if you ever see someone in need, it is your job to help no matter the situation or no matter what you have or what you’re lacking. It’s always your job to help someone else.”
Crawford has been doing just that since she was a pre-teen. At 12, she attended a Black Lives Matter rally in Philadelphia in the wake of Trayvon Martin’s death. In high school, she launched a social justice club and led a Black Lives Matter die-in to raise awareness about police brutality in America and racism in her mostly white Quaker high school. When she was 17, she organized a protest against police brutality in Philadelphia, amid the shooting death of Philando Castile.
So when faced with voter suppression, Crawford immediately took action. First, she called her aunt, Georgia state Sen. Nikema Williams, and reported the lack of provisional ballots at the high school. A few hours later, the polling site received more ballots. Crawford said she then enlisted Spelman classmates to encourage people to stay in line to vote by giving out snacks and playing with voters’ children while their parents waited.
In the days after the gubernatorial elections, Crawford began working with campus organizations such as Ignite Political Action Club, the Young Democrats of America, and the National Council of Negro Women to educate students about voting rights in Georgia.
In February 2019, she testified with other voters in front of the Fulton County Board of Elections and called for the resignation of the elections director Richard L. Barron. Although he was not ordered to, nor did he resign, this advocacy led to the district improving its voting processes, including the establishment of an early voting polling location on Morehouse College’s campus.
In October 2019, she began working with Stacey Abram’s voter advocacy organization Fair Fight, by organizing registration drives on her campus and educating other students on how to register in Georgia using their student IDs. She currently interns with the Georgia Congressional Black Caucus working on voting rights.
“I do a lot of research around voter suppression and looking at patterns and helping my legislators — of course, they already know the issues — but pinpointing the issues that college students are experiencing, especially in communities of color,” she explains.
“I was motivated to do this work because I don’t want anyone to ever experience voter suppression. It is unfair, and it is wrong.”
Crawford is also helping Georgia lawmakers develop civil rights legislation for refugees and asylum seekers. She is currently an international studies major and Spanish and religious studies double-minor, and after she graduates, she wants to pursue a JD-Ph.D. program, and become a diplomat focusing on Middle Eastern-U.S. relations.
As Crawford goes forward with her work, she shares a final word that is especially important in our current social climate. “Justice beyond commonality is just as important as justice for people who look like you,” she says.