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Meet Marvin Lim of 159 Georgia Together

Today we’d like to introduce you to Marvin Lim.

Marvin, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
In early 2017, I joined the board of 159 Georgia Together, a large progressive nonprofit grassroots volunteer group with 18,600 members across the state. I wanted to work to make Georgia politics more progressive, particularly in light of the 2016 Presidential election.

I have worked throughout my career, including my legal career, on issues of public interest – as an ACLU attorney, working on a variety of different civil rights issues, and currently as an attorney working on gun violence prevention. But I always worked on specific issues. Yet, after the 2016 election, it was made clear to all of us, more than ever, that whoever gets elected impacts all of the issues we could possibly care about – locally, statewide, nationwide, and even internationally.

I care about these issues, on all these levels, because of my background: I’m an immigrant from the Philippines, came to the United States (and Atlanta) when I was 7 years old and grew up in DeKalb County. It was an interesting place to grow up, because, even as a child, I knew that being here afforded me opportunities I wouldn’t have otherwise had – and those opportunities have paid dividends, affording me a career as a public interest attorney that I love, and a life in Atlanta, just outside the Perimeter, that I cherish.

But, even as a child, taking Georgia history, taking field trips to Stone Mountain, visiting the MLK Center, I could also appreciate, if not to the magnitude I appreciate now, the deep social fissures and problems here in Georgia. So, even as I spent time up North working and getting my legal education – working in DC and NYC, among other places – I always knew I’d want to come back here, to return the favor to a place and its people that gave me a lot, but that I knew had the potential to be even so much more – to turn Southern hospitality into Southern equity, and dignity for all.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
It hasn’t been a smooth road – not that my organization expected it to be. Since the Presidential election, we have faced a challenging time that my own American generation hadn’t yet seen.

And I think, apart from how we respond to people who don’t share our political, ethical, or other such views, it has often been a struggle to unite – as is, on some great level, necessary to achieve the goals we have in this sphere – people who are generally like-minded, but disagree on other things, sometimes intractably so – disagree on tactics, disagree on what it means to make progress, disagree with what it means to make a good compromise at any given moment in time versus compromise one’s own self and endeavor on the whole.

At the same time: helping to bridge that gap, and so many more, has really been one of the missions of 159 Georgia Together. We seek to help progressives work together, to achieve the common goals that, regardless of our differences on smaller levels, we know we have: a politics that emphasizes inclusion, equity, mercy, the end of undignified pain and suffering, and a genuine recognition of what it means for people to have different lived experiences.

Please tell us about 159 Georgia Together.
159 Georgia Together seeks to make Georgia more progressive, by activating and engaging folks on the ground, in their communities, to take action. A lot of organizations do this, but I’d say our niche has really been forging bonds and communications between two groups of folks and organizations.

Those who are part of what we call “legacy groups” – groups working on the issues and ideas that we care about, and that have already existed for a long time, and have a lot of know-how – to groups and individuals who were riled up after the Presidential election, throughout the state, who might be newer to this type of work. Apart from 159 Georgia Together members, which number 18,6000 online, we also communicate regularly with some 60-other local progressive groups throughout the state.

So, for example, one of our priority issues is, obviously, voter engagement. Well, a lot of groups already do this work – they recognize that this work is absolutely necessary to turn Georgia progressive. But they certainly need more people – more people, for example, to help register new voters.

So we serve as a “megaphone” for those opportunities, broadcasting them, on Facebook, via e-mail, and via our website, to all the groups and individuals to whom we’re connected. At the same time, we also will inform the legacy groups where people are – for example, we tell them that, even though they’re not doing a voter registration in training in Athens this month, a lot of people there are actually hankering for it, so it would be worth their while to do it.

Most recently, we also published a Midterm Voter Guide, which put together information for every State House, State Senate, statewide seat, and Congressional race – with a particular emphasis on progressively “flippable” districts. This has been a signature effort, something much needed – we hadn’t found any other organization that has done this kind of educational effort, statewide – and absolutely key to engaging (and helping to educate) voters.

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