The truth does not care about anyone’s feelings. It does not care if people respect it, but the truth is simply something all must accept.
By Barrington Martin II
I originally drafted this article two weeks after the 2020 Georgia primary, detailing my experiences challenging the late, great Congressman John Lewis. However, his untimely passing unraveled the corruption of the Democratic Party of Georgia. With the special election to complete the great congressman’s term on the horizon; I sensed the time to finally set the record straight, regarding the truth about everything, so the people can have a better indication about who I am, my values, and social mores.
First, I would like to clear up a misconception that I decided to run against a Civil Rights icon because of his cancer diagnosis. That is false. I decided to run for Congress at two periods of time: the first in June of 2019, and the second in December of 2019. Congressman Lewis announced his cancer diagnosis to us all after my decision. Nevertheless, I chose to run for Congress because as a lifelong Atlantan and District Five native, there was a time for a different direction in Atlanta politics.
Over the last three decades, I observed many communities within the district that had been forgotten and grossly underserved. The people of those communities, along with so many others, had become apathetic about their government and even their role in government.
Instead of complaining, I decided to do something about it, even at the behest of an unpopular decision as running against a revered legend like Congressman Lewis. I knew it had to be done because the people had to understand that a better alternative was indeed possible.
I was not afraid, and I knew nothing would be handed to me. If I wanted to see the changes made in my city, I had to fight for them. This is one of the reasons I challenged a Civil Rights legend when everyone around me relented, including seasoned politicians in the city.
It had always been about doing what was best for the people of this great district that raised me. I did everything the right way, with honor and with grace. I wrote Congressman Lewis a letter showing my respects and asking him for mentorship; he never responded. However, that didn’t deter me.
When I did run, I was shunned, alienated, and ridiculed by those within the Party, but a wise man once said, “you cannot be afraid to speak up and speak out for what you believe,” and that is what I did. It became baffling witnessing people, with the same traits as I, treat me with abject disdain because of their love for the Congressman. People forgot that those sentiments they shared about me were the same thoughts people had for Congressman Lewis during his early years as an activist.
The election occurred, and he beat me, but the public shellacking I took was well worth it. As a first-time politician without experience, minimal resources, zero party support, and zero media coverage during a pandemic, I still accumulated over 20,000 votes against a Civil Rights icon.
Soon, Congressman Lewis passed, but the mourning from his passing took a nefarious turn during the nomination process to represent the Georgia Democratic Party for the 2020 general election.
First, it is ironic that the political party which indicts the GOP for undemocratic policies like voter suppression is guilty of an undemocratic voting process themselves. Second, how does a person who had already amassed the support of over 20,000 people not get considered as a finalist to succeed the recently deceased Congressman? Finally, how is it possible that the only person with the courage to challenge Congressman Lewis was not considered a finalist among 130 other individuals who waited until his sudden death?
The eventual nominee, a State Senator close to the Party, accepted the nomination despite not earning any votes from the people. Meanwhile, with the approach of the special election on the horizon, I was the first person to qualify, but the nominee representing the Democratic party was nowhere to be found.
One would think that the special election would be the chance for the nominee to earn the support of the people they were representing in November’s election, but maybe the allure of the position is more valuable to them than the people.
The application process to be considered as the nominee for the Democratic Party of Georgia was a six-question questionnaire. Question 6 asked, “why are you the best person to represent the Fifth Congressional District?” This was my response:
“Get in good trouble, necessary trouble, and help redeem the soul of America.” This quote from the late great Congressman Lewis always sticks with me because it has more meaning now than it ever has before. This is bigger than Barrington Deon Martin II. This is about redeeming the soul of America and it starts here in Atlanta, Georgia, with this seat, and with the Democratic party of Georgia. For a long time now, the Democratic party has been riddled with archaic, outdated, and mundane ideologies and it has not served the greater good of the people it seeks to represent. Evidence of this can be seen within this entire process in which the power of choice and choosing one’s own fate has been removed from the people and replaced with bureaucratic technicalities that serve only a few and not the many. I understand that these are simply the rules; however, the people who review all of the applications have the power to suggest the necessary changes that should be made that would better serve the people. The continuation of such antiquated ways is why people continue to lose faith in the party, politics even. As times change, the party must change with it. Now, we have the opportunity to finally get things right. To finally do right by the people by selecting the one with the guts to primary Congressman Lewis, a young, relentless, fearless leader, full of vigor, and ready to carry the heavy loads to get us towards a future we’re all proud of.”
Since the beginning of my run for this seat, I embodied what it meant to be courageous. The fact that I even decided to face a legend showed that I had the gumption to lead this district to glory. I did what others were afraid to do, 130 others to be exact. Because of that courage, I was ostracized and abhorred by the very people involved within this party, all because I chose to gamble on myself in doing what’s right for the people of this district.
Many felt challenging Congressman Lewis would be political suicide, but I value the people over the politics. As a constituent, I knew that the people were underserved in various communities and I knew that if the day would come of Lewis’ death, I had to do what it took to be there for the people.
I had the foresight to understand what the consequences of inaction would be. Therefore, I was proactive in ensuring the people of this district would be looked after, following Congressman Lewis’ death.
I created beneficial policy initiatives long before city leaders endorsed these same initiatives. I stood in the face of a giant and willingly took a political beatdown to show the people they deserved better than what they had been receiving for the last three decades. I showed up when it mattered most, and it did not take the death of a great man for me to do what was right.
John Lewis had always personified courage. He never backed down, even amid chaos and controversy.
From the very beginning of my run for the seat, before the pandemic, I believed that the people who had built this nation deserved to reap the fruits of centuries worth of labor. We are embarking on a political renaissance, where we hold the universal truth that the people deserve more. The people deserve true freedom and complete agency to decide their fate. For too long, the government has bailed out corporations and banks and left the people in poverty, homelessness, or worse.
A new day in American politics is here, and today is a new beginning for the people.