Building Power in Frontline Communities

As part of our work bridging the rural / urban divide, Georgia WAND is building economic, civic, and cultural power in frontline communities. Some objectives include the following: 

  • Cultivating leadership 
  • Organizing community members to participate in holding elected officials, public agencies, and other decision makers accountable over key issues that influence their lives, including environmental regulatory policy, nuclear weapons and nuclear energy policy; national security and the ties between high levels of Pentagon spending and state violence and systemic racism 
  • Developing an equitable and sustainable jobs policy 
  • Advancing public investment in green infrastructure and quality of life measures rather than militarism and state violence 
  • Increasing civic engagement and voter turnout 

We increase knowledge, leadership, skills, confidence, and the participation necessary for community members to speak for themselves and make U.S. democracy more robust and participatory. We began doing civic engagement work as a tool to build power in the 2000’s. We launched our We Count! Civic Engagement program and co-founded ProGeorgia, a state civic engagement table. We were invited into Atlanta’s Neighborhood Planning Unit V (NPU-V) where we connected the local struggles of a historically Black community starved of public resources to the communities in Burke County, who suffer elevated levels of radiological contaminants due to the high levels of public investment in the nuclear weapons and energy industries. We focus on people directly affected by environmental oppression, systemic violence, and a lack of political representation, equitable shares of public resources, and economic opportunity. We focus on relationship building, collaboration, raising constituent voices, and building the pipeline for next generation leadership. 

Voter engagement is key to reaching people in affected communities who are afraid to speak out about the impact of their job or environment on their health. We use civic engagement as a critical tool to advance environmental and economic justice. Through voter registration, Get Out The Vote, voter education, program recruitment, leadership development training, opportunities to speak out and hold elected officials accountable, and critical education about intersectionality and power, our comprehensive voter and resident engagement work provides specific opportunities for residents to have their voices heard, votes cast, and feet moved to affect the issues facing their community.  

 Community members often cite that elected officials rarely come to the community seeking input or votes – despite the fact that many of the public officials representing these communities are representative of the communities they’re serving. This shows that electing candidates is not enough. It is critical that residents have the political acumen, confidence, support, relationships, and opportunities to effectively educate elected officials—get to know them, hold them accountable—and make sure that their decisions and statements echo throughout the community. Georgia WAND is helping build a multiracial, intergenerational, transpartisan, cross-geographic, cross-class electorate that holds elected officials accountable, protects people and the environment, and values peace over violence.