Aundrea Johnson was reciting the Pledge of Allegiance at public functions when most three-year-olds were still learning their ABCs.
Now, at age 10, the fourth-grader is already a seasoned community activist. She canvassed for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential bid, participates in community rallies, and attends Jack and Jill, which teaches leadership skills to Black children.
Aundrea’s activism is a family affair, passed down from her grandmother, Pat Pullar, and her mom, Sukari Johnson. Pullar, who currently sits on the Clayton County Board of Elections and Registration, has been involved for over 50 years in political and social causes, while Johnson chairs the Clayton County Democratic Party.
Pullar and Johnson have both been active for decades in their local and state Democratic parties. They said getting involved in the local community is more important than ever, as the country heads into the midterm elections after concluding the 2020 census and the subsequent Congressional and legislative redistricting.
But they’ve encountered many people who are uninformed or misinformed about political processes, such as the census and redistricting. “We’ve had to break down why the census was important,” Johnson said. Taken every decade, it determines how billions of federal dollars are allocated and how Congressional and state legislative maps are redrawn.
In the Room
Over her 50 years of activism, Pullar has frequently been in the room for key political decisions, like the time a group of prominent Black media executives in New York gathered to raise money for Jesse Jackson’s first presidential bid in 1984.
“Jesse Jackson was writing this stuff out on a yellow pad that I typed on my Selectric typewriter,” Pullar told Atlanta Civic Circle. “During his campaign, I raised $250–five dollars at a time in the Bronx.”
Pullar has worked or consulted on campaigns for some big names in Georgia and U.S. politics: Former congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond’s earlier successful bids for labor commissioner; and the late David Poythress’ successful campaigns for secretary of state and labor commissioner.
She worked on the presidential campaigns of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, serving as a Georgia delegate to the 2016 Democratic National Convention. Pullar also was one of the legions of people who worked to bring the 1996 Olympics to Atlanta.
“I always felt like I needed to stay involved,” Pullar said. She brought her teenage daughter, Johnson, along as well to her various functions, including a memorable encounter with Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter at the Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C. in the mid-1990s.
“I’ve been dragging her around for quite some time,” Pullar said jokingly.
Like most teenagers forced to tag along with a parent, Johnson initially wasn’t interested. “I was one of those kids who didn’t want to go. She was dragging me around, and I was like no,” Johnson told Atlanta Civic Circle.
“But I would go with her to those meetings, and then I would do advocacy work,” she added. “When she started to get on campaigns, I started to volunteer.”
It wasn’t until Johnson went to Tuskegee University, a historically Black college, in 1997 that the importance of activism sunk in. “I began to learn more about social justice and all the stuff [Black people] went through,” she said.
“It became a little bit more full circle for me. I learned things about service and giving back, and I started to make the connections,” Johnson said. “The only way that you do that is through policy work, through elected officials. You can’t have one without the other.”
Learning about how American politics and government work starts at home, the pair said. Johnson is passing the torch to Aundrea and her son Alex, who’s seven. “She’s always ready to get up there and speak,” Johnson said of her daughter, who’s polished her public speaking skills through Jack and Jill.
“When I ask her to come out, she’ll come. She thinks it’s fine getting out there, waving and speaking to people.”
Name: Pat Pullar
Current title: Clayton County Board of Elections and Registration member.
Past organizations/activities: Pullar has been active in political campaigns, social welfare organizations, and other community groups in New York and Georgia for over 50 years. In 1970, she started registering people to vote while a freshman at City University of New York in Manhattan.
From there, she served as vice president of the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) in the East Bronx; worked on Jesse Jackson’s first presidential campaign in 1984; worked on the late David Dinkins’ 1989 mayoral campaign; co-founded the DeKalb County chapter of NCNW in 1988, and served as the Georgia Democratic Party’s deputy director from 2003 to 2007
Why is being civically engaged important to you? “How else are the people who come behind you going to know what they should be paying attention to? How are my child, and my child’s children, and their children going to know if I don’t leave some sort of footprint for being engaged and being involved?
Name: Sukari Johnson
Current title: Clayton County Democratic Party chair and legislative chair of the Lake Spivey chapter of Jack and Jill, a national leadership training organization for African-American children.
Past organizations/activities: DeKalb County branch of the NAACP, NCNW, Southern Christian Leadership Conference
Why is being civically engaged important to you? “It’s to be for the things that I’m most passionate about, whether it’s helping youth, or homelessness, or jobs. All these things affect our everyday lives, so it’s important for me to get involved. Not only can I help my own family, but the community as well.”
Name: Aundrea Johnson
Current title: Fourth-grader and honor roll student at Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy in McDonough.
Past organizations/activities: Door-knocking to get out the vote, attending political rallies, participating in Jack and Jill.
Want to get your family more involved in the community? Consider these tips.
PULLAR-JOHNSON TIPS FOR GETTING YOUR FAMILY CIVICALLY ACTIVE
- When you read an interesting article or learn something new, share it with your spouse and children.
- Lead by example. When you vote, take your children and your grandchildren. Similarly, bring them when you knock on doors, make calls, and engage in other civic activities, so they can see you in action. “They have to be able to see, and then, at some point in their life, I guarantee it’ll shift to them,” Johnson said.
- Meet people where they are. Figure out their hot-button issue and match policy with that issue. “A lot of people don’t see the connectivity,” Johnson said. “Why should I vote? Why should I help? How does this affect me?”
- Get young people safely involved through social media, where many of them find their news and activities.