The Stacey Abrams Mural on Church. Image by Grant Henry.
Edgewood is going to get Free and Rowdy this Saturday night.
Multiple business owners on the well-known nightlife destination are throwing a “political party” to get potential voters registered. The event, called Free and Rowdy (named after one of Atlanta’s historic political groups) aims to get young people more involved in their government.
“Edgewood Avenue, from BQE in the west to Sound Table in the east is holding a street wide voter registration drive and free nighttime rally for Stacey Abrams on Sept. 29, starting at 10 p.m.” The Facebook event reads. “We’re not fancy, so this event won’t be fancy. It will be bare bones and to the point, and the point we are all making is register to vote.”
Most bars and businesses will be hosting seperate events to participate, and tables will be set up along the street to register people to vote in the general election. Yung Joc, local rapper and radio host, will be introducing Abrams, the Democratic gubernatorial nominee, who will speak briefly and then walk along the street, conversing with patrons.
“My campaign is about meeting people where they are and engaging with them on the issues they care about most,” Abrams said in a statement to Atlanta Loop. “I look forward to visiting small business owners and young patrons on Edgewood to share my plans to support debt-free college, lift up small businesses and continue the progress we have made on criminal justice reform.”
The event was conceived as a way to combat political apathy. “The people who come down to Edgewood tend to be people who don’t vote very often” Brandon Ley, co-owner of the Georgia Beer Garden and Joystick and one of the organizers of the event told Atlanta Loop. “Being true believers in democracy, we wanted to make sure it’s easy as possible for these people to register to vote, to get information, and get out there and make things happen.”
Johnny Martinez, the other half of Joystick and the Beer Garden, said the name of the event – Free and Rowdy – has deep roots in Atlanta’s history. “The first three mayors of Atlanta were Free and Rowdy,” he said. “The party was established by tavern owners, distillers and people who worked in gambling dens. This is where Atlanta started, and we’re continuing that tradition.”
Martinez shared that to understand the Free and Rowdy party, it’s important to know who they were running against. The Moral Party were individuals who stood in opposition to Atlanta’s nightlife, going so far as to burn down the Free and Rowdy strongholds of Castleberry Hills and South Downtown. “We identify much more with the Free and Rowdy – and we think Edgewood is a little Free and Rowdy,” Ley said.
Both Martinez and Ley both agree that it can be dangerous for business owners to take strong political stances in today’s polarized climate; however, they think standing up for what they believe in is more important than trying to please everyone.
“We’re not afraid to start conversations,” Ley said. “We don’t want to surrender what our values are for the sake of money. That is the antithesis of our values, to be silent when we see something that could potentially hurt a large part of our community. We understand there could be blow-back, but we’re not afraid of it.”
Martinez agrees. “We believe in dialogue,” He said. “We need to get back to a place where we can have a conversation about our differences. The people we disagree with are the ones we need to speak with the most.”
The last day to register to vote is Oct. 9. Click here to check on your voter status or to register for the first time.