Blacks, Latinos, Asians bent on breaking glass ceiling of Gwinnett County politics

Name of Publication: 
The Atlanta Voice
Excerpt of Article: 

Posted: Friday, May 3, 2013 11:50 am | Updated: 7:11 pm, Fri May 3, 2013.

The Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners is all white. The Gwinnett County School Board is all white. So are the judges elected to Gwinnett County’s State and Superior Courts.

 The lack of diversity in county politics has many Gwinnettians asking why, in this day and age, nonwhites have been unable to penetrate the glass ceiling. Gwinnett is Georgia’s most diverse county with a melting pot of more than 842,000 people, according to the U.S. Census. ...

Diversity hasn’t translated into political power for the county’s growing African American and immigrant communities. Minorities in Gwinnett have been hard hit by unemployment, crime, and the fallout of failing schools, which in Gwinnett serve mostly low-income African American, Asian and Hispanic students, statistics show. Two-thirds of those living in poverty in Gwinnett are nonwhite.

But minorities in Gwinnett frustrated with county politics want change now.

A movement is growing to improve the plight of diverse communities that are struggling for economic opportunities and political representation. A network of African-American, Asian and Hispanic community leaders are working to make sure future county boards are more reflective of diverse neighborhoods they represent. They see numbers as their greatest strength and are building allegiances with each other to gain political clout.

One group, Gwinnett Citizens-United, a political action committee launched by a coalition of African-American pastors, has signed up more than 4,000 people pledging to become politically active in upcoming races by either voting, running for office or contributing to campaigns. The nonpartisan group will offer a platform to those candidates that support minority community issues. Members include a network of black church congregations and Hispanic community leaders. The group also is reaching out to Asians.

“Democracy works best when people feel that they are represented,” said Kerwin Swint, professor of Political Science at Kennesaw State University. “Unfortunately, what happens in local politics is the old guard hangs on as long as it can. They have an advantage a lot of time with campaign contributions and business networks that keep electing the same people. It may take time for others to break through.”