By Arielle Robinson
Melody Bray, an activist, attorney and realtor, launched her campaign for Georgia State Senate District 38 Wednesday evening at Westside Switchyards in Atlanta.
District 38 covers portions of Cobb and Fulton counties.
Bray is challenging State Senator Horacena Tate, who has been in her seat since 1999, in the Democratic primary.
Bray, a first-generation immigrant born in Canada to parents from Jamaica, grew up in Miami and then relocated to Atlanta, where she has lived for the past 17 years.
Bray attended the University of Florida, where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Criminology and co-owned a coffee shop.
In the metro Atlanta area, she worked under Judge Courtney Johnson at DeKalb County’s Superior Court, the Fulton County Law Department and Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough.
She has also founded a real estate company and served as chair and on various boards dealing with sex trafficking survivors and food stability, among other issues.
Bray has also co-founded the Georgia 55 Project, a get-out-the-vote organization that works around issues of voter suppression and encourages voter registration, especially among Black people and other marginalized groups around the metro Atlanta area.
The project helps feed voters in long lines as well.
The primary for Georgia State Senate elections is May 2022, the runoff in July and the general election in November 2022.
At Wednesday’s kick-off, Bray said that her campaign is run by community volunteers and thanked everyone who has contributed to her campaign through canvassing and donating.
“When I first was thinking about the campaign and how I wanted to do it I really wanted it to be a people’s campaign,” Bray said. “Some folks will hire a bunch of political operatives to run things, and I really wanted it to be a volunteer-led and run campaign.”
Getting into the issues she views as important, Bray said that the state legislature has passed numerous voter suppression laws that have limited the power of the secretary of state as well as county election boards.
She wants to work to end voter suppression in Georgia.
“I’m for voting being easier and not harder,” Bray said. “ … Can we imagine an Atlanta where it didn’t matter what your education was, what neighborhood you live in, whether you can read or write — you still had the same level of access to the ballot box as everybody else? What would that look like? We can do that if we show up together.”
Bray also expressed concern over food instability. Currently, one in eight people in the North Georgia area do not know where their next meal will come from.
“We have a food stability problem,” Bray said. “About four years ago, I worked in a partnership between [Atlanta Public Schools], KIPP and a food stability group. And what we did was we asked teachers to come into the classrooms and identify students who were food unstable. And instead of just feeding the kids in the classroom or when they’re in school, we fed their whole family throughout the week, whether they were in school or not.”
From that, Bray said she saw kids’ test scores and family involvement rise and class disruption go down. She said that the entire city can improve when people have stable sources of food.
As a realtor, Bray said she also has experience in the housing market and knows that housing and rental prices “are insane.”
“You don’t need a [real estate] license to know that’s the case,” Bray told an audience of supporters.
The candidate was dismayed that the state’s legislature does not have a housing committee and would like to implement such a committee. Bray also supports the creation of affordable housing.
After the event, Bray stated she would like to see an expansion of MARTA to Cobb and Fulton.
She says the transportation system is “underfunded and under resourced, and we’re feeling that in our day to day life in traffic and people not being able to get to their jobs.”
Bray’s campaign has raised nearly $80,000 in donations and says she is excited for an opportunity, if she wins, to bring an activist spirit to the state legislature.
Closing out her speech in the crowded room, Bray said voters have the chance to redefine what the South is, through progressive politics.
“We are in a moment where we can move into a new South, where instead of being a place that is known for oppression, it’s about opportunity and an ability to thrive instead of being a place that is about exclusion,” Bray said. “It’s about inclusion — creating places where everybody is able to find something that works for them…That’s why I’m running.”
To learn more about Bray’s backstory and policy perspectives, her campaign website can be found here.