As executive director of the New Georgia Project, Nse Ufot is making remarkable strides in reshaping the political landscape in Georgia. She oversees NGP’s efforts to expand the voting power and political influence of black, Asian, and Latinx people by registering each of the 800,000 unregistered voters of color across the state. The success of the work is a political feat and it makes a solid case for the impact of arts and cultural organizing in movement building.
“I care about the fact that [Republicans] are stealing elections in Georgia and have a plan to do so in the 2020 elections,” Ufot said. “I want to hear actionable plans. I don’t want to hear platitudes and talking points. I want people to be courageous and have courageous conversations with us acknowledging where we are right now, and how we move the country forward.”
Whereas many liberal political organizing strategies focus on winning or recapturing the attention of white working-class voters, the NGP imagined an invigorated electorate and stronger democracy fueled by eligible but so far unregistered voters of color. Since 2014, NGP has registered over 300,000 people of color to vote. In addition to fighting for liberation by leveraging and innovating technology, they also engage new voters through political education, advocacy, and culture.
Nse Ufot was born in Nigeria and spent her formative years being raised in southwest Atlanta. As a black immigrant in a poor black community, Ufot spent a lot of time soaking up black Southern culture—she is a hip-hop devotee and trap yoga enthusiast—while maintaining close ties to other Nigerians, who formed a tight-knit community in Atlanta. The experience shaped her politics and her activism, and is perhaps a reason why embedding cultural practice into political work comes second-nature to her.
Ufot and I met in person for the first time at a pre-election community art showcase in Atlanta two days before the 2018 gubernatorial election, though we’d previously known each other through voting rights work. Stacey Abrams was poised to turn Georgia blue and become the nation’s first black woman governor. Even as event organizers and campaign workers were gearing up to fight epic voter suppression, a joyful anticipation hung in the air. It was evident that creating an atmosphere of joy was a priority for NGP, and that injecting art and culture into Abrams’ campaign was an intentional choice.